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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Re: What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again   What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again - Page 26 EmptySat Aug 25, 2018 7:40 pm

Duffy (1968), directed by Robert Parrish (Casino Royale (1967) and Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969)), and written by Donald Cammell (Performance (1970)), this is a comedy crime caper which was one of the very few films to be actually with it when it came to capturing the Swinging Sixties, when a lot of other films missed it. It's a daft little oddity, but enjoyable. After being snubbed by their father Charles Calvert (James Mason) for years, playboy Stefane Calvert (James Fox) along with his dim-witted half-brother Antony (John Alderton) come up with a plan to rob him, and to do so, they'll need the help of the mysterious Duffy (James Coburn), an Irish aristocrat who is a rogue and adventurer who lives in Tangiers. He lives in a flat filled with all sort of old junk with Segolene (Susannah York), who is also Duffy's girlfriend. Their plan involves getting an old boat and a helicopter, and stealing money from the elder Calvert's luxury yacht, which he is moving from Tangiers to France, and then making a getaway before they can be caught. Sounds simple enough, but there's some twists along the way. It's a very cool and stylish film, and it's beautifully shot by Otto Heller, and why some attitudes and styles might appear dated now, it's a great timepiece of the swinging sixties, not the hard drugs that came in during the summer of love, but the gentle revolution that London and the like got from 1965 onwards. It's got a good cast and it's main heist is well executed too. 3.5/5

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Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), after the success of Ant-Man (2015), a sequel was inevitable, director Peyton Reed is also back to direct, as is most of the main cast. It retains a lot of the fun the first film had, and it has some insane set pieces and suspenseful race against time moments as well, the result is a sequel as fun and funny as the first film was. After the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016), Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest and has been for 2 years, while Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) with a laboratory in a building that can be shrunk. The 2 years in hiding have given Pym and Hope time to open the Quantum Realm and they've found a signal which Pym believes from his long lost wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who has been lost in the Quantum Realm for 30 years. When Pym and Hope are confronted by a shape shifter known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), they turn to Scott for help, who finds a way to get out of house arrest. But there are others who want Pym's technology, including criminal Sonny Birch (Walton Goggins) and scientist Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). It's well made, and it's a very enjoyable film, and Rudd and Lilly make a good pairing too. Unlike the darkness and lack of hope that came in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), this is much more brighter and lighter, harking back to the fun that 90's superhero films used to be before they ceased to be cool. It sets up the scene for Infinity War 2 as well, and hopefully, there'll be more Ant-Man films soon. 4/5

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PostSubject: Re: What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again   What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again - Page 26 EmptySun Sep 09, 2018 4:57 pm

Torture Garden (1967), directed by Freddie Francis, (The Skull (1965), Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968) and Tales from the Crypt (1972)), and produced by Amicus Production with a screenplay by Psycho author Robert Bloch. This is a creepy portmanteau horror film with a good cast to it's name, and thanks to a large budget, some big American names join in as well. At a British funfair, Dr. Diabolo (Burgess Meredith) runs a sideshow which claims to show people their futures, a group of people agree to take part. They see their fate through the sheers of the god Atropos. First is greedy playboy (Michael Bryant), who see's himself murdering his rich, dying uncle (Maurice Denham), but coming a cropper at the fate of a cat. Next is Hollywood star Carla Hayes (Beverly Adams) who see's herself becoming a Hollywood star, but all her co-stars are robots. Then there's Leo (John Standing) who has a haunted grand piano that becomes jealous. Then there's the story of Ronald Wyatt (Jack Palance), who murders Edgar Allen Poe collector Lancelot Canning (Peter Cushing), but there's a dark secret in his collection. It's a dark film, but it's well made, and all the stories work well, even if the piano one dives into hilarious outlandishness. But, Amicus were masters at the portmanteau horror film, and if one segment didn't work, then chances are there'll be another one along shortly that probably would, but this benefits from a good script and Francis was a good director of horror too. 4/5

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Tales That Witness Madness (1973), directed by by Freddie Francis, (The Skull (1965), Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968) and Tales from the Crypt (1972)), and written by actress Jennifer Jayne (under the alias Jay Fairbank) and produced by Norman Priggen (The Servant (1963) and The Go-Between (1971)), this is a portmanteau horror with some good scares. In a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Nicholas (Jack Hawkins) comes to visit colleague Dr. Tremayne (Donald Pleasence), where Tremayne is treating 4 different patients who have been committed due to various horrific circumstances. There's young Paul (Russell Lewis), who has an imaginary tiger for a friend, but his bickering parents don't believe him, but "Mr. Tiger" has other ideas! Then there's antique shop owner Timothy (Peter McEnery), who comes into possession of a haunted picture of "Uncle Frank" (Frank Forsyth) and a penny farthing. We next meet Brian Thompson (Michael Jayston), who becomes infatuated with a piece of wood, angering his wife Bella (Joan Collins). Then Auriol Pageant (Kim Novak) has a Hawaiian feast she won't forget. It's well made, and a good cast was put together for this one, it was done cheap, but Francis gets the best out of his cast and crew, and it's quite tame compared to other horror films that were being made at the time, this one has it's tongue firmly in it's cheek, (especially with the Penny Farthing story), but it's still good fun to watch. 3/5

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PostSubject: Re: What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again   What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again - Page 26 EmptySun Sep 09, 2018 6:33 pm

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018), written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, this follows on straight from the previous film, Ghost Protocol, which McQuarrie also wrote and directed. It's a dangerous, gripping and brutal spy film with some brilliant set pieces and it puts it's characters first, and they do a lot of the stunts and action for real, and it looks brilliant on screen. Two years after Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) was captured, his group The Syndicate has regrouped as The Apostles, and the IMF, led by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) botch up a mission to retrieve 3 stolen plutonium cores in Berlin, with the Apostles getting them. CIA Director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) employs special agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) to shadow Hunt and his team, believing that Hunt might have snapped and turned rogue. But, Hunt has a plan to retrieve the stolen plutonium cores, and involves using Lane as bait while he's in transit to Paris to face terrorist charges. However, there's more than a few shocks and surprises in store for Hunt and his team, as he learns that getting Lane free was what Lane wanted all along for his next plan. It's a brilliant action film, and this is a franchise in rude health, with some brilliant set pieces, and some good performances along the way too. While the makers and Cruise haven't said it, there's every possibility this one will be the last Mission: Impossible, but if it is, then they've gone out on one hell of a high note and have managed to top the last few films. 5/5

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Twice-Told Tales (1963), directed by Sidney Salkow, (The Last Man on Earth (1964) and The Great Sioux Massacre (1965)), and adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1842 novel of the same name as well as his 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables. It's an effective horror film, which gives plenty of opportunities for it's star to ham it up, which he does with relish. The first story, "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" has two old friends Carl Heidegger (Sebastian Cabot) and Alex Medbourne (Vincent Price) meeting up to celebrate Heidegger's 79th birthday, and discovering water that can make them younger again, but they end up paying a price. In "Rappaccini's Daughter", Giacomo Rappaccini (Price again) keeps his daughter Beatrice (Joyce Taylor) locked up in a garden with deadly plants. University student Giovanni Guasconti (Brett Halsey) falls in love with her, but it goes deadly awry. Then in "The House of the Seven Gables", Gerald Pyncheon (Price yet again), brings his bride Alice (Beverly Garland) to his family home, but his sister Hannah (Jacqueline deWit) is very jealous. It's effectively an American equivalent of those Amicus portmanteau horror films that did the rounds in the mid 60's through to the mid 70's, only there's 3 stories, and they are quite long, (and could have done with a trim here and there), but it's held together by Price throwing himself into the parts with his own imitable style. No-one else could have done it like him. 3/5

