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What I watched in… November 2017

justice-league-poster-fandango

Favorite of the Month: Justice League (2017)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. The Deadly Mantis (1957), D-
  2. The Brides of Dracula (1960), B-
  3. Spielberg (2017), B
  4. Barracuda (1978), F
  5. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), D+
  6. Blacula (1972), D
  7. Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson (2017), B+
  8. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), A+
  9. The Wizard of Oz (1939), A+
  10. Hidden Figures (2016), A-
  11. Jack Frost (1979), B-
  12. Justice League (2017), B+
  13. Matilda (1996), B+
  14. Fun in Balloon Land (1965), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  15. Home For the Holidays (1995), C
  16. The Great Santa Claus Switch (1970), B+
  17. A Christmas Story Documentary: Road Trip For Ralphie (2008), D
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What I Watched in… September 2017

Colossal

Favorite of the Month: Colossal (2017)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), B+
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), B
  3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), B+
  4. Tom Felton Meets the Superfans (2015), B
  5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), B+
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010), A-
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), A
  8. Monster on the Campus (1958), C-
  9. Father’s Little Dividend (1951), B+
  10. Village of the Damned (1960), B-
  11. Shaun of the Dead (2004), A
  12. Medusa Against the Son of Hercules (1963), D
  13. Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), D
  14. Colossal (2017), A-
  15. It Came From Outer Space (1953), B+
  16. Year of the Scab (2017), B+
  17. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), B+
  18. The Muppets (2011), A
  19. DuckTales: Woo-oo! (2017), A
  20. Dial M For Murder (1954), B+
  21. The Mummy (2017), C
  22. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), A
  23. Frankenstein (1931), A
  24. The Princess Bride (1987), A
  25. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984), B+
  26. UHF (1989) A-
  27. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008), B-
  28. The Wolf Man (1941), B+
  29. Count Dracula (1970), B-

What I Watched In… January 2017

wishful-drinking

Favorite of the Month: Wishful Drinking

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Yoga Hosers (2016), C
  2. The Wild World of Batwoman (1966), D; MST3K Riff, B
  3. Girl in Gold Boots (1968), D; MST3K Riff, B-
  4. The Killer Shrews (1959), D+; MST3K Riff, B
  5. The Hateful Eight (2015), A-
  6. Africa Screams (1949), C+
  7. Wishful Drinking (2010), A
  8. Pod People (1983), F; MST3K Riff, B+
  9. House of Frankenstein (1944), C+
  10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), A-
  11. R.O.T.O.R. (1987), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  12. Youth (2015), B+
  13. Jim Gaffigan: Cinco (2017), B+

What I’ve Watched In… October 2016

wnuf-halloween-special-dvd-cover-movie-poster

Favorite of the Month: WNUF Halloween Special (2013)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Deadgirl (2008), C
  2. Heathers (1988), B
  3. Westworld (1973), B
  4. Re-Kill (2015), C-
  5. Victor Frankenstein (2015), C
  6. The Bride and the Beast (1958), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  7. Return to Horror High (1987), D+
  8. House II: The Second Story (1987), B-
  9. Frankenhooker (1990), D
  10. Frankenstein: Day of the Beast (2011), C-
  11. Theatre of Blood (1973), D
  12. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), D
  13. Dawn of the Mummy (1981), F
  14. Life After Beth (2014), B
  15. Dead 7 (2016), C
  16. Ouija (2014), C
  17. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), A
  18. Toy Story of Terror (2013), B
  19. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (2016), C-
  20. Cottage Country (2013), C+
  21. Terror From the Year 5000 (1958), D; MST3K Riff, B
  22. Disney’s Halloween Treat (1982), A
  23. Garfield in Disguise (1985) A
  24. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), C
  25. Dreamscape (1984), C-; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  26. WNUF Halloween Special (2013), B
  27. Carnival of Souls (1962), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  28. Kiss of the Tarantula (1976), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  29. The Worst Witch (1986), C+
  30. Frankenstein (1931), A
  31. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) A+

What I Watched In… February 2016

HHGG-DVD

Favorite of the Month: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Frankenstein (1910), B
  2. The Shadow Strikes (1937), C
  3. Grey Gardens (1975), C+
  4. Mitchell (1975), F; MST3K Riff, A
  5. Turbo Kid (2015), B
  6. Cooties (2014), B+
  7. Dracula Untold (2014), C-
  8. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012), A
  9. Stagecoach (1939), A
  10. Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), B-
  11. Master Ninja I (1984), F; MST3K Riff, B
  12. Master Ninja II (1984), F; MST3K Riff, B
  13. Deadpool (2016), B
  14. War of the Worlds (1953), B
  15. Home (2015), B
  16. The Witch (2016), B
  17. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981 Miniseries), A-
  18. Inside Out (2015), A
  19. Batman: The Movie (1966), C

