November 2023 Mini-Reviews – Trick ‘r Treat to 2 Fast 2 Furious

Here we are nearly at the end of December, the month has blazed past, and I realized I need to get my November watch list out.

This month, we get more Poirot on both TV and in the movies, I return to Primeval, the British dinosaur hunting series for the first time in ages, I finish up a bunch of TV series, and my wife and I dive into some old Stephen King TV mini-series/movies.  Plus, of course, a whole lot more.  Come on in, the genre’s fine!

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.  Usually.

Trick ‘r Treat (2007) **** Fun anthology with twisted timeline & interweaving stories, connected by the wandering of spooky Sam, a “child” in a homemade costume.
Expedition Bigfoot (S4) *** This continues to be the best of the “scientific” bigfoot-hunting shows, but “talk over” credits & lack of a conclusions show harm this season.
Van Helsing *** Heroic vampire-hunter film has vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein monster & basically too much of everything. Frenetic enjoyable mess.
Killer Shrews, The **** New Film Masters blu-ray is likely the best image we’ll ever get of this low-budget SF/H classic about giant shrews amok on a small island.
Poirot 11-1 Mrs. McGinty’s Dead **** When a man is wrongly sentenced to death for the bludgeoning death of cleaning woman, a suspicious inspector calls in Poirot. He & his crime novelist friend Ariadne Oliver must sort out the facts before an innocent man is executed.
Whistling in the Dark (1941) **** Red Skelton’s crime-solving radio host gets sucked into an actual murder plot in this highly amusing detective-crime comedy film.
Whistling Dixie (1942) *** Skelton & crew are back & sidelined from a honeymoon by a new murder, plus the nice twin of a crook from the previous film. Hijinks ensue.
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) ***** Surreal post-WWII SciFi noir short about a woman haunted by her own past or is it her future? US film with Asian music added later.
It (1990 TV) **** Lighting may be TV-flat at times, but this adaptation of Stephen King’s killer clown-monster story shines the big screen adaptations. Great.
Kingdom of the Spiders (Sven) *** The spiders are all real & Shatner’s in fine form on this story of a growing spider problem in a small western town. Nice ending.
Poirot 11-2 Cat Among the Pigeons **** Murders at a girls’ school have something to do with a princess & a fortune in stolen rubies. Naturally, Poirot can sort it out.
Good Omens (S2) **** Our demon & angel heroic duo inherits a pile of trouble with Archangel Gabriel comes to earth in human form. Not as good as S1, but fun.
Primeval (S3) **** Knowing the crappy cast problems that plague this season, S3 of Primeval is actually pretty darn good, despite a nutty finale. On to S4!
Haunting in Venice, A **** Poirot ends up in Venice in a “haunted” house at a party that goes very wrong in this loose, but fun, adaptation of Christie’s Halloween tale.
Poirot 11-3 The Third Girl **** Ariadne Oliver & Poirot must find the truth after being contacted by a young heiress who fears that she may have killed her former nanny.
Whistling in Brooklyn (1943) **** Red Skelton & crew return for the final film in the comedy-mystery series, with an elevator scene that… elevates the whole to a fine finale.
Midsomer Murders 14-7 A Sacred Trust ***** A murder near a financially besieged nunnery brings John Barnaby & Jones to unravel a tangled mystery decades in the making.
Wheel of Time (S2) **** Our teen & grown-up heroes from S1 get put through a lot of grief (even torture), but the bang-up finale makes it all feel worthwhile.
Loki (S2) **** The multiverse is tangled & so is the plot, as Loki & company try to save the whole ball of wax. The actors & characters make it work.
Unknown, The (1927) ***** Lon Chaney, Sr., is a criminal hiding out in the circus as an armless man. Joan Crawford is the woman he loves who can’t stand to be touched. Tod Browning brings us another fine study in obsession, madness, & crime in this silent classic.
Treasure Island (1990) *** Charlton Heston is Long John Silver & Christian Bale is Jim in this sturdy & enjoyable TV mini-series adaptation of the Stevenson book.
Disenchantment (S5 – Finale) *** All the wacky characters, including Bean, Elfo, and Lucy, continue their strange adventures culminating in a knock-down, drag-out finale to this Matt Groening fantasy series. It always amused me, but I also always expected something more innovative & exciting. Turned out OK.
Disembodied, The (1966) ** Unmemorable film about a jungle doctor’s bored wife (Allison Hayes) who engages in voodoo to get the love & power she craves.
Battlebots – Sin City Slugfest (2023) aka Champions 2 **** Robot Fighting Time is always appreciated, even if it’s not the major tournament. This “fight-in” tournament bracket is amusing & forces teams to rebuild with little time, resulting in surprises. But, it’s somehow not as fun as the main show, despite the Golden Bolt.
Salem’s Lot (TV 1979) **** Tobe Hooper’s TV adaptation of Stephen King’s eerie vampire novel has plenty of creep-outs & a fine performance from James Mason.
Munster Go Home (Sven) *** If you’re in the mood for Munsters, the family going to England, living in a creepy house, & competing with evil relatives will fill the bill.
Midsomer Murders 14-8 A Rare Bird **** Competition between bird watchers turns deadly, because this is Midsomer, after all & of course it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Lady from Shanghai (1947) ***** Writer-Director Welles had his ex Rita Hayworth cut her famous locks & dye them blonde for this tale of a sailor whose job aboard the yacht of a rich lawyer turns out to be more about the wife (Hayworth). Lots of noir tension with a great funhouse finale.
