Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Comic Book Cover Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

BRIGHT (2017)

Although Netflix has been a destination point for quality television for a number of years now, their feature film production arm has not exactly been top notch. There are number of Netflix produced feature films that you can see on the service but I'll just mention the two action movies that I'm aware of as 'Netflix films' and focus specifically on their big holiday release of BRIGHT.

Many months ago I watched their production SPECTRAL (2016) and observed at the time that it was a rolling disaster filled with obvious post production work to attempt to bring the film into some kind of serviceable form. That ultimately failed and created a movie that starts out interesting and then bumbles and trips its way straight into abject pointless stupidity and disaster. Proving that there seems to be some glitch with spotting script problems and/or just well-produced and thought out ideas for stories, we come now to BRIGHT (2017).

Netflix has certainly spent the money to make this a good movie. They signed on a star in Will Smith, an excellent group of character actors to fill out the cast, a director who has made at least one very good film and a production team that surely knows how to put together a good-looking product. The weak link in this entire affair is definitely Max Landis' weak-ass script. When my girlfriend read the description of BRIGHT she quickly gleaned something that I should have thought of myself when she compared it immediately to the 1988 film ALIEN NATION. Indeed, as soon as she said that, it was clear to me that BRIGHT is little more than a slightly more convoluted, slightly more expensive and definitely more poorly scripted version of ALIEN NATION. In the 1988 film refugee aliens land on Earth and years later are still trying to assimilate into human society. One of these aliens has now become the first cop on the LAPD and is partnered with an older police officer who doesn't want the assignment. On a call they discover a crime that is much bigger than they can handle alone but also learn that they may not be able to trust their superiors on the force. BRIGHT uses that template but makes a huge world-building mistake.

In this film orcs, elves, fairies, trolls and all sorts of other fantasy creatures are real and have co-existed with humanity for centuries if not forever. But, the modern day Earth of the film is just our world with a couple of thin layers of fantasy details laid over the top. We are shown anti-orc graffiti to delineate that group as the most discriminated against in this society with obvious criminal gangs and heavily segregated neighborhoods making their lower status clear. And then we see that the highest level of this world is occupied by elves who seem to run everything they wish to, along with their well paid human sycophants. Herein lies the fail - if this world has existed with all these races co-mingling for centuries why does it so closely resemble our Earth of 2017? If magic is real why has technology advanced to the level it has in this reality? We're given a few casual lines about the past of this world but never anything to indicate how and why things are as they are. Even the occasional line referencing real historical events such as the Alamo create more questions than they settle. We're not even given a real motivation for the villains' actions beyond just reacquiring a lost magic wand. The story needed at LOT more background information to establish a place that felt like something more than a tossed off idea. This script needed more eyes on it to fix it's inherent thinness.

It doesn't help that the script's dialog is pretty weak as well, substituting profanity for emotion and bad jokes for character devolvement. Will Smith does his best with the material as does the always interesting Joel Edgerton as his orc cop partner but they can't save the poorly constructed narrative. Also, I think Smith may have pulled the chain on his MEN IN BLACK character one too many times now and it might be time to retire it completely. The director handles the action scenes well and actually generates some tension and suspense once things get moving but that and the excellent cinematography are the only consistently well done elements in this thing.

If you're curious, check it out but go in with lowered expectations and hope that NetFlix starts finding better scripts for their big action epics - and soon! 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Trailers From Hell - MATINEE (1993)

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas From Santa!

Have a Happy December the 25th! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017


I'm a big fan of swashbuckling movies. I don't get to see nearly enough of them, mainly because every time I sit down to watch one I'm judging it against a pair of almost impossible to match films. The first film is The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn. When I first caught that movie I had no idea that it was setting such a high bar for adventure movies that almost everything I saw after that would seem a limp copy in comparison. The second film is similar but a little different - Richard Lester's 1973 film version of The Three Musketeers. Along with its continuation the Four Musketeers released in 1974 I consider this to be not just the best version on film of this amazing story but easily all together one of the best and most entertaining swashbuckling films ever made. I have watched both The Adventures of Robin Hood and the Three and Four Musketeers so many times that I feel I could quote them backwards and forwards. So when I say I love swashbuckling movies understand that, for me, those are the unassailable classics and everything else is just trying to match those amazing cinematic adventures.

Over the years I've watched a number of other Three Musketeer adaptations and films that are 3 Musketeers related in some way or another and I've always come away disappointed. Even the best of these films just seem to be missing a little something. It might be an odd bit of casting that doesn't work (usually an American in a role) making me feel as if they're not quite what they're supposed to be. Or something the sour note is as silly as just aiming the dialogue a little too young, as if the film were only supposed to be viewed as a kiddie Saturday afternoon feature. I also try to catch just about every Robin Hood movie that I can see and I have the same problem with most of them as well. Although I've enjoyed a number of alternate takes on the Robin Hood story most of them are only somewhere in the mid-range of entertaining and none of them come even remotely close to giving me that thrill of adventurous joy as that Errol Flynn classic.