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The Meg (2018), directed by Jon Turteltaub (Cool Runnings (1993), National Treasure (2004) and Last Vegas (2013)), and based on Steve Alten's 1997 book. This has been in development for 2 decades, switching studios and having directors like Guillermo Del Toro and Eli Roth attached. It's fun, but for a big, brainless blockbuster, the makers have overthought it too much. At Mana One, an underwater research facility off the coast of China, ran by billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), with Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) exploring a deep trench beneath a cloud of hydrogen sulphide. When a submarine gets trapped down there, they call in seasoned rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) to rescue the crew, the crew also happens to include Taylor's ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee). During the rescue mission, they encounter a Megalodon, the largest shark in existence and long thought to be extinct. However, when leaving the trench, the Megalodon somehow manages to get out and ends up attacking both Mana One, and heads for the coastal resort of Sanya Bay, China. It's a very daft film, and it's hardly original, it's basically Jaws on steroids, with some insane action sequences, and predictable character clichés. Considering that it's spent 2 decades in development, it makes you wonder what the previous directors attached would have brought to the table. It's enjoyable though, but it could have been better. 3/5

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Unsane (2018), directed by Steven Soderbergh, who after his "retirement" from cinema, returned with an outlook of making low-budget films, shot quickly and cheaply, but that were of good quality. This is a taut, tight psychological thriller, shot entirely on the iPhone 7 Plus. Which gives it an otherworldly, off kilter quality, but it's a decision that works. Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) has moved from Boston to Pittsburgh to get away from a stalker, she struggles to get ahead with new relationships because of her memories of the past. She makes an appointment to see a counsellor at Highland Creek Behavioral Center, however she ends up unwittingly signing a release voluntarily committing herself to spend 24 hours there, Sawyer protests, but it ends up extending her stay there. The police are powerless to do anything, and Sawyer's mother Angela (Amy Irving) tries to intervene legally. Saywer learns from fellow patient Nate Hoffman (Jay Pharoah) that it's all a health insurance scam, and to make matters worse, Sawyer's stalker David Strine (Joshua Leonard) works there. It's a very unsettling and claustrophic thriller, very unconventional in it's execution and direction, but that's part of the film's success. But, it's good that Soderbergh is ballsy enough to try a film like this without major studio backing, as many studios would have turned their noses up at Soderbergh's plan, but it looks like he'll be making more films like this. Good luck to him! 4/5

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PostSubject: Re: What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again   What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again - Page 26 EmptySun Sep 09, 2018 8:36 pm

The Seven-Ups (1973), after producing Bullitt (1968) and The French Connection (1971), and winning an Oscar for Best Picture for the latter, Philip D'Antoni wanted to direct his next film, which was based on a pitch brought to him by Sonny Grosso, who had been an adviser on The French Connection. It's a good taut thriller with one of the best car chases ever committed to film. NYPD Detective Buddy Manucci (Roy Schieder) runs a team of police known as The Seven-Ups, who use unorthodox tactics to catch criminals, who usually end up with prison sentences of seven years or more. Hence why they're called The Seven-Ups. There have been a spate of kidnappings around New York City, but they usually involve rich businessmen and members of the Mafia, such as criminal Max Kalish (Larry Haines) who is kidnapped at a car wash, where the ransom is also paid. Manucci has an informant on the street, Vito Lucia (Tony Lo Bianco), but when one of the Seven-Up's officers ends up dead, mainly down to information given by Lucia, Manucci doesn't know who to trust anymore, and he finds there's rogue cops involved. It's a very down and dirty film, there's no glamour here, it's gritty and hard hitting, but the centrepiece of the car chase through the streets of New York is a real highlight, and it manages to be better than the car chases of D'Antoni's other productions. After this, D'Antoni mostly worked in TV, which is a great shame, as he showed great promise with this film. 4/5

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The Changeling (1980), directed by Peter Medak (The Krays (1990) and Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)), this was based on events that happened to writer Russell Hunter after staying in a house in Denver. Medak was a last minute replacement after both Donald Cammell and Tony Richardson quit, but you wouldn't guess. It's a truly chilling and haunting film to watch. Composer John Russell (George C. Scott) is grieving over the death of his wife and daughter, so he moves into an old Victorian era mansion in Seattle, which agent Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere) says hasn't been lived in for 12 years. After moving in and getting the place fixed up, Russell starts experiencing strange things. Like loud banging noises early in the morning and taps turning themselves on. He then finds a hidden attic room which has a wheelchair in it. After more spooky goings on, Russell looks into who the previous owners were, and after a séance, it leads Russell to Joseph Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas), a U.S. Senator, who has a trust who used to own the house that Russell lives in. It's a very unsettling film, but the scares are genuinely frightening and there's a lot of intrigue and suspense as well, and there's a twist as well with a spooky ending. In a time when horror films like The Exorcist and The Omen could draw in audiences, this is one of horror cinema's best kept secrets, and it's slowly being rediscovered. It's well made and has good performances too. 4/5

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Police Story (1985), written, directed by and starring Jackie Chan, this is an insane action film from Hong Kong, with some of the best action sequences ever choreographed. It came after Chan had had a bad experience in America making The Protector (1985), he believed he could have done it better himself if he'd been in charge, so he did, and Police Story is the insane result. Hong Kong police sergeant Chan Ka-Kui (Chan) is an honest cop who is planning on bringing down crime lord Chu Tao (Chor Yuen). However, the undercover operation is botched, with an entire shanty town getting destroyed and a climactic chase on a double decker bus. But, despite the operation, Chan Ka-Kui is next assigned with protecting Chu Tao's secretary Selina Fong (Brigitte Lin) who is going to testify against Chu Tao. However, Chu Tao gets out on bail after a bungled trial, and he swears revenge against Chan Ka-Kui, and ends up killing Police Inspector Man (Kam Hing Ying) and framing Chan Ka-Kui for the murder, so Chan Ka-Kui goes renegade, taking Superintendent Raymond Li (Lam Kwok-Hung) hostage to prove his innocence! This film next lets up with the action, and it manages to balance it out with some funny slapstick in the quiet moments. It's a film which defies logic, and it just piles on the set pieces one after the other, and it's brilliant entertainment. It helped bring Chan to international acclaim, although it would be another decade before he would go back to Hollywood, but there was more to come! 4.5/5

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Police Story 2 (1988), written, directed by and starring Jackie Chan, after the success of Police Story (1985), a sequel was inevitable, and Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest greenlit it almost immediately, but it nearly didn't happen after Chan was nearly killed on the set of Armour of God (1986), but you can't keep a good man down, and he still made this regardless. After the events of the first film, Inspector Chan Ka-kui (Chan) has been demoted to traffic officer, which pleases his girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung) who is pleased that Chan Ka-kui isn't getting into any trouble and they're able to see more of each other. But, a massive spanner is thrown into the works when crime lord Chu Tao (Chor Yuen) is released from jail, swearing revenge against Chan Ka-kui. After a restaurant is destroyed by Chan Ka-kui after being intimidated by Chu Tao and his men, Chan Ka-kui resigns from the Hong Kong Police Force, and plans a trip away with May to Bali. But, when he saves people from a potential bomb in a mall, Chan Ka-kui is reinstated, and ordered to go after Chu Tao once and for all. It's the same big set pieces as before, but that doesn't make them any less exciting, and there's some good action sequences here. Chan is very talented on both sides of the camera, even more so when there's an action sequence with a lot of stunts. There were a few more Police Story films to come over the years after this one, all insanely entertaining. 4/5

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PostSubject: Re: What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again   What I've Just Watched Part 4: There And Back Again - Page 26 EmptyThu Oct 18, 2018 10:30 am

Loved Mission Impossible Fallout

_________________
We renounce our Maker.
We cleave to the darkness.
We take unto ourselves the power and glory.
Behold! We are the Nine,
The Lords of Unending Life.


Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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The Sunshine Boys (1975), directed by Herbert Ross, (Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Goodbye Girl (1977) and Pennies from Heaven (1981)), and written by Neil Simon, adapted from his own award winning 1972 play. This is a great comedy with 2 brilliant lead performances and some cracking dialogue by Simon, it's engaging, moving and above all, very funny. Al Lewis (George Burns) and Willy Clark (Walter Matthau) were two vaudeville comedians who were known as the Sunshine Boys, and their acts was beloved for years. After 43 years together, Al quit, and Willy never forgave him for it. 11 years later, ABC are planning a program on the history of comedy and wants the Sunshine Boys to reunite for the show. Willy's nephew Ben (Richard Benjamin) is a talent agent, and finds work for his uncle, despite Willy being old and a curmudgeon. Ben promises ABC that the Sunshine Boys will reunite for the show, and Al is up for it too, unfortunately Willy isn't, and he still resents Al for retiring, and an attempt to rehearse one of their famous sketches is a complete disaster, with Ben having to salvage it. There has been much debate on who The Sunshine Boys was based on, as there were a few feuding vaudeville duos that fit the bill, but Matthau and Burns make a good duo and have great chemistry, (Groucho Marx and Phil Silvers were nearly cast, as were Red Skelton and Jack Benny), but it's a very funny character piece and very observational. 4/5

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Space Truckers (1996), written and directed by Stuart Gordon, (Re-Animator (1985), Dolls (1987) and Fortress (1992)), this is an intentionally cheesy sci-fi comedy, although it was plagued with production problems and never got a cinema release in America, it deserved better, and despite it looking cheap, it's got a goofy charm that's irresistibly infectious. John Canyon (Dennis Hopper) is a space trucker, who travels through the cosmos delivering loads, no questions asked. He's also one of the last independent truckers, with most of the space truckers now owned by big corporations, so he's now having to do deliveries of sometimes questionable loads for undesirable clients. After getting into a brawl with a rival trucker firm, Canyon, along with rookie trucker Mike Pucci (Stephen Dorff) and waitress Cindy (Debi Mazar) end up on the run, transporting a load of what they think is sex dolls to Earth, but they're not sex dolls, they're actually killer cyborgs, and it's not long before they end up being captured by the pirate ship Regalia, led by Captain Macanudo (Charles Dance). There are some moments in this film that absolutely beggar belief, from the absolute insanity of ideas on display, to how cheap it looks. But, it works, and it's a very enjoyable film if you give it a chance. It's sort of how Guardians of the Galaxy would look like if it was done on a shoestring budget, but it's a true guilty pleasure and it's a shame it never got the exposure it craved. 4/5

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The Happytime Murders (2018), directed by Brian Henson (The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) and Muppet Treasure Island (1996)), this is an adult puppet comedy which shows the dark side to puppets, that they swear, have sex and do drugs. It would have been a good idea, but Peter Jackson did it nearly 30 years ago with Meet The Feebles (1989), and he did it better too. In Los Angeles, humans and puppets co-exist alongside one another, private detective Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) was a cop with the LAPD before being fired after a tragic shooting. After members of a puppet sitcom called The Happytime Gang are being murdered, Phil is teamed up with his former police partner Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), who was involved in the tragic shooting 12 years earlier, to solve the murders, even though they hate each other. Then Phil's brother Larry (Victor Yerrid), who was also in The Happytime Gang, also ends up being ripped apart by vicious dogs. The murders increase, and Phil ends up being framed for the murder of a former cast member, with Phil on the run, he turns to a dubious Connie for help. This has been around since 2008, with studios and stars coming and going. It has it's moments, but it was recut after a few bad test screenings, and it shows, as there's bits that look cheaply done. The puppet action is one of the few good things it has going for it, but it could have done with a better script and plot. It would have worked had it been made a decade earlier, and even Melissa McCarthy, who produced it and worked on the script, is wasted, which is criminal. 2/5

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Death Wish (2018), after 5 films, all of varying quality, MGM decided to remake Death Wish (1974), and using Brian Garfield's original 1972 novel. To direct it, MGM turned to Eli Roth (Cabin Fever (2002) and Hostel (2005)), it should have worked, but bad timing with recent school shootings and the film's gung-ho tone is jarring, but for some reason, it has it's moments. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a Chicago trauma surgeon, who see's loads of victims of gun crime coming through, and the number is rising. While out at dinner with his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue), Kersey's address is obtained by valet Miguel (Luis Oliva), and shortly afterwards, 3 masked men arrive at Kersey's house, Lucy and daughter Jordan (Kimberly Elise) are both shot, Lucy dies while Jordan is put into a coma. Paul is left emotionally shattered by what's happened, despite support from his brother Frank (Vincent D'Onofrio), Police Detective Kevin Raines (Dean Norris) is assigned to the case, but with no progress, Paul decides to take the law into his own hands, and goes after violent criminals and murderers. It adds nothing new to the whole franchise, this new addition could have been a serious look at the consequences of vigilantism and the emotional and mental effects it can have on people. Instead, with Roth on board, he used it as an excuse to have some very gratuitously violent set pieces, done with the same gleeful abandon as the original films. Michael Winner would have loved it. 2.5/5

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The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018), written and directed by Susanna Fogel (Life Partners (2014)) and produced by Brian Grazer (Apollo 13 (1995), this is a spy comedy which has some funny moments, and although we've seen this sort of thing before in the likes of the Johnny English films and even Spy (2015), it's the chemistry of the two female leads that makes this work. Los Angeles cashier Audrey Stockton (Mila Kunis) has just turned 30, and she's just been dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux), who is actually a CIA spy, working abroad in Budapest. He returns to Audrey claiming to be in trouble, and he needs to get a seemingly perfunctory trophy to a contact in Vienna. Drew is shot before this can happen, so Audrey, together with her impulsive best friend Morgan Freeman (Kate McKinnon) decide to go Vienna and do this job for Drew. In Vienna, they find the contact Sebastian Henshaw (Sam Heughan), but their cover is blown, and Audrey and Morgan barely get away, and they end up on the run across Europe, unsure of where to go, unsure of who to trust and with assassins on the tail too. It's a pretty daft film, but it has it's moments, it's far from being the best of it's kind, but it has it's moments with some genuinely funny set pieces too, and a few recognisable faces throughout the film too. But, it's Kunis and McKinnon who make a great team, and it manages to mix a violent spy thriller with a goofy buddy comedy quite well. 3/5