Professor T (S1) **** The 1st season of Professor T is nearly as amusing as the 2nd, which I saw first. The crimes are amusing & complex & the one with the Downs Syndrome girl whose father goes missing, “Sophie Knows” was both brilliantly acted & touching.
Nimona ***** A commoner turned sci-fi knight’s life falls apart when he is befriended by the impish, shape-chanting title character. Great fun & affecting.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish **** Puss’ life changes forever as an unexpected problem sends him & a plethora of freakish foes on a quest to find the titular wish. Very good.
Seven Keys to Baldpate (1947) *** Writer goes to a deserted mansion to work but is soon surrounded by treasure hunters — some ruthless — looking for the keys to a fortune.
Blob, The (1952?) **** Steve McQueen became a star in this classic about a blob that falls from space & starts absorbing the citizens of a small town. Great.
Gojira (1954) ***** US version is fun, but it’s this original Japanese film about an atomic monster attacking Tokyo that’s a true classic. Still powerful today.
At the Earth’s Core **** Doug McClure & Peter Cushing dig into a prehistoric civilization (& Caroline Munro) in fun practical FX adaptation of Burroughs’ story.
People that Time Forgot *** Sequel to Land that Time Forgot isn’t as good, but it’s still plenty of fun with dinosaurs, cavemen, & civilization of evil slavers.
Annika (S2) ***** Picking up where the stunning reveal left off, this season puts Annika & crew through mysteries & tough times until the surprising ending.
Empire of the Ants *** Sure, it’s a cheapo adaptation of Wells, but Burt I. Gordon’s tale of real estate being taken over by giant ants in Florida is still silly fun.
Adventures of Prince Achmed, The ***** The first feature-length animated film is a shadow-play a Arabian Nights tale with heroes, princesses in peril, & dueling magicians. Great.
Poirot 11-4 Appointment with Death **** A blustering matriarch turns up dead on an archeological dig. Poirot must sort through a long lists of suspects who despised her.
Poirot 12-1 Three Act Tragedy ***** When a vicar chokes to death at a party held by an actor friend of Poirot’s, at first it seems bad luck. But then, other partygoers start dying.
Mad Monster Party **** Animated Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein holds a party for his monster “friends” to name his heir, but everyone wants his secret for their own. This film, done by Rankin Bass in the style of their famous Christmas specials is has monstrous fun for kids of all ages.
Unholy Night, The (1929) *** Boris Karloff in an early speaking part as the brother of a mystic trying to prevent the deaths of an old regiment including Reginald Owen.
Midsomer Murders 15-1 The Dark Rider **** A headless horseman seems to presage death in a country estate caught in a dispute with their rich, modern neighbors. Deaths mount.
Midsomer Murders 15-2 Murder of Innocence **** When a convicted murderer returns to town to sell a house, it begins a series of new murders & arsons for Barnaby & Jones to solve.
Bruce Lee’s Secret (1979) **(*) Brucespoitation flick with Bruce Li (as Bob) with a bit of Bruce Lee’s life thrown in, but a lot of the tropes from his film. Not a good film from most standpoints, but not bad if you like this kind of thing — though it does show just how good the actual Lee was compared to… everybody. Also features the muscular Carter Wong, from Big Trouble in Little China, as “Bob’s” rival/frienemy.
Scream of the Wolf (2022) a.k.a. Wolf Manor **** A low-rent group of filmmakers has chosen an ancient mansion for their vampire film, not knowing it’s haunted ty werewolves.
Beast from Haunted Cave, The *** The new Film Masters blu-ray of this film is probably the best it’s ever looked. Bank robbers hike into the snowy mountains, not knowing that they’re being pursued by an angry monster.
Destination Moon (1950) **** Heinlein wrote George Pal’s classic moon-landing film was easily the most scientifically accurate to date & still holes up well. Minor classic.
Fast and the Furious, The (1) *** Paul Walker is an undercover lawman trying to infiltrate Vin Diesel’s street-racing gang who also rob trucks. Fun. End makes little sense.
2 Fast, 2 Furious (2) *** Paul Walker is back, but all the rest I hoped to see are gone. Now he & his buddy are trying to bust a drug gang, with good racing stunts.

That’s it for November 2023, another big month in a big year.  Plenty of breadth of watching from mysteries to the start of the Fast & the Furious series.  (I got a deal on the set.)  Whether I’ll watch the rest in December remains to be seen.  Total shows, series, & notable shorts this month is 51, and GRAND TOTAL for the year so far a huge 599.  That make 600 a dead-bang cinch next month, but beyond that…

NEXT MONTH: The Holiday Season is upon us, and this crazy guy decides it is his mission to watch every Rankin Bass Christmas special in my collection, plus all the others I can find as well.  How did that turn out?  Tune in in January 2024 to find out — and do discover what my final count is for 2023.  Until then… Happy New Year!

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About Steve Sullivan 414 Articles
Stephen D. Sullivan is an award-winning author, artist, and editor. Since 1980, he has worked on a wide variety of properties, including well-known licenses and original work. Some of his best know projects include Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragonlance, Iron Man, Legend of the Five Rings, Speed Racer, the Tolkien RPG, Disney Afternoons, Star Wars, The Twilight Empire (Robinson's War), Uncanny Radio, Martian Knights, Tournament of Death, and The Blue Kingdoms (with his friend Jean Rabe).