I had the DVR capture AT SWORD'S POINT because it's a tale about the children of the Musketeers who are called into service decades after their original tale ended. These young, untried adventurers are needed to help the ailing queen put her sickly child on the throne. This is made much more difficult by a noble born villain desperately trying to marry his way to the throne even if that means doing away with the young boy King.

This film shares most of the faults I've already enumerated for these types of movies but it's a pretty fun time, mostly because of the cast. Cornel Wilde throws himself into the main hero role with real energy giving several of the swordfight scenes some zest. Also, the supporting cast of familiar faces (including regular Errol Flynn co-star Alan Hale) are strong doing what they can with underwritten characters. But the true standout is the always impressive Maureen O'Hara as the daughter of a Musketeer who is just as formidable with a sword as her companions. She is a joy to see running around with the guys alternately lusting after her and backing her up in a fight. I joked with my girlfriend that the film could be re-titled The Hot Redhead Kicks Ass All Over France but I doubt that would have set well with the parents dropping their kids off to see a Musketeer tale!

Long story short - AT SWORD'S POINT is another mid-range swashbuckler but it's points of interest make it worth a look. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Cinema - SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1956)

There's a difference between a movie that takes place at Christmas and a Christmas movie. I think a lot depends on the mood of the story as to whether the film will key into the sentimental feelings the season usually fosters but even dark themes can merge with glad tidings if enough wit is used. To that point, I bring you SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1956).

In the realm of films that just happened to take place at Christmas there are a lot of good ones and certainly this one fits. I discovered it by accident on Christmas Day 7 years ago when Turner Classic Movies screened it for Yuletide joy. The film spends the first third of its running time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day giving the entire procedure a kind of Christmas Eve feel even though the story doesn't necessarily relate to the holiday. When I wrote this film up for the blog in 2010 I did point out that it's probably the most charming film I've ever seen about statutory rape. At least I think it's about statutory rape. I'm not sure what the age of consent is in California but since Debbie Reynolds' female character is clearly 17 in the movie and the male lead is stated as being 35 years of age there's something hinky going on somewhere. And when you learn that actor Dick Powell was actually 50 at the time of shooting it doesn't really matter that his female co-star was, in reality, 22 years old! Often one of the most interesting things old Hollywood can show us is the stark difference between the Good Old Days and a much more enlightened time.

Although it may be hard to overlook such a thing in today's fraught sexual climate I would suggest giving it a try if you enjoy Classic Hollywood films. This is a delightful movie! It's very funny, it's very light and it has a number of laugh-out-loud moments scattered throughout it's run time. Indeed, it is a fun, frothy barrel of laughs. The fact that it has a Christmastime feel to it makes this the perfect season in which to view it and I do recommend doing so. Just go in knowing that the sexual politics of this film are a little tilted. I have no idea what people who saw this in theaters in the 1950s thought of it but I'm willing to go with the flow when the movie is this entertaining. Plus, knowing that Debbie Reynolds wasn't actually 17 takes a little bit of the edge off - for me anyway.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Lovecraft Influenced 'Carol of the Old Ones' Video

Here's a lovely variation on a fine Christmas Classic! 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

What I Watched in November

I truly never thought that Marvel Studios would produce a funnier film than the first Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). But with Thor: Ragnarok we see that with his completely tilted attack on the material director Taika Waititi has crafted not just one of the best Marvel movies of the past few years, but by far the funniest. What's amazing about the film is not that it has a lot of jokes and laugh-out-loud ideas presented with style and colorful flair. The real joy is the deftness with which the humor is handled. Even though our main character Thor is often the butt of the joke - sometimes goofy, sometimes silly, sometimes just a little clueless - he's still the hero and he is still someone to be admired for his many heroic traits and courageous character. Yeah, he may accidentally hit himself in the head with a ball or lie about beating the Hulk in combat but he is the driving force to do the right thing and save his land and people.

The film wouldn't work as well as it does without the darker elements of the story though. There are real stakes and terrible consequences for a lot of characters in this story. We lose a number of my favorite Asgardians before the tale is over giving a sense of sinister threat that the great Cate Blanchet plays to perfection. Add to that the well handled story-arcs of several characters old and new and you have a smart movie with heart and  warmth even as the violence of the titular event comes to pass. This is an excellent comic book film and one I can't wait to watch again. 

