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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Escanaba In Da Moonlight (2001)

A few thoughts: I normally wouldn't write a 200 Items review of a comedy, but seeing as how this is the only movie I've ever seen that feels quite like this, I figure I'll let it slip in as a sort of campy cult fantasy hybrid. But as any true cult movie should be, the intended audience for this movie is so damn small and specific, it's a wonder it was even made in the first place. This isn't the kind of comedy you burst out laughing during, but the quotable lines and memorable characters will stick with you regardless. By the third act, you'll feel like you're watching a completely different movie, but that bizarreness only adds to how truly exceptional this movie is to experience. My family picked this up on a whim when a video rental store was clearing out their VHS tapes, and honestly, that's kind of perfect for it. I've never really known anyone to have seen this, but that obscurity only works in its favor. It's not very "good", but it's remarkable nonetheless, and a worthwhile bit of wacky, superstitious, paranoid nonsense. Even if you don't like it, odds are you won't forget it.

Friday, August 4, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Showgirls (1995)

A few thoughts: The term "worst of all time" gets throws around an awful lot these days, so I'll try to avoid such hyperbole when I say this movie is definitely one of the worst movies I have ever seen. By the time this movie finished, I felt like it had become part of my personality. After experiencing something so horrible for so long, how could it not find a way to creep into my brain and tug some wires loose? Elizabeth Berkeley gives one of the most astoundingly inept lead performances I've ever seen, and a good portion of the supporting cast is almost as bad. The major exception being Kyle MacLachlan, who actually does a solid job. But it's not just horrible acting, the story is predictable and the dialogue/content of the movie as a whole is purely vile. This is a repulsive movie. With the tongue-in-cheek self-awareness Verhoeven movies usually have it's almost remarkable how much he missed the mark here. I laughed at times from the horrible acting, but cringed for a majority of the movie: not even seemingly endless nudity could make it bearable.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Planet Of The Vampires (1965)

A few thoughts: Who could've guessed Mario Bava - director of some of the moodiest and most visually groundbreaking horror movies of all-time - would make one of the silliest sci/fi films I've ever seen. But this is by no means an insult. Being a Bava film, obviously the sets, lighting, and cinematography are wonderful. With tons of fog and brightly colored lights shining on strangely shaped background objects, this very colorful and imaginative scenery helps make every frame of this movie just fun to look at. The costumes are goofy full body suits with stripes (sort of like Tron without the lights), adding to the campiness this sci-fi/horror/fantasy already has in spades. A sort of vampire/body snatcher/zombie hybrid set on a bizarre planet, this is one of those catchy movie titles that doesn't at all disappoint. Much like with 'Hercules In The Haunted World', Bava knew how to deliver on a promise. No, it isn't a particularly scary or creepy movie, with the sci-fi/fantasy aspects definitely taking precedence, but with all the awesome visuals and cool atmosphere, it never felt lacking to me. I wouldn't change a thing about it.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Andromeda Strain (1971)

A few thoughts: Slow, methodical, understated, and oh-so atmospheric, this may not be Robert Wise's best ever sci/fi attempt (remember, he directed The Day The Earth Stood Still), but is still a pretty fantastic #2 -- as it would be for anyone. Scientific research doesn't often make for the most compelling entertainment, but watching the scientists in this movie slowly discover the truth about a deadly virus that's wiped out an entire town and threatens life on Earth is not only intriguing to watch, but immensely satisfying. Utilizing split-screen and unconventional narration, this movie pumps out information at a remarkable rate and really rewards people who pay close attention. The sets are designed in that wonderfully stark late-'60s, early-'70s sort of way that only adds to the alien nature of the story. I love the setting, visual design, realistical scientific approach, and the tense and unsettling atmosphere. It plays like a mystery, but not one that diminishes upon rewatch or disappoints if you go in already knowing the outcome. It's a little long (130 mins), but utilizes its time well. A top-notch Crichton adaptation.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Adventure Time - Season 3 (episodes #14-26)

Season 3 (episodes #1-13)

★✯✯✯✯ - pretty bad
★★✯✯✯ - not so good
★★★✯✯ - pretty average
★★★★✯ - good
★★★★★ - pretty great

Episode 14:

200 Items Or Less: Dark And Stormy Night (2009)

A few thoughts: Larry Blamire is the kind of director that you either love or just don't understand. While not on the same level as The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra (one of the greatest parodies ever made), this old dark house send-up is filled with hilarious characters, one-liners, and the perfect balance of absurdity and spot-on imitation of the subject matter. This is the third parody by Blamire and his crew of regulars, and you can definitely tell how familiar they are with each other, as their chemistry and comedic banter is top notch. This familiarity is infectious, and by the end of the movie you'll be so wrapped up in the fun they're clearly having, there's no way you can't picture behind the scenes moments of them all bursting out laughing in between takes. If you aren't familiar with old dark house movies, you probably won't get all of the jokes, but the humor is so rapid fire and off-the-wall, odds are you'll still find plenty to laugh at. It's an affectionate parody of a subgenre that's faded into obscurity, and the production is detailed and clearly produced with great admiration.

Top 5 John Carroll Lynch performances

John Carroll Lynch, much like many great character actors of our time, is someone everyone is familiar with, but no one has ever heard of. All it takes is a picture and people instantly recognize him. And odds are, most movie fans have enjoyed his performances at least once or twice. He's often given small roles, but always brings something to the table no matter how little he has to work with. An actor as versatile as he is underrated.

So, being the kind of snob that I am, I've decided it's time I highlight some actors like him, and make top 5 lists for my personal favorite works of these underrated actors. So here we go, these are my top 5 favorite John Carroll Lynch performances.

5. Fargo (1996)

Monday, July 31, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Haunted Palace (1963)

A few thoughts: As could (and should) be expected of any Roger Corman Poe adaptation, this is a movie with loads of atmosphere, awesome set design, and an entertaining lead performance by Vincent Price. While I wouldn't put this on the same level as the best of these adaptations, it is a significant step above Tales Of Terror and Tomb Of Ligeia. There's not much to be said of this movie that wouldn't also apply to House Of Usher or Pit And The Pendulum, which is ultimately it's greatest weakness. By the time the movie came out, it was already superfluous; the same product as several others only with slight difference in plot. I still enjoy it, and Price is (as I already implied) his usual wonderful self, but choosing to approach this without humor (see: The Raven) or a striking color palette (see: The Masque Of The Red Death), Corman ultimately doomed his own movie to obscurity. I love the ending, though, and even if it doesn't feel entirely original, it's still a good movie.

Adventure Time - Season 3 (episodes #1-13)

I'm not in the mood to preface this post. To quote Homestar Runner, "I'm not very good at speeches..."

Here is the rating system I'm using for this show:

★✯✯✯✯ - pretty bad
★★✯✯✯ - not so good
★★★✯✯ - pretty average
★★★★✯ - good
★★★★★ - pretty great

Episode 1:
'Conquest Of Cuteness'

Sunday, July 30, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Zardoz (1974)

A few thoughts: From the giant floating stone head that drops guns and ammunition on barbaric religious zealots, to the bizarre and terrifying society created by Immortals who punish wrongdoings with old age and an eternity of senility, this movie paints a complex picture that - at times cold in its exposition - is as comprehensive as any movie of its time. Though it definitely takes a while to get your head wrapped around all the concepts and world-building, the result is a unique and immersive sci/fi experience. Sean Connery, with his ridiculous red banana hammock and 2-foot braid, doesn't offer much to the movie as far as a performance goes, but his entire character is really nothing more than a plot device and means to pass knowledge onto the audience without mind-numbing narration. He also represents the clash between chaos and control, in a movie that offers a utopia with more flaws than visible benefits. Sadly, the ideas significantly outshine the execution. Cheesy at times, but always interesting, surprisingly deep, and intellectually stimulating.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Dr. Terror's House Of Horrors (1965)

A few thoughts: Picture Dead Of Night (1945) if it were produced by Hammer. That's basically what you get here with this first horror anthology from Amicus. Starring Peter Cushing and directed by Freddie Francis (who is also known for his work with Hammer), this movie handles its multiple stories and disjointed nature better than most anthologies due to the consistency of its visuals and direction. With only one writer and one director, this movie is able to weave through its stories in a concise way, always returning to its jumping-off point before branching out again. There's a solid variety of horror stories here, ranging from werewolves to vampires, killer plantlife, voodoo gods, severed hands, and even Death himself. Much like most horror movies of its time, this is not a terrifying experience as much as it is an atmospheric and creative one. Even if the individual stories aren't groundbreaking, the presentation and style allows them to function both independently and as part of a greater whole. I had a lot of fun with it.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Top 5 Worst Episodes of Adventure Time (Season 2)

I already did my top 5, so here are my bottom 5. Here are some links, they might be helpful to you if you don't see your own favorites or least favorites on this list.

