All the King’s Men Review

This is one of those films where everyone cracks in the end but ultimately you just figure that someone should stay strong by the end. In the end nobody can stop the allure of money, fame, or general power. It’s a pretty entertaining film the whole way through and definitely one that I would consider to be on the tragic side as well. It shows just how quickly things can start to snowball when you’re on the wrong side.

The movie starts off with Jack being sent on a mission to cover some political goings on in a small town. It’s basically run like a mafia where you can’t talk against the people in charge or they will start to try to bully and scare you into leaving. It’s certainly not an easy town to beat but one man named Willie Stark wants to make a difference. He loses in his bid to join the council and then loses his bid to become governor but something changes within him. 4 years later he runs for governor and this time he wins. The guy has a lot of fire to him and is a passionate spokesperson. Still, is he really the same man fighting for the common folk or did he lose something along the way?

There’s an old saying about how the only way to climb to the top is to use the skeletons in your closet as footholds. Basically you’re going to be accumulating a whole lot of them as you make shady deals in order to stay one step ahead. While the saying is likely a bit dramatic, that’s effectively what happens here. Willie always had some edge to him but by and large he had good intentions. Then he got more and more desperate to the point where becoming governor became his dream more for the sake of doing it than for actually helping people anymore. Perhaps he was still better than the opposing party but at this point it was going to be hard to tell them apart because they ended up being the same kind of people.

It’s pretty crazy how Willie started using his power to beat people up, murder them, and even to cheat on his wife. The guy had absolutely 0 moral scruples by this point and yet his friends just went along with it for the greater good. That’s why the supporting characters are annoying here because they are all complicit in what’s going on. They ended up going along with this plan even when they knew it wasn’t right and never really tried to talk some sense into him. Sure, halfheartedly they would say something here or there but I mean just standing up to him and saying straight up that this was a bad idea. If he could have turned over a new leaf sooner then that would have been a really good thing.

In the end Willie is basically a big antagonist here. He’s an interesting character to watch as we really saw his whole journey but yeah he was just another mobster by the end. It’s just rare that you get to see the origin of how he rose up like this. He’s also a charismatic main character so you can see how some of the other people in the movie would be fooled. You have to keep your guard up at all times. His secretary Sadie should have kept her guard up around her feelings and then the whole thing would have been less emotional for her. Basically she liked him but never really stood a chance since he likes to mess around which would just make her more and more upset. It would have been a toxic dynamic either way.

Jack was the main character for a while although you can argue that the role does shift between him and Willie at times. It can always be close at the very least. Jack isn’t very likable here though because the guy just doesn’t have a backbone. When Willie starts an affair with the girl he’s always loved (Anne) he doesn’t do anything about it. He still works for Willie and while he’ll throw in some insults once in a while, he doesn’t just leave. Leaving could be easier said than done but you have to rip the band-aid off at some point and how can you work for the guy who took your girl? It just doesn’t make any sense.

He also straddles the fence for way too long before actually choosing a side and a lot of damage is done in the meantime. Of course Anne doesn’t look good for any of this either and ultimately she enjoyed being rich way too much. She didn’t seem to care who she would be with as long as she had stature and money. So Anne felt very insincere and Jack was probably a bit too desperate in trying to be together with her. She didn’t exactly have his back when he had to leave his parents’ house in disgrace and so even if she were to come back to him once he had money, it just wouldn’t be worth it.

Then you have the Judge who had a great reputation and always tried to do the right thing. Unfortunately one of the messages in the film is about how everyone has made at least one big mistake and unfortunately that was true of him as well. We never actually learn exactly what he did and I would say that’s a style change that works well. We don’t have to know exactly what he did to know that it was easily recognizable and that it was something really bad. It’s so bad that the Judge basically calls it quite at that point and it’s a shame because it would have been nice if he could have stayed true to the end.

Finally you have Adam who was the best character in the movie for me. He had a tough road as well but at the end of the day he tried to stay true to his sense of justice while helping out as many people as possible. It’s still a tricky road for him though and he has to watch all of the lives being lost all around him. Ultimately he continues to do what he thinks he has to by the end.

Overall, All the King’s Men is a pretty good movie. It’s got a bit of a jaded view on humanity and on how everyone will ultimately be corrupted in the end but beyond that I would say the execution is on point. Even as things keep on getting worse for the heroes you can’t help but wonder how things will play out next. The film is fairly long and so the journey really feels complete as we watch Willie from beginning to end. It shows just how much he has changed within that adventure to the point you can barely recognize him. It works well as a cautionary tale. I’d like for some of the characters to have been a little more likable and gotten off the train early but sometimes nobody actually steps up as they wait for someone else to do it.

Overall 7/10

Touch of Evil Review

The Touch of Evil is one of those films where a whole lot of stress could have been avoided if the main characters talked to each other more. Whenever you’re in a hostile territory but don’t want to confide in each other that things aren’t going well, that’s when trouble really brews. The movie is fairly serious but then throws in quite a few comedic moments as well so it can be tough to say what tone it is going for at times. This one isn’t one of the better gangster films even if I do give it props for having more unique scenery compared to most.

The movie starts with the main characters getting ready to leave the border town between Mexico and the United States until a car blows up in front of them. The main character Miguel works as a prosecutor and is in the middle of a big case involving a gangster group so he can’t leave now. This is the villains’ turf so in case they are involved he will have to look into this. His wife Suzie isn’t quite as pleased since they should be going on their honeymoon and unfortunately she is now being targeted by the villains. It starts off as pure intimidation but the longer she remains, the more that may begin to change. Can the main guy solve the case in time?

