Movie Review: Fort Defiance (1951) (repost)

fort_defiance-606622612-largeFort Defiance – 1951, Ben Johnson as Ben, Dane Clark as Johnny, and Peter Graves as Ned.

This is a movie with a simple plot. Lots of things happen because of that plot, but when you break it all down, it’s all because of this:

There’s this guy (Ben Johnson as Ben Shelby) whose brother was killed. He goes to the ranch home of the guy responsible for the death(s) (Johnny) but finds only that guy’s blind brother. Johnny is presumed dead and in the absence of a worthwhile target for it, Ben buries the hatchet. At this point, Injuns. Meanwhile, there’s a guy in town whose brothers were also killed by Johnny, and who wants to kill Johnny’s brother in revenge. And then Johnny shows up…

Meanwhile, I am left with my family issues making me wonder why everyone’s so almighty fired up about their brothers. So it’s possible a good chunk of this went straight over my head. This is a straight-up B-movie, but it tries hard, and it mostly even succeeds.

Rated: The best brother is a dead brother who leaves you a lot of money.

– This has a very good-looking Young Ben Johnson in it. (Not obsessed).
fortdefiancejohnson– The other, other good news is that Dane Clark and Peter Graves, when they show up, are good enough in their roles to make me go look up their names and include them in this list.

– So Ben, as Ben Shelby, is a gunslinging ex-Army man who shows up at a family ranch, saves the lives of blind Ned (from a rampaging horse) and Uncle Charlie (from rustlers), and claims that he’s a friend of missing big brother Johnny.

– Ben is actually, obviously, after Johnny for revenge of some sort. Johnny is revered by Ned, but Uncle Charlie himself knows or at least suspects the truth. Uncle Charlie is also strangely OK with the thought of a stranger coming to kill his nephew.

– Huh, Ben’s actually married and his wife has sent him a letter begging him to foreswear the vengeance and come home. If my studies of the genre are correct, what this means is that by the time he does go home, his wife will have either married someone else or moved to California.

– Ned doesn’t have the slightest clue that big brother Johnny is an outlaw loose and running. Until just now, that is, when Uncle Charlie told him Johnny got killed robbing a bank.

– Johnny was supposed to bring news to the Company that they were being outflanked; he (allegedly) surrendered instead. The Company was wiped out almost to a man and Ben lost his younger brother.

– So, with no quarrel with Ned or Uncle Charlie, Ben departs in peace for Fort Defiance.

– Ben comes back: he has decided to settle in Arizona, but there might be some complications turning up down the line…

– AHAHA THE IRONY. This new guy also lost two of his brothers in the battle, and now also blames Johnny. Ben has buried the hatchet and adopted Ned, but this guy wants to kill all Tallon brothers. I think Uncle Charlie is going to die covering the retreat…

– Yup.

– Oh screw you, mister. You killed Uncle Charlie, burying him “Christian” ain’t going to do nothing.

– …so who’s this….OH IT’S JOHNNY I BET! He met up with the burial detail! OH BOY. Yep, it’s Johnny. Well, good-bye for the burial detail…since there’s only one man needed for taking a message, he’s just offered them the chance to draw lots…and then he turned his back….

– Mind you, having his buddy keep them covered was just a smart move.

– And now they meet.

– FISTFIGHT! Johnny is cheating, because his buddy still has a gun. Get ‘im, Ben!

– Injuns!

– Johnny admits he did surrender, but won’t explain why. Ned, meanwhile, is panicking on Ben’s behalf. And running out into the open screaming during a gun battle. You know, normally this behavior would be reserved for the Damsel.

– Johnny did it because he knew the war was over and didn’t feel like risking his neck for anybody else.

– Ned: “Don’t do it, Ben, he’s fast, he’s too fast.”
Ben: “Yeah, I know, like a snake.”
Johnny: “And twice as nasty!”

– Johnny is heading for San Francisco and intends to take Ned with him.

– Good grief. Competitive coat-giving. And another fistfight. And they managed to wake Ned up, so what did that gain you?

– Ya know, if it’s cold, you could always just cuddle up together….(this is probably why Ben has an offscreen but very definitely real and human wife coming in on the stage).


– YYYYyyyyep ITS A GIRL (Ben hasn’t noticed yet)

– Oh, wait, it’s NOT his wife, she’s some girl who got run outa town. (Oh, she’s gonna be Ned’s girlfriend probably).

– She’s hoping to start a business in San Francisco….seamstressing, probably.

– “I found out she ain’t married.” “I reckon not.”

– Dude, you are probably about to DIE (well, as far as you know, you are. I know there’s still about twenty-five minutes to go). Asking a girl if you’re someone able to be loved should not be really high on your priority list.

– OH SERIOUSLY THEY’RE RIDING IN CIRCLES AROUND THE WAGON. Well, that’s a time-honored Injun tactic, at least, and we’ve got to stick with tradition.


– Johnny is taking the stage, Ned, and Miss Julie, leaving a knocked-out Ben and the stage driver one horse between them. Julie has managed to smuggle a gun on board, which Ned promptly appropriates. But Ben is soon on his way after them.

– Ned, like the idiot he is, attempts to pull said gun on Johnny. Ned, as we mentioned, is also blind. But it’s the only thing that can get through to Johnny, apparently.

– Aww, Johnny is going to raise some money….honestly.

– (Semi-honestly.)

– (Well, not all that honestly at all, but he will have provided both bills of sale and receipts.)

– Johnny really took over the last part of this movie, didn’t he? I would say he stole it from Ben, but Ben is more handsome so there’s really nothing to worry about.

– “Well, I guess Parker won’t bother us anymore.” Well, that was stone-cold murder, Ben.

– Awwww, and now Ben’s wife got there. The End. That was a little abrupt. And also didn’t Johnny just sell the ranch out from under you? And also you’re only able to be on that ranch because the government forcibly rounded up the Indians with whom you used to live peaceably, and your cattle still got rustled, but hey who’s overthinking it?

– Rated: Damn, Ben Johnson was fine when he was young. (Still not obsessed).

Movies with My Mother and Aunt and Uncles) – Maverick (1994)


“You’re taking notes? On what?”

“Something’s gonna crawl out of that bag…I guess.”
“Oh, it’s a snake.”
“Awww, lookit the li’l snake.”

“OK, I’m liking the scenery.”

“Mel Gibson? Thirty years ago? Ten years ago?”
“The man is old now!”
“He is not old…”

“Teehee, he’s on the donkey?”
“I’m surprised it’s going where he wants it to go.”
“Oh, it went.”

“He gave THEM the dollar?”
“And the mule.”


“They’re watching all the money he’s bringing.”
“A whole bunch of crooks.”
“I wonder when the hour is up, what then?…Ooo, she’s giving signs. Look, she’s giving signs.”

“Uh oh…uh oh….UH OH!” (my aunt).

“Is that the guy?”
“John Wesley Hardin?”
“What did he say his name was/”
“No, the gun guy.’
“Oh, it was him.”

“Uh oh!” (my mother)

“Should we–you should tell them what happens!”

“Why did he tell the boys they could shoot him?”
“Cause he didn’t like getting beat up.”
“But the whole thing was staged!”
“SORRY. Was that part of it?”

“Jody’s in love!”
“I thought she was married?”

“Ok, that was something. She got him already?”
” ‘May I’…what?”

“She’s so good.”
“Jody Foster is so good!”

“She took his wallet again!”

“Uh oh!”
“A real bank robbery! Heh!”

“He had a thousand!”

“He took the dollar!”

“They gave him more?”
“Probably. Here’s your 17, 30, 8…”
“He ripped them off!”

“Uh oh!” (my uncle).

“The thief and the old guy! Did you hear that? This is funny!”

“Oh boy.” (my mother).

“Uh oh.” (my aunt.)
“He’s dead!”

“For real-for real?”

“She in his wallet again!”

“…that saved a wretch like me?”
“Are you singing?”

“Rrr! Heheheh.”

“Bet you a dollar she’s stealing.”

“That is SO DUMB.”

“She took it? She stole the money?!”

“Did he call the horse Ollie?”

“Is that the same guy?”

“James Coburn! That’s James Coburn!”
“Oh! That’s him, I couldn’t remember his name!”

“That’s Denver Pyle.”
“Whoever that is.”
“…he was Uncle Jesse on Dukes of Hazzard?”
“He’s gonna jump!”

“He’s all outa money.”
” ‘But I was so close!’ ”

“This thing is a setup.”
“Which thing?”
“Which thing?”
“This thing. This whole thing.”
“….why would you say that.”
“It’s a setup.”

“What’s she want from him now?…oh.”
“He’s as bad as she is, he’s hiding his stuff.”
“She’s just gonna reach over and take it. With her skinny hands.”

“Uh oh.”

“That was Waylon Jennings!”
“The singer!”
“But who?”
“The guy they just threw overboard, who is a singer who was just singing the song just now!”

“Who did that?”
“Either her or James Coburn. James Coburn looks like a crook.”

“Four more bongs…one…”

“Uh oh!”
“Is that the dealer cheating?”
“The dealer is dealing for the Indian-looking guy.”
“He’s dealing off the bottom.”

“A full house?”
“Looks like.”

“UH OH!”

“With your Pappy nonsense again? Pappy says it’s an ace!”

“Look at those big blues…”

“He tricked him!”

“All these people supposed to have no guns, where’d that gun come from? Everybody’s got guns!”

“Uh oh!” (my aunt.)
“Uh oh!” (my mother.)

“It’s a little put-put boat!”

“Uh oh!”

“Something’s behind all this, I know it.”
“It’s her and James Coburn!”

“It’s a shame those dresses don’t come back in our time period.”
“They too much.”
“They’re beautiful!”

“He’s counting the money?”



“The man won the money fair and square! Why you gonna take it from him?”

“Uh oh.”
“Gonna drown him?”

“What! What! Oh my gosh!”
“That’s his FATHER?”
“Did you see that?”

“Uh oh!”


The Tattered Dress (1957) ((repost review))

film-poster-the-tattered-dress-1957-bpabrgThe Tattered Dress is a 1957 noir-slash-courtroom drama. And it’s an excellent little movie.

The opening scenes show a smiling woman in a torn-up dress waltzing home, not particularly concerned about this, but, in a nicely framed sequence (the camera remains outside the house, looking in through the opulent glass doors, without sound), the wind gets taken abruptly out of her sails when her husband grabs a gun. They ride back into town, and her husband coldly shoots down the man who ripped her dress.

Enter Jim Blane, a hotshot trial lawyer from New York (the setting is small-town Nevada). He’s damn good and he knows it. When the Restons (the couple from the opening scenes) wanted the best damn sleazeball criminal lawyer they could get, they went out and got him. But Jim, for better or worse, is isn’t merely a total heel, only mostly one. The next twenty-odd minutes are Blane setting up for the trial, making the acquaintance of the avuncular-but-way-smarter-than-he-looks Sheriff, Nick Hoak, making the much closer acquaintance of Mrs. Reston, and dodging the verbal jabs of his old friend/nemesis, a reporter who Has A Conscience and doesn’t mind tweaking Jim’s a little. (pwahaha, sometimes these old movies are adorable.)

Jim, an attack dog on the stand, interrogates Sheriff Hoak mercilessly, and manages to create enough of a doubt about Hoak’s credibility and the deceased’s character.  He gets the Restons off, and wow, he’s worth every penny they paid him, because that was textbook first degree murder.

Nevertheless, this is when the trouble really starts. See, Nick Hoak wasn’t pleased to be made a fool of on the witness stand. He’s especially not happy to have it done by an out-of-towner whom he made friendly overtures to earlier in the picture. He’s probably also not happy that the murderer of his friend got off scot-free, but mostly, it’s just the dent to his own prestige and power that smarts. A grand jury has subpoenaed Jim for bribing a juror–and with Hoak on the team doing the investigating, it seems incredibly unlikely to turn up any exculpatory evidence. Jim, to put it bluntly, is screwed unless he can (spot the irony) find a really good lawyer to defend him.

Spoiler: You know that old saying about a lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client?  Yep. Jim’s closing statement (after his aggressive tactics blow up in his face…twice) boils down to a naked plea to the jury: “Yes, I am a slimy criminal defense lawyer. I know it. I’m not proud of it. (Anymore). Also, I’m not guilty of the crime I am accused of, and you guys know it; please don’t put me in jail just because I deserve it on account of my other actions.” Another reviewer pointed out that he probably got off only because everyone in town knew how crooked the Sheriff was already. Nevertheless.

This is a movie driven by its performances: Jim, a mostly-heel who gets the wind knocked out of him and is forced to confront who and what he is, is well-portrayed by the chiseled Jeff Chandler (also see: Sign of the Pagan, Flame of Araby, Female on the Beach, although come to think of it, he’s a heel in all of those. I believe Chandler was somewhat more heroic in his Westerner roles). He’s someone who has enormous gifts, who has worked for them, and takes their rewards for granted–until they get him into trouble and there is no sign of them getting him out.


Nick Hoak (Jack Carson), the genial and corrupt ex-football player Sheriff is really good.–he’s exactly the mix of good-ol’-boy playing dumb, geniality, and concealed nastiness to make it clear from the outset that he’s way smarter, way tougher, and way more dangerous than he seems.

The third outstanding performance in this movie is by Jeanne Crain, as Diane Blane, Jim’s estranged, long-suffering wife. She won’t stand for her husband sleeping around on her, but she will stand with him to protect his future and their children’s. She’s really an excellent example of what Caroline Furlong designated a Type 3 heroine (click through for discussion on types 1-2 also): one whose power is in her emotional strength, and whose influence on the plot comes indirectly through her influence, rather than directly, through her actions (or action scenes.) Diane keeps Jim’s ego in check, encourages him, and gives him hope and strength when he needs it.–and does it all without sacrificing a shred of her self-respect, or once raising her voice or her hand. (At one point, Jim, hoping he’s going to get lucky, reminds her that they are still legally married. Diane matches his bedroom eyes and murmurs calmly back: “Did that stop you with Charleen Reston?” Burn unit, stat.) And, if that still sounds like faint praise, let me add that the proof might be in the viewing. I ended the movie with a resounding admiration for Diane Blane, because she is one strong, classy lady in a way you don’t often see.

Also playing her part quite well (but with only a few scenes to do it in) is Gail Russell (also see: Wake of the Red Witch), who mostly has to look frightened, and then also to look (spoiler!) murderous. Also of interest: the trampy Mrs. Reston was played by Elaine Stewart, who played Audie Murphy’s good-girl love interest in Night Passage. Okay, maybe not that interesting, but interesting that’s a good little movie, too. It also has Dan Duryea and Jimmy Stewart. Man, we used to have actors, didn’t we…

Rated: Five rigged poker games out of five.

Wolves (2014) – Movie Review

So a while ago I watched Wolves, which TVTROPES helpfully describes as a 2014 throwback to old-fashioned monster movies. It’s a throwback of some kind, but, and y’know what, it’s wins Best In Show to my eye. It’s got monstrous–but charismatic–villains, quirky side characters who are allowed to be characters, a heroic hero who matures and changes; a damsel who might need rescuing, but only once and only from the big bad, not the mooks, which I feel is a totally fair scenario. Also, I really needed something decent and non-brain-challenging to watch today.

Anyhow, in my book, a good movie, regardless of genre or ultimate letter grade does several things:

– Leans into it’s concept and lets the story build on the ideas inherent into it. Werewolf = super strength = I can throw these haybales into the barn loft single-handed. Compare and contrast this to Outlander (2008), which does do not a single stinking thing with it’s concept. You’ve got space marine plus vikings vs alien monster! And it did nothing with it! The space marine loses his space armor and space guns immediately; the vikings never go sailing, pillaging, or really get to do any effective fighting, let alone with bearded axes; and the entire movie could have been transplanted somewhere else, such as the modern day, with only changes to the dialogue–not the plot, not the characters, not the setup. Hell, it could just as easily have been Cowboys ‘n Injuns vs Alien Monsters. Admittedly, I’d watch that movie, but only if it starred Ben Johnson.

– Allows characters other than the main leads to have personalities. A lot of stories fall into the trap of having secondary characters exist only for the sake of helping and bolstering the hero’s story. Hero falls off a cliff? The mentor is hanging around at the bottom to pick up the pieces, for no other reason than the plot needed them to be there. Hero has lost clothes and guns in a freak boating accident? A kindly old couple by the lakeside have nothing else better to do with their deceased son’s clothes and guns than provide them to some naked rando who just swam ashore. Hero breaks into the vet’s office to steal medicines? The veterinarian stitches him up free of charge, and let me tell you that is the most unrealistic version yet. At best, you’re getting half off on the tranquilizers, and we had to wake up the tech for X-rays, so you’re paying full price for those. In this movie? When the heroine meekly asks if his wife might, perhaps, have a spare blouse, John promptly gives a squint-eyed grin and hollers for his wife to take off her shirt. Or the heroine’s drunk sister loudly declaring that she knew it, she recognized Cayden’s scent the first time she smelled it…okay, fine, we all did, but I DID IT FIRST! Or the town wolves’ subdued resentment against Cayden for…existing?

Lets things happen promptly. The very most basic thing that separates good of any grade, any genre, any kind or type, from bad is: the plot keeps moving along the correct path, without either random digressions or extraneous padding.

Then there are the more minor–but still important–things this movie does right. And all of these are worth expounding on, but I’m getting hungry, so suffice it to say that I really appreciate:

– This movie allows for the fact that your audience is human, and wants to see law-abiding / morally-sound humans win and dangerous animals (or criminals who look and act like them) lose.

– The mere and simple fact that rifles and ANFO bombs beat werewolves, and it’s without the kind of ridiculous escalation you’d see in a higher-budget movie or a Monster Hunter Nation story (GUN! OTHER GUN! BIGGER GUN! ANOTHER BIGGER GUN WITH BIGGER BULLETS! ANOTHER WEREWOLF WITH BIGGER JAWS! FLAMETHROWER! SMALLER GUN WITH SILVER BULLETS! MORE GUNS! And then by that time you have to beat the poor thing over the head a couple of times to put it out of your misery. Unnecessary and excessive.) I like this take a lot better. A healing factor is a healing factor, not a restore-life-from-last-save-point factor when you’ve just gotten a major artery punctured by high velocity lead injection, or your brain has been scrambled by a hollowpoint to the eyesocket. Or your arms and legs have been torn off and the stumps cauterized by explosives. (Note: this movie is rated, at most, PG-13. There is no excessive gore, nudity, or costly violence.)

– A heroic hero. Cayden starts out conflicted. He makes mistakes and hurts people–but regrets it and struggles against his darker nature. He also makes mistakes when he tries to fight without going all the way–and learns that sometimes, you have no choice but to fight to kill. And even then, being a hero, Cayden offers his enemies one last chance out. Caden is allowed to use violence, and he becomes, through the course of the movie, someone who can use it responsibly.

The miscellaneous: there’s smoking in this movie. Tollerman and Connor both smoke Cool Guy pipes and Wild Joe puffs on a wild-boy cigar. Somehow you don’t see that very much, these days.

The bad: honestly, the worst I have to say about it is that the transformed werewolves (humans in slightly-ripped but generally bicep- or midriff-baring clothing + furry wolf masks) look silly, and the fight scenes are correspondingly underwhelming.

The cast: Lucas Till and Stephen McHattie are both excellent. Till plays a square-jawed yet fresh-faced and cowlicked hero with enough conviction to make me mostly overlook the fact that he’s…not an actor with a great range. On the other hand, he’s well-written, and he’s got enough nuance in his voiceover / narration performance to pull it off. McHattie, though, steals the show in every scene he’s in. On paper, he’s the standard mentor/paterfamilias figure…in practice, he’s sly, cool, dignified, clever, and completely in command of both his pipe, the camera, and his southern drawl. Jason Momoa is his standard gruff-voiced alpha (huh) male. The guy might have good abs but you will not convince me he’s a good actor. Also, the guy who plays Wild Joe, whose name I did not remember to look up on IMDB before writing this, is very good, although honestly all he has to do is ham it up and go RRRAAA once or twice. He hams very well.

Merritt Patterson, as the female lead…doesn’t get as much from the script as Till does, as is therefore a lot blander. Still, she does her best at a moderately thankless damsel / love-interest, and as such isnt’t bad. Her semi-alcoholic sister was a lot more entertaining to watch and arguably cuter, but never mind. It’s bad show to have alcoholic love interests, and love interests don’t necessarily need personalities, anyway. And…honestly, that’s about it.

The plot: So things are good for Cayden Slaughter (subtle, movie, subtle.) He’s a football QB, aka local demigod, in a small town; has loving parents and a hot girlfriend–and yet things are somehow wrong. His parents are worried about his recurring nightmares; his flashes of inexplicable strength and dramatic rage cause outright injury to a football rival…not to mention that no girl likes being bitten full-on, in the face, or viciously clawed during a makeout session. The idea he’s losing his mind seems to be promptly proven right when he wakes up one morning to find blood on his hands and his parents….slaughtered. Oh, and a patrol car rolling up since his now-ex girlfriend reported him for assault.

It takes all of five minutes for this to happen. See what I said about things moving promptly?

Cayden is horrified, terrified, and grieving. But pragmatic. He goes on the run for an unspecified amount of time, trying to stay ahead of his terrible killer instinct–or abilities. This lasts for all of one scene, at which point we the audience are reassured that, yes, Cayden is the hero here. He wolfs out again–semi-voluntarily, to rescue a truck stop lot lizard from a couple of abusive bikers–leaving them dead, her alive and running away screaming, and himself with a new ride and leather jacket. (Also incidentally, we and Cayden learn from a TV broadcast that he was adopted.)

But we’re dealing with a young, clean-cut hero here. Cayden isn’t the kind of grizzled, weary anti-hero who can or intends to live this kind of life for his entire, well, life. We, the audience, get to hear his narrated thoughts. He has been looking for a solