Night Gallery (1969–1973 USA)

night-gallery-season-2-billboard-rod-serling-600x300After “Twilight Zone” was canceled Rod Serling’s “The Night Gallery” appeared some years later. It was hosted by Rod Serling himself, a bit older than he looked when he hosted “Twilight Zone” as he walked us through an art gallery replete with strange, demonic, often very intimidating artwork. Each work of art told a story which was the focus of each half-hour episode. The series did very well and it was a more intense follow-up to “Twilight Zone”, which suffered from a rather static and preachy talkiness and far more censorship. Because it was the early 70’s, the episodes of Night Gallery were a tad more uncensored and graphic. [Read more…]


Groundhog Day (1993 USA)

I think one of the smartest ideas here is that the setting, pure and simple: it could be anywhere but nowhere important. Of course, it is important for our character to get stuck in the middle of nowhere – then it wouldn’t come as such a curse to spend every day on a nice island or a big city. Here monotomy hits us hard. And here comes the life lesson: people in their 30s & 40s can easily get the metaphor, that ‘every day looks the same’. We work, sleep, eat, …. and what else? Something is missing, right? Maybe words that begin with L and H. [Read more…]

The Ax ( Donald E Westlake)

Wanted: Middle management for the oversight of an assembly line in an industrial paper factory. College degree and experience a must. Homicidal maniacs welcome to apply. Burke Devore is a typical middle-aged guy with a steady job, a wife and two kids. When he gets laid off he spends 2 years looking for new employment and realizes that there are too many people with more education and experience looking for similar work. Donald Westlake wrote this in 1997, but his publishers missed an opportunity during the last economic bust to reissue this book with great fanfare because it’s even more poignant now. There is not a single dull moment in the entire novel and to top it all off, the ending is even more brilliant.
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Halloween (1978 USA)

He’s gone! The evil has gone!” Bug eyed Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) screams. This hilarious line stands out from such a bare bones of a screenplay. John Carpenter’s direction makes a lot out of such simple elements as: shadows, dark streets, creaking doors, that it makes even the everyday setting of a small town neighborhood claustrophobically terrifying. Of course, back when this was made there were no smart phones or CCTV to combat predatory homicidal stalkers. Although it wasn’t the first of its kind, Halloween certainly was the game-changer for almost every other slasher flick that followed this low-budget indie horror. But they only ended up imitating the formula that this sick ‘classic’ originated. [Read more…]


Assault On Precinct 13 (1976 USA)

Labelled an “auteur” by the French and a “bum” by his compatriots, John Carpenter will never get the acclaim of a Spielberg or a Hitchcock. I’m siding with the Americans…The best thing about “Assault” is its bare-bones construction. There’s precious little backstory, no real explanation for the heinous actions of the gang members, no extraneous “character development” for the protagonists, no scenes where they talk about how they have a wife and kids at home or are retiring tomorrow, and very few cutaways from the main action once it gets going (the lone exception being a few sequences with a couple of clueless cops patrolling the neighbourhood who keep missing the siege on the supposedly abandoned precinct). [Read more…]


The Evil (1978 USA)

During the 70’s there were tons of haunted house flicks that were either TV films or for the big screen. Among this avalanche popped up The Evil– a brave, camp, even humourous attempt to make a haunted house film in the same style as 1963’s The Haunting. But in a very low budget lackluster way. It’s not too bad but there are a number of reasons why it barely works. The story is very simple…a number of people rent a large old house for a prolonged stay only to find, once they moved in, that something sinister lives there. But they find out too late and become locked in – many terrible things happen before the few remaining survivors confront the evil entity itself and try to defeat it. (There may be some epic spoilers there) [Read more…]


Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956 USA)

The Thing From Another World birthed the alien invader film, and the theme proved so popular it quickly became its own genre. Where most of these, especially The War of the Worlds, showed aliens arriving en masse in gigantic spaceships to obliterate humanity from the face of the Earth. The Thing From Another World and its ilk took the same basic idea and ran with it to more invasive places. And Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the finest example. At the time it was made, it was the most terrifying alien invader film to emerge. There are other worthy examples but few have unsettled audiences like this dark and eerie work. [Read more…]


The Long Goodbye (Raymond Chandler)

The Long Goodbye is widely considered Raymond Chandler’s swan song to arguably literature’s greatest detective. Often cited as the gold standard in crime fiction, this one snapped up the Edgar Award for best novel in 1955, is listed on countless “best of” compilations, and has influenced a generation of mystery and crime writers. It’s been noted that a few of the characters in the novel were used as a way for Chandler to clear his mind. He used them to express his innermost thoughts on the state of society, his frustrations as a writer and his internal struggle with whether or not he should commit suicide. [Read more…]


God’s Little Acre (1958 USA)

The characters in this film have hearts and dreams so unbelievably huge and ungodly, they appear other wordly. This all adds up to bigger than life, almost cartoonish characterizations that are very interesting, if not an outright laugh fest. They are all down home and funky, with a work ethic that stretches any bounds of reality. A crazed Southern patriarch spends all his time digging on his property for gold that he insists that his grandfather hid somewhere on their property and he gets his two dim sons to him on this never-ending quest. As a result, they really do no productive work–they just dig and dig. As for the women, they are all horny and trashy and spend most of their time writhing about like they are in heat. [Read more…]


Beatriz At Dinner (2017 USA)

Gathering characters around a table is always a good pretext for serving up something tasty for a hungry cinema audience. The moral spectrum here is far too nuanced to allow a single clear position. It’s a diagnosis without a prescription. For one thing, Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) is no Donald Trump. He’s far smarter, knowledgeable, more gracious, disciplined, self-aware, more honest — in fact, the character here who is the most at peace with himself. The three wives are uniformly hard, brittle, constantly on guard to sustain their marital and social status. Of the three wealthy couples only Doug is secure enough within himself and confident in his dealings with the others. The men live on his approval, so the wives must too. [Read more…]

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