Wednesday, September 20, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

A few thoughts: I'm not an Italian horror historian by any means, but that doesn't mean I don't know that this is one of the most important of its variety. Often credited as the first giallo film, or in the very least the movie that helped establish the sub genre, 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much' (re-edited and released as 'The Evil Eye' in the United States) may not be one of my very favorite Bava films, but is an entertaining and clever thriller nonetheless. Built around a series of murders a tourist becomes entangled in, the Hitchcock influence can definitely be felt here, but with Bava's visual style it takes on an identity of its own. Though it's shot in black and white, the heavy use of shadows and great lighting often featured in his movies is still on display here, though I still do prefer his color films. The acting is a bit stilted but it's honestly what I've come to expect in this sort of movies. I don't think it matters much which version you watch, but the music in the US version is very American, if that matters to you at all.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

A few thoughts: It's always funny to me that Wes Craven started out making movies like this and Last House On The Left - violent, rough, and trashy - and would later reinvent the slasher franchise as slick, humorous, and slyly self-aware. An incredibly violent and exploitative horror movie that sort of plays like a home invasion slasher revenge story, this is one of those difficult to rate cult movies that's not even remotely pleasant or professional, nor does it ever pretend to be. It's not a fun movie to watch, the production quality is weak, the editing is choppy, and the acting is almost exclusively over-the-top, but it's still weirdly hard to look away from. There are definitely some disturbing moments, but the characters are so poorly developed, it's difficult to ever become totally invested in them. I wanted to root for the good guys, but I had trouble doing it because the villainous inbred hillbilly mutants were so much more interesting. It's not bad, but as pure exploitation, I think I actually prefer the 2006 remake.

Monday, September 18, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Vampires (1998)

A few thoughts: A lesser effort from John Carpenter, this is a sort of horror-western hybrid that's fallen through the cracks, and I can sort of see why. Apart from some cool visuals and an incredibly driven performance by James Woods, there isn't much to this movie that feels particularly fresh or original. In the '80s and '90s, there was a big push to reinvent the classic vampire, but between The Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn, Near Dark, and Buffy, this didn't leave much room for John Carpenter's vision. Following a group of vampire hunters, the story feels very comfortable with itself, which works well for James Woods whose committed performance steals every scene. He's an incredibly natural actor, and this movie let's him really cut loose. I love the way vampires burst into flames in the sun as if they were packed with flares and gun powder, and I enjoy the grubby contemporary western setting, even if it's familiar territory. All-in-all, this movie didn't break any ground, but it's fun enough and is worth watching if even just for Woods.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Spaceballs (1987)

A few thoughts: Cornball barely begins to describe how goofy and childish this movie is, but it's they brand of overly silly cheesy humor that's hard not to enjoy, particularly if you have seen or are a fan of Star Wars. Mel Brooks has always been great at poking fun and making ridiculous parody movies, and while this doesn't stand up on the level of Young Frankenstein (which is practically perfect), this is definitely better than his Dracula parody. Meta before meta was cool, Spaceballs often picks the low-hanging fruit, but is a sharp and concise satire that lets a good joke simmer and does a solid job at establishing punchlines. Not every joke lands, and some are almost exceptionally stupid, but there is a charm and occasional depth to the jokes that makes it all the better. Mostly just targeting Star Wars, there are a few Trek and other sci/fi shows and movie jokes that slip in there, and for the most part they're used well. This isn't a perfect comedy, but it hits its marks and holds up pretty well within Brooks' filmography.

Friday, September 15, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Horror Of Dracula (1958)

A few thoughts: One of the first Hammer horror movies shot in technicolor with a heavy gothic aesthetic (the first being The Curse Of Frankenstein), this was the movie that started me in on really appreciating Peter Cushing -- who I now consider my favorite actor. He is the perfect Van Helsing, combining wisdom with physicality in an unexpected way. Christopher Lee plays Dracula, a much more frightening performance than Bela Lugosi, with a lot more emphasis put on his look than on his words. He barely speaks in this movie, which was a good choice helping separate itself from the 1931 version. The set design, lighting, and costumes are all excellent, using a lot of muted colors to help the bright paint-like blood stand out even more. No, the gore isn't realistic, but is catches your eye, which is the entire point. A major departure from the versions of this story that we all know, which I enjoy and appreciate. This isn't a remake, it's a reimagining, and one of the most important horror movies of its time.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Top 25 Star Trek Supporting Characters

Star Trek is such a massive universe, so making a list like this was bound to be tough for me. I had considered making a top 40 or 50 favorite characters list overall, but blending characters with 170 appearances onto a list with ones who only showed up a single time was way too hard for me. So, I've decided to do top 25 favorite lead and supporting characters lists. For this, I'll be counting any characters that appear in the TV shows or movies that aren't part of the main crew. Any number of appearances, but I'll not include any characters exclusive to games or books, for obvious reasons. So here we go.

