Movie Review: The BERMUDA TRIANGLE

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bermuda triangle, theSunn Classic Pictures
1978
NR

The passengers and crew of a boat on a summer cruise in the Caribbean stray near the famed Bermuda Triangle, and mysterious things start happening.

Ah, the Bermuda Triangle. A classic in the pantheon of supposedly haunted mystery spots on this big world of ours. You’ve heard the legends, of ships and aircraft disappearing mysteriously in this stretch of ocean between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the southern-most tip of Florida. Paranormal enthusiasts have tried to explain things as supernatural something-or-other, alien abductions, or Atlantians annoyed with us surface dwellers. Of course, pop culture has been rather helpful in spreading the mythology and pseudoscience; one of which is the topic of discussion in today’s review, the 1978 Italian/Mexican joint flick The Bermuda Triangle.

Also released under the titles The Secrets Of The Bermuda Triangle and Devil’s Triangle Of Bermuda, The Bermuda Triangle stars writer/director/actor John Huston, a man known throughout his career as the writer and director of genre classics, including the likes of The Maltese Falcon, The Asphalt Jungle, and The African Queen. The rest of the cast is…inconsequential, really.

The plot of The Bermuda Triangle itself, well…if you know your Twilight Zone, you can probably guess the plot, as well as the big twist ending. That part, I don’t mind. No, what makes this movie a chore to get through, it’s the bloody annoying and unlikable characters. Not the choppy editing, not the really bad English dubbing, not even the way it seems to take forever to get to the point. That’s all just rancid icing on this already rancid cake. No, from the get-go, the characters and their interactions and mannerisms make you want to punch them individually, every single time they come on screen. Especially that brat of a kid. To say nothing of the blatant misogyny of the lead character, always verbally ripping apart his wife in front of everybody at the drop of a hat. Then your intelligence is insulted by suggesting that the doll they find floating on the ocean is somehow causing all the weirdness and murder, which leads you to be rather glad that they’re all stuck in a hell of their own making, reliving their doomed voyage in a continuous loop with no hope of respite for all eternity.

What do you mean, “Spoilers”? I just saved you the pain of having to watch this yourself. From here on out, if you do watch The Bermuda Triangle, it’s on you. You’ve been warned. Stay away. Stay away.

Book Review: SHADOW WITCH: Horror of the Dark Forest

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shadow witchJ. Thorn / Dan Padavona
Amazon Digital Services LLC
2015

Thom Meeks lives with his family in Droman Meadows under the protection of the Kingdom of Mylan. An unusually long winter creates anxiety in the village and some believe it to be the return of an ominous force known as the Shadow. When a pack of dread wolves lays ruin to Droman Meadows, Thom escapes with his wife and four daughters. They set out on the Mylan Road in hopes of finding refuge in the capital, but dark forces emerging from the primeval forest will challenge them for their eternal souls.

Slowly going through the entire list of free-ish titles that I downloaded to my Kindle when I received my very first not very long ago. It came in handy during those daily IV sessions I went through back in the winter of 2018. One of the free books available to me was this one right here: Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest.

I know nothing of the two authors that collaborated on this novella: J. Thorn and Dan Padavona. Neither do I feel like doing any basic research on their bibliography just to pad things up for this review. But, I do have aplenty to say of Shadow Witch, after slogging through the book.

I do wish to explain, though, that since getting my first Kindle, after years of resisting doing so due to being an old-fashioned bibliophile, that I seem to be able to read faster than I normally do, simply because of the lack of strain and adjustable font size available. It’s rather a nice benefit. That said, it still took me three months to from start to finish to read this 189-page novella. This is mainly due to not being a big fan of the fantasy type stories that are set in Yo Olden Times, or some reasonable facsimile therein. Especially with stories that involve a lot of walking. And there’s a lot of walking in this book.