What I Watched In… March 2015

Favorite of the Month: Birdman (2014)

Favorite of the Month: Birdman (2014)

I’m a few days late with this list, but I’m gonna go ahead and play my “Sorry, I was hospitalized” card. I’m home now, and trying to get myself back to normal. So…

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Nick Offerman: American Ham (2014), B-
2. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009), B+
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), B-
4. Parallels (2014), B
5. 42 (2013), A-
6. 88 (2015), D
7. The Last Days (2013), B+
8. The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), D
9. Big Hero Six (2014), A
10. Love Hotel (2014), C
11. Harmontown (2014), B
12. Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), B
13. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015), B+
14. Mud (2012), B
15. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012), A-
16. Back Issues (2014), C
17. Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks (1974), D; Cinematic Titanic Riff, B
18. Open Windows (2014), B+
19. Birdman (2014), A
20. The Usual Suspects (1995), B
21. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), A-
22. Last Action Hero (1993), B-
23. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), B
24. 300: Rise of an Empire (2014), C
25. The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), B-
26. V/H/S: Viral (2014), C
27. To Be or Not to Be (1983), B+
28. European Vacation (1985), B
29. Deep Impact (1998), B+

In Defense of the Universal Monsterverse

Universal Classic Monsters

Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-Ray (a perfect Christmas gift for wives named Erin to buy their husbands)

Universal Studios has been catching a lot of crap lately about their announced plans to reboot their classic Monster franchises as a shared “Cinematic Universe,” similar to what Marvel Studios has done with their Avengers and related movies. A lot of the internet snark about this particular topic can be dismissed simply by pointing out ill-informed snark is what at least 37 percent of the internet is for (it’s the third most dominant form of content, after porn and pictures of cats), and usually, I think the best way to deal with snarkers is to ignore them entirely. In this case, however, I feel like two of the most oft-cited criticisms of the Universal plan are so blatantly unfair that something needs to be said, and since Bela Lugosi isn’t around to do it, it’s up to me.

First, let’s talk about the notion that Universal is merely trying to copy Marvel’s success. Well… sure, of course they are. Let’s be honest here, that’s what Hollywood does. Virtually any successful film or franchise spawns imitators, plain and simple. Marvel’s parent company, Disney, is doing it themselves, attempting to emulate Marvel’s success with a new series of Star Wars movies. Warner Bros is doing the same thing with the DC Comics characters. Sony and Fox are doing it with their respective Marvel licenses, Spider-Man and the X-Men. Warner Bros is also planning a trilogy of Harry Potter prequels showing the history of the Wizarding World, and Sony is considering a shared universe franchise based on Robin Hood, of all things. And while each of these has been met by at least some level of e-cynicism, the bile being diverted to Universal seems particularly ludicrous to me because, far from copying Marvel, if anything, they did it first.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man

In Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), the monsters began to meet

In 1943 Universal released Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and after that the floodgates were opened. The franchises became inexorably intertwined, Dracula soon entered the picture, and the “monster mash” films became the norm. Granted, the films being made in the late 40s had very little concern with continuity. Characters would suddenly leap to different time periods so they could coexist, dead characters would return to life with little or no attempt at explanation, and nobody gave a damn about consistency. But despite this, it was an early example of what people now think of as Marvel’s model, and in fact is the earliest example of such a thing I’m aware of. (If you know of an earlier one, please tell me, because I want to see those movies.) To be certain, Universal is reviving the concept now because Marvel has been so successful at it, but that in no way negates the fact that they did it over sixty years before Marvel rolled their first foot of film.

The other thing that people are complaining about, a complaint that admittedly has at least a little more validity, is Universal’s recent statement that the new Universal Monster movies will be less of a horror franchise and more of an action-adventure series. I can at least understand why someone would be perturbed by this. The image of Lugosi’s Dracula, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, or Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolfman are some of the most enduring images of classic terror. But it is in the characters’ enduring nature that we find the problem. Fear stems from the unknown. The more we know about any subject, the more we understand it, and the harder it is to truly fear it. Drac and Frankie are so well known at this point that modern efforts to make them terrifying invariably run the risk of becoming self-parody.

Pictured: Icon of Evil

Pictured: Icon of Evil

Or to put it more bluntly, we live in a world where the first vision of Frankenstein’s monster kids see is his pink counterpart selling them marshmallow cereal. You can’t make that scary. And they don’t want it scary.

