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The Bickering Critics – Anita and George

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Fire and Ice (1982) – reviewed by George

Shot first with actors and then rotoscoped for the animation, the film has a near-normal look about it, and very fluid motion. The plot, however, is anything but normal. Juliana, Queen of the North (Eileen O’Neill, voiced by Susan Tyrrell), has a son, Nekron (Sean Hannon, voiced by Stephen Mendel), who can move glaciers. They are a monstrous pair (they only want to rule the world), and Nekron feels that he needs no one, and that probably includes his mother. From their palace Ice Keep, Nekron sends a glacier southward , driving humanity before it and destroying towns and villages on its way to Fire Keep, the hated rival city ruled by King Jarol ( Leo Gordon). Jarol has a son, Taro (William Ostrander), and a daughter, Teegra (Cynthia Leake, voiced by Maggie Roswell).
Among the villages destroyed so far is the one that was the home of the hero Larn (Randy Norton, voiced by Willian Ostrander). North Village was hit by the glacier which flattened outer walls and crushed defenders. The rest of the men were killed by Nekron’s sub-humans, who have human bodies and gorilla-like teeth, voices, and expressions. In a real miscalculation, the subhumans are black to everyone else’s white skin. Another thing I didn’t like was the amount of time spent on Teegra after the sub-humans kidnap her from Fire Keep, which really slowed the movie down. There’s also a character Great Otwa (Micky Morton), who is the son of the witch Roliel (Elizabeth Lloyd Shaw) and looks and acts retarded – not good. I know, I know, the movie was made in 1982 (at least that’s the copyright date), but it’s all upsetting in 2018.
Interesting that we don’t know Larn’s name until he meets Teegra in the jungle. And there’s a sort of supplemental hero who saves Larn a couple of times and is the one to finally take out Nekron. His name is Darkwolf (Steve Sandor), and we don’t find that out until the credits.
So the movie is kind of a mess. BUT the characters were designed by Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, there is an impressive theme by William Kraft, Frazetta designed the costumes, the screenplay is by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, and the direction is by Ralph Bakshi. So if you can overlook the offensive things, the movie has a pretty good pedigree and you might enjoy it. Or not – it’s your call. Personally I think it can’t begin to compare with “Wizards”, so I would say, “See that instead”.

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Mummy’s Boys (1936) – reviewed by George

This is my first ever Wheeler and Woolsey movie and I have to say that they are amazingly silly. That doesn’t mean they’re not funny, but it does define the humor as (to be very kind) childlike.
The movie begins with a headline “Curse of Pharatime’s Tomb Claims Ninth Victim”, and Professor Edwards (Frederick Burton) is visiting Dr. Browning (Frank M. Thomas), laughing at Browning’s gullibility about a curse, saying “People seem to die for no rhyme or reason.” Browning is worried for his daughter Mary (Barbara Pepper), who was along the first time and will go with him to return all the treasures. Edwards really sneers at the idea of returning the treasures to the tomb – and then he dies on Browning’s couch.
Now the comedy team: Bert Wheeler is the innocent unsophisticated one and Robert Woolsey is the more worldly glasses-wearing one. So Woolsey plays the adult role.  In this film they are ditch diggers in serious danger of being fired. On the lunch break Woolsey sees a newspaper ad “Scientific Excavators – Splendid remuneration” and they quit on the spot –  to the relief of the foreman.
They do as the ad says and show up at a private home, where the butler asks if they are Egyptian. “The last fellow was”, he says. So now they claim to be Egyptian, and left alone in the foyer they pull scarves off the tables, with Wheeler breaking the vase on the scarf he selected. They wrap the scarves around their heads, which don’t look like turbans, they look like scarves on their heads. They meet Dr. Browning and Mr. Sterling (Moroni Olsen), who will lead the new expedition. And they get the jobs.
During the crossing they meet a stowaway, Catfish, played by one of my favorites, Willie Best. They talk Browning into paying his fare so they can keep him. Wheeler: “He can be our man Friday.” Woolsey: “Why wait til Friday? He can start today.”
A lot happens in Cairo: mixups with a sheik’s harem, tattoos, etc., but eventually they caravan across the desert to the tomb and find out why everyone is dying.
The film is hardly a waste of time, but it could be so much better.
Story by Jack Townley and Lew Lipton, Screen Play by Jack Townley and Philip G. Epstein and Charles Roberts, Directed by Frank Guiol.