Part 1 (episodes #1-13)
Part 2 (episodes #14-26)

Top 5 Best Episodes of Adventure Time (Season 2)

Ready for my picks for the 5 worst episodes of season 2? I hope so.

5. The Silent King

200 Items Or Less: Silent Running (1972)

A few thoughts: The 1970s were pretty big on slow, contemplative sci/fi (you can thank Stanley Kubrick for that), and Silent Running is very much in line with that. Set in a future without plant life on Earth, this movie takes place entirely on a space station, largely with only one human character. It's quiet, and the minialist score only adds to that isolation. The only real problem with the music comes from the distractingly hippie-esque recurring songs, but I suppose they make sense within the context of the movie, considering this is a very environmental movie -- I just found them pretty lousy and felt they broke the mood. Bruce Dern is terrific, as always, the cinematography and pacing is excellent, really highlighting the bleak loneliness of the story. It's not a very fun thing to watch, as from beginning to end it's pretty slow and depressing, but it's still a highlight of the genre for the era. Also, it has adorable waddling robots in it, so there's always that to look forward to.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Top 5 Best Episodes of Adventure Time (Season 2)

Alright, I outlined every episode of season 2 and wrote a teeny tiny review for them all (meaning like a sentence or two), but now it's time I make a list for the season. Since there are 26 episodes, I suppose I could do a top 10 and bottom 5, but instead I'll just make a top 5 and bottom 5. Obviously this post is for my favorites. There's a lot of solid midground in this season, though, so it will be hard to choose just 5 favorites.

If you want to see my opinion of each episode of the season, I'll throw some links below. And then to the countdown!

Part 1 (episodes #1-13)
Part 2 (episodes #14-26)

5. The Eyes

200 Items Or Less: Night Creatures (1962)

A few thoughts: Incorrectly billed as a horror movie, Night Creatures (or Captain Clegg) is a pirate/smuggler adventure thriller with some strange inconsistencies and unclear motivation. Who is the hero/villain of this movie? Virtually every character in this is some kind of anti-hero, and that makes it hard to choose what side to be on. The investigator trying to uncover the smuggling ring is unlikable and the pirates/smugglers themselves aren't obviously the nicest people around. As a story, I was drawn into what was happening, but wasn't able to find myself emotionally engaged at all. The "horror" scenes are fun, but inconsequential. This is very much a Hammer production, and you can tell from the silly hair, awesome sets, and just the look and style of the way it was filmed. But sadly, as much as I love Hammer movies, this isn't one of the better ones. I enjoyed it enough, and I always love seeing Peter Cushing (and Oliver Reed), but as a whole I feel they could've done better with the characters.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Time Machine (1960)

A few thoughts: As an overall production, this just might be the most impressive sci/fi adventure movie of its time. While the acting and some plot elements are a bit underwhelming at times, the music, visual effects, makeup/prosthetics, and set designs are all so tremendous (though at times occasionally silly, particularly one painted background in a cave) they more than make up for the lack of strong performances and other thematic elements. The time travel sequences are a particular standout, utilizing fast-paced stop motion (which I always love), but probably my favorite aspect to this movie is how great the Morlocks looked. With their glowing eyes, blue skin, and white hair, they stand out as pretty cool and creepy, and make for great villains. While this movie could have definitely improved on the narrative and tackled emotional isolation as a subject, I can't say I expected any of that; and the visuals were so great, none of that even mattered.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Soylent Green (1973)