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There's Always Vanilla (1971), after practically inventing the modern zombie film with Night of the Living Dead (1968), George A. Romero didn't know what he'd do next. He went with a romantic comedy written by Living Dead extra Rudolph J. Ricci, and Romero would come to regret the decision for years, but the film isn't that bad, but it's hardly original either. In Pittsburgh, former U.S. Army soldier Chris Bradley (Raymond Laine) has just got back from Vietnam, and his father Roger (Roger McGovern) wants Chris to join the family business, which manufactures baby food. But, Chris is a free spirit, and he wants to enjoy life, after a failed attempt at rekindling with former girlfriend Terri Terrific (Johanna Lawrence), Chris meets Lynn (Judith Streiner), who is a model and actress in local TV commercials, and Chris, already bored with his position in life, manages to charm his way into Lynn's life, even though she starts to resent him freeloading off her, although Lynn motivates Chris into getting a job at an advertising firm, things are complicated further when Lynn discovers that she's pregnant. It's a very simple story, but it's edited unconventionally, with Chris being interviewed about his relationship with Lynn and his thoughts on life. It was made for $70,000, which was even cheaper than Living Dead was, but apart from this, Romero would rarely do another film that wasn't a horror film ever again, apart from the biker drama Knightriders (1981). 3/5

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Season of the Witch (1973), after being let down making There's Always Vanilla (1971), director George A. Romero decided he would have more control over whatever he made next. He would return to horror for his next film, although it was a bit more melodramatic than Living Dead, and despite having more control, he was at loggerheads with the distributor who wanted a porn film. In Pittsburgh, housewife Joan Mitchell (Jan White) is married to businessman Jack Mitchell (Bill Thunhurst), and they have a 19 year old daughter Nikki (Joedda McClain) is in college. Joan is not happy in her marriage, as Jack is quite domineering and violent, and he's usually away for days on end on business meetings. Joan has recurring nightmares about Jack hurting her. But Joan's life takes a turn for the unusual when she meets new neighbour Marion Hamilton (Virginia Greenwald), who practices witchcraft, and also leads a secret coven of witches. Before long, Joan buys a book on witchcraft, and starts practicing spells and rituals, and she becomes attracted to Nikki's teacher Gregg (Raymond Laine), and uses spells to seduce him. It's a different kind of horror film, with less shocks and gore, and more focused on character and suspense, although the dreams Joan have border on surreal horror. It was done on a shoestring, and Romero had trouble finding a distributor, as they wanted Romero to retool it to be soft porn, he refused. But, it shows Romero still trying to find his feet as a director 3/5

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The Crazies (1973), after making Season of the Witch (1973), George A. Romero wasted no time in getting his next film made. A sci-fi horror from a script by Paul McCollough originally titled The Mad People. Romero rewrote the script, as he was intrigued on the plot point of the military taking over a town. It's very suspenseful and it shows 2 sides of the fight. In the town of Evans City, Pennsylvania, the townspeople are trying to survive a viral epidemic which is turning the townspeople into infectious zombies known as The Crazies. The townspeople fighting them include fireman and former Green Beret David (Will McMillan), his girlfriend, nurse Judy (Lane Carroll), and firefighter and former soldier Clank (Harold Wayne Jones). Meanwhile, the military have arrived into Evans City to take control of the situation, led by Major Ryder (Harry Spillman), who decides to quarantine the entire town, with orders to shoot anyone who attempts to escape, although not before Washington D.C. send in scientist Dr. Watts (Richard France) to help develop an antidote to the virus and save the town. It's a quite suspenseful film, and it shares tone and structure than the Dead trilogy, people trying to survive a horrible epidemic, using their wits and prowess to fight back and survive. It should have put Romero onto greater things, however poor distribution meant it didn't find an audience. Romero wouldn't make another film for 5 years, but he came back fighting. 4/5

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BlacKkKlansman (2018), the 2000's have been hit and miss for Spike Lee, he has had the occasional hit like The 25th Hour (2002) and Inside Job (2006), but nothing like the films he had in the 80's. But, he's back with this unbelievable true story, and it feels so relevant even now. This is Spike Lee back with a bang, and he's come out fighting with ferocity and seething anger. In Colorado Springs in 1972, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is employed as the first black officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department, although he's working in records at first, although he gets promoted to intelligence. Ron see's an advert for the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, and telephones posing as a white man, wanting to join. The head of the local chapter Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold) wants to meet him, now Ron has to find a white man willing enough to play "white Ron", and his Jewish co-worker Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) agrees to do it. As "white Ron", Zimmerman learns that the Klan is planning an upcoming terror attack, and Zimmerman even infiltrates the Klan's Grand Wizard, David Duke (Topher Grace). Although this has been marketed as a black comedy, it's actually a seering, angry film, there is comedy, but not as much as the trailer promised, but it's still a very good film, and it has some brilliant performances. In fact, it ends with footage of the shocking Charlottesville riots last year, which just proves once and for all, that history never repeats itself, people always do. 4/5

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American Animals (2018), written and directed by Bart Layton (The Imposter (2012)), this is a VERY unconventional crime drama. The crime at the centre of the plot is pretty routine, but it's the way the story is told, mixing interviews with the real people involved with the dramatized events, both true, imagined and outright fictional. It's very entertaining indeed. In Lexington, Kentucky in 2003, student Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan) has recently enrolled at Transylvania University to study art, but he feels his life has no purpose. While there, he meets Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), a rebellious sports student who is only doing the course to impress his family. Spencer is showing the university's collection of rare books, including an extremely valuable edition of John James Audubon's The Birds of America and other rare books, Spencer and Warren plan to steal them, but it needs a lot of planning, and on Warren's insistence, they end up bringing in Erik Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner). But, as soon as they start to do the deed, it all goes horribly wrong. It's a very different kind of crime thriller, and even though these are all people who committed a crime, they're very engaging and likeable in a weird way, and the inclusion of the testimonies of the real people who committed the crime gives it a weird edge. In anyone else's hands, it could have been a bog standard heist film, this is something completely, brilliantly different. 5/5

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Heathers (1988), the directorial debut of Michael Lehmann, (Hudson Hawk (1991) and The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)), and written by Daniel Waters, (Batman Returns (1992) and Demolition Man (1993)). This is a pitch black comedy about the growing pains of high school, and it turns the whole convention of the teen movie upside down and set a new set of rules. At Westerburg High School in Sherwood, Ohio, 17 year old Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) is one of the most popular girls at the school, and she's part of a group of popular girls with the same first name, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty) and Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk), they're all popular but feared by most of the other students. Meanwhile, Veronica becomes smitten with teen rebel Jason "J.D." Dean (Christian Slater), who brings a gun into school. After Heather Chandler threatens to destroy Veronica's reputation, J.D. poisons Heather, killing her, but Veronica and J.D. make it look like a suicide. The school goes into shock, but J.D.'s killing spree doesn't stop there, Veronica reluctantly goes along with this. It's so breathtakingly black, it's a wonder there's any laughs in this at all, but it's funny thanks to some brilliant dialogue and some very iconic performances, it helped put Slater and Ryder on top for a time, making them bankable. But, it helped usher in a new era of dark teen movies, and even 30 years on, with the dark, surreal tone, you'd never get away with a film like this now. 4.5/5

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The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018), directed by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever (2002), Hostel (2005) and Death Wish (2018)), this is Roth's first family film, based on the 1973 novel of the same name by John Bellairs, it's a film which has an old school feel to it, like the sort of family fantasy film's you'd get in the 80's and 90's, it's also great fun and very enjoyable. In New Zebedee, Michigan in 1955, 10 year old Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black), after Lewis's parents are killed in a car crash. Jonathan lives in a weird house where the furniture is alive, as are the paintings and there's a weird ticking from inside the walls that keeps Lewis and Jonathan awake at night, Lewis gets to know Jonathan's neighbour Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), who has a weird friendship, but they reveal that Jonathan is a warlock, and Florence is a witch, and they practice magic. To impress new friend Tarby Corrigan (Sunny Suljic), Lewis reads a spell from a forbidden book that resurrects Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan), an evil warlock who Jonathan once knew. It's a very fun and enjoyable family film, and if this is Roth selling out and moving away from gory horror films, can he do it more often please? Black and Blanchett make a brilliant double act as well on screen, and they play off each other brilliantly, trading banter and insults, but it blends humour and horror really well, and there's a good sense of fun about it. 4/5

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A Simple Favour (2018), from director Paul Feig, (Bridesmaids (2011), The Heat (2013) and Ghostbusters (2016)), something very different, a dark mystery thriller based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, which has overtones of Hitchcock about it. The result is a refreshing and surprising change for Feig, and it might be a new turning point in his career. Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a widowed single mother, who does vlogs showing cooking and craft, he recently befriends the mysterious and cold Emily (Blake Lively), a busy PR director, whose son goes to the same school as Stephanie's son. Stephanie and Emily become friends, but Emily is a tough nut to crack, she swears a lot and doesn't like having her photo taken. When Emily asks Stephanie to babysit her son, Emily suddenly vanishes, her business say she's in Miami, but there's no record of Emily going there. Emily's husband English professor Sean Townsend (Henry Golding) comes under suspicion when it's revealed he took out a $4 million life insurance policy on Emily, then Stephanie finds out that Emily has been sighted in Michigan, and unveils a dark truth. It's a very twisty thriller, but Feig has fun with the material, you could argue that something snapped in Feig after the backlash he got over Ghostbusters, but it's a very good film, and it's good a cool detachment about it, rather like Emily really, and it's topped off with a cool soundtrack of pop songs in French as well. This might be a new start for Feig. 4/5

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The Wrong Box (1966), produced and directed by Bryan Forbes (Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), King Rat (1965) and The Stepford Wives (1975), and based on the 1889 novel of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, this is a very funny British farce with an absolutely brilliant cast and some really funny set pieces and misunderstandings. Brothers Masterman (John Mills) and Joseph Finsbury (Ralph Richardson) live next door to each other, and they're heirs to an investment scheme set up 63 years previously, and the last person alive gets a large amount of money. Masterman lives in a large house, and is looked after by his grandson Michael (Michael Caine), meanwhile in Bournemouth, Joseph is looked after by his grandsons Morris (Peter Cook) and John (Dudley Moore), who try and keep Joseph alive by any means necessary. Morris and John lose Joseph in a train crash, and they think he's dead, but he isn't. But, they try and make it seem like Masterman died first, and Morris goes to drunken Dr. Pratt (Peter Sellers) for a death certificate. It's a very silly film, and you need to pay attention as it does get complicated, especially with who died and who hasn't died, but director Bryan Forbes was one of the great unsung heroes of British cinema, and he brought together a great cast, also including Tony Hancock, Irene Handl, John Le Mesurier, John Junkin, Leonard Rossiter and Nicholas Parsons. 4.5/5

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Johnny English Strikes Again (2018), the third film in the Johnny English franchise, just when you thought they couldn't put him in any more situations. The job of directing it fell to TV director David Kerr (Inside No. 9 and That Mitchell and Webb Look), and it's actually quite funny, and it gives it's star plenty of funny opportunities to show off his comedic talents again. When MI7 is compromised by a cyber attack which exposes the identities of all secret agents in the field, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson) orders MI7 to find any old agents not affected by the cyber attack. Former agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is now a geography teacher, but he still misses the old days, then he's called up to help. He's reunited with his sidekick Bough (Ben Miller), and they head to the South of France, where they traced the attack to a yacht called the Dot Calm. English meets Russian agent Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko) who is also investigating the attack, meanwhile the Prime Minister has called on Silicon Valley tech billionaire Jason Volta (Jake Lacey) to help prevent anymore cyber attacks, but English is suspicious. It's a very silly film, and no-one can do slapstick like Rowan Atkinson, and he's put into some very silly situations with this film, it's obvious that they're spoofing the tone of Skyfall with this film, where the old ways are sometimes better than the old ways, with English refusing to use modern technology, preferring to use old fashioned gadgets and a gun. It's good fun. 3.5/5

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A Star Is Born (2018), the 4th version of this classic story, after the 1937, 1954 and 1976 versions, finally after nearly 20 years in development, after being passed from one director to another with a whole galaxy of talent attached, Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut with this one. It's the same cliched story, but it's told well with great performances. Country rock singer Jackson Maine (Cooper) is battling a drug and alcohol addiction, after one gig, he goes to a drag bar where he meets waitress and singer-songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga) and Jackson is blown away by her talent. They spend the night talking to one another, and Jackson invites Ally to his next show, where he surprises her by singing one of her songs, and she joins him on stage, and becomes part of Jackson's band, and it's not long before she's offered her own record contract. Jackson is suspicious of this, but supports Ally nonetheless, but he's even more peeved when he see's the label are trying to make her a pop star, thinking she's better than that. They marry, but Jackson burns out as Ally's star rises. It's hardly original, but that's irrelevant, it's the way the story's told that makes this worth watching, both stars are on top form and the music is very good and very powerful too, and Cooper shows brilliant confidence as writer and director as well, even though this was never going to be an easy film to make, but on the strength of this, he'll be back behind the camera soon. 4/5

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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018), written and directed by Drew Goddard, (The Cabin in the Woods (2012)), this is a very unusual thriller, a neo-noir with a good, tight focused cast at the centre of it, although it is a tad overlong and it could have done with being tightened up, it's actually very atmospheric and it's original in it's execution and there's something old school about it. In 1970, at the El Royale Hotel, which is based slap-bang on the border between Nevada and Colorado, 4 guests arrive to check in. There's priest Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), aspiring singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), and the cold, sarcastic Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), the only employee at the hotel is former Vietnam soldier Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman). But, they all have dark pasts and dark secrets, Father Daniel isn't who he says he is, and neither is Sullivan, and Summerspring has kidnapped someone, who turns out to be her sister Rose (Cailee Spaeny), and Rose's boyfriend and cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) is on his way. It's a very unusual film, and it's got some genuinely shocking moments throughout, including moments you definitely don't see coming at all, it's broken down into chapters in a Tarantino-esque way. It is very talky and it does require your attention, which can be hard considering it's length, but with brilliant performances and a good script, it works. A cult film in the making here. 4/5

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First Man (2018), directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash (2014) and La La Land (2016)), and adapted from James R. Hansen's 2005 biography by Josh Singer, (Spotlight (2015) and The Post (2017)), this is a very intimate film, showing a decade in the life of a true American hero, but it's done with a very old school fashion, using old school special effects. Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) is a NASA test pilot, who in 1961 applies for NASA's Gemini space programme, where they plan to beat the Soviets in going to the moon. Armstrong with his wife Janet (Claire Foy) relocate to Houston, Texas to do this, and Armstrong undergoes some very vigourous training and has to learn the ins and outs of the technology which was very rudimentary for then. Even on Gemini 8 in 1966, it's nearly a disaster after a docking incident. Despite more accidents, some more tragic, Armstrong is chosen to command Apollo 11 to moon, even though everyone knows the big risks involved. It's actually quite a scary film, especially on the Gemini 8 flight, which is made even more claustrophobic being from inside the capsule, and it's the fear of going into the unknown, and how dangerous it truly was. But, Gosling adds a natural, human touch to it, and Chazelle's direction is tight and focused, and it does the subject justice and doesn't pad it out with clichés. 4/5

