Thursday, November 30, 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)

I hate having to write this. Batman and Harley Quinn should have been great. This movie reunites some of the people behind the now-legendary 1990s TV show Batman: The Animated Series and clearly was intended to point directly to the iconic and groundbreaking cartoon adventures of the Caped Crusader. To my memory, we haven't had a Warner Brothers animated Batman-specific movie directly connected to the '90s series in years. Kevin Conroy returns here as the voice of Batman, but we're also treated to the return of Loren Lester as the voice of Dick Grayson, aka Robin/Nightwing. With many direct connections to the animated series, a spotlight on Harley Quinn, a character who is more popular than ever, and a story by Bruce Timm, the father of Batman: TAS, what could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Robbers' Roost (1955)

One of the things that continues to amaze me about westerns from the 1950s is that, despite the fact that hundreds (if not more) of them were made during the decade, each one feels unique and special with a different focus, tone, and style. Even westerns that star the same actors and film in the same locations manage to retain an individuality that never fails to impress me. Robbers' Roost is another solid entry that helps to make the case that the fifties were the pinnacle of westerns on film. Furthermore, this movie comes from 1955, a year that I maintain is a very special one for movie fans. In fact, I wrote a ten-part series about the movies of 1955 over at F This Movie, highlighting how the films from that year represent a change in complexity and a deeper focus on more realistic characters.

Consider George Montgomery in Robbers' Roost. The actor plays our lead here, and we're introduced to him at the beginning of the movie when he walks in on a gang in a saloon. Nothing about his discovery of this gang seems to be an accident. On the contrary, he's apparently been looking for these men. However, we're not sure if our lead is a good guy or a bad guy. He has every appearance of being an outlaw or a drifter, and we're not clued in on his motivations until the very end of the movie. That tone provides a new level of ambiguity to cinematic storytelling that had only been seen in the likes of noir films, and it paved the way for totally gray characters we'd get in movies like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It's no secret that the Italian spaghetti western directors of the 1960s drew their influence from the American westerns of the 1950s.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving/100th Post!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! This year brings special cause for me to celebrate and be thankful, because this is the 100TH POST on this site. That wouldn't mean a thing without YOU.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Three Reasons Stranger Things Works

It's only been a little over a year since its debut, but Stranger Things has become a massive pop culture phenomenon and an incredible success for Netflix. We've boiled that success down to three key factors that we believe are the secret to the show's popularity and achievements.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Kind of Magic: #4: Highlander the Series - "The Gathering"

1992's Highlander: The Series came along at just the right time. After Highlander 2, the franchise (which was only two movies) was in the toilet and even the most passionate fans complained that the sequel had ruined something that was once fresh and cool. Along comes the TV show, which offers what is essentially a soft reboot. The syndicated series ignores the second movie altogether, instead choosing to go back to the things that made the FIRST movie feel so special, albeit with a few tweaks. Gone is any reference to another planet or any hint at alien technology. Gone is the futuristic slant and the high-concept premise. Instead, we return to the time of "The Gathering" when only a few immortals remain and must battle until to the death. The premise is its mantra: in the end, there can be only one. The series plays things close to "real;" the only fantastical elements within the series are the Quickenings that occur when an immortal is slain and a sort of "Spidey Sense" that immortals now have to let them know when another of their kind is around, presumably to prevent ambush. The gritty tone from the first film serves as the template for the series, much to its benefit. The music of Queen and the rock and roll swagger is back. If you can't tell, this was MY Highlander.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trip with the Teacher (1975)

 As far as your midnight movie plots go, there's nothing inherently unique about Trip with the Teacher. On the surface, this is your standard "mad motorcycle maniacs terrorize the innocent" plot, but it's done with so much style and at least one particularly stunning performance that it easily stands out against similar films.

Brenda Fogarty (The Beach Bunnies) is a prim and proper teacher who is leading a handful of her female students (including Cathy Worthington in her debut) on an expedition into the desert to observe some Native American artifacts. Jack Driscoll (Garden of the Dead) is their bus driver, a stout man who is the spitting image of Sterling Hayden (The Godfather), circa 1957. Elsewhere in the desert, two motorcyclists, played by Zalman King (Galaxy of Terror) and Robert Porter (Mackenna's Gold), are broken down on the side of the road. Another motorcyclist happens upon them, played by Robert Gribbin (Hitch Hike to Hell), and when he offers to help, we quickly learn that he's a nice guy with a job and responsibilities while the other two are simply looking for trouble. Before long, they find that trouble when everyone's paths cross and the two crazy cyclists begin terrorizing the girls and their bus driver in the middle of nowhere. Our upstanding heroic male lead waits for just the right time to spring into action as the game turns into a fight for survival.

Friday, November 10, 2017

HUGE DC Super Heroes Action Figure Haul (Justice League)

Check out this huge collection of DC Super Heroes action figures found at a yard sale! There are some old favorites here, as well some unique figures included that might surprise you!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fort Massacre (1958)

Fort Massacre is one of the many smaller westerns from the 1950s that features an excellent script, solid performances, and beautiful cinematography. The film was released by United Artists and was directed by Joseph M. Newman, the same guy who made the underrated sci-fi classic This Island Earth. The story follows the U.S. Cavalry's C Troop as they navigate Apache country after an ambush that left a number of their men either dead or injured. They're trying to get to their outpost 100 miles away while under constant fire from hostile natives. It's the same plot that could have been (and was) used for a ton of war movies, but the draw of Fort Massacre isn't the story; the real beauty is watching these characters as they deal with what appears to be a no-win situation.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cereal Review: French Toast Crunch

As I write this, I'm 99% positive that Cinnamon Toast Crunch is my favorite breakfast cereal. It ages with me well, offering a good whole grain base that's lightly sweetened and has a deliciously-balanced cinnamon and sugar coating that tastes great, even if it does leave a slimy film in my mouth like I've been licking frogs again. So when I finally decided to try its sister cereal, French Toast Crunch, it was with some hesitation (it looks like a big departure from CTC), but also a little bit of nervous excitement. 

French Toast Crunch was originally introduced back in 1995 by the folks at General Mills and was around until 2006, when it was pulled from American store shelves (but remained available in Canada). But since everything old is new again, the folks at General Mills dusted off the idea for America in 2015, relaunching it nationwide where it still occupies valuable shelf space as of this writing. Before this review, I'd never tried French Toast Crunch. To be perfectly honest with you, I don't remember seeing it on the shelves before the 2015 revival at all. With mounting curiosity and an eager 11-year-old in tow, I pulled the trigger and bought a box. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Is Superman a Killer?

Zack Snyder's Man of Steel (starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon) asks the question: does Superman kill? Furthermore, should he? Looking at the source material from the comics, the answer might surprise you.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Kind of Magic #3: Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

One of the reasons I started this site is because I wanted to champion stuff that our culture at large dismisses. A big part of that involves taking a deeper look at "bad" movies and conveying the things that I enjoy about them. You can usually see the humanity and enthusiasm of the people who made them under the cheesy effects and crappy scripts. With that being said, Highlander II: The Quickening is one of the worst movies I've ever seen, made without any love or care at all.