Oh my sweet Lemmy, I have never been so annoyed with a hero and his family like I was with Thom and his whiny little daughters. This is Thom: “Oh, no’s, I haz a secret that could make my family and friends not like me, boo hoo”. Spoilers: he’s actually a warrior with magic powers, and not a shepherd! And his twin middle daughters, for some reason, are always mocking and bullying their older sister for…reasons. That’s their one personality trait, and it’s just bloody annoying as all get out. Of course, the most interesting character in this story is the innkeeper, but unfortunately he isn’t the focus, which would have made for a much more interesting read. No, we get to see a guy with a bunch of werewolf monsters called “Dread Wolves” (which is a great name for a metal band) who are in the service of the evil Shadow Witch, they lay waste to the town Thom and his family live near, which causes Thom to lead his family to the Norther Kingdom for safety. After a couple of days of walking, the twin sisters manage to get themselves and their older sister lost inside the nearby dark and mystical forest, and then the whole thing becomes The Blair Witch Project by way of Game of Thrones for the second half of the book. There’s a lot of wandering and walking around, a lot of whining from Thom and the daughters (I’m surprised his wife never backhands him at any time), the titular Shadow Witch keeps popping up and demanding to know everyone’s names (so she can steal their life essence, or something), only it always turns out like this:
SHADOW WITCH: “Tell me your name!”
CHARACTER: “No!”
SHADOW WITCH: “You win this round!”
Of course, after enough time wandering around and getting lost and hallucinating stuff, the daughters give out their names, there’s a final showdown between Thom and the Shadow Witch, Thom embraces his dark past to defeat the Witch, and the whole thing ends with the older three daughters dead and the youngest daughter possessed by the Shadow Witch.

I’m sure this sets up a whole series of stories. Only, it took me so long to get through because I found the story dull. There’s a lot. Of. Walking. Even at less than 200 pages, I found myself unable to get past just a couple of chapters before putting this down to read something far more interesting. I do like how the book decided to end on a dower note, though.

Anyway, I haven’t checked to see if there’s any more of these written, nor will I continue on if there are. Pass.

Movie Review: STARCRASH

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starcrashNew World Pictures
1979
PG

“For the space of three minutes, every molecule on this planet will be immobilized. But after the third minute, the green ray loses its power. Time will flow once more and everything will explode.”

In the deep space of the Second Galaxy the best navigator and pilot of the entire interstellar system–Stella Star and Akton–are arrested for smuggling, despite thrusting themselves into hyperspace. Stella escapes only to learn that she and her companion have been chosen by the Emperor of the First Circle to find his son who has been savagely attacked by Zarth Arn. the most important enemy of peace, Arn, is a despot belonging to the League of the Obscure People. Together with Thor, a ‘greenish’ policeman and Elias, a robot, Stella Star and Akton set off on their mission. Stella and the Robot are stranded and left to die on a frozen sphere by Thor, the policeman, who has revealed himself as a traitor in the pay of Zarth Arn. Just in time and thanks to Akton’s fantastic powers Thor is eliminated and the two rescued. Later, the group is attacked by the Troglodytes who’kill’ the robot, Elias. A handsome young man rescues our heroes who now realize that they have accidentally found the entrance to Arn’s fortress. The young man turns out to be Simon, the Emperor’s son. Zarth Arn arrive and Akton sacrifices his life in a laser-sword confrontation with the “Golems”, Arn’s miniature robots. The group escape and plan the final end of Zarth Arn. this requires a stellar clash and using the Fourth Dimension the flying city of the Emperor is hurled against the citadel of Zarth Arn to bring the final dazzling victory.

This movie. This movie, right here. In the list of space fantasy / space westerns / space operas that were produced in the wake of the massive success that was Star Wars back in 1977, Starcrash was one of the more elusive titles for me, and probably one of the more enticing, simply by the fact that it co-stared a young soon-to-be 80s icon / singing sensation (in Germany) David Hasselhoff. The idea of The Hoff wielding a lightsaber laser sword was enough for me to try and track down this turkey. And, as luck would have it, Starcrash became one of the movies available for streaming on my service. We truly do live in a golden age, people.