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The Ugly Duckling (1959), from Hammer, who at the time were entering their imperial phase of horror films like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. They chose to do this comedic reworking of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, directed by Lance Comfort, (Tomorrow at Ten (1964) and Devils of Darkness (1965)), it's basically a British Nutty Professor. Bumbling chemist Henry Jeckle (Bernard Bresslaw) is awkward and socially inept, and he has no confidence at all, it's his brother Victor (Jon Pertwee) who looks after him, while his sister Henrietta (Maudie Edwards) is a nagging, shrewish bully. After ruining a date for Henrietta, Henry discovers a formula created by his great-great-grandfather which claims to turn 'a man of timid disposition into a bold, fearless dragon'. So Henry does that, and it turns him into the suave, dashing, rough Teddy Hyde, who oozes confidence. However, Teddy Hyde gets involved with mobsters who are planning a jewellery heist. Henry's friend Snout (Jean Muir), finds out about it, and tries to put a stop to it, and stop Henry from becoming Teddy and causing more trouble. It's very light hearted fare, and it might have worked better reworked as a Carry On film, but it's enjoyable enough, Bresslaw does well in the dual role of the bumbling Henry and the hard-edged Teddy. It showed Hammer were willing to branch out into other genres, but this one didn't quite catch on with audiences at the time. But, it's a good little timepiece now. 3/5

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The Old Dark House (1963), from horror producer/director William Castle (House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960)), he came over to England for this remake of the 1932 Universal horror, and Castle teamed up with Hammer to make this, who were riding high. It's a very daft film, very silly indeed, but it has a good cast to it's name. In London, American car salesman Tom Penderel (Tom Poston) has just sold a car to his friend and roommate Casper Femm (Peter Bull), Casper asks if Tom can deliver the car to his ancestral mansion in Dartmoor, Tom agrees. When he gets, Tom finds it's a decrepit old house falling to bits, and to make matters worse, Tom finds out from patriarch Roderick Femm (Robert Morley), that Casper has died, and Tom is invited to stay by the rest of Femm family, including mother Agatha (Joyce Grenfell), Casper's twin brother Jasper (Bull again), his cousins Cecily (Janette Scott) and Morgana (Fenella Fielding) and Uncle Potiphar (Mervyn Johns), but nothing is what is seems, they all have a hidden agenda, and then they start dying. Putting William Castle and Hammer together should have been great fun, but it is very cheesy and nowhere near as scary or as funny as it promises, despite having a good British cast to it's name, considering the original 1932 film was a straight faced horror film, the decision to add comedy to this take is flawed, the UK didn't even get to see it until 1966. 2.5/5

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Schlock (1973), the directorial debut of John Landis, who before his big break, did stunt work in films like Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and El Condor (1970), using the money from his work on those films, he went off and made this comedy-horror, made for $60,000 and filmed in 12 days! Despite being made on the cheap, Landis manages to make it work really well. In Southern California, there have been murders caused by a strange creature known as the Schlockthropus (Landis), a supposed missing link between man and ape who was found in a cave, who the press have dubbed 'The Banana Killer'. But, it turns out Schlock isn't really a bad creature, he has feelings too, he falls for a beautiful blind girl called Betty (Susan Weiser) who thinks Schlock is a dog, Schlock later ends up at a bar, and gets into a boogie piano jam with the resident pianist (Ian Kranitz), and Schlock ends up going to the cinema, and ends up being scared by a horror film, all the while the police, authorities and newscasters are on his tail, trying to stop Schlock before he causes any more carnage, but all Schlock wants is a few bananas. It's story is ridiculous, but it still manages to be good fun, and Landis has fun with the concept, (which was inspired from a similar film he saw called Trog (1970), and he thought he could do better. The make-up for Schlock was done by Rick Baker, who like Landis, would go on to much greater things, and they would work together again on another comedy-horror film. Wink 4/5

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Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), after nearly a decade in development, with actors coming and going, and a very troubled production, with director Bryan Singer getting the sack due to alleged abusive behaviour, with Dexter Fletcher finishing the film, the story of Queen and Freddie Mercury, and despite historical inaccuracies, it's really very good and very enjoyable. In 1970, Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) see's band Smile at a nightclub, their lead singer Tim Staffell (Jack Roth) quits, so Bulsara convinces members Brain May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) that he could do it. They're renamed Queen, Bulsara changes his name to Freddie Mercury and joined by bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello), and thus begins their rise to fame. There are stumbles along the way, such as their battle with EMI executive Ray Foster (Mike Myers) over whether Bohemian Rhapsody should be a single. The gamble pays off, and they become global megastars, but as the fame rises, Freddie struggles with his sexuality, that puts a strain on his relationship with longtime girlfriend Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). It's a very enjoyable film, that does justice to both Queen and Mercury, if you didn't know there were behind the scenes troubles, you'd never guess. While it does take liberties with the truth, it's still well made, and it's well worth it for Malek's spirited performance as Mercury, while is well worth the price of admission alone. It's well worth a look. 4/5

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The Tingler (1959), produced and directed by William Castle, who after spending more than a decade of directing westerns and crime dramas, moved into horror films with Macabre (1958) and House on Haunted Hill (1959). He sold these horrors with various gimmicks, this one had "Percepto!" where buzzers were fitted in cinema seats. It's actually a very well made if cheesy horror. It has Pathologist, Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price), discovering that the tingling sensation in the spine prompted by fear, is caused by a creature embedded in the spine, which he calls The Tingler. After deaf-mute Martha Higgins (Judith Evelyn) wife of cinema owner Oliver Higgins (Philip Coolidge), dies of fright. Chapin performs an autopsy on her body, and removes her Tingler. He performs experiments on The Tingler, and discovers that screaming out loud, which causes The Tingler to retract and shrink. However, despite having it contained in a steel box, The Tingler manages to escape and heads out towards the Higgins cinema to cause terror. It's a very daft film, even though Price is unusually restrained and keeping his hammy acting to a minimum, it's still a very enjoyable film. There's nothing you can take seriously about this film, but that's the point. There were plenty more daft gimmicky films to come from Castle over the next few years, but they were still enjoyable to watch, even now on DVD or Blu-Ray. 4/5

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13 Ghosts (1960), wasting no time after the release of The Tingler (1959), William Castle dived straight into his next film, which like The Tingler, employed another silly gimmick, Illusion-O, which could enable you to see ghosts or not see them, (basically repurposing the red and blue lenses of 3D glasses), it's very enjoyable and has some good scares. In Los Angeles, museum guide Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods) inherits an old house from his Uncle Plato (Roy Jenson), who has been missing for years. He and his family including wife Hilda (Rosemary DeCamp), daughter Madea (Jo Morrow) and son Buck (Charles Herbert), move into the house, and discover it has not only it's own housekeeper Elaine (Margaret Hamilton), but also 12 Ghosts, including a headless lion tamer, a jealous Italian chef and a flaming skeleton. It turns out Plato had captured these ghosts and they are now waiting for a 13th Ghost to free them, meanwhile Cyrus finds out Plato had hidden loads of hidden money in the house, which Plato's lawyer Benjamin Rush (Martin Milner) is looking for. Like The Tingler, it's very silly film, but it has some good set pieces and the ghosts come out well as well, and it's story is very engaging too, the gimmick would have looked good in cinemas at the time. Castle loved making films like this, as he knew audiences would love interacting with stuff like this. It's a good story too and it's quite gripping and engaging as well. 4/5

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Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (2018), written and directed by Gus Van Sant, and adapted from John Callahan's memoir, this was originally to have been made 20 years ago starring Robin Williams. The money never materialised, but Van Sant persevered and got Amazon to back his dream project. The result is a moving, character piece with some brilliant performances. John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) is an alcoholic, whose life is a mess, and after a night of heavy drinking with Dexter (Jack Black), John is involved in a severe car accident. He ends up a quadriplegic, and unable to move without help, and he turns back to the bottle. But, he ends up getting help from Swedish carer Annu (Rooney Mara) and his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Donnie Green (Jonah Hill), the latter of whom has a massive influence on John's life, and Donnie comes to feel empathy for John, and wants to help him. John meanwhile regains strength in his upper body, and he starts doing taboo, politically incorrect cartoons which gain a strong reaction and acclaim, and he gets a job as cartoonist for the local paper. It's a very uplifting and moving film, and against all the odds, it's got a good sense of humour about it, which despite it's subject matter, you wouldn't think was possible. But, it's worth it for the performances by Phoenix and Hill, which ought to get a look-in come awards season. But, the result is something of a return to form for Van Sant after about 10 years. 4/5

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Candyman (1992), based upon Clive Barker's 1984 short story The Forbidden from his Books of Blood collection, adapted and directed here by Bernard Rose, (Chicago Joe and the Showgirl (1990), Immortal Beloved (1994) and Mr. Nice (2010)), this is a good film adaptation of the story, with some effective, bloody scares. It's creepy when it wants to be, and it has a dark and mysterious tone too, with a lot of good moments. In Chicago, graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is researching a paper on urban legends, and she hears one about a local myth about The Candyman (Tony Todd), who is summoned by saying his name 5 times in the mirror, before killing the summoner. Helen with her colleague Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) research the site of a recent murder, linked to the Candyman myth. After being attacked by a local gang, the real Candyman appears to Helen, he wants her to prove that he really does exist. So, the Candyman puts Helen in a horrific situation, where she's arrested for assault, then put in a psychiatric hospital for murder, which she can't remember. It might look a bit dated now, (it's a wonder no-one has tried to remake it), but it has some effective moments, and Rose keeps the tense mood up. It has a darkly ironic twist in the tale at the end too. Plus, the original story was set in Birmingham, which makes you wonder what a Brummie version of Candyman would have been like. 4/5

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Homicidal (1961), produced and directed by William Castle, who was on a roll after making The Tingler (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960), and for his next film, he wanted to make a more psychological thriller, one which owed more to Hitchcock and in particular Psycho (1960), which rewrote the rules of horror-thrillers, the result is a gripping film with a twist you won't see coming. In Ventura, California, Emily (Jean Arless) convinces the bellboy Jim Nesbitt (Richard Rust) in a small hotel to get married to her, and she will pay him $2000 for the trouble. Jim is baffled, but goes ahead with it. It goes ahead at the dead of night, but Emily suddenly murders the justice of the peace Mr. Adrims (James Westerfield), and flees. The police investigate why this happened, and their investigation takes them to local flower shop owner Miriam Webster (Patricia Breslin), who vouches for Emily. Meanwhile, Emily is a nurse, caring for the mute invalid mute Helga (Eugenie Leontovich), in a massive house that Miriam and her brother Warren set to inherit if Warren marries, but there's a dark family secret that Emily knows about. It's a very complicated plot, but it makes sense at the end, sort off. But, you get the impression that Castle wanted to try and go for less schlocky scares and focus on character and plot. However, this being William Castle, he couldn't resist but add one of his trademark gimmicks, which here was a "Fright Break", made for those who were too frightened to see the climax. 4/5

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Mr. Sardonicus (1961), produced and directed by William Castle, who went straight from Homicidal (1961) into this piece of gothic horror, which in turn was based on a short story called Sardonicus written by Ray Russell that appeared in Playboy. Castle optioned the rights and got Russell to do the screenplay, the result is Castle taking on Roger Corman at his own game. In 1880 London, acclaimed London physician Sir Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis) is asked to travel to the European country of Gorslava, to help the mysterious Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe), at the request of Sardonicus's wife Maude (Audrey Dalton), Maude used to date Sir Robert. When he hears the story of Sardonicus, and how after grave robbing to retrieve a winning lottery ticket that was in his father's suit pocket, Sardonicus was left with his face frozen in a horrifying grin after he glanced upon his father's corpse. Sardonicus wants Sir Robert to fix his face, as many have tried to fix Sardonicus' face and failed, and Maude recommended Sir Robert. Sir Robert is now forced to fix Sardonicus' face or Maude dies. It's a darker film than the likes of The Tingler or 13 Ghosts, and Castle can't resist but have a little gimmick at the end, a "Punishment Poll" to decide the fate, even though only one ending was filmed. But, it showed that Castle wanted to branch out into more elegant and classy looking films, but he had fun making his films, and he had plenty more coming soon, 3/5

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Widows (2018), directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave (2013)), co written with Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl (2014)), and adapted from Lynda La Plante's classic 1983 series for Thames Television. This is a taut, bleak heist thriller, which is the flip side of the similarly themed Ocean's Eight (2018), only class, trust and power play a big part in the story here. In Chicago, professional thief Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) along with his partners Carlos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Florek (Jon Bernthal), and Jimmy (Coburn Goss), are killed in a heist gone wrong. Harry's widow Veronica (Viola Davis), is threatened by crime boss Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), as Harry stole the money from him, and Manning needs that money for his electoral campaign of the South Side of Chicago, against incumbent Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), whose family, including his father Jack (Robert Duvall), have run the South Side for years. Veronica, along with Carlos' widow Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Florek's widow Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), along with Belle (Cynthia Erivo), plan to rob the Mulligan's in order to pay Manning back. It's a very layered and complex story, but very well made. It doesn't so much focus on the planning of the heist, but it puts it's characters up front and they're the main priority. It's the performances that are the most gripping aspect of this film, as they're all playing broken characters, and it shows their inner struggles and torment. McQueen has built a stellar thriller. 4/5

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The Little Stranger (2018), directed by Lenny Abrahamson, (Frank (2014) and Room (2015)), and adapted from Sarah Waters' 2009 novel of the same name. This is a gothic ghost story which is more philosophical and high brow than full on horror, rather than going for traditional scares, it leaves more questions than answers. But, it is beautifully made. In 1947, physician Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) returns to the Midlands district he grew up in, and he is called to Hundreds Hall, where his mother worked as a maid years before. The Hall is now owned by Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter), a scarred and mentally unstable RAF veteran, also living in the house are his mother (Charlotte Rampling) and his sister Caroline (Ruth Wilson). Faraday is shocked at how the once beautiful house he remembers from his childhood, has now fallen into disrepair due to the Ayres family falling into poverty. However, strange things start happening, including a child being mauled at a party, and the name Suki appears in scratches on the walls, Roderick says it's his sister Suki, who died years earlier. It's a horror film that owes a lot of Don't Look Now (1973), nothing is what it seems, and it uses it's bleak atmosphere to build the mood. But, this is a film about class, knowing your place in the order of things, as well as obsession. While it requires patience, it is a tough nut to crack, it's well worth it for the performances throughout. Nicolas Roeg would have been proud. 3/5

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They Shall Not Grow Old (2018), directed and produced by Peter Jackson, this is a documentary with a difference. As it's 100 years since the end of the First World War, the Imperial War Museum and the BBC commissioned Jackson to do something different with the archives of old footage and audio interviews they had. What Jackson creates is a heartbreaking and moving tribute to all those who fought. What Jackson has done, is take the footage, most of which was filmed on different formats and in some cases at different speeds, he's been able to clean up said footage and, what might seem controversial to many, colourise the footage as well. The first 15-20 minutes are in grainy black and white, telling the story of the soldiers before they went off into conflict, then as soon as we're in the trenches, it's in full colour, and it looks stunning too. Instead of a traditional narrator, Jackson opts for interviews from the soldiers who fought on the battlefields, most of these were taken from the 1964 BBC series The Great War as well as other interviews the Imperial War Museum had, and they tell it how it is, and how they survived under horrible conditions and the effects that fighting and living in the trenches had on them. This doesn't shy away from the horrors of war, showing what it was really like in the trenches. It's absolutely shocking to watch, but it hammers home why people fight for our freedom, but this is a perfect tribute to those who gave their lives, they've been brought back to life. Not only that, but as well as this 99 minute film, Jackson restored all 100 hours of footage for the Imperial War Museum for free. 5/5

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The Grinch (2018), the third screen version of Dr. Seuss' 1957 book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, adapted for TV in 1966 by Chuck Jones, then in live action in 2000. This animated version done by Illumination Entertainment, and directed by Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets (2016)) and Scott Mosier (Kevin Smith's former producer and editor.) It's a fun festive adventure, but nothing more. In the town of Whoville, the Who's are preparing for Christmas, and are all excited about it, but The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is mean-spirited and cantankerous, hates Christmas, and he lives a reclusive existence at the top of Mount Crumpit with his dog Max, who is his only friend as well. Meanwhile, down in Whoville, Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely) just wants to see her mother Donna (Rashida Jones), be happy, as she always puts herself out to help others. Meanwhile, The Grinch comes up with a plan, which involves stealing all traces of Christmas, as he has bad memories of Christmas as a child, where he was unloved and unwanted. So, he finds a reindeer called Fred, steals a sleigh from his neighbour Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson), makes a Santa suit and puts his plan into action. It's a very daft animated caper, and it owes a lot to the Chuck Jones version rather than the 2000 version, but it has some good flourishes of imagination on display. However, the 2000 version is still fresh in a lot of people's head's 18 years later, but Illumination already did another Dr. Seuss adaptation with The Lorax (2012), and they have more planned. On the basis of this, they get Seuss' style. 3.5/5

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Halloween (1978), written and directed by John Carpenter, who up until then had done sci-fi satire Dark Star (1974) and the dark thriller Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). This classic, iconic horror film came about when producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad approached Carpenter about doing a slasher film, Carpenter agreed, and this was the final result. On Halloween 1963, in the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. 6 year old Michael Myers (Will Sandin/Nick Castle) stabs his sister and her boyfriend to death. 15 years later, Michael's psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and his colleague Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) drive to the sanitarium where Myers is being held to escort him to court. However, Myers has already escaped and is able to steal their car, and he heads for Haddonfield. Meanwhile in Haddonfield, high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) notices a strange figure stalking her around the neighbourhood, her friends scoff at these concerns. Loomis arrives in Haddonfield, and finds that the headstone of Myers' sister has been stolen, then murders start happening... It's still an effective and darkly suspenseful horror, with a very iconic soundtrack and a villain who has become legendary, but it's well made even though it was made on a low budget and shot in 20 days. It might have spawned several sequels all of varying quality and a remake and a sequel that both sank without trace. But, for sheer suspense, you can't beat the original and best. 5/5

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Halloween (2018), 40 years after the original, comes this sequel that ignores all other sequels and the remakes. Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions got the rights, with David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express (2008) and Your Highness (2011)), as writer and director. It has Carpenter's backing, and it's a film that honours the original by wiping the slate clean. 40 years have passed since Michael Myers (Nick Castle) came home to Haddonfield, Illinois. Podcasters Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) and Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) go to Grove Sanitarium to interview Myers, now under the care of Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer). Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is now a twice-divorced alcoholic, who has never got over that night 40 years before, and her remote house is now a fortress, complete with weapons and booby traps. Her irrational behaviour has alienated her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), even though her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) is fascinated by her creepy Grandmother. Meanwhile, Myers escapes once again, and he heads for Haddonfield once more. It's hardly original, but it's the way it's told that makes it compelling, showing that traumatic events can break people, and they never truly recover from said events, which is something that other horror franchises never explore properly. But, it gives the original a proper sequel that the franchise has been begging for, and it has some genuinely good scares. 4/5

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), The Coen Brothers ride again, this time with a western anthology, 6 tales of the old west told in their own unique way. This raised eyebrows as it was greenlit by Netflix, and it was originally thought to be a TV series. However, it ended up being a film all along, it's a thoughtful film which mixes black comedy and dark drama perfectly. In The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, singing cowboy Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), who can only dodge death for so long. In Near Algodones, an outlaw (James Franco) robs a bank, and looks like he's going to be hung for it, but fate intervenes, which brings about very mixed fortunes. In Meal Ticket, an Impresario (Liam Neeson) travels the western frontier with Harrison (Harry Melling), an actor with no limbs who recites the same lines. In All Gold Canyon, a Prospector (Tom Waits) looks for "Mr. Pocket" in an unspoilt beautiful valley. In The Gal Who Got Rattled, Alice Longabaugh (Zoe Kazan) travels with a wagon train in Oregon, and in The Mortal Remains, a stagecoach has some unusual travellers with Thigpen (Jonjo O'Neill) and Clarence (Brendan Gleeson). It's definitely an unusual film, the tone changes from story to story, and you don't quite know what you're going to get next, but it shows all sides of the screen western. The musical, the Leone-esque caper, the cold anti-western, the philosophical western. They're all here, and you wouldn't expect anything less from the Coen's, but it's one of their best. 4.5/5

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), the second film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which got off to a great start now comes somewhat unstuck with this complicated, confused sequel. They've tried to cram so much into the sequels, that it's become too incoherent, despite some great performances throughout, which is such a shame. After the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes while being transferred for trial in London. A few months later, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) turns to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to help find Grindelwald and stop him from finding Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) and using Credence to bring about more destruction. Although Newt is banned from travelling internationally after what happened in New York, Dumbledore is able to pull a few strings. Newt travels to Paris to find Grinelwald. is joined by Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), his friend from New York, as well as American wizard Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), who also intends to put a stop to Grindelwald's plan, which is already in full swing when Newt gets there. There's just too much going on in this film, and they've shoehorned too many characters and plots into this film, and it's tearing apart the whole franchise. It might be time for writer/producer J.K. Rowling and director David Yates to take a step back for the next film, and invite some new talent in to give Fantastic Beasts the shot in the arm it truly needs. 2/5

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