25. Professor Moriarty

Portrayed by Daniel Davis
2 appearances: TNG - 'Elementary, Dear Data' (1988), 'Ship In A Bottle' (1993)

Species: Human Hologram

The best TNG villain who also happens to be Sherlock Holmes' greatest foe. First appearing in a season 2 episode as a villain programmed by Geordi to defeat Data in the Holodeck, this show's take on Moriarty allowed him to develop beyond being a simple villain, a character with depth and self-awareness who wanted to experience life outside of a program. His second appearance adds to that, while also proving how dastardly he can be to get what he wants.

24. Rom

Portrayed by Max Grodenchik
36 appearances: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)

Species: Ferengi

Quark's dopey and always-suffering little brother, Rom started off the show as basically a standard Ferengi but slowly began to develop a personality of his own. One of the most complete arcs in all of DS9, Rom took on the task of trying to bring about change within Ferengi culture, eventually landing himself a pretty great position to make these changes. Though he easily could have come across as preachy, this never was the case. He was a sweetheart.

23. Kruge

200 Items Or Less: The Devil Rides Out (1968)

A few thoughts: One of the most notable of Hammer's non-sequels, this is one of the earlier movies to explore the occult and satan worship, which became fairly standard for horror by the 1970s. One of the things I find most impressive about this movie come from how quickly it starts in on the plot and keeps things going without ever really slowing down or becoming exhausting. There are very few things about this movie that don't work, with the major standout being a laughably poor car chase scene with some of the worst rear-screen projection/composite shots (or whatever the hell you want to call it) I've ever seen. Christopher Lee is great as the main protagonist, keeping a level head around all these strange goings on, but Charles Gray is the guy who really steals the show. For an actor with relatively few major roles, I'm always impressed with him and this is probably the best he ever did. This isn't a terrifying movie, but it's got some creepy moments and a really cool overall production. I didn't like it the first time, but it's grown on me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Dogora (1964)

A few thoughts: A story about diamond thieves, secret agents, and double-crosses meets a giant alien jellyfish monster that feeds on carbon (particularly found in diamonds and coal). Definitely sounds like it could have been a huge mess, but Ishiro Honda does a great job at combining these two stories and making them complement each other instead of just sharing the same space. The special effects in this one are a bit of a mixed bag. Some shots look great, but others are pretty weak. The creature itself generally looks pretty awesome, but the use of miniatures ranges from effective to cornball -- very true to form for a kaiju movie of the '60s. The story hits a few dry patches, but is mostly fun to sit through, as I found myself thinking this should be a lot more popular. I guess not putting Godzilla in every movie sometimes hurt Honda's lasting success, but I applaud how much he branched out and tried new things for the genre like this. It's a unique monster, and overall a pretty solid movie.

Monday, September 11, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Alien Apocalypse (2005)

A few thoughts: If I was lying on my deathbed and given only 90 minutes to live, this might be the movie I would put on. Is it because it's so good, I want it to be my last memory? Hahahahaha, no. The reason I would pick it is because I know those 90 minutes would never pass, since this movie felt like I was watching it all day. I'm not as forgiving of lousy Bruce Campbell movies as his hardcore fans might be, so not even his effortless charm (which he does have in large quantities) was enough to keep this movie from being virtually unwatchable. I can stand bad dialogue, plot, CG, blah blah blah, but it's gotta be more fun than this. This wasn't so bad it's good, it was just bad bad. Maybe I needed to be drunk to enjoy it, but I really can't imagine putting this on again to find out if that would help. I would go into the plot, but it doesn't really matter. Nothing matters. I think this movie turned me into a nihilist. But seriously, it's not good at all, even in an ironic sense. Some awful pacing issues, and it looks terrible, too. But it could've been worse.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

200 Items Or Less: My Name Is Bruce (2007)

A few thoughts: I'm not a huge fan of Bruce Campbell, but I enjoy him enough. He's the kind of actor who's able to sustain a marginal script, but you have to enjoy his exaggerated acting and swaggerific personality. His best performances are usually just extensions of himself, so it makes sense for this shamelessly self-promoting and satirical autobiography to not only be directed by Campbell himself, but featuring Campbell playing himself as well. But don't be mistaken, this isn't an autobiography in the traditional sense, but rather a cheesy action horror fantasy about the aging actor being enlisted to help fight an ancient Chinese ghost. It's pretty dumb and you can definitely tell the script was trying to pull off Bubba Ho-Tep, but sadly lacking the humor and charm. Many of the jokes here fall flat, are incredibly predictable, and never really build up into anything. It's just lousy one-liners, one after the other. Ted Raimi is in it, too, in case I haven't made it sound unappealing enough already. I enjoyed bits of it, but it was lazy and too meta for its own good.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

A few thoughts: Hey, remember how First Blood was really powerful, understated, and wasn't fill with dozens of people being exploded and turned into Swiss cheese? Well, forget all of that crap. All you need to know about this movie going in is that Rambo = badass, and everyone else = bullet receptacle. It's a mindless action movie that doesn't care about keeping true to the character of John Rambo, but chooses to take him down the route of killing machine. I love the villain's confusing accent, which flips back and forth between German and Russian, but either way we know he's a bad guy because he's foreign and says things like "zem" and "comrade", so who even cares? This isn't a movie you even bother to question the logistics of. There are double-crosses, tons of explosions, generic dialogue, and more shots fired than could be found in most wars. I love the first movie, and this one is a total betrayal of it, but that doesn't keep this from being a fun thing to watch, in that cheesy, macho '80s sort of way. It's a perfect example of lousy, fun action.