For obvious reasons, the first thing to come to mind here would be Star Wars Rip-Off. And the similarities to the story are rather uncanny; although, the director had gone on record in interviews stating that development for his movie happened long before the release of Star Wars. Okay, sure. Why not? I mean, it’s not like anybody else tried to capitalize on the film (*cough* Disney’s The Black Hole *cough*). But, let’s not focus on that. What’s the movie like? Hoo, boy…

Starcrash is what one would call a glorious mess. If it is, in fact, a Star Wars knock-off, it’s like someone tried to copy the Mona Lisa using crayons. And not the good Crayola crayons, either; Rose Art or whatever they sell at the Everything’s A Buck stores. The story is rooted squarely within the pulp tradition, having an earnest cheeseball quality not unlike the Flash Gordon serials of yesteryear. Everything about this movie is gloriously cheesy, from the sets, costumes and effects, to the acting quality, to the very way that I found myself muttering “that’s not how space science works” more times than I’m comfortable admitting.

In other words, Starcrash is a gloriously cheesy space western fantasy that needs to be seen to be believed. Again, the inclusion of The Hoff is worth the figurative price of admission alone. An enthusiastic recommendation for Bad Movie Night.

Movie Review: The WONDERFUL LAND OF OZ

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wonderful land of ozChildhood Productions
1969
NR

Okay, so…show of hands: How many people reading this has tortured yourselves with the Yuletide schlock classic Santa & The Ice Cream Bunny? Huh. Well, either you’ve never heard of that cinematic atrocity, or you’re too ashamed to admit that you secretly watch it every year along with your family, despite their collective protests. Or, is that just me? I may need help. Anyway…

Depending on which cut you’ve seen (admit it), you’re familiar with either the “Jack & The Giant Beanstalk” or “Thumbilina” segments. Both ultra-low budget fare, featuring paper mache’ sets, equally paper-thin acting and musical numbers that will haunt your nightmares for all the wrong reasons. These were directed by one Barry Mahon, a director known for not only badly made childrens’ movies (like the bafflingly horrible Santa’s Christmas Elf Named Calvin), but also more adult exploitation flicks.

The Wonderful Land Of Oz, Mahon’s adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel The Marvelous Land of Oz, is a faithful–if not ultra low-budget–adaptation. Or so I’m told. I haven’t read the source material, and I’m only familiar with the classic 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz as far as movie adaptations go. And now this one. I have only myself to blame for that.

Anyway, after an opening musical sequence that tries to go for whimsy, but thanks to a badly constructed purple cow (among other things) ends up traumatizing anyone in visual range, we meet a young boy named Tip, who’s busy constructing a pumpkin-headed scarecrow in which to scare his guardian, the wicked witch Mombi. This backfires, as Mombi instead brings the pumpkin headed guy (named Jack Pumpkinhead, who sadly never ever sings about Halloweentown) to life, and then threatens to turn Tip into a garden statue…in the morning. You can’t be turning children into statues without a good night’s rest, apparently. While Mombi is slumbering, Tip runs away with Jack Pumpkinhead in tow, off to the Emerald City to speak with its ruler to get help. Of course, this being a sequel to the first book/movie, the head guy in charge of Emerald City is now the Scarecrow, while the Tin Man is off ruling his own kingdom. What happened to the Lion, you may ask? Pshaw, he doesn’t appear in this movie, so that’s of no importance to the plot. Anyhoo, along the way to Oz, he gets captured by an all-female army that’s marching to Oz to overthrow the Scarecrow and rule Emerald City as they see fit. Once there, while the Army of Revolt confuses the City Guards with logic, Tip manages to escape to warn the Scarecrow of the impending invasion, something which the Scarecrow is kind of okay with, really. Turns out, ruling a city is totally exhausting and stuff. So, the Scarecrow, Peter “Abomination Against Nature” Pumpkinhead and Tip escape to the Tin Man’s realm, where they decide they want to take back Emerald City from a bunch of girrrrrls, and thus return to find that not everything is going as planned for the leader of the rebellion. Then, Glenda the good Witch Fairy stops by with some Deus Ex Machina by way of revealing that the true heir to the Emerald City is a girl that has been under the “care” of Mombi. And when confronting Mombi to the whereabouts of the girl, she reveals that, to keep the girl safe from those seeking her out, she turned her into a boy…a boy she named Tip. Yeah. Didn’t see that one coming [/sarcasm]. Anyway, they return to the Emerald City, with Tip now back to his…er, her original form of a girl, and she’s left in charge of the city with some characters helping her in her education. Oh, and there’s a humanoid bug character that will haunt your nightmares as well in this.

Watching The Wonderful Land Of Oz is like being forced to watch an Elementary school play that was slapped together and directed by a teacher who clearly had delusions of adequacy in putting on a production. Ah, but the ultra-cheep sets and costumes, as well as the cringe-worthy acting is nothing compared to the musical numbers. Gads, those will haunt your nightmares.

Word has it that the director wanted to get Judy Garland to do the narration for this. Probably best that she didn’t get involved in this thing. If you happen upon the Wonderful Land Of Oz, pass on by like the devil is at your heels.

Movie Review: CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010)

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clash of the titansWarner Bros.
2010
PG-13

“My father was killed by a god. My mother, sister, everyone I loved was killed by a god. I mend nets. Not wield a sword.”

The original Clash Of The Titans will always live in my memory as one of my favorite childhood movies. I remember watching it on HBO after its initial theatrical run in 1982, mesmerized by the stop-motion monsters that some guy with a manly perm fought, from giant scorpions to Medusa to the giant Kraken at the end. That movie was the reason why I so desperately wanted a mechanical owl for Christmas. Ah, memories. Sure, it hasn’t really aged well, but it’s a fun escape every time I come across it.

So, obviously, Clash Of The Titans became one of the classic movies to be remade. I wasn’t surprised. As a matter of fact, I was even all that perturbed about it. Let’s face it, Clash Of The Titans was due for a shiny upgrade. However, I held off for a number of years to actually watch this remake, more or less because of a combination of lack of funds, and quite frankly, disinterest at the time. And while I had friends and associates telling me that the 3D made this one of the bestest movies they’ve seen evah!, I still held off until about six years after its release to give it a watch.

Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus is helpless to save his family from Hades, vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus and unleash hell on earth. Battling unholy demons and fearsome beasts, Perseus and his warriors will only survive if Perseus accepts his power as a god, defies fate and creates his own destiny.

When all is said and done, this shiny updated redux of Clash Of The Titans was…interesting. I’m not exactly up on my Greek mythology stories, but the action adventure story was rather compelling, I do admit. The story itself was fairly standard, and the CGI effects were decent enough. I watched this as a video in standard, not the 3D, mind you, but at no time did I think that there were problems between the rendering. There were some nods to the original movie (the mechanical owl has a cameo…kind of), and overall…yeah, I was entertained. Not blown away, mind you. Maybe if I had seen it in the theater in full 3D? I don’t know. I don’t really see myself watching this one again, so I would give it a Good For A Rental recommendation.

Movie Review: GLASS

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glass movie posterUniversal Pictures
2019
PG-13

“What do we call you, sir?”
“First name, Mister. Last name, Glass.”

M. Night Shyamalan brings together the narratives of two of his standout originals—2000’s Unbreakable, from Touchstone, and 2016’s Split, from Universal—in one explosive, all-new comic-book thriller: Glass. From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

After being surprised by how good the movie Split was, I found myself actually looking forward to the green-lit final chapter in M. Night Shayamalan’s superhero trilogy, which started with Unbreakable back in 2000. The trailers that finally were released did a great job in showing just enough to keep me intrigued about what the movie was going to be, while not really spoiling anything in the process. I even managed to get Brian+Andrea to come along and watch, and then we recorded a podcast about it:

SPOILERS!

