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What I Watched in… June 2017

Wonder Woman Movie Poster

Favorite of the Month: Wonder Woman (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. Batman & Bill (2017), A
  2. Them! (1954), B-
  3. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (Extended Edition, 2016), B
  4. Wonder Woman (2017), A
  5. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (1985), D-; MST3K Riff, B
  6. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (1989), D+; MST3K Riff, B+
  7. The Wasp Woman (1959), C+
  8. The Mummy (1932), B
  9. The Mummy’s Hand (1940), B+
  10. The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), C+
  11. The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), C
  12. The Mummy’s Curse (1944), C+
  13. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), B-
  14. The Mummy (1999), B+
  15. The Mummy Returns (2001), B
  16. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), C-
  17. The Giant Behemoth (aka Behemoth, the Sea Monster, 1959), B-
  18. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), A
  19. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016), B
  20. Carnival Magic (1981), F; MST3K Riff, B
  21. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966), C-; MST3K Riff, B
  22. At the Earth’s Core (1976), C; MST3K Riff, B+
  23. Cell (2016), C-
  24. Chillerama (2011), C+
  25. Night of the Creeps (1986), B+
  26. Escape From New York (1981), A-
  27. Critters (1986), C
  28. Christine (1983), B
  29. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), B-
  30. Central Intelligence (2016), B+
  31. Contagion (2011), B
  32. The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973), D
  33. RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party (2017), B+
  34. Resident Evil (2002), D
  35. Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed (2014), B+
  36. Superman Vs. the Elite (2012), A
  37. Superargo and the Faceless Giants (1968), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  38. This Island Earth (1955), B
  39. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), A-
  40. Get Out (2017), A-
  41. Predator (1987), B+
  42. Predator 2 (1990), B+
  43. This is America, Charlie Brown (1988), B
  44. Pollyanna (1960), A-
  45. The Most Dangerous Game (1932), B
  46. Predators (2010), B
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What I Watched in… March 2017

logannewposter

Favorite of the Month: Logan (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. John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), A-
  2. Logan (2017), A
  3. Into the Woods (Broadway Cast, 1991), A
  4. Anomalisa (2015), B
  5. My Sucky Teen Romance (2011), B
  6. Volunteers (1985), B
  7. Werewolf of London (1935), C
  8. Quiz Show (1994), A-
  9. Lifeforce (1985), C-
  10. Honor and Glory (1993), D-; RiffTrax Riff, B
  11. The Magic Sword (1962), C+; MST3K Riff, B+
  12. Gamera (1965), B-; MST3K Riff, A
  13. Phantom of the Opera (1943), C+
  14. Newsies (1992), B+
  15. Up (2009), A+
  16. Moana (2016), A-
  17. Hobgoblins (1988), F; MST3K Riff, A-
  18. Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013), B+
  19. The Uninvited (1944), B
  20. Into the Woods (2014), B+
  21. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), A-
  22. Nintendo Quest (2015), B-
  23. Dune (1984), D+
  24. Dracula (1931), B+
  25. Retro Puppet Master (1999), D-; RiffTrax Riff, B
  26. Zombie Nightmare (19870, D; MST3K Riff, A
  27. 50 Years of Star Trek (2016), B-
  28. Innerspace (1987), B
  29. Marooned (aka Space Travelers, 1969), D; MST3K Riff, 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… October 2015

Favorite of the Month: The Martian (2015)

Favorite of the Month: The Martian (2015)

A few days late, and sorry about that, but here’s my monthly rundown of movies I watched.

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. Miami Connection (1987), F; RiffTrax, A
2. Little Shop of Horrors (1986), A
3. Hatchet (2006), B+
4. Hatchet II (2010), B+
5. Hatchet III (2013), B
6. Descendants (2015), C+
7. The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979), B
8. The Green Inferno (2013), C
9. The Martian (2015), A
10. Friday the 13th (1980), B
11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), B
12. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), B+
13. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), D
14. The Scribbler (2014), B
15. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), A
16. Halloween is Grinch Night (1977), B-
17. The Nightmare (2015), B
18. Scared Shrekless (2010), B
19. Addams Family Values (1993), A-
20. Creepshow (1982), B
21. Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), B-
22. Revenge of the Creature (1955), C
23. The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), D
24. Candyman (1992), B
25. Halloween (1978), A
26. Halloween: Unmasked 2000 (1999), B-
27. Strangers on a Train (1951), A
28. Monster Problems (2015), A-
29. Conventional (2015), B
30. Tales of Halloween (2015), B
31. Teen Wolf (1985), C
32. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), A
33. You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972), B
34. Garfield in Disguise (1985), A
35. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), A
36. Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949), B
37. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), B+
38. Hocus Pocus (1993), B-
39. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), B

Episode 318: The Showcasers vs. the Creature From the Black Lagoon

What I Watched In… July 2015

Hector and the Search For Happiness

Favorite of the Month: Hector and the Search For Happiness

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. Man on Wire (2008) B-
2. Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), C+
3. Destroy All Monsters (1968), B+
4. Psycho II (1983), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
5. Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979), F; MST3K Riff, B+
6. Orca: The Killer Whale (1977), D
7. Captain America (1990), D
8. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) A
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), A+
10. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), B
11. Advantageous (2015), B+
12. Changing Lanes (2002), B
13. WarGames (1983) B+
14. Lost in La Mancha (2002), B+
15. The Projected Man (1966), F; MST3K Riff, B+
16. John Wick (2014) A-
17. Night of the Lepus (1972), F; RiffTrax Riff, B
18. Little Shop of Horrors (1960), D; RiffTrax Riff, A-
19. Comic Store Heroes (2012), D
20. X-Men: First Class (2014), A
21. Back to the Future (1985), A
22. Back to the Future Part II (1989), B+
23. Back to the Future Part III (1990), B
24. Conan the Barbarian (1982), B-
25. In Search of General Tso (2014), B
26. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), C-
27. Pacific Rim (2013), A
28. The Queen of Versailles (2012), B+
29. Hector and the Search For Happiness (2014), A
30. Ant-Man (2015), B+
31. Creep (2014), B-
32. Timeline (2003), C+
33. Hatchet II (2010), B+
34. Hatchet III (2013), B-
35. This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006), A
36. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), A
37. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014), B
38. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), D
39. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), A+
40. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006), B+
41. Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No (2015), C-
42. Mission: Impossible (1996), B-
43. The Warriors (1979), B+
44. Mission: Impossible II (2000), B
45. The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015), B-
46. Wet Hot American Summer (2001), B-
47. Driving Miss Daisy (1989), A
48. Teacher of the Year (2015), A-
49. The Houses October Built (2014), B-
50. These Final Hours (2013), B
51. The 39 Steps (1935), A

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.

 

Building a Franchise

In this weekend’s episode of the All New Showcase podcast, Kenny Fanguy and I talked about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as other studios that are trying to duplicate their success. Sony is trying to expand their one Marvel franchise — Spider-Man — into a full-blown universe, while 20th Century Fox is planning to merge their two Marvel properties (The X-Men and the Fantastic Four) into one world. Warner Bros is finally launching a DC Cinematic Universe, and Disney seems to have similar plans for the Star Wars franchise now that they own Lucasfilm. It’s the usual pattern in Hollywood, folks — whenever somebody finds success, everybody else wants to duplicate it. In this case, though, I applaud it. A lifelong comic book nerd, the shared universe style is something I dearly love. And in fact, it’s something that kind of surprises me has never been done in the movies before.

Oh, there have been small crossovers. Alien Vs. Predator comes immediately to mind, and Freddy Vs. Jason. Godzilla faced off against King Kong and a plethora of other kaiju back in the day, and if we go back to the 40s, Universal Studios had their “Monster Rally” sequence of films, in which the likes of Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolf-Man, and Abbott and Costello would encounter each other over and over again. But nobody ever did it on the scale that Marvel has, or that these other studios want. In fact, I’ve heard some rumors buzzing that the big movie studios are looking at a lot of their different properties to see just how this may be done. So that gets me thinking: what other film properties might evolve into this sort of larger cinematic universe?

The first thing that comes to mind for me is Harry Potter. Granted, the books have all been adapted, but Warner Bros has recently announced a new sequence of films based on the spin-off book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This should surprise no one. For over a decade now, the top-grossing Warner Bros movie has either been a Harry Potter film or a DC Comics film. Since they’ve got neither scheduled for 2014, they’re no doubt looking to fill the gap in their schedule. If they can get creator J.K. Rowling on board for this, I’m fine with an expansion of the Potter universe. Now let me make something clear — I don’t want any more movies about Harry Potter. His story is over and done with, and I really don’t need to see his adventures as an Auror after the death of Voldemort, because frankly, anything else is going to be anticlimactic. But one of the best things about the Harry Potter world is that Rowling did, in fact, create an entire world — a rich, detailed world, one with many curious ideas and facets that she only brushed up against in her original seven novels. Fantastic Beasts will be the story of Newt Scamander, a wizard who lived centuries ago and cataloged the most amazing magical creatures in the world. There’s plenty of story potential there. Stories of young Dumbledore or McGonagall? I’d watch that. The story of the founding of Hogwarts? I’m there. There are ways to expand the Potterverse that don’t require Harry, Ron, or Hermione, and if anything, that’s the direction Warner Bros should go in.

Universal Studios is planning a remake of Van Helsing, which itself was an attempt to do a sort of modern “monster rally” film. I say they should go all-out. The Universal versions of Frankenstein and Dracula are still the most recognizable in the world, so why not use the new Van Helsing to relaunch a Universal Monster Universe? Throw in Frankie and Drac, put in a Wolf-Man, give us the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Tie in the Brendan Fraser Mummy films while you’re at it — the original Van Helsing had a very tenuous tie in the first place, and it’s easily the most successful Universal monster franchise in decades. Even kids who have never seen a Boris Karloff picture love the monsters, and this is a perfect time to bring them back.

20th Century Fox, as we’ve said before, has both Aliens and Predator in its pocket, and regardless of the quality of the crossover films in those franchises, it’s a pretty natural pairing. The two concepts fit well together, and I think there’s still more that could be done with them. But you know what else Fox owns that could do with a bit of a boost? The X-Files. Think about it for a minute… a new X-Files movie, one that opens with Mulder and Scully sent to investigate a mysterious crash site uncovered beneath the arctic ice, and they wind up finding a Predator, or one of the Engineers from Prometheus. Ridley Scott may not be wild about it (especially if, as the rumors persist, he plans on linking the Aliens franchise back to this own Blade Runner film), but I think there’s room for connectivity here.

I’m just spitballing, friends, I’m throwing stuff around to see what sticks, but I think there could be fun had in any of these directions. If Sony insists on bringing back Ghostbusters, why not build that into a universe with not just ghosts, but all manner of supernatural entities and different squads of heroes combating them? Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are probably done with Men in Black, but there’s plenty of juice left in that universe. Sam Raimi is already planning to tie the reboot of The Evil Dead back into the original Evil Dead/Army of Darkness franchise — why not take a page from the comics and have Ash encounter the likes of Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, or Herbert West?

I know I’m throwing a lot of things around here, but that’s how these things start. Here’s hoping that somebody decides to run with this ball soon, and decides to do it the right way.