Even in the 40s, Universal seemed to know the monsters were becoming too popular to be frightening. When you watch the old monster mash movies, the emphasis is rarely on fear, but instead on providing you a few awesome fights between beloved creatures. Perhaps the crowning achievement of that period was not House of Dracula or any other such picture, but instead, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

It’s not just Universal, either. One reason Ridley Scott’s first Alien movie was so scary was because we didn’t see the monster in full until the very end. By Aliens, since we all knew what it looked like, James Cameron shifted genres from suspense to action, and it was the perfect move. And what about more modern horror icons like Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, or Chucky? How many films did each of these villains get before they switched from being embodiments of darkness to winking at the camera and going for the most over-the-top kills possible? In fact, horror franchises that don’t go meta often fall apart entirely: Halloween’s sequels grew tepid and dull before a reboot that itself was tepid and dull by the second film, and the Saw franchise limped to the finish line a garbled, confusing shadow of its own early sharp as hell installments.

It's easy to forget, but the 1999 version of The Mummy was actually pretty good

It’s easy to forget, but the 1999 version of The Mummy was actually pretty good

And lest we forget, Universal itself has had success with this approach in the past. In 1999, when director Stephen Sommers was tapped to reboot The Mummy, the resulting franchise owed far more to Indiana Jones than to Karl Freund, and it hit very big for a while. They tried to get scary again with the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, and it flopped. Last month’s Dracula Untold, which had a tacked-on post-credits sequence that could have made it a sort of back door pilot for the new Universal Monsterverse, similarly bombed. (Although the studio has not made any official declaration as to whether Dracula Untold will be “canon” in its new universe, I for one am betting against it.) I’m not saying it’s no longer possible to make Dracula or Frankenstein scary, but to do the sort of long-term franchise Universal is picturing, taking an action-adventure route is not only easier, it’s more practical as well.

If the movies come out and suck, then sure, I’ll complain. I’d rather have no Universal Monster movies at all than have bad ones. But nothing that has been said so far indicates an inherently bad idea. Granted, if people online were inclined to wait for evidence to complain about something, an awful lot of bloggers would run out of things to talk about. But frankly, that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

What I Watched In… October 2014

Favorite of the Month: Gone Girl (2014)

Favorite of the Month: Gone Girl (2014)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Devil’s Pass (2013), B
2. Gone Girl (2014), A
3. Josie and the Pussycats (2001), B-
4. F For Fake (1973), C
5. Beautiful Creatures (2013), C+
6. Witch’s Night Out (1978), B+
7. Summer Lover (2008), D
8. When the Zombies Come (2013), B
9. The Canterbury Tales (1972), C-
10. Screamtime (1983), D
11. Market Hours (2014), B+
12. St. Vincent (2014), A-
13. Leprechaun (1993), F
14. Werewolf (1995), D-; MST3K Riff, B
15. Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002), B+
16. The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus (1962), C+
17. Dracula (1931), A
18. Dracula’s Daughter (1936), D+
19. Son of Dracula (1943), C+
20. House of Frankenstein (1944), C+
21. House of Dracula (1945), B-
22. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), A
23. Interview With the Vampire (1994), B-

Showcase Presents the Universal Dracula Legacy

It’s Halloween once again, and the Showcase crew assembles for their (mostly) annual monster movie marathon. This year the gang tackles the six films that make up the legacy of the king of the vampires: Dracula, Dracula’s Daughter, Son of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

 

What I watched in… May 2014

Favorite of the month:  X-Men: Days of Future Past

Favorite of the month:
X-Men: Days of Future Past

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), A+
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), C
3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), A
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), B+
5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940), A
6. The Great Gatsby (1974), A
7. Time Piece (1965), A-
8. The Rescuers (1977), B
9. Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011), B
10. Son of Batman (2014), B
11. +1 (2013), C+
12. Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986), C-
13. Zeta One (1969), D
14. The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), D; MST3K Riff, B
15. A Trip to the Moon (1902), B; RiffTrax Riff, B+
16. Godzilla Vs. the Sea Monster (1966), C; MST3K Riff, B
17. Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991), C+
18. Maximum Overdrive (1986), D
19. The Frankenstein Theory (2013), B-
20. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), B
21. Godzilla (2014), B+
22. Dragon Wars: D-War (2007), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
23. Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension (2011), A
24. Dear Mr. Watterson (2014), B+
25. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), B
26. Super Mario Bros. (1993), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
27. The Way, Way Back (2013), A
28. Don Jon (2013), B-
29. The Croods (2013), B+
30. X-Men: First Class (2011), A
31. Sisters of Death (1977), F; RiffTrax Riff, A-
32. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), A+
33. The Bermuda Triangle (1978), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
34. Goon (2011), D
35. Stalled (2013), C
36. Godzilla Raids Again (1955), B-
37. Escape From Tomorrow (2013), C
38. Gabriel Iglesias: I’m Not Fat… I’m Fluffy (2009), B-