For the most part, i found myself rather satisfied with this final entry in the trilogy. I had some theories that cropped up from watching the trailer, mainly wondering if this was all going to be like that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she wakes up in a psychiatric ward and we’re left wondering what was the real world and which was the fantasy. Well…kind of yes, kind of no. Not to get into spoilery details (you’ve been warned), but the movie did a pretty good job story-wise throwing doubt as to whether these so-called super-powers were real or imaginary. Until the end, mind you, when the big twist happens and I was left wondering if I liked the way it ended or not. I’m still rather up in the air about that, and I probably won’t really come to a firm conclusion. I am, however, leaning a bit towards Didn’t Like Entirely, But It Doesn’t Ruin The Movie as far as the ending goes.

The movie itself is a nicely shot slow-burn, building up to a rather explosive showdown between Bruce Willis’s protagonist, and James McAvoy’s Beast personality. Everyone is great in their respective roles; however, it’s once again James McAvoy that steals the show with how deftly he’s able to switch different personality traits convincingly like that. Bruce Willis does a pretty good Bruce Willis, as always, and Samuel L. Jackson…well, what can I say? He’s the man. He plays the titular character pretty much catatonic for the first half of this movie, and still maintains a strong presence in the scenes he’s in. And when he actually does begin to put things into play, it’s just awesome to watch him work. There’s a scene where he is just watching The Beast take out a couple of guards, and he manages to act more with his face than many other actors can manage in entire movies.

Overall, though the movie did unravel a bit with the last 20 minutes or so, and I’m still not entirely satisfied with how things ended, Glass is still far better than it should be with a movie of this kind of scope. Glass could have been just another haphazardly slapped together sequel to capitalize on the popularity of the last movie; instead, there was attention paled to details that pretty much begs for more than just one viewing. However, I would probably recommend a matinee viewing, if you’re going to catch this in the theater. Recommended.

Movie Review: ATOR The Fighting Eagle

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ator the fighting eagleComworld Pictures
1982
PG

“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
“Why can’t we marry?”
“Ator, we are brother and sister.”
“I’ll talk with our father.”

Ah, Ator. If there was any poor-man’s Conan the Barbarian that came out in the 1980s (and there were many to chose from), I have to go with Ator. Played by Miles O’Keeffe, he with the pecks of melons and knees of fringe. Of course, it was through MST3K and their send-up of the classic Cave Dwellers…which was originally titled Ator The Invincible, then Ator The Blade Master. Fantastic episode, you need to watch it if you haven’t. Point is, that the movie that eventually became known as Cave Dwellers is the sequel to the first Ator movie, titled Ator The Fighting Eagle.

Born with the mark of Thoren upon his infant flesh, he was destined to assert his might over the terrible powers of darkness: the High Priest Dakkar and the entire protectorate of the Spider. When they murder his loving parents and snatch Sunya, his beautiful bride, Ator is resolved to be avenged. Encouraged by the High Priest Griba, and assisted by the lithesome brigand woman Roon, he plans his great assault on the temple of all evil…”

Look, I’ll just go ahead and say it: Ator The Fighting Eagle is better than Cave Dwellers, simply by the sheer level of ridiculousness. And that, of course, is the surprise incest angle that everyone seems okay with. Sure, you could argue that they were never biologically related to begin with…but they didn’t know that before Ator talked with his father about marrying his sister. I kinda see why they retconned that out of the sequels, there. So now we’re watching our hero battle the evil minions of the Spider god to save his sister so he can marry her. Let that sink in.

Anyway, Ator The Fighting Eagle is as low-budget and bad as you can imagine. The effects are laughable, the props are quite obviously scrimped together by what they had laying around, the big giant spider is what you expected them to be, and yet again there’s a scene where Ator battles invisible warriors, a concept they reused in Cave Dwellers. The dialogue is as cheesy as it gets, and you just can’t help but laugh unintentionally at the sheer earnestness of this. Truly, Ator The Fighting Eagle must be seen be be beheld. A recommended So Bad It’s Good flick for you and your friends.

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