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ParaNorman (2012) – reviewed by George

This animated movie is great Halloween entertainment. Lots of laughs, but it’s animation, so the scary stuff is less so; you can just relax and laugh your way through.
A woman at home steps on a brain which squeaks like a dog’s toy. She screams. She runs to the front door and meets a zombie. She screams. She slams the door, but the zombie’s hands crash through the door. She screams. She runs from the door and the zombie breaks in and follows her. She screams. She stops screaming and looks directly at the camera with a disgusted expression, then turns back to the zombie and screams some more. The zombie grabs her and bites down on her head. New camera shot at a 180 and we are watching Norman and his grandmother watching TV.
Grandmother (voice of Elaine Stritch): “What’s happening now?”
Norman (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee): “The zombie is eating her head, Grandma.”
Grandmother: “He’s gonna ruin his dinner.”
Then Grandma says to tell his father to raise the thermostat – her feet are like ice. But when he does, Dad (voice of Jeff Garlin) goes ballistic, and an obviously recurring unresolved family battle starts, because Grandma is dead. Mom (voice of Leslie Mann) says, “Norman, Grandma is in a better place.” And Norman says, “No she isn’t. She’s in the living room.”
The battle continues between the parents as Norman follows his snotty sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) out of the room. Dad: “I won’t have him turn out like that uncle of yours. If that crazy old tramp has been around here putting ideas into Norman’s head…!”
Mom: “No one’s had anything to do with Uncle Prenderghast but you.”
Walking to school the next day Norman exchanges pleasantries with a host of ghosts along the way. And the whole town knows Norman claims he is talking to the dead, so Norman  is relentlessly bullied at school, especially by a really stupid kid, Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who writes “Freak” on Norman’s locker everyday and has a bunch of stupid followers. They also bully Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), calling him Fatty, but he is philosophical bully-wise, and cheerful. He also wants to be friends with Norman, but as he tags along on the way home, Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) shows up wheezing and coughing, and tells Norman that all the legends are true, and that the witch, Agatha (Jodelle Ferland), who was burned by the Puritan founders of the town, is real and only Norman can stop her. Seems Prenderghast has been keeping the witch asleep by reading to her on the anniversary of her death every year, and now he is getting too old and wants Norman to take over.
There is a whole town full of characters here including the school’s drama teacher, Mrs. Henscher (Alex Borstein), a female Sheriff Hooper (Tempestt Bledsoe), and Neil’s brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), the object of Courtney’s crush.
Funny and mildly scary, involving the witch and her Judge (Bernard Hill) and her six accusers. These seven ghosts who are still haunting the town are afraid that if she ever wakes up, she’ll wreak some bad revenge on them. And we hope she does. But Norman is trying for a more humane resolution, and eventually he achieves it. A great voice cast, super CGI animation, and a story that entertains in many ways.
Written by Chris Butler, Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler.

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Jason Gray Stanford as the voice of Sherlock Holmes in “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century” – Episodes 7,8,&9 (1999) – reviewed by George

Episode 7: The Adventure of the Beryl Board (inspired by “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
The story of two families, the Holders and the Paynes, and a new board for electronic devices. Sherlock is tutoring Deidre (Jennifer Copping) in observations and conclusions, when Watson (John Payne) wanders in and they all see the TV news. Arthur Holder is suing his father for emancipation.
The twelve-year-old Payne son has invented a new device which he calls the Beryl Board. He gives it to old Mr. Holder for safe-keeping, but it is stolen, apparently by Arthur. He gets the board back minus a piece that if used could devastate the stock market.
Tip: Sherlock proves Arthur’s innocence against big odds.
Written by Eleanor Burian-Mohr & Terence Taylor, Directed by Scott Heming and Robert Brousseau.

Episode 8: The Adventure of the Empty House (based on the same by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Holmes and Moriarty (Richard Newman) are fighting on a high-rise. They both fall, and stories down they land on an electric grid and vanish in a flash.
Young people play a fast action shooting game in teams of two, and Lestrade (Akiko Morison) is feeling lost without Holmes, presumed dead. One of the young players, Ronny Adair, is accused of cheating because his scores were higher than actually possible, given that the guns used have to be recharged after every ten shots. Sherlock, whose appearance in disguise creates a shock for Watson and Lestrade, sees the matter differently and sets out to prove Ronny innocent.
Written by Mary Wolfman, Directed by Scott Heming & Robert Brousseau.