I was a huge fan of both MAN OF STEEL (2013) and the much derided BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016). I like having a dark tale of superheroes if for no other reason than to provide contrast for the lighter standard of the Marvel films. What I primarily liked so much about those two movies was that they came at these characters from a more mature and grim perspective that allows for a more realistic view of what the reactions might be to a godlike creature intervening in human events. I understand I'm in the minority in my love of this approach as the constant bitching from aggrieved fans will attest. Still, I think these are excellent films with a smart take on these heroes and each time I watch them they feel like a breathe of fresh air.

I know that it was an awful family tragedy that took director Zach Snyder away from finishing JUSTICE LEAGUE and he and his wife have all of my sympathy. And having Joss Wedon step in to do the reshoots and oversee the editing was a smart move as it guaranteed the film would reach completion with some of the original vision intact. But, unfortunately, the newly enforced lighter tone of this film kind of removes a lot of the grit that made me so pleased with the previous films. This isn't a bad film but it certainly feels very neutered. In the first two movies I was deeply effected by the emotional core of the stories. I felt for the characters and was moved repeatedly by the dark deeds, harsh events and eventually uplifted by the heroic actions of the conflicted people caught up in the evil plots of Zod and Luthor. Things felt dangerous; felt as if there was real weight to the decisions being made. Sadly, the softening of JUSTICE LEAGUE means that it had the effect of a mid-range Marvel film instead of the emotionally gripping power of the earlier DC films. I enjoyed this adventure but it seems a little too soft. I know it's a minority opinion (again) but this is the weakest of the three and I hope that one day we might see Snyder's original vision. I hear Darksied was in that movie!


IT (2017) - 8 (rewatch)
THOR: RAGNAROK (2017) - 9 
THE DEVIL'S HONEY (1986) - 5 (Fulci's erotic exercise) 
CROSSFIRE (1947)- 7 (Mitchum and Robert Taylor investigate a murder) 
RAISING CAIN (1992) - 8 (rewatch of theatrical version)
FRANKENSTEIN 2000 (1991) - 3 (terrible effort from Joe D'Amato) 
WEB OF THE SPIDER (1971) - 8 (the full length Italian version) 
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987) - 2 (so bad) 
TERMINAL ISLAND (1973) - 5 (island-as-prison tale) 
STRANGE LOVES OF THE VAMPIRE (1975) - 6 (rewatch) 
ARIZONA COLT RETURNS (1970) - 5 (well directed but mediocre) 
VILLAIN (1971) - 7 (British crime film with Richard Burton and Ian McShane) 
CHAMBER OF HORRORS (1940)- 8 (rewatch on Blu-Ray) 
JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) - 7 
THE MAYOR OF HELL (1933) - 7 (James Cagney reform school melodrama) 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Merry Christmas From Godzilla!



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Songs of the Lesser Known Variety

For those tired of the same old Christmas tunes here are a few (very) different choices for the Holiday Season. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Bloody Pit #62 - And All Through the House (1972/1989)

December brings our annual Holiday Horrors episode! This year my two co-hosts have chosen a tale told twice and adapted from a 1953 comic book story by the legendary Johnny Craig. The story is about a murderous wife who decides to off her husband on Christmas Eve but then has to deal with an escaped axe welding killer dressed in a Santa Claus costume. The best laid plans of mice and murderers often go awry and this short story shows us a fine example. 'And All Through the House' was first filmed as part of the Amicus anthology movie directed by Freddie Francis in 1972. This may or may not have been the first instance in cinema of a killer Santa but it certainly struck home for viewers as it is the story that most people recall with great clarity even years after a viewing. Creepy, chilling and sinister in tone it is a difficult effort to beat.

In 1989 director Robert Zemeckis retold the tale as one of the first episodes of HBO's wildly successful series Tales From The Crypt. Adapted by Fred Dekker and lengthened out to fill a half hour time slot this version throws in a few extra curves, amps up the dark humor and broadens the performances for a more comic effect. The results are still pretty darned good but - as with any remake - the debates will never rest. Listen in as Troy Guinn, John Hudson and I discuss all three tellings of this Holiday Horror. We break down the differences and consider the qualities that each film brings to the table. We dig into the alterations, the motivations and the relative skill each version imparts to the main character as well as the portrayal of the nearly silent killer Kringle.

As is usual for the three of us, we get off-track a few times with my show opening gambit of asking about favorite childhood Christmas toys pushing the conversation into odd territory. Who knew a show about an EC Comics Christmas tale would reference The Six Million Dollar Man so frequently? If you want to tell us about your favorite youthful Christmas gift the email address is where we'll be happy to hear what you miss from years gone bye. You can also join us on the Bloody Pit FaceBook page where new links of interest get posted. Thank you for downloading and listening to the show and have a safe and happy Holiday season.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Santa Horror Comic Covers

Often in these comics Santa is exactly the scary thing kids feared - he knows all the secrets!