So right off the bat here is one of the problems. The mafia wastes no time in summoning Susie over to make some veiled threats and she takes it well in talking tough back to them. My problem is after leaving she doesn’t tell Miguel what just transpired. I feel like you have to tell him so you’re both on the same page about the fact that the danger has arrived and it isn’t just a possible thing that could happen anymore. Later on they do this again by dropping off a threatening letter for her and she thinks about telling Miguel but opts not to. She had even been planning to leave for the American side of the border but decided not to after the threat. Telling Miguel could have caused him to play things differently.

He ends up dropping her off at a motel which is where she said she would stay but unfortunately it’s run by the villains so she ends up falling for their trap which ends up not going well as she is drugged and framed for doing this herself. I would argue that Miguel and even the cop who dropped her off should have been smarter about this though. Leaving her at a note like that just does not seem safe at all and of course it wasn’t. Even if the villains didn’t run the place it feels like that would not have been a particularly good idea.

Another complication here is Hank, a police captain who is determined to find the culprits for the bombing no matter what. The problem is that he will use less than legal means of getting a culprit and he always gets a culprit, even if he has to make up some proof. Hank is definitely very corrupt and while the end of the film tries to give him some credit with his instincts, you still can’t take the law into your hands when you’re an officer like that. The instant he did this he was definitely setting himself up for a lot of trouble. He makes for a good villain but it’s hard to see him as anything more than that no matter what his intentions were. I can’t say I felt sympathetic for him at all.

The most random plot here is the night custodian working at the motel. He is extremely afraid for his life the entire time he appears and so everyone pushes him around. I suppose he has probably seen a lot of things since he started working here but all of his actions just felt very exaggerated. The movie could have stood to tone this character down a bit to make him more realistic. It can be fine to have a character who completely clashes with the tone of the movie of course but at the end of the day this guy just wasn’t very funny so that immediately defeated the whole purpose of his character. Someone like this would have a better chance of succeeding if he was not related to the serious events in the movie.

In general I think the film had an issue with balancing the comedic and serious bits. The villains for example appear as comic relief for decently large chunks of the film as they run around and get into trouble but then they suddenly get rather serious near the end when they drug Suzie or when they nearly melt the main character with a vial of acid. So the movie was really all over the place in a lot of ways and maybe all the terrible decisions that the heroes made was supposed to play into that somehow. Like you’re meant to realize they are bad decisions although I never got that implication from the movie so I don’t know about that.

Overall, The Touch of Evil has an interesting setup with a crime at the border so both sides want a piece of the action. The place definitely wasn’t the safest with a gang running around but at least by the end of the film that group will be a lot weaker. The main characters could have handled all of this a lot better than they did though and I feel like some of the villains really got off completely free. We never saw the whole mafia group get arrested after they attacked Suzie and that would have made the ending a lot more complete. The atmosphere is on point but in the end this film really falls in the middle on the spectrum of good and bad movies. A better ending could have helped it rise up.

Overall 5/10

Foreign Correspondent Review

Now we’ve got a good retro spy film to discuss. This is always the way to go if you want some quality entertainment. You usually have a good sense for how things will play out but the characters and dialogue are almost always on point. This film is no exception and so there is a good bit of fun to be had here all the way through. The pacing is good and by the end you had a fun time which is the key thing here.

The movie starts with John the reporter being tasked with a special mission. He’s going to be a foreign correspondent for his newspaper and find out the secret details going on abroad that nobody knows about. The boss figures he is the perfect guy because John could not care less about foreign affairs. He doesn’t even know any of the guys involved and so he’s definitely qualified to give a very unbiased look on if the world is close to a world war or not. Still when he gets there John ends up getting embroiled in a much bigger controversy than he ever could have imagined.

As you can maybe tell from the ending this movie takes place a little before World War 1. It makes for an interesting backdrop as there are some tensions brewing but nothing has actually happened yet so America is mostly out of the loop. This ties in well to the ending which takes a fairly bold stance. It’s an effective ending although while it works for dramatic effect I do think two characters should have cut out a bit early. Like say your message real quick but then get out of there because ultimately if you die too soon then you won’t be able to help out further which would be a big issue. In theory you want to get the right mix of spreading your message and staying alive.

John is one of those fairly cocky main characters who figures he can do anything. This mission will be child’s play since he has been such a star reporter all these years right? Well, that’s what he figured but you know that it may not be so easy. Throughout the adventure he has to deal with assassins and trying not to get kidnapped which can be draining. There was one assassin in particular named Rowley who was apparently really good at his job but also used to humor a bit. When the guy appeared you couldn’t help but chuckle because he’s super old and not a fighter. Basically what he would do is just push you at the last second into traffic or off a building. That’s what he does and to his credit since it works so much I suppose it is a valid strategy.

John gets out of danger most times but not every time. Ultimately there is only so much he can do and he is captured at one point. He always keeps his spirits up though and looks pretty good here. Then you have Carol as the main heroine. They don’t get along great at first but eventually they become allies. She is someone who has already gotten involved in the world of politics and has grand ambitions of her own. Since she sees John doesn’t take them seriously that is why there is some tension at first. She does end up helping quite a bit during the film.

There is a rookie mistake John makes later on though when he sees someone being kept prisoner in the hidden entrance to a windmill but leaves to tell the cops. Naturally by the time he returns the guy is gone and the whole thing looked like John was insane. You can’t ever leave the scene of a crime because it just won’t be there when you return. You have to try and stay one step ahead of the villains or you’ll quickly fall behind. Eh…that sounds a bit too obvious right? But you get what I’m saying.

Another positive I’d say for the film is how many different locations we go to. The characters drive through the desert, fly in a plane, get trapped at sea, go to parties, etc. It felt like something was always happening here and the pacing was very fast. I’m not sure how long this film was but it felt like a fairly long one in a good way. It didn’t drag on or anything. If anything I would say that it just makes some iffy decisions near the end which don’t really help matters.

First off you have Stephen who is one of the main antagonists of the film. He is helping the Germans and setting up murders and kidnappings for them. He does a lot of really bad things and it’s heavily implied that he has done a lot more off screen. So by the end the film has the characters give him way more credit than he deserves. Without getting into specifics he does one nice thing which ends up saving some lives but you have to consider that doing something nice doesn’t make up for being an evil person. It just doesn’t. Sure it’s great that in a high stress moment he did something fairly selfless but the guy was fairly unrepentant up to then and the sheer scale of his crimes were staggering. I think the world deserved to know the truth rather than John and the team attempting to suppress everything before Carol stopped them.

Meanwhile there is an old man named Van who is really put through the wringer in this film. The guy gets tortured and it’s rough seeing an old man have to go through that. At that age you’re hoping that the rest of life will be more like easy street as opposed to everything getting so tough. I think the film should have cut that torture out, maybe just mention or imply it instead but it was a rather dark moment in a film that was otherwise pretty light.

The ending is definitely intense as mentioned earlier and so the film really managed to accomplish a lot. It shows just how much a reporter can do on his own to try and spread some news and help the heroes out. Ultimately John did his part and at least in this film’s timeline he was pretty instrumental in the end. His boss did a good job by selecting him for the assignment. I’d have enjoyed seeing more of him because the opening scene in the news office was fun. Ultimately that was just the vehicle for setting up the adventure but it was cool either way.

Overall, The Foreign Correspondent is a good film. It’s one I hadn’t heard of before and I do think to an extent it will likely be lost in the shuffle compared to other films which are simply better but the important thing is that this is a good film though. Through and through it is one that I can recommend. There aren’t a ton of films about reporters running around to get a scoop but you could definitely use this as a blueprint to set more of those up.

Overall 6/10

Kiss Me Deadly Review

Kiss Me Deadly is an interesting noir title in that you are effectively watching a villain as the lead. Not saying Mike is downright evil or anything but he is basically a shady guy who ends up getting tangled with the actual crime syndicate and that ends up leading to a whole lot of trouble. The story is good but it is another title that is held back by the main character. It can also get a bit gritty and gruesome for an old school noir title like this.

The movie starts off with Mike on a drive when he comes across a lady who is running for her life. She says her name is Christina and to drop her off at the next bus stop and then to forget her. However, if they don’t make it, then he must remember her. Unfortunately the two are captured by a group of villains who torture Christina to death and nearly bump Mike off too but they get sloppy and he survives the encounter. Mike has no idea what is even going on but he figures it has to be something big when he is questioned by the cops right away. The mysterious villains also start to threaten him into dropping the case so now he wants to look into it more.

Mike runs a bit of a shady business where he tries to find proof on if a husband or wife is cheating on the other. He has a secretary who takes care of the seducing while he begins to work on playing both parties against each other. It’s definitely not the most noble kind of work and the cops call him out on it but Mike doesn’t care. He will keep doing this so he can get more and more money as needed. This is one of the reasons why you just find it hard to root for the guy. His secretary Velda even basically begs him to let her stop doing this kind of work but he refuses which really tells you what kind of guy he is.

Now there are some fun parts to this. When the villains show up to intimidate him, Mike is able to respond in kind and doesn’t fold so easily. The guy makes threats of his own and has a lot of shady connections throughout the city. So that part is pretty neat and it makes for an interesting wrinkle into the mix but at the same time it just doesn’t erase the less desirable traits he has. It’s just too bad he couldn’t keep the tough attitude while beating up the enemies but still staying somewhat heroic. It would have really worked well. By the end he ultimately starts looking rather sad and defeated as he finally tells the cops that he was out of his depth. It wasn’t a great way for his journey to end.

The early torture scene was also really intense. Definitely not the way you expect to start this film off. For the most part it’s got a rather sullen atmosphere and it’s more about how everyone appears to be suspicious but it’s not generally all that dark or violent. Perhaps they wanted to start the film off with a bang but they definitely could have chosen a less gruesome way to do this. Additionally if you’re friends with the lead then you’re probably doomed but that’s usually how it goes.

The dialogue here is sharp as always though. I love all the veiled threats and how everyone is talking really tough. There is a lot of sarcasm thrown around and the fact that Mike is so tough does lend itself well to the banter. All of those things are good points within the movie. It definitely goes by rather quickly even though it is a long movie. It all feels like one well connected adventure and that element of the story, the lead having a lot of connections is one that they should bring back. Mike may be a questionable private investigator but he is still a PI so when the villains go after him it’s nice that he has some way to defend himself and figure out what is happening.

Meanwhile Velda definitely should have quit the business right away. Ultimately things are never going to go all that well for her in this business and so the sooner she gets out the better. Lily is an interesting character but again not one you would want to trust very much. She is always ready to put on the charm to try and get Mike to do what she wants but he’s not the kind of guy this will usually work for although he will enjoy the situation when it’s something he would have done anyway. She is desperate as she runs from the villains but that’s never really the approach you want to go with.

Mike’s friend Nick was a nice guy even though you knew he was doomed. I like that the guy always had Mike’s back at least and was eager to help. If anything Mike was using him since he didn’t really let Nick know just how dangerous this whole thing was. If he had been straight with Nick then things could have been different but Mike is all about using those who are close to him. Definitely a shame when you think about it.

The supporting characters were solid here. I liked the villain with the glasses who was always very polite but as one of the ringleaders of the villains you knew that he couldn’t be trusted. Definitely someone you had to be cautious with but the demeanor was pretty funny. Then there is the main cop who doesn’t get along with Mike at all. Their first impression was certainly lousy which didn’t help matters for either of them for a long while there. Still he was okay at his job. I think the cops could have ultimately done more on their end but it’s not like they had a lot of help either so they were on their own since Mike wasn’t cooperating.

The ending here definitely escalates really quickly though. The special effects for this were fun, it was like we suddenly entered a sci-fi movie or something. I wasn’t expecting that at all although in a way that’s why it worked. It just hits you like a sudden tank and that could have really tied in as a sequel with characters picking up the pieces. The film does work as another example of the viewer not knowing all the answers since we’re looking at things from the lead’s point of view though so I understand the appeal there.

Overall, I think a noir film that is basically villain against villain could be really good. The film would just need to lean into that more by having him be a full fledged villain. He certainly acts the part like when he shoves a drawer closed while someone’s hand is in it and slaps around a poor receptionist. This guy doesn’t play nice and won’t take no for an answer when he wants answers. You just need to do that without him sacrificing the main heroine’s dignity and I could also do without the torture. This ends up being a weaker noir title as a result and you’re better off skipping it for now.

Overall 4/10

The Alligator People Review

Now this probably sounds like your classic run of the mill creature feature film but instead I would call it more of a drama. Sure there is a creature here but he doesn’t appear all that much and when he does it’s not like he’s all that much of a threat either. The guy has some extremely slight superhuman strength but even then I wouldn’t say that it is very high tier. You get a lot of running around and detective work though along with a human villain who is definitely more on the really weak side.

The film starts with Joyce and Paul being married. They figure that things are really looking up now and their lives will be perfect but all of a sudden Paul gets a letter that shakes him to the core. He quickly runs off the train they were on and vanishes into the wind. Joyce didn’t know anything about him beyond his name so she looked and looked until one day she finds his old address from when he was back in college. She heads to this old house in the middle of nowhere but the owners claim that they haven’t ever heard of him and that Jane should go. Well, Jane decides to stay along for the ride until she can find answers but will these answers prove to be too much for her?

First I have to say that Paul is a pretty awful character the whole time. Just running off when you’ve been married like this is absolutely insane. I don’t care if he’s turning into a gerbil, you have to stay there and explain things. He took the coward’s way out here and put Joyce in a ton of emotional turmoil. She had nothing to go off of and had to try for ages to find any leads to him. All of this could and should have been avoided. In the end it was his pride which got in the way here since he just didn’t want her to see him like this but that is no excuse at all. He just looks really bad no matter how you slice it and there was no coming back from this for him. Of course I’m glad he saves her later on from the other villain but she wouldn’t have been in that situation from the start if he had helped her.

Joyce gets a lot of credit here because she was basically walking into enemy territory in order to find her husband. She withstood all of the threats against her and just kept on fighting because she refused to give up. I think a lot of other characters would have folded by this point but she stayed strong and did not waiver in her convictions. This is the kind of character that you absolutely want to have on your side at all times. Now she does let out a yell and a bit of panic near the very end but I would say it was warranted and she would have quickly recovered if a certain other character didn’t jump the gun yet again. Yeah Joyce puts up with a whole lot in this title.

Then you have the main villain here Manon. He wants to destroy all gators after one bit his hand off a while back. Now he just lives for his revenge and it’s clear that he guy is extremely unhinged in all of his appearances. He’s always yelling and yelling and yelling. His goal of destroying all of the gators also comes off as extremely petty and then he ends up going into a whole new level of sick when he attacks Joyce. I was definitely not expecting that. I knew he was a villain here but that just didn’t seem like something he would do so that was definitely surprising and it did completely destroy his character.

Lavinia has a fairly big role since she is the master of the house. She has her secrets to be sure and wants Joyce out of there but ultimately isn’t in a position to force Joyce out. Joyce is physically more powerful than Lavinia after all and isn’t a pushover in the slightest. Then you have Dr. Mark who is good at the experiments but ultimately nobody is perfect and he needs more time. Paul keeps pressuring/threatening him to work quicker but to an extent you can only do this for so long before something backfires. As it is he may have also succeeded if not for someone messing up the tech.

As always the writing here is pretty good. I did like Chaney’s accent that he used for the film which worked rather seamlessly and I almost didn’t recognize him for most of the film. The pacing is good here and really the only thing that holds this movie back a lot of the time is just how most of the characters are no good. I liked Joyce but she was really the only very solid character here. Everyone else was either unlikable or made very questionable decisions the whole time. This film would have played out so much differently if Paul had just trusted his wife instead of dashing off into the great unknown the way that he did.

I should mention that most of the film is a flashback too and so in the present two doctors are deciding if they should give Joyce her memories back or not. They could do this with ease but are also worried that it could mess her up in the future. There isn’t a large debate on this as it’s mainly just used as an excuse for them to find out what she’s been through. Of course it’s fair to say that you absolutely should give her the memories back since they are a big part of who she is. They just need to do it carefully instead of making all those excuses. Yes her life is a lot happier now but knowing about the past now makes the doctors responsible for helping her remember it so that she can be complete again.

Overall, The Alligator People lacks the charm of a true creature feature because there is no monster or anything like that to defeat this time. The costume for the Alligator Man also isn’t the most impressive one around. It’s not going to strike fear into anyone’s heart after all. I liked seeing Joyce sleuth around and figure things out but ultimately for this film to have been better it also just needed more fun characters and some action. The Alligators also had me nervous with how much shooting was going on but fortunately they were careful in the end. I don’t think this one has a whole lot of replay value but as an initial watch it should keep your attention. It’s definitely not bad and it stays afloat long enough to stay right in the middle there.

Overall 5/10

Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice Review

The title probably reminds you of the Baby Jane film right away. That one was definitely no good and this one also isn’t very solid although I would say it’s better than the former. This one only works because none of the characters are very smart and put themselves in a position to lose the whole time. It feels bad because you know that the characters had potential to accomplish big things in their life but never could because this was the end of their journey.

The film starts off with Claire being saddened because after her husband’s untimely death he didn’t leave her anything. She mis timed the moment as he had already taken out his life insurance and so now she is super poor. Claire figures she will start murdering everyone to keep her funds up and so she starts hiring maids only to bump them off afterwards. One day a lady named Alice appears and confirms she has no family or anyone who would miss her. Claire decides to hire her after that so she can get more money eventually. Alice has a little more spirit than the first few maids but is she really ready to handle such a powerful fighter?

Now your main suspension for disbelief here will be how this old lady is casually defeating everyone. It’s not like she is Master Genkai or anything like that. This is an old lady who can barely fight so each time her trick is to get the lady to walk into the grave with her back turned while Alice takes her out with a shovel. It’s pretty sad how easy this all is but at the same time once you’re in that position it would be hard to win. The fact is that you wouldn’t expect to be hit in the back of the head with a shovel so you aren’t prepared for that.

There is no excuse for one of the victims though. So here’s the scenario, the victim already knows that Claire is evil and is being chased around the house. Finally she knocks the knife out of Claire’s hands and gets her to the ground. She has 3 real options from this point forward. The first is to quickly end this by taking Claire down with one more hit, the second is to simply run away and get as far away as you can. The third is to grab the knife and then call the cops while keeping your eye on the villain. The victim chooses option 3 but the dumb version of it as she lets Claire keep the knife and completely gives her back as she grabs the phone. Naturally Claire capitalizes on this and pulls off the biggest comeback victory since the Patriots beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl. This was insane.

You never turn your back to a serial killer like that, particularly when they are armed. What was she thinking here? It was a really bad look and it’s just hard to believe that things would end like that. It was super annoying to put it mildly. Claire does a whole lot here when she should have been taken down ages ago. Surely you would be able to poke holes in her alibi of saying that each caretaker ran off when they were never seen again. Of course these were the days before internet so it gets trickier but there had to be better ways of handling this.

Claire is definitely evil through and through so don’t expect any kind of big redemption arc for her. She stands by all of her crimes and had absolutely no intentions of doing anything different. That’s just how she rolls. There are much easier and better ways of making money but she was never interested in those from the start. Meanwhile Alice was a decent character but didn’t always make the right moves. I liked that she could have a bit of a temper at times but on the other hand she didn’t do much with that. I was hoping she would actively challenge Claire more instead of just having a quick moment and immediately backing off. That’s never as impressive as she seems to think it is.

Her lies start getting more sloppy by the end too and it’s clear that she isn’t used to planning things out on the longterm. The ending could have been a lot more satisfying than how it turned out. Meanwhile there is a whole subplot with Harriet and her kid Jim but it feels like the two plots don’t have a lot to do with each other for the most part. You’ve got a little romance going with Mike and there’s a lot of drama there. You have the characters deciding if they should get together or not but you’re just waiting to get back to the main plot already.

There is a dog that shows up there for some big jump scares. If anything happened there that would have been super rough but fortunately it’s all fakeouts the whole time. I just don’t think there was much point in including Harriet and all the characters in that subplot. Sure, Mike sort of tied both plots together and they got to see Claire being suspicious the whole time but they were still defeated in the end. They didn’t really get to see through the lies and suspense very well at all. Instead they just became more sacrifices to be taken down in short order. Not a good look for them. Also, apparently Harriet’s old husband died a while back and while I don’t think they’ve said how long it’s been, it seems like an odd detail to add before starting up a romance. Makes the whole thing feel like a rebound.

In the end the problem with this film is that you can’t take it seriously. An old lady taking everyone down one at a time like this? it’s really hard to believe but the worst offender is the final victim for not staying alert. The previous maids also looked really bad in not standing up for themselves and just letting Claire walk all over them. I get that they needed the money and all but it’s just annoying to watch in every scene as they are insulted and humiliated but don’t do anything about it. Claire has way too much power the whole time.

Overall, This is a fairly mean spirited film. Characters don’t really think things through and it’s just crazy watching the whole story unfold. It doesn’t play out like it should and they probably should have gone all out with the crazy premise instead of taking it so seriously. You’re just not going to successfully make her a villain to be feared, not like this at any rate. I would definitely recommend skipping this one. The idea of an old lady bumping everyone off is executed as uneventfully and slow paced as you would expect. You’ve got better things you can do with your time.

Overall 3/10

The Leopard Man Review

I have to say that this movie would have been a bit more suspenseful with a different title. It sort of takes away from the mystery you know? Now in some ways maybe originally they weren’t sure what angle to take with the film but most of the film plays up the experience as a suspenseful mystery so calling it “The Leopard” would have been much more effective if you ask me.

So the movie starts with a leopard being brought in to spice up a rather boring nightclub scene. It certainly draws some attention but not what Jerry had planned as it ends up murdering a lady named Teresa and escapes into town. Now everyone is terrified that they could be next and the thing is…they could be. The bodies start piling up and so the heroes have to find this leopard but it’s proven to be difficult. It’s also odd that the leopard would hang around town for so long and not be seen.

So the mystery here of course is to find the leopard…but then that title is rather interesting now isn’t it? Hmm…really makes you think. Really….well yeah so there is a human villain running around too. It does stretch my disbelief a bit that each victim could be murdered in such a realistic way as to mimic a leopard without anyone noticing. Yes he would always wait until the women were alone but it seems like this would take time and cause a lot of noise so you’d think someone would be around. It’s pretty rough that there’s no night traffic in this city.

It’s definitely a rather grim movie with everyone getting bumped off by the serial killer. The leopard does work well as a solid red herring because he actually does claim a victim as well. If not for the title I don’t think you would assume that this is a human until rather deep in the film when one guy keeps on insisting that it wouldn’t be possible. This is where some characters start to get really annoying though.

First off is the leopard’s owner Charlie who defends his pet but then Dr. Galbraith starts to suggest that maybe Charlie is murdering people after he gets drunk at night. And Charlie actually starts to believe this. Look, if you’re drinking so much that you black out and seriously think you could be murdering people then that means you have drunk way too much. There’s just no way around that, it’s the only logical conclusion here. I would have preferred if Charlie was a little stronger than that.

Meanwhile Clo-Clo is warned by Maria that she is in danger and something dark is approaching. Considering that there have already been murders by this point you’d think this would be serious but instead she runs off in the dead of night to reclaim her $100 and things don’t go over very well. She wasn’t the nicest character so you were expecting her to die the whole time but it’s still really tragic. Cmon the fortune teller did her best!

Not that I would pay Maria much mind myself but I wouldn’t go out of my way to test out the fortunes either. Maria probably could have been more helpful instead of constantly hiding the results and asking for a redo but in the end it doesn’t seem like it would have done a whole lot of good. Jerry is okay I guess but kind of forgettable. I don’t blame him for bringing in the leopard since by all accounts this should have been fairly safe. I do blame him for pretending he doesn’t care much to keep up appearances while worrying later on. Just be frank with everyone that this is a pretty bad situation.

Kiki is the main heroine here and the whole thing is pretty rough on her as well. So much for being the next sensation at the disco club with everything going on. She does decide to take a bold approach in helping to find the murderer so that was brave of her. She seems like a good person all in all. As for the murderer, well he’s rather crazy so there isn’t a whole lot to say about him. He just went looney and used this as an excuse to start taking names. It feels like it’s inevitable that this would have happened at some point with how quickly he cracked though and he just would have had a different gimmick. You’re glad things don’t end up going well for him.

There’s really not a whole lot to this film being the murders. It’s really short so the film has to go fast and just start bumping everyone off. The most tragic murder is easily the first one since the girl’s family were just so over the top mean about the whole thing. You’d think they would open the door when she’s begging for her life and in clear terror. Even from the start sending her out in the dead of night when there is a beast on the loose is crazy. Yeah you don’t want to be in that household, that’s for sure.

I will say that the film has good writing though. I did enjoy the exchanges between all of the characters and the dialogue style is something that’s hard to recreate compared to these older films. They just had a very distinguished air about them that always worked really well. Mix that in with the short length and at least it is a silver lining here. It would be nice if the characters had more time to do some serious investigating as opposed to being spoonfed the information needed to solve the case though.

Overall, The Leopard Man is definitely a skip. It probably wouldn’t have gone much better if the leopard was the main villain either to be honest since the climax would probably get a bit sketchy in that case. This doesn’t make for a very fun film in large part due to how tragic the deaths are. They’re described in decent detail here and while it’s inevitable that a bunch of people will die in a film like this, there aren’t a lot of light moments to really help you enjoy the film despite them. It’s not super violent or anything but the villain gets away with a whole lot before being caught.

Overall 3/10

Macabre Review

This film is one of those mystery thrillers that throws a lot of twists at you but it’s convoluted in all the right ways. Everything makes more and more sense as the film goes on and each twist works rather well. The overall plan seems to really be a huge stretch by the end as you really would not be able to guarantee with any degree of certainty that it would work but hey the villain is insane so that’s not really an issue. If you’re up for an intense title then this is a good one to watch.

The movie starts off by introducing us to Barrett who is a doctor but nobody in town like him. They all clearly want him gone and so his assistant Polly suggests that he pack his things. She will of course be glad to accompany him but he declines since he wants to marry Sylvia. One day his world is turned upside down when his daughter Marge is kidnapped and the assailant leaves a threatening phone call hinting that she is dead. He gives a cryptic response that hints they only have a little time to save her before she runs out of oxygen wherever she is. Barrett has to try and find her quickly but he has to do it while everyone despises the guy. There are no shortage of enemies here.

Throughout the film we get several flashbacks which explain just why nobody likes him. It’s a bit hard to get into those without obvious spoilers though as these all involve a lot of twists. One thing we can say for sure is that Barrett is just a bad guy though. The dislike from the town is absolutely justified the whole time as you see these scenes play out. I would argue that he already seemed a bit sketchy even before these though like with how he wants to marry Sylvia but doesn’t really decline Polly as directly as you would expect him to.

The guy is clearly someone who doesn’t mind being on the rebound and that is always a very awful trait to have as a main character. Of course his daughter shouldn’t have to pay for his mistakes so you still figure that whoever got her is even worse than this guy. The movie handles the plot well although as far as the kidnapped child storyarc goes, I’ve seen a few that were stronger than this one. This one is distracted with Barrett’s past and a whole lot going on in this town after all.

Meanwhile the supporting cast here isn’t amazing. You have Sylvia who somehow still doesn’t mind being with Barrett. Considering that her hands aren’t completely clean at this point perhaps they fit together but you never end up finding her all that likable. Meanwhile the same is true of Polly. Sure, Polly at least has a conscience and seems like a decent person but you still have to wrestle with the fact that she is trying to make a move on someone she knows is trying to marry someone else. So that’s just way too desperate for me.

The only really decent main character here is Miss Kushins. She does her best to watch the house and has been around the block for a while. When trouble starts she quickly lets other people know instead of staying quiet like Barrett said. The police chief was also solid. He definitely didn’t mind roughing Barrett up a little and was tempted to do more than that. This guy wants to run a peaceful town and it’s tough when guys like the lead are running around.

One thing this film will remind you of is that it isn’t so easy to die of shock. Perhaps of sheer fright like if you have a weak heart and someone jumps in front of you, but just seeing something? That’s not going to be so easy and since there is a certain part of the plan that revolves around this you are going to have some major doubts the whole time. I know that I certainly did. So part of the ending just doesn’t work on that level. We still do get a satisfying ending to the movie though so it doesn’t let you down there. In a way the villain’s poorly thought out plan did come back to get him so that’s definitely how it should be.

In a way the film’s biggest weakness is just that none of the characters are super likable. I named some decent characters above but all of the main characters are annoying at best. So the film’s trying to succeed in spite of the characters as opposed to being because of them and that’s always a bit tricky. A good plot can absolutely pull this off and I would say this film succeeded but with better characters it absolutely would have worked. You don’t even have to change much but make Polly just a friend who is worried about Marge as opposed to being someone who is interested in the main guy. Also fainting after the phone call is a bit much since time is of the essence. You need to at least pass on the message before you faint right?

I’d also have probably grouped the flashbacks together instead of splitting them up although I do understand the reason for doing so in a narrative way. It would just be nice to get right back to the main plot instead of going through a detour each time. At the end of the day the writing is also solid so the movie did have the right building blocks to make this a good movie. It didn’t forget the fundamentals and that is critically important in a movie like this. The core story is strong and having everyone be against the main guy helps with the tension since you can’t trust anyone and with the race against time being a factor there is always a lot of tension.

Overall, Macabre is a good movie even if the drama can be laid on a bit thick at times. There is just so much going on in both the past and the present that the main plot of the daughter being kidnapped has to take a backseat sometimes and I can’t recall that ever being the case for a film like this. Usually that’s the complete main plot with nothing to compete with it. The movie could probably have benefited from focusing on the present a bit more but I would still recommend this one. If you want to check out a well balanced thriller then you will have a good time here.

Overall 6/10

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase Review

Nancy Drew returns for another adventure but this time she ends up having to go to some great lengths to solve the mystery. It’s not her best appearance by a longshot to the point where she almost appears as an antagonist at some points. Definitely not the detective you want on your case. It’s a fun enough story though with a good amount of solid dialogue and good pacing to keep it going.

The movie starts with Nancy getting excited because a mansion is about to be turned into a hospital. This will be great for the community and the only catch is that the two elderly ladies who own the place have to keep living there for a little bit to make it official. A wrinkle occurs though when it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want the hospital to be built and wants to scare these ladies into leaving to the point that he even commits murder to get this across. Nancy realizes that leaving is not in the cards so she forges a suicide note and fixes up the crime scene so that the old ladies will be tricked into staying. She figures it’ll all end well as long as she can find the crooks first. Will she pull this off or has she just doomed these ladies for no good reason?

No matter how you slice it, Nancy definitely went too far here. You just can’t put them into danger like this without giving them a shot. Of course they wouldn’t have stayed in the house if they knew it was a murder but that’s not Nancy’s business. She has to let them make their own decisions, they are grownups after all. Nancy really took things into her own hands here and it was not a good idea. Then she also goes around blackmailing her friend Ted into going with her. She makes it clear that she will get him fired from his current job otherwise.

It’s hard to really root for Nancy as a hero here because she is so unhinged. She proves on multiple occasions that she doesn’t mind just running off and leaving Ted to fend for himself. He certainly didn’t ask for this and it was her idea so shouldn’t she be doing most of the work? Even near the end he has to be the one to stay in the basement and wait for the villain to arrive while she is taken away by her father so he has no back-up.

It’s easy to see why Ted is so fed up all the time. I dare say that Nancy has gotten even more bold in her attempts to get him on the case. At this point there is little that she won’t do in order to get her way and that should absolutely scare Ted. Ted is solid as always though. Ultimately he does help Nancy out and even if he doesn’t want to be here, he gives every task his 100% effort. Even when tings go sideways he never sells her out and he’s just a good guy. It’s just his bad luck that Nancy is always around to put him into some difficult situations.

Sure, Nancy does help out by the end and she has her detective moments so I don’t want it to sound like she’s not doing anything. Nancy does help, it’s just that her “the end justifies the means” approach gets real sketchy real fast. This time around her father Carson gets less of a role but at least we have Officer Tweedy to make up for it. He’s the kind of guy who never has time for the kids so he tends to miss out on a lot of clues and context. Usually you can only count on him to make the wrong calls at the wrong times. Very rarely will he actually get to help the crew out which is very unfortunate.

I like Tweedy’s confidence though even if it’s misplaced. He’s just that kind of character but he’s entertaining all the way through which is the important part. You can’t help but smile when he’s around. The leap in logic to arresting the two elderly women was a bit much though. Like seriously…you’re arresting those two? That has to be a low moment in his career because cmon now, that just doesn’t make sense.

The writing is good as always though and I always like the old school dialogue. The pacing is good and all of the scenes flow together. The movie is fairly short as it is so I suppose it’s not super impressive that the pacing is good but it’s still worth noting. On the whole it’s just a very low key mystery film that is entertaining all the way through. It’s not exactly a thrill a minute but there are still life or death stakes here and the villains absolutely meant business.

Partially because it’s so short and also because the story is basic, but there isn’t a whole lot more to say about this one. I don’t think it will end up being very memorable down the stretch either. I would have liked the series to have continued on for a while longer either way though because there’s just all kinds of stories you could do with Nancy and Ted. It could have had well over 10 films like Sherlock Holmes and it could have worked out. These bite sized adventures are perfect for constructing a lot of scenarios around the characters. I suppose it just wasn’t meant to be.

Overall, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase is a pretty good movie. I would rank it lower than the others but they’re all rather close either way so it’s not like it’s a big gap or anything. There’s a good amount of replay value here and the movie doesn’t really make any mistakes. It’s a very by the books movie that is content at being a good watch. If you like an old fashioned mystery like this then I’d recommend checking this one out. That said, you may as well check out one of the others instead, there’s no real reason to jump to this one specifically. Maybe if Carson got to do more since I like his more professional take on things. He may have a lot of limits due to how the law works but he never lets it get him down.

Overall 7/10

Ransom! Review

With a title like this you know exactly what the movie is going to be about. It’s not trying to beat around the bush either and just gets you right into the action. The film revolves around a kid being held for ransom and how to deal with that. The writing is on point and the movie is engaging from start to finish so I certainly had no issues with it. It’s a compelling title all around.

The movie starts with Dave agreeing to help his son Andy out with this little fort he’s building. Dave will grab some supplies on the way home and will even be leaving work early to make sure it all works out. Well, he arrives home and Andy is late which Dave is a bit annoyed at. Gradually this grows into concern and when a call arrives saying that Andy was taken away to the doctor’s and the doctor denies this, Dave knows they have a problem on their hand. Sure enough, the thief calls in and demands a large sum of money for Andy’s return. Everyone quickly tells Dave to pay the ransom and he agrees that this makes sense but then he finds out from a local reporter and the police chief that paying the ransom may actually not help. In fact, it may just seal Andy’s death. So now what should Dave do?

I thought it was an interesting approach here about not paying the ransom and the logic made sense. Once the villain has the random money there is no reason for him to return the kid and until he gets it, there is more reason to keep the kid alive. Of course as the film makes sure to explain a lot, this can still go sideways no matter what you pick. So Dave has to be prepared for the consequences no matter what because if anything happens to Andy he will likely have a whole lot of regrets no matter what. If he doesn’t pay the ransom then everyone will pile on him afterwards and blame him for the full event.

Dave gives it a lot of thought in both options and the way he handled it was great. Basically he turns it around by using the money to threaten the kidnapper directly. If you’re not going to pay the ransom then this is absolutely the way to go about it. It would be difficult for the kidnapper not to get nervous after a point because that is a ton of money to throw around and naturally there are few people you can trust at that point in time. It was a way to turn the tables and considering that Dave had pretty much 0 support, it was a good testament to his character. He was ready to sacrifice everything in order to make the best pick for Andy’s safety.

His wife Edith wasn’t quite on board with this though. It’s a stressful time so you understand why she is panicking a lot but as a result she really does not look good at all here. Edith never takes time out to try and listen to the ideas or anything and just cracks immediately and has to be put under sedation a few times. It would have been nice if she was a little more supportive so Dave could have had someone backing him up. Ultimately she did him no favors here and ended up being the weakest character.

There’s also Jim who is the head of police and he seems reasonable up to a point before he chooses the wrong side. He was one of the first people to float the idea that providing ransom money isn’t a good idea but ultimately the politics of the whole thing gets to him and he tries to take that back. Ultimately he gets back on the saddle but it takes a little while.

As a result I was a much bigger fan of Charlie. Charlie’s a reporter and so he’s seen this play out many times before. He’s someone you would want to use as a reference for a huge decision like this. Nothing is 100% of course and he stresses this a lot but at least he is able to give Dave a fresh perspective. He doesn’t back out on him either. So Charlie has a solid character arc where he starts off as someone who is only interested in the story and gradually becomes someone that Dave can count on. Considering that he started off as someone that Dave nearly beat up, I’d say he did well for himself.

The movie keeps up the tension throughout the whole film really well. At no point is there a break in this and you can see the characters getting tired over time. After all the longer this goes on, the more time the characters have to keep on second guessing themselves. The villain never truly appears beyond a quick silhouette from time to time which worked out well enough. The villain isn’t really one of the main points of focus after all. This film is really about dealing with the kidnapping itself and the social pressure that is causes. So in a way the kidnapper himself is of a secondary concern.

The social aspect was also handled well like with how everyone said Dave should pay the ransom because that’s just how it’s done. They don’t talk about how this would be helpful and that’s why Dave starts to give this more thought. It’s always a good thing to do since you shouldn’t just do something because it’s always been done that way. I don’t doubt that the town may have fully attacked Dave at some point if things didn’t go over well. During the film we already started to see them get a little intense like throwing rocks through the window after all.

The film has a satisfying ending though and ultimately there’s a good amount of replay value here. It may sound like that wouldn’t be the case since the whole thing takes place pretty much inside the apartment with the characters talking a lot but the writing is very good from start to finish so it’s never an issue. It’s why good writing is so important since you need that to keep the movie interesting. If there are no big fight scenes or visuals then writing will suddenly become the most important aspect.

Overall, Ransom! is a very fresh take on the kidnapping plot. I can’t think of any other titles that went about it in this way where it focuses on how the parents handle this in terms of complying or choosing not too. A lot of the dynamics for the social plot would certainly be different in a modern setting and I’d be interested in seeing how that’s tackled as well. Naturally a kidnapping is a fairly dark plot in and of itself so you’ll need to be able to take that if you’re going to enjoy the film. It’s all handled in a classy manner though without getting too grim. It keeps up the tension but it’s all about the atmosphere which is the best way to do it. I would definitely recommend checking this film out, it was really quite interesting.

Overall 7/10