Episode 9: The Secret Safe (inspired by “His Last Bow” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
A masked man breaks in to #10 Downing Street and steals one of two African figurines (or dolls). Now Lestrade has to interrupt Chief Inspector Grayson (William Samples), since the P.M. wants him NOW. Holmes and Watson turn up too, and the P.M.’s head of security, Colonel Devlin, is extremely disdainful of them, especially Holmes. Holmes concludes the thief is an acrobat, so he and Watson go to the circus where a trapeze artist ensnares them.
Written by Reed Shelley and Bruce Shelley, Directed by Scott Heming & Robert Brousseau.
Three more dandy adventures in a future where cars fly and traffic is at different levels as judged by the skyscrapers behind them, as in Bruce Willis’s “The Fifth Element”.

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Weekend News Cast–Commentary by Anita

While watching the evening news last weekend I was overwhelmed with an attack of uncontrollable laughter. It has come to my attention that the weekend cast of local news anchors and roving reporters are televised live comedy in its purest form. I had no idea how hilarious daily tragedy can be until I caught Channel 7 News at 6. For example the on-the-scene reporter was telling the viewing audience the location of the most recent fire break-out. While standing under a road sign with the name of the road Hogs Back
Rd., he went on to explain how the fire was on Trinity Ave.  This would be fine except the fire was burning behind him, on Hogs Back Rd. where he was standing, and things got worse as he kept repeating “As you can see…” and then he’d point to the fire and say yet again “As you can see here on Trinity”. I’m thinking geography was not his strong suit. Neither was botany, he had an equally hard time explaining why dry grass burns and the problems that come with dry grass, wind and well… fire.

Another star of this cast was the weather girl.  She was in the fog completely.  If she flipped the temperature numbers once she did it every time.  As the computer generated map read 85 degrees in Corning, she would say “58… (clear throat) 85 high…” attempting to cover the mess-up.  A particularly funny scene was when she was pointing north on the map but said “South of Tehama county…”.  I have to say that was a long 30 second segment.  I also have a suggestion for her, slow down when speaking.  That way when you mush words together it won’t sound like something that needs to be bleeped.

Finally one last suggestion for the on-set anchor-woman and camera-man number 2.  It might be a good idea to dress as nice on the bottom as on the top if your camera man is going to shoot you from the side of your TV desk.  The shorts and slippers just didn’t go so well with that hideous puce tank top.
And that is the news from Newsroom Anita.

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Halloween Miniseries Reviewed by Anita *****

You all know my love of the miniseries.  I’d like to share a few here that fit the Halloween theme 100%.  They are all *****, each a total hit.  I believe you will feel the same when you give them a viewing.

Night Gallery (1969-1973)
A great first choice for Halloween season is Night Gallery created by Rod Serling. I’m sure you have all watched Twilight Zone and it is great, however, Serling’s horror anthology Night Gallery is far more twisted and in color. Night Gallery ran 3 seasons with 43 episodes. Each independent thriller is thought-provoking as well as at times downright scary. There are lots of fun supernatural plots with young up-and-coming new stars acting them out. I enjoy the stories that have irony at the end. They zap you with a twisted laugh. Each episode tends to play on the theater of the mind, really shaking you up about 1:00 AM all alone under your blanket on the couch.  Then on the flip side you will get an episode that has you laughing at the whole idea of it all. Much like you find in Twilight Zone, lots of variety in the short stories. I find it gives me cause to pause before saying “I wish I could…” or “I wish for…”.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975)
Creator Jeffrey Grant Rice came up with the creepiest TV series of the 1970’s. I’m telling you this is NO Scooby Doo Mystery. His creation has spawned a host of other supernatural series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and X-Files just to name two. His 20 episodes are jam-packed with everything from A to Z, literally everything from aliens to zombies, witches, vampires, headless bikers, and yes, werewolves. One of my favorite episodes is about a mysterious creature that devours zoo animals’ bone marrow and he collects electronic equipment. We just don’t see stories like that everyday.  You name it you’ll find it in this series.
Basic story line is as follows: Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is an investigative journalist writing for the Chicago arm of Independent News Series. What appear to be mediocre assignments at first, end up turning into supernatural phenomenon-type events and mysteries. Kolchak is a trouble magnet, who can never seem to convince his skeptical editor that the stories are REAL, not a product of his over -worked imagination.  Dressed in his crumpled seersucker jacket and straw hat, Kolchak is the ever image of perseverance. He has few friends, no super powers, and little money. He is by no way, shape, or form a warrior either, rather a combination of cowardly and reckless all rolled up into sarcastic. He is not an expert in occult science; however, he is a nonchalant goofball of the highest degree. I truly get a kick out of his clownish exterior hiding a clever knack for tight messes.
You won’t find lots of special effects in this series; you will find a ton of nearly pitch-black scenes and screaming. You will also find a great sense of balance between horror and humor in each episode.