Friday, September 8, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Ghostbusters (1984)

A few thoughts: An all-time classic genre comedy, Ghostbusters balances humor, science fiction theory, fantastical elements, and some light horror in a way that blends together perfectly. Quite possibly Bill Murray's funniest performance, as well as the best from Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, a trio of unique and hilarious lead characters who play off each other perfectly. Not only has this movie aged well (apart from a few of the special effects are not so special anymore), it is one that still holds a special place in the hearts of people who were raised watching it. Maybe this is just my nostalgic bias or my love of '80s movies, but if I were to name the greatest comedies of all-time, this could very well find a place in my top 10. It's filled with great quotes and funny moments, and even after watching it dozens of times I can still sit down and enjoy it in new ways every time I put it on. I haven't seen the remake (no interest in it), but I can say you'd be better off just sticking with the original. It's a classic and I love it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

A few thoughts: It may have taken a few movies, but the Friday The 13th franchise finally found the perfect combination of shocks and humor with this one. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't watch slasher sequels expecting some deeply terrifying experience, so the fact this one takes a decidedly more comedic, satirical approach to the genre was a very welcome change of pace. From the very beginning when Jason is resurrected with a bolt of lightning, you know you're in for something special. Throwing in cornball humor and over-the-top kills, Jason Lives isn't just the best in the series, it's one of the most entertaining horror movies of the 1980s, and one of my all-time favorite slashers. I enjoy how they managed to work a tight story around the mindless killing, moving form set piece to set piece fluidly and without a ton of wasted time. The characters are written much better here than normal, and having a lead who is fully aware of Jason being on the loose from the beginning helps keep this from repeating itself. Tons of entertainment to be found here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

200 Items Or Less: 13 Ghosts (1960)

A few thoughts: If you believe in ghosts, look through the red viewer -- if you don't, look through the blue. Welcome back to the wonderful world of William Castle's gimmicky horrors. And when I say wonderful, I really mean it, as his are some of the most entertaining and light-hearted horror movies of the era. Unlike several of his more popular films, this isn't one that could ever really scare anyone or even creep them out, but stands out for the creativity of the gimmick alone. The acting, cinematography, story, etc. are all pretty average, with the major standout component (apart from the blue/red ghost scenes) being the lighting, which I always enjoy the look of in his movies. Obviously this isn't on the same level as House On Haunted Hill or The Tingler, but this was never intended as a standalone movie. It relies heavily on audience participation, which does make it suffer when watching it at home. I would strongly suggest trying to get your hands on a few pairs of old red & blue 3D glasses and watch it that way, but it's not required.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Escape From New York (1981)

A few thoughts: An entertaining and surprisingly reserved action movie directed by one of the kings of the genre film: John Carpenter. Set in the future world of 1997, starring Kurt Russell as one of the most overly macho action leads of all-time, this is one of those movies that still puzzles me after a half dozen viewings whether or not it's meant to be taken seriously or not. It wouldn't be out of character for Carpenter or Russell to be tongue-in-cheek, but I don't honestly know. Either way, it's a fun and intriguing movie with an absolutely incredible cast (Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, and Lee Van Cleef), and a smoothly understated musical score recorded by the director himself. The set-up is simple, the action is sparse, and the set designs are often very minimalist, but the dystopian world it creates is perfect in how stark and dirty it feels. This movie feels very lived-in; it isn't pretty to look at, but not so grubby it isn't able to show off some cool scenery. Insanely rewatchable.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Sixth Sense (1999)

A few thoughts: Proud owner of one of the most famous plot twists of all-time, this is one of those gateway horror movies that was just too creepy for mainstream (and unsuspecting) audiences of the time, leading it to be considered a much more frightening movie than it really is. But it's still a really solid and occasionally chilling drama, with some career-best performances by Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, and (of course) Haley Joel Osment. Though the twist and certain moments don't hold up too well to scrutiny, this is still a very clever and competent script with great cinematography and an incredible musical score. James Newton Howard always elevated Shyamalan's films, and this was one of the best examples of that. It didn't just rely on jump-scares to be creepy, but built up tension through well-constructed scenes that allow the performances and music to suck you in. There's definitely a bit of that wispiness that would take over his later movies, but it doesn't get in the way of this fantastic drama with some genuinely creepy moments.

Friday, September 1, 2017

200 Items Or Less: No Holds Barred (1989)

A few thoughts: If I were to name just one movie that should be totally unwatchable but I love it anyway, this might be it. I don't care for pro wrestling, the acting is abominable, the script is almost astoundingly stupid, and as a WWE production it's almost insulting to its target demographic (portraying fans of wrestling as brainless idiots and psychopaths), but the way everything comes together is like a perfect storm of awful. I find it hilarious, but I could understand how someone else might have more trouble with it. Hulk Hogan is every bit as terrible of an actor as you might expect, but as entertainingly bad as he is, Kurt Fuller steals the show here as a seedy network executive. It's the kind of over-the-top acting that masochists like me feed on. The action scenes are shockingly bad, and a good portion of the movie is spent lingering on them. Oh, the glorious ineptitude! You had one job to do, movie, and you blew it. Not much else to say here, it's just a bad movie that winds up being really funny in spite of itself.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (2016)

A few thoughts: I went into this movie know only two things: it was supposed to be good, and it has Brian Cox in it. Well, it is indeed good, and Brian Cox is not only in it, but he is fantastic in it. Set at a late night autopsy during a terrible storm, this movie is able to get under your skin even when traditional horror happenings aren't happening. The setting is dark and moody, the practical effects are incredible, and the sound design makes the dissection even more disgusting. The way the movie ratchets up the suspense is fantastic, slowly building up as it goes along, but sadly the scarier the movie is trying to be, the less effective it turns out. That isn't to say it ever totally lost me, but I honestly found the movie a lot creepier before the real horror kicked in. I like the way the mystery unfolds during the autopsy and how natural it felt when they began to realize something was going on. It wasn't always the easiest movie to watch, but it gave me the creeps and was impressively produced.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Tingler (1959)

A few thoughts: A William Castle study in fear...and it's every bit as fun as you could hope. Vincent Price gives one of the most entertaining performances of his career, which is a statement I don't take lightly. Watching him in this movie fills my heart with joy, and if it weren't for how much I enjoy the silliness of the story, he would totally dominate the whole thing. The movie is about scientists trying to discover what causes the tingle that goes up your spine, and the conclusion they come to is that it's a monster that lives inside of you that appears when you're scared, and only your screams can keep it at bay. It sounds ridiculous, because it is ridiculous -- ridiculously fun!...but seriously, this movie is an absolute blast from start to finish. I love Castle's opening, the way he allows Price free reign, the corny concept, the creature design, and the totally awesome scene with controlled use of color. It's one of my favorite movies of the 1950s, and a weirdly overlooked movie that would be a ton of fun to screen for Halloween.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Top 5 Charles Dance performances

A late-bloomer in certain aspects, Charles Dance hasn't had the most chances to prove himself outside of villainous roles, but still always brings something new and fresh to virtually every character he plays. While he hasn't gotten many awards or critical recognition, he's carved himself a niche as a suave and eloquent villain. Alright, you know who he is, let's just do the list now.

5. Dracula Untold (2014)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Outland (1981)

A few thoughts: Sean Connery plays a newly appointed Marshal aboard a mining colony on a Jupiter moon where there are some seedy criminal activities that everyone seems to either be in on, or afraid to acknowledge. Watching him try to get to the bottom of this makes for a bulk of the movie, but there isn't much of a mystery, so it's a good thing the sets and sci/fi elements are present and the climax is exciting, otherwise this could have been a pretty dull movie. Connery plays himself, as usual, but his strength and demeanor is perfectly suited to the role, helping it stand out as one of his better performances. As I briefly mentioned earlier, I love the set design, with the scenery shots of the mining colony being particularly cool. As most people say, this is a lot like High Noon in space, but it's still solidly entertaining, has some legitimate thrills, and features some very impressive set pieces and visuals. Also, weirdly, there are some jump-scare moments -- keep in mind, this is a crime/action movie. Very bizarre, but it adds to the tension. I dug it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Death Race 2000 (1975)

A few thoughts: Incredibly corny, violent, and hilarious, Death Race 2000 is one of those cult movies that has the perfect blend of self-awareness and cheapness, making it fun for anyone with the sense of humor to enjoy something that's totally insane. Unlike the remake series, the racers in this movie drive because they love it, running down pedestrians and crashing into each other with glee, as opposed to being forced into it. This makes a huge difference, as the deeply cynical and satirical nature of the movie is able to take over and make it all the more fun to watch. There's nothing depressing about this movie (somehow), and that lighthearted approach leads to a lot of genuinely funny moments. The gore effects and car designs are every bit as goofy as you might expect from a Corman production, the acting is wonderfully over-the-top, and all of these elements come together amazingly. Maybe it's not the greatest production in the world, but it's one of the most fun movies of its time and a near-perfect satire of media, sports, violence, and politics.

Friday, August 25, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Late Phases (2014)

A few thoughts: Werewolf movies are probably the hardest horror staples to get right. Modern audiences don't find werewolves scary, and few filmmakers are able to make them work as strong action or drama movies. Well, Late Phases finds perfect blend and does it all with cool Rick Baker-esque special effects, a sharp script, and a truly unique central lead. Nick Damici wonderfully plays a blind veteran who recently moved into an elderly community, and after dog gets killed (of course), he begins to suspect it was a werewolf whodunnit. The way the movie allows him to solve this is natural, and the way he interacts with people and develops as a character throughout is great. The pacing is wonderful, and all the non-werewolf scenes are every bit as important and entertaining, making it a breeze to sit through. The lighting and music are also top notch, with my only complaint being some of the werewolves look a little silly, and a few scene transitions are slightly clunky. But as a whole, this is an awesome and tense movie that I enjoyed a great deal.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Phantom Of The Opera (1962)

A few thoughts: What will instantly stand out to someone watching this movie is the beautiful set design. Hammer always utilized wonderfully constructed sets, but this is definitely among their best ever in that department. The Phantom Of The Opera is a story that allows for a lot of room in its adaptations, and while this isn't the most creative, outside of the 1925 silent version, this is probably my favorite. I like the way they allow the Phantom to be a fully developed character while also shrouding him in mystery for a good portion of the movie. It builds the suspense and doesn't spell everything out for you until you eventually discover who the real monster is. Michael Gough is a standout, playing his truly malicious character with a wonderful sliminess. Cushing and Lee being absent from this project is all the easier to swallow due to this performance. Maybe not the best film Terence Fisher ever made, but it looks great, has a fantastic build-up, and is easily among the best adaptations of the story I've seen.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Top 5 Tom Noonan performances

An often overlooked cult character actor, Tom Noonan always brings a dark sense of dread and gloom to his roles, with his soft but intense facial expressions balancing somewhere between calming and terrifying. His large physique makes him a force in every movie, but it's his gaze that often sells each performance. Often intense and soft-spoken, Noonan has somewhat limited dramatic range, but is the perfect actor for a large handful of roles. Here are my 5 favorites.

5. Anomalisa (2015)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Carnival Of Souls (1962)

A few thoughts: Much more moody than it is actively scary, this is one of those classic horror movies that's insanely easy to get your hands on (pretty much every public domain horror collection features it), flies by at just over 70 minutes, and is well done enough for it to be hard for someone to not find the time to give it a whirl. I love the organ music, a distinctively shrill and atmospheric score that's every bit as understated as it is creepy. Very much a product of the '60s, the setting, dialogue, characters, and costumes all add to the experience in a way that's much more interesting to watch now than it would have been when it came out. There are some fantastic moments and scenes, particularly ones with the ghoulish pale dark-eyed man, but thereally is much more to it than that. The main character is an isolated loner, very unlike most horror leads of the time, and in spite of the actresses stilted performance, the character still stands out. It's a simple movie with a very stripped-down story and execution, but it works really well.

Monday, August 21, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Invasion Of Astro-Monster (1965)

A few thoughts: King Ghidorah is terrorizing an alien planet whose inhabitants enlist the help of Earth to bring Godzilla and Rodan to this planet to fight him. But do they have ulterior motives?!? One of the earliest of the overly ridiculous Godzilla movies, this one features some of the coolest sets of the series since it spends a great deal of its time in space. This is actually the first and only in the series that puts Godzilla in space, which makes it special in its own way. I love the silly alien costumes, the monster fights, and how well the non-monster plot works into the action itself. Usually these movies suffer from poor human plotlines, but this is definitely one of the most well-rounded and thoroughly entertaining. Filled with greed and treachery, the story with the aliens often outshines the monsters themselves, which is pretty exceptional. Maybe this isn't one of the most important or influential monster movies ever made, but for sheer entertainment value, I would place this pretty high up on my list.

200 Items Or Less: The Walking Dead (1936)

A few thoughts: Karloff is mistakenly put to death and gets brought back through the miracles of science, only to find himself thirsty for revenge. With this fairly standard set-up, the movie manages to take a few different turns throughout, particularly in making Karloff less psychotic and more sympathetic. He has some sort of psychic, otherworldly power that makes people die even when he doesn't directly do anything to them, so he never comes across as terribly malicious here. The movie takes a good deal of its running time setting up the story, but sadly never feels particularly committed to giving it a distinct personality. This is a very standard movie with less emphasis on the scientific side of things than on the gangster/revenge portion of the story. Karloff has given far better performances but he is solid here, as should be expected. Still, with a very underwhelming role and little for him to do, he's left with little more than a shambling Frankenstein-type role without the distinctive look. It's all very average.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Prince Of Darkness (1987)

A few thoughts: With a relentless pounding Carpenter score, a mounting sense of dread and panic, and a handful of strong performances, Prince Of Darkness should have been an undeniable horror classic, but instead falls a little short due to the ponderous nature of the story and occasional inadvertent silliness. Okay, now I can stop trying to sound like a movie critic. I love the way they blended science and religion together, attempting to bring cold hard facts into an investigation of the supernatural, with these people caught in between logical disbelief and the reality of the horrors surrounding them. It takes a little while to really get going, but this gives you a good feel for the characters and a sense of just how massive the story really is -- in spite of taking place almost entirely in one building. The scenery is cool, the prosthetics are equally as great, and the music really sticks with you. Maybe not among Carpenter's very best, but I still dug it and found it pretty damn creepy and fun to watch.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Burial Ground (1981)

A few thoughts: I have a bit of a dodgy relationship with Italian horror. I love most everything I've seen by Mario Bava, a handful of Argento, and a few others, but I find a lot of Italian horror is pretty weird and off-putting. Well, this is one of those weird and off-putting ones. But that doesn't mean it isn't without its appeals. The practical effects/zombie makeup and absolutely awesome, for one. I love the design of the zombies and how they don't all look the same, it was very creative and fantastically executed there. The gore went back and forth between ultra-realistic and grotesquely cheesy, and I really enjoyed that. But the characters, dialogue, story, and pretty much everything else about the movie leaves much to be desired. There's a weird bit involving an incestuous midget that was pretty awful, but it left an impression, so I guess that's something. I went into this movie expecting it to be Lucio Fulci, and honestly it fits in pretty well with his whole style. Not the best movie, but it has some great zombie moments/makeup.

Friday, August 18, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965)

A few thoughts: Do you see the title? Now scroll down and look at the image. Quite frankly, I don't need 200 words to tell you what this movie is all about, but let's do it anyway. This is every bit as idiotic and empty-headed as you could possibly imagine, the kind of throwaway teen trash that would have been totally lost to obscurity were it not for A) the title, and B) Vincent Price. Basically every attempt at non-verbal humor is the most brainless slapstick outside of a Jerry Lewis movie, with nearly every performance being the kind of inept acting you should expect from a movie about a bikini machine and a secret agent with the codename "00¼". Vincent Price is his usual self-aware and ridiculous comic persona, but not even he is enough to make this fully entertaining. There are multiple scenes that exist only to show bikini girls dancing, and that pretty much sums up the movie. It's incredibly lame, low brow, and a product of its time -- which is probably the most interesting thing to say about it. This couldn't have existed in any other decade, for better or worse.

200 Items Or Less: Duel (1971)

A few thoughts: A motiveless chase thriller wherein a man gets on the bad side of a crazed trucker who proceeds to stalk him and threaten his life over the course of an afternoon. Shot almost entirely on the road, the two drivers never have a face-to-face moment, which only adds to the disarmingly simple and creepy vibe of the movie. It's weirdly terrifying the way they shoot the truck/trucker, presented as this daunting figure without reason, without a face, and totally relentless in his resolve to torment. Though some of the tension does become defused when they choose to throw in voice-over narration to spell out exactly what the character is thinking and feeling. It's distracting, but never enough to take you out of the story. Although it's a simple thriller on paper, the way it's shot and skillfully choreographed is anything but. Dennis Weaver does a great job in the lead, playing off the situation and nothing else in an appropriately paranoid way. The feature film debut of Steven Spielberg, and one of his greatest and most focused achievements.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Top 10 Favorite Horror Performances

This is one of the toughest top 10s I've ever tried to put together, which means by the time I hit "publish" I'll remember 5 other things I wished I'd put on it. But oh well. All lists I make are temporary, and that's part of what I like about them. Just seeing how much my opinion changes as time goes on makes this stuff as entertaining for me to read as I could ever hope it would be for anyone else.

I've mentioned this before, but horror is one of my very favorite genres. And while it doesn't often contain the greatest acting around, there are some obvious exceptions to this rule. This list, as the title may suggest, is by no means an attempt at being objective in any way. These are just my favorites, and when condensed to only 10 total performances, a very small list indeed. Cutting it down to only 30 was tough enough, so you can only imagine how sad it is for me to leave some of these things off. So I guess I'll just toss out a few honorable mentions now, because it would be sad to ignore them completely:

200 Items Or Less: The Day Of The Triffids (1962)

A few thoughts: Witness a walking pot farm zap itself on an electric fence! A meteor shower causes most of the population of Earth to go blind and drops a sort of alien flower/spore that spreads and kills people. How about that for a campy sci/fi horror premise? By causing this mass blindness, the movie finds a way to demonstrate how panicky and selfishly exploitative people can be, which I found very clever and well done. But let's talk about what brings people in and makes the movie special: the giant killer alien flowers. They're pretty cheesy, but I mean, what else would/could/should you expect? This isn't high art, it's a movie about evil alien plants that walk around (or I guess "scoot" would be more accurate) and kill people. The plot meanders at times, but the special effects work is great in that goofy '60s sort of way, so I can forgive a few pacing issues. This movie delivers on its promise and doesn't leave the audience feeling cheated by a lack of triffids. There are plenty of triffids, don't worry.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)

A few thoughts: Boris Karloff plays a scientist on the verge of a life-enhancing breakthrough when he is convicted of a murder he didn't really commit -- at least not in the traditional sense. To go much further in describing the plot would mean giving away a great deal of the bulk of the film, so I'll just leave it at that. This isn't exactly new territory for Karloff, as he played his fair share of crazed, genius scientists, but that doesn't make this any less entertaining to watch. Well-paced at under 70 minutes long, the plot moves along at a steady clip and never goes stale. I like how the story shifts focus and - to an extent - changes genres as it goes along, culminating in a very fun sequence wherein characters are creatively killed off one by one. As is often the case with his movies, the main highlight here is Karloff. Though he winds up becoming a fairly stereotypical maniac, he still goes through changes that - as crazy as they may be - are partially understandable. Not essential Karloff, but well worth the watch.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Top 5 Jeffrey Combs performances

One of the greatest cult character actors of the past 30 years, Combs is often overlooked by mainstream audiences and awards, but has a huge following of loyal fans who appreciate him for the talented performer that he is. These aren't meant to be wordy or deeply detailed, so no more introduction, it's list time.

5. From Beyond (1986)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Cash On Demand (1961)

A few thoughts: As much as I love Cushing's iconic horror performances (Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, etc.), this movie proves more than anything that he was an incredible actor with tons of dramatic range outside of his horror wheelhouse. His nervously stoic performance is one of the best of his entire career, as you see his character change and naturally develop over the course of only an hour or two. As far as genre credibility, I suppose this doesn't fully fit inside my usual parameters, but as a Hammer production with a small cult following, I suppose that's all that's needed for me to write about it. Very intense and cleverly written, this movie is a fantastic acting showcase for both of its leads, but the acting never overshadows how sharp the story is. I loved the finale, which threw me off-guard and left me continually anticipating twists that I wasn't able to predict. Heist movies are often thrilling, but rarely this emotionally satisfying and cleverly character-based. It's only 80 minutes, and doesn't waste a moment, but somehow never feels rushed. A pretty great movie, and one that makes me wish Hammer produced more like it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Corruption (1968)

A few thoughts: I've been pretty clear in the past that I'll watch anything with Peter Cushing in it -- he's my favorite actor, after all. So, naturally, I went digging into some more obscure stuff of his and came across this one. So being the Cushing fan I am, even the lousy script, nonsensically exploitative subject matter, and campy presentation couldn't take away from the joyous experience of watching my favorite actor let loose and give a totally unhinged performance. Aided by an equally psychotic performance from Sue Lloyd (who miraculously manages to hold her own beside Cushing), this is not a movie you watch for anything other than the acting. It's gory, stupid, has a pretty distracting swingin' '60s soundtrack, and doesn't care even remotely about telling a good story. But still, thanks to these two leads, it manages to be entertaining in its own right. Mix in some pretty disturbing and intense scenes with a whole lot of tooth-gnashing, and this is what you get. I cold never say it's good, but I certainly wasn't bored. Also, it's got a hilarious poster.

Friday, August 11, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Baby (1973)

A few thoughts: About an hour into this cult film about a grown man who behaves and is treated like a baby, I found myself thinking I may have just wasted my time on a pretty worthless and overtly weird movie. But then the finale hit and I found myself laughing and throughly engaged in a ludicrous and truly unexpected conclusion. The result is a bit uneven, for sure, but an oddly gratifying experience nonetheless. As I was watching it, I got a distinctly John Waters-y vibe (specifically the egg lady from Pink Flamingos), but by the end it was more like a more depraved Sam Peckinpah. The acting is hammy, the story is incredibly strange - almost aggressively so - and it's by no means the most well-produced or easy movie to watch. But much like the aforementioned Pink Flamingos, this movie has a sleaziness to it that fans of low brow cult films of the '70s are likely to enjoy, but most everyone else will dislike and find too bizarre and gross. I was very close to feeling that way myself, but like I said before, I had a lot of fun with the ending.

Top 5 Terry O'Quinn performances

I know I need to see more of him, but Terry O'Quinn is an actor I always look forward to seeing in anything (though it's been nearly 15 years since he's even appeared in a movie) and consider extremely underrated in a mainstream sense. I'm trying to avoid using too many TV performances for this list, but there are a few that are just hard to ignore. So I'm compromising and going with quality over quantity. Anyway, here are my top 5 favorite Terry O'Quinn performances.

5. Pin (1988)

200 Items Or Less: The Flesh And The Fiends (1960)

A few thoughts: Burke and Hare are a popular subject of horror (and horror-comedies), but with two leads like Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence, it should be pretty obvious why this particular adaptation caught my eye. Obviously, there are a good deal of comparisons that can be made between this and Frankenstein, especially when you consider Cushing is playing essentially the same character here as in the Hammer series, but even in a similar role, he brings something new to the table here as a deliberately confrontational and charmless doctor -- with deep humility by the film's conclusion. Pleasence is pretty great as a slimy murderer who sells bodies, but the third focus of the story involving a younger doctor and his always-drunk girlfriend is a bit tedious and feels a lot like filler. They make it work into the main story though, so it at least wasn't pointless. As a whole, this movie definitely seems like an attempt to capitalize on the popularity and success of Hammer's Frankenstein movies, but it still has its appeals -- and unsurprisingly, those appeals are mainly Cushing and Pleasence's performances.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

A few thoughts: Not only one of the most important horror movies ever made, but one of the most important movies ever made, period. Sadly, even with masterpieces, there are some chinks in the armor. With this one, it comes down to the characters. Apart from the lead, there isn't a single intelligent or rational person in the entire cast, and frankly it becomes incredibly annoying. I hate people as much as the next guy (probably even more), but this makes me hate people far beyond the normal levels. I don't really need to go into how dark and claustrophobic this movie is, and how it ushered in a new wave of horror, but suffice it to say this movie's influence can still be felt almost 50 years later. The ending is one of the most frustrating in film history, but that only assures you'll never forget it. I can't say it's totally flawless (like I said before, the characters mostly suck), but the frustration our lead feels only adds to the doomed tone of the rest of it. Not even my nitpicking and pessimism can prevent me from considering it one of the greats; this is an absolute classic that still holds up today.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Comedy Of Terrors (1963)

A few thoughts: Not only is this movie not very good, it's not even the best ensemble horror comedy of 1963. That's a very specific thing to not be the best of, and The Raven owns that title by a landslide. Vincent Price is usually much more entertaining than this, and the same can be said of Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff. For being a comedy, I don't recall laughing a single time, with a majority of the "jokes" slipping by without me even realizing if was supposed to be funny. Basil Rathbone is pretty much the only one here who has any decent material, and he does what he can but isn't in the movie enough to make it worthwhile, and a majority of his "funny" moments come from his recitations of Shakespeare. My kidneys just may rupture from the outpouring of laughter. With a cast this great, a talented director (Jacques Tourneur), and a writer as prolific as Richard Matheson, I expected more. And that's right, the same Richard Matheson who wrote the book I Am Legend, over a dozen Twilight Zone episodes, The Incredible Shrinking Man, House Of Usher, and oh, whaddyaknow, The Raven. What a horrible waste.

200 Items Or Less: Low Blow (1986)

A few thoughts: I enjoy B-Z grade movies, so I like looking for the really entertainingly absurd ones from time to time. While this definitely wouldn't be near the top of my list of so-bad-it's-good movies, I still laughed a fair amount and was every bit as baffled by it as I could have hoped. This is that sort of movie where things happen, and then other things start to happen, and then you forget about the first thing. A string of events that technically move the plot along, but you'll never see the logic behind any of it. Leo Fong drives drunk (presumably) and kicks a lot of people, Cameron Mitchell sits on a fluffy chair dressed as the Emperor with shades and monologues about the weather, and '80s porno music blares throughout 90% of the movie, drowning out virtually every line of dialogue. It's every bit as incompetent and funny as it sounds, but you definitely have to be in the right mood and with the right people in order to fully enjoy it. It's not as funny if there's no one there to laugh along with. But if you like crappy action B-movies from the '80s, here you go.

Monday, August 7, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Black Room (1935)

A few thoughts: Seeing Boris Karloff share the screen with Boris Karloff is a rare treat, and while this movie could have easily gotten by on that gimmick alone, it actually has a pretty cool story to tell. Karloff plays a pair of twins, the younger of which is prophecized to kill the older in a particular room in their castle. One brother is evil and the other is good, but they switch it around so the good is meant to be the killer. While the movie could have taken this and went in a more outrageous route, I was impressed by how they handled it, and Karloff does a fantastic job as both of these characters. As I said before they use some trickery to have Karloff appear twice in single shots, something that genuinely surprised me: I expected strictly over-the-shoulder shots with body doubles. As could be expected of a '30s Karloff mystery/thriller/horror(?) this movie isn't terribly long, and at just over an hour long they managed to tell a complete story. This may not be the best of his career, but it's still really solid and has a cool castle setting.

200 Items Or Less: Destination: Outer Space (2010)

A few thoughts: A hodgepodge of ill-conceived and/or stolen ideas, this movie feels very much like the writer (Christopher R. Mihm) had a dozen or so incomplete thoughts for his movies and elected to smash them all together instead of trying to flesh them out. It's like being told the start of 5 different jokes and never being given a punchline. Usually Mihm's movies are fairly well-done parodies, but not here at all. The poor attention to detail makes it less like a tribute to classic sci/fi tropes than a complete misunderstanding of them. Instead of just having stilted dialogue and poor acting, this movie chooses to draw attention to how bad these aspects of it are without ever finding a way to make it humorous. Out of place and distractingly obvious and bad references to popular movies (like Star Wars) take it out of the supposed '50s setting, resulting in "jokes" of the caliber of the most poorly thought out leftover Family Guy material. There are a few fun moments, but this mess is just...well, a mess. Easily my least favorite Mihm so far, and a major disappointment -- especially since I consider him one of my favorite modern directors.

200 Items Or Less: Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

A few thoughts: One of those rare movies with a single image far more well-known than the movie itself, Mr. Sardonicus fits nicely into William Castle's filmography as a fine example of the charms of his gimmickry. Gleefully cheesy and in poor taste, I can't go so far as to say this is a very good film, but it's an entertaining one regardless. Filled with hilariously cornball torture scenes and close-ups on some very poor prosthetics work, this movie tells an outrageous story that's just goofy enough to be funny and just serious enough to not be a comedy. I enjoy the opening and closing bits featuring Castle himself, moments during which you can tell this was a man who absolutely loved what he did. Were his movies silly? Absolutely, but the way he tried to have his audiences participate in the experience was infectiously charming. As far as his movies go this wouldn't be at the very top of the list, but if you enjoy the look and feel of black and white horror from the '50s and '60s, this is a competently made movie with a cool setting and creative presentation.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Top 5 Best Episodes of Adventure Time (Season 3)

Being arguably the most consistent season of the entire show (which is really saying something), the best of and worst of lists for it were incredibly hard to make. On the top end, some of my very favorites of the entire series were in thus season, with a dozen or so more that I also really liked. On the bottom end, there wasn't a single "bad" episode to be found, with the worst ones more often than not just simply being forgettable. So with that out of the way, don't be surprised if your favorites or least favorites aren't on this list. There were too many good episodes for me to choose from, making it very hard to narrow it down to just 5. So let's get on with this, my top 5 favorite episodes of season 3.

5. What Was Missing