A few thoughts: It's pretty uncommon for the twist ending of a movie to become far more popular than the movie itself, but I would argue 'Soylent Green' is the first instance of just that. This is a murder mystery set in a dystopian version of the future where the greenhouse effect has ravaged the food supply, and the government has engineered a new superfood to combat the wide-spread starvation called - wait for it - soylent green. Sadly, almost 45 years after the film's release, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who has heard of this movie who hasn't also been made aware of the final twist. I won't spoil it for anyone who might be reading this, just know that your experience will be made far more fulfilling if you go into this not knowing how it ends. It's not a bad movie, the acting is solid and the setting is appropriately dark, but the ending really is the main reason to give this one a look. It's not an ingeniusly crafted mystery, but it is an iconic resolution and shouldn't be dismissed as anything less than important in its own way.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Adventure Time - Season 2 (episodes #14-26)

To see my overview of the first 13 episodes of season 2, click on this magical link. And I'll repost my rating system again for the episodes. It's imprecise, but I like it:

★✯✯✯✯ - pretty bad
★★✯✯✯ - not so good
★★★✯✯ - pretty average
★★★★✯ - good
★★★★★ - pretty great

Episode 14:
'The Silent King'

200 Items Or Less: THX 1138 (1971)

A few thoughts: Not many people know this movie, but George Lucas fans should give it a look, as it reveals the eerie potential he had as a filmmaker of more high brow science fiction. Is it anywhere close to as good as Star Wars? No, but it occupies a completely different space. A stark dystopian set entirely within the massive construct that seems to house all of humanity, THX 1138 paints a pretty bleak picture of a society where emotions are outlawed, and people are forced into sedation as a means of being more compliant. This is a visually fantastic movie, utilizing stark whites and sterile environments where other movies might take on a more dark look. But somehow this stripped down approach is more fitting. It's a solid script, but it definitely relies more on visuals and atmosphere than it does on story or characters. Sadly, Lucas did what he does and felt the need to pump it full of distracting CG for its re-release, but what else could you expect from him? It's still a solid movie either way.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Adventure Time - Season 2 (episodes #1-13)

Let me start off by saying there really aren't many "bad" episodes in this show, so when I give low ratings, it's more just in comparison to other, better episodes. Also, my ordering is based on the wikipedia article, maybe not the "official" order of the episodes and when they were released or where they were meant to be released. I'm not making a big deal out of it. Also, I would normally use a letter grade system for things, but I don't want to get that specific here. Instead, I'll be using 5 total ratings, which are as follows:

★✯✯✯✯ - pretty bad
★★✯✯✯ - not so good
★★★✯✯ - pretty average
★★★★✯ - good
★★★★★ - pretty great

It's a rough system, but I like it rough *winky face* I won't be writing big reviews here, I'll save larger write-ups for when I make my top 50 (or however many) favorite episodes countdown. Okay, let's do this.

Episode 1:
'It Came From The Nightosphere'

Saturday, July 22, 2017

200 Items Or Less: One Million Years B.C. (1966)

A few thoughts: Raquel Welch in a cave bikini and dinosaur stop motion by Ray Harryhausen? I'm not exaggerating when I say this is one of the best combinations of two things I could possibly imagine for a mid-'60s caveman movie. Choosing to have its characters not speak in recognizable language and instead get their points across through visuals was a pretty bold move. Yes, it's been done in other movies, but that doesn't make it any less admirable. The plot is loose and incredibly thin, and you can tell it's basically just designed as a method to give us Raquel Welch in a bikini and show off some awesome dinosaurs, but I'm kind of alright with that. It's fun in an exploitative kind of way. Director Don Chaffey had done better before (Jason And The Argonauts is an all-time favorite of mine), but I still can't see anyone else handling this material any better. It's very simple in a lot of ways, however the execution of the ideas and set pieces definitely should not be so easily dismissed. But in the end, it is definitely more iconic than it is great.

Friday, July 21, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Targets (1968)

A few thoughts: What do you get when you glue together a story about an old horror star on the brink of retirement with the story of a seemingly happy and regular looking guy who decides to go on a killing spree? You get Targets, a movie that would have worked far better as two individual movies, but somehow still manages to make for an interesting and weirdly insightful film regardless of the clunkiness. Drawing parallels between the classic horror monsters of movies from the Karloff era to the "modern" monster (by '60s standards), who is simply a man who one day finally snapped. Being a big fan of Karloff (WHO I SOMEHOW LEFT OFF MY TOP 100 ACTORS LIST?!?), I naturally found myself more drawn into his half of the story, which has an added weight when you consider he passed away only 6 months after this film's release. I wish the ending hadn't been so abrupt, but it was still a great note to end his career on -- as long as you choose to ignore the other crap he appeared in that was released after this.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Anime Corner: Elfen Lied (2004)

Usually when I call a horror movie or show "creepy", it's meant as a compliment. Well, Elfen Lied makes me feel weird and is pretty creepy, but that is not a compliment here. I'm not one to usually complain about infantilization (I don't find it arousing or anything, it just doesn't usually stand out to me as a problem), but this show has a serious infantilization problem with a teenage girl who can only say one word (like a Pokemon), can't dress herself, behaves like a small child, and - back to that whole "can't dress herself" thing - spends a good deal of time in the show naked. I don't know what they were attempting, but I felt sleazy just watching it, and I can't help but to feel it's shows like this that give anime the reputation it has for being somewhat pornographic.

Storywise, there's nothing here that really stands out to me as particularly unique, and with just 13 episodes, it never has a chance to become fully fleshed out, so it's pretty hard to get too absorbed. The show started off with a bang, full of extreme violence and intensity, but by the end of the first episode it almost feels like a high school drama. Some shows are able to handle juggling genres, but this one just feels clunky as it alternates between them.

200 Items Or Less: Seconds (1966)

A few thoughts: One of the more stripped down sci/fi movies of the 1960s, Seconds is a John Frankenheimer thriller with some fascinating (albeit occasionally sloppy) cinematography, strong performances, and a cool concept that could have easily been made a lot sillier. Instead, they let it be pretty dark, and with the tight camera angles and paranoid tone, they manage to make it all pretty suspenseful and unnerving. I've never been a fan of Rock Hudson, but he did a solid job here, and I felt like I was watching the character, not just the face -- which could have easily been the opposite here. There are a lot of twists and turns to the plot, so much so that I don't even want to talk about what happens in the movie, but suffice it to say it's not standard '60s sci/fi by any means. In fact, I'd barely even call it sci/fi at all, as the way it handles the more fantastical elements is calculated and believable. Very dark, very suspenseful, with an ending that will stick with you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Wizards (1977)

A few thoughts: I've seen this several times now over the course of a few years, and I still have no idea what I think of it. Ralph Bakshi was one of the most bold and original filmmakers of his time, but that isn't always a good thing. Using a bizarre blend of animation techniques ranging from traditional hand drawn to rotoscope and silhouettes, there's never a dull frame, but the weirdness can be a bit difficult. There's an odd balance of adult themes, childish humor, and slapstick (complete with BOING sound effects) that makes this a pretty uneven and difficult movie to fully grasp. Who or what is the target audience exactly? This sort of feels like 'The Black Cauldron' on acid. The ideas and designs are pretty awesome, blending fantasy and sci/fi wonderfully, and I don't think I can overstate how much I love the final battle between the good and evil brothers -- who are the main focus of the film. It's incredibly bizarre, but worth watching as a sort of '70s animated relic.

Anime Corner: Hellsing (2001-2002)

I write this after starting and stopping 'Hellsing Ultimate', so any comparisons I make between the two shows are based only on what I saw from the first couple episodes. With that being said, the quality of animation in Ultimate is obviously more polished and impressive, but I still found myself much more invested in this show right off the bat, and that's possibly due to the 20 minute episodes. Or maybe it's just my love for early 2000s anime? I can't say this was a great show, but it scatched an itch I had for some mindless gore and badass action.

The obvious highlight of this show is in Alucard, the kickass vampire working for the titular Hellsing family. Unstoppable killing machines are a dime a dozen in action anime shows, and sticking one in a red coat isn't exactly enough to set him apart either (see: Vash the Stampede), but Alucard works on his own level as an antihero. Instead of just being a vicious killer vampire, he is given the role of a good guy, summoning his demonic powers to fight against evil forces. That alone makes him sort of special, but the sadistic joy he takes in obliterating his enemies makes you never forget just how bad this good guy really is.

Sadly, Alucard is the only character in the show that ever really works for me, with too much time being given to a young cop-turned-vamp whose entire arc falls flat. There are a few supporting players who have their moments, but the show is too short to give them much to do,and before you know it the show is finished and you're left thinking, "oh, that's it?" Also, if you hope to escape some of the mediocre English dub voice acting by watching Ultimate instead, it's still the same main cast, so better luck next time. Since it's only 13 episodes, reading it really isn't much of and chore, so don't be lazy about it: just read the damn thing.

As I said before, Ultimate definitely has this show beat on animation quality, and - from what I could tell - it seemed to flesh the story out better, but there is one undeniable aspect that the original is superior in: the music. From the opening theme (that kicks total ass and gets stuck in your head for hours) to the background music that ranges from orchestral to upbeat and in your face, this show has some awesome music and Ultimate just doesn't hold a candle to it. Though the closing credits music was pretty skippable. Oh well.

This is a super gory and action-heavy show that feels very episodic and doesn't place much emphasis on overarching story. By the time the show is coming to a close, you can tell they didn't have everything wrapped up as well as they wanted, but that doesn't change the fact that it is entertaining while it lasts. It didn't overstay its welcome, in the very least. The gore may be a bit much for some people, but I found it pretty fun and cool. I wouldn't expect many people to get emotionally invested in this show, but that's not what this one is all about. It's got action, gore, and a really cool vampire at the center of it all.

Episode count: 13

My grade: B

Sunday, July 16, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Sanctuary; Quite A Conundrum (2012)

A few thoughts: Boy oh boy does this movie take its time before it stops sucking. Don't get me wrong, it never reaches the point where I'd go so far as to call it "good", but the first 20 minutes or so are virtually unbearable. Beyond that, the arrival of an overly-Christian stereotype and a suicide marks the jumping off point for a solidly entertaining bit of sleaze. Even though I've seen this movie twice now, I'm still not sure if it's even supposed to be funny or not. Up until the last 20-30 minutes, I assumed this was meant to be a comedy, but near the end it gets "dark" and the over-acting becomes hilarious in its own right. In some scenes it feels like a frat comedy, others like a slasher, but most of the time it's just unintentionally funny. It's a weird kind of mess that fails so much as a comedy it almost works as one, and fails so much as a horror movie it becomes... well, a bad horror movie. Some key dramatic moments work surprisingly well, but as a whole its identity crisis keeps it down.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Anime Corner: Monster (2004-2005)

I'm usually a fan of animes that only last 26 episodes (or thereabouts) and find longer shows a little less sharp and focused. Well, this isn't the case at all with Monster, a show that digs its nails in you and drags you to some pretty disturbing depths without ever wasting your time. It's brilliant in how it weaves through stories, all of which returning to the main focus on the value of individual lives, how one can become a monster, and whether or not all lives are truly created equal. A majority of the show seems determined to question these moral truths we often take for granted.

This is a show of almost endless twists and turns. Every time you start to get comfortable with a plot thread or characters, something comes along and mixes it all up on you by killing people off unexpectedly or shifting focus to seemingly unconnected threads for several episodes of time. In the end, the only real consistencies are in Dr. Tenma and Johan Liebert; the yin and yang whose parallels and distinct differences make up a great deal of the drive of the story, also serving as catalysts for the God/Devil and apocalypse themes found in the show.

200 Items Or Less: Fantastic Planet (1973)

A few thoughts: This is not the kind of movie I could recommend to almost anyone, but to those out there who might find a French animated sci-fi film about giant blue aliens that keep humans as pets who attempt to escape and cause an uprising on the planet interesting...well this will be the one and only movie I could sit you down in front of that will satisfy that particular itch. There are so many ideas and images flying by at a rapid rate in this movie, it's hard to fully absorb them all in one go, but at only 70~ minutes, finding time to rewatch it should be no big hassle. The music feels like something from a porno, but that only adds to the peculiar and specific charms of this experimental and unique little movie. Is it good? Absolutely. Is it great? Probably. It belongs in a category of very few peers, occupied by things like 'Wizards' by Ralph Bakshi and 'Allegro Non Troppo', so judging it against more conventional films feels almost wrong. But that's part of why it's so special.