The Curious Creatures of Christine McConnell (2018)
Now for something still in theme but not what you’d expect for a Halloween miniseries recommendations.  I’m suggesting a cooking show.
Netflix has done it again.  This bizarre cooking show is six episodes of perfect sweet treats for Halloween. It’s recently streaming, as this is its first season airing as of October this year. Christine McConnell is a wickedly talented baker and artist who demonstrates incredible DIY projects and haunting confections. Her creepy crafts are totally underworld stuff.  Edible tarantulas and eyeball cookies are all outstanding; her shortbread sculptures and spirit boards look so completely real.
What makes this cooking show stand out is it is more of a Goth baking comedy, think of it as Gothic Home Economics on steroids.  Our hostess lives in a haunted mansion with three puppets:  a mummified Egyptian cat, a raccoon stitched back together from various road kill, and a werewolf of course. Different characters (both living and dead) pass through as visitors and guests for various parties McConnell puts together.  The lovely Christine teaches us how to create different delicious works of art while maintaining a unified plot centered on her and her odd ball roomies.  Its crazy funny.  I don’t know who actually has the talent she shows to make some of this stuff but it is great to watch.  This is a completely charming cooking show that is more than pumpkin carving and ghost cookies. putting Halloween baking right up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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BERSERK!! (1967) Reviewed by Anita *****

It’s the season for thrills and squeals, and if you know me some campy movies too.  BERSERK!! fits that very bill 100%.  This slasher-thriller stars the infamous fem-fatale Joan Crawford and she is over the top.  Director Jim O’Connolly is a genius with this low-rent murder mystery.  The key to making a bad movie good is timing and settings, this film has both.
Monica Rivers (Joan Crawford) is co-owner and ring master for a traveling circus, who is completely preoccupied with making money.  After an accidental death where her tightrope walker ends up swinging above the center ring after his rope snaps, Rivers is presented with that chance.  Banking on death drawing a crowd Rivers is not disappointed. She is callous and unconcerned with the demise of her employee, she just wants to make this new event work for her goals, and find a brand new fresh act.  She is given both.  The new act is Frank Hawkins (Ty Hardin) who is a dear handsome devil with plans of his own.  And as anticipated profits increase, making the ever selfish Rivers even happier; then that is where things go completely wrong.  Several more performers meet gruesome deaths.  It becomes obvious these are not accidents but there is a killer on the loose.
More circus extravaganza than actual horror this campy murder mystery is too fun. Garish costumes, insipid script, stilted acting and unmotivated plot twists are all elements in this circus setting, making it awesome. The whole effect forces the viewer out of comfortable reality into another dimension of dementia, it’s simply wonderful.   I love how O’Connolly fixed Crawford’s character in a very Marlene Dietrich-style and she pulls it off at 63 years old nicely.  Main attractions are whacked off in a variety of flamboyant ways.  A particular favorite of mine was the spike-in-the-head to the poor Albert Dorando (Michael Gough).   Oh! And I have a favorite line: “You slut”.  Rivers is confronting Matilda (Diana Dors) in a heated argument and I swear Dors is really afraid of Crawford.  Her expression is so REAL.  I have to say the Dwarf is too cool.
In the mood for some fun Halloween family film watch BERSERK!!

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Harold Lloyd in “Bumping into Broadway” and “Billy Blazes, Esq.” (1919) – reviewed by George

“Bumping into Broadway”
The early decades of the 20th century were rough on Broadway performers: they didn’t get paid for rehearsals, just for performances, and The Girl (Bebe Daniels) has been rehearsing for two months. She has to stretch a dollar so far that the eagle looks like a stork. And The Boy (Harold Lloyd) is an aspiring playwright writing a Broadway opus, which would be easier if he knew how to type. His finances are so low he has to bend over to count his money. So neither one can pay the overdue notices handed out by the rather horsey landlady, “Bearcat” (Helen Gilmore). This is short (26 minutes), but so funny: the encounters with the landlady and her burly relative are funny enough, but the humor multiplies when The Boy accidentally wins big at roulette in an illegal club (how did he get there and why is The Girl there too? Watch the movie).
The police raid the place and at one point The Boy is being chased through the gambling club by 40 or so policemen. It’s hysterical. And of course, with his winnings and reunited with The Girl, surely good times are ahead.

“Billy Blazes, Esq.”
The setting is the mining town of Peaceful Vale, where nobody has been killed for almost twenty minutes. The Sheriff, Gunshy Gallagher (Harry “Snub” Pollard) was elected on the Moonshine ticket and is a big coward. He’s so fearful and ineffective that Crooked Charlie is the one who runs the town. When the Sheriff tries to stop a gunfight, the combatants start shooting at him, so Charlie wades in and beats them both up. Then since he’s standing in front of the Five-Ace Tavern anyway, he goes in and starts yelling about how Old Pierre and his daughter (Bebe Daniels) are eleven years behind in the rent, so vamoose. Charlie bodily throws him onto a wagon and tells two henchmen to take him away, then turns to the daughter and grabs her and takes her upstairs. Not too subtle.
Billy Blazes Esq. (Harold Lloyd) is in the area smoking, and he sees the two yahoos with Old Pierre and goes over to ask about the situation. He shoots like a madman, many times without ever looking like he is aiming, saves Pierre, and takes the wagon at a mad clip back to town. After Billy shoots Charlie three times in the rear, he rides off with the girl, and we pick them up three years later with four children, all over the age of six. Uh… nope, no spoilers from me (at least not any more).
Neither of these films credits writer or director, but imdb.com says Hal Roach directed both, and Roach and Harold Lloyd wrote them both. Each film features new music by Robert Israel, which is perfect for the situations depicted.

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Randolph Scott in “Ride Lonesome” (1959) – reviewed by George

Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) is a bounty hunter after a bushwhacker, Billy John (James Best). He catches up and in a tense stand-off, which Ben resolves, Billy tells his four bushwhacking henchmen to leave, go get his brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef), and tell him what’s happening. They leave riding fast and Ben takes Billy prisoner. Billy, ever the optimist, laughs and says Ben will never get him to Santa Cruz.
Their first stop is a stagecoach station run by a married couple, but Ben instinctively senses something wrong, so he goes very slowly with Billy riding in front, sure that his brother Frank is there, and that’s why it looks so quiet.
But when they arrive, they’re welcomed by Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn), who are pretty much straddling the line between good and bad. And only the wife Carrie Lane (Karen Steele)  of the couple is there, expecting her husband back any moment. But it’s the stage that arrives, and the driver has a very large Mescalero spear through his chest. The horses have been heading hellbent for the station without any human guidance. Now everyone has to unite and wait for the attack. However, Ben has other ideas: he intends to lead the whole party out of the area early the next morning.
It’s impressive to see a western built on a fair measure of psychology and secrets. And as the picture continues, back stories will be revealed and motivations explained.
Really good job by cast and crew, with a rousing score by Heinz Roemheld.
Written by Burt Kennedy, Directed by Budd Boetticher.

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Captions by Dummies: The Weather Channel – reported by George

Just a short time ago the Weather Channel was interviewing a man whose beachfront home survived Hurricane Michael, while all the houses around it fell. Construction of course was the key: for one thing the house was supported on concrete pillars, of which length 20-someodd feet was underground, and the windows were made of a special glass. The gentleman said, “Got a spider web sort of fracture on the outside pane, but the inside panes did what they’re supposed to do and stayed intact.”
And the caption? “… on the outside pain, but the inside pains did what they’re supposed to do.”
God, please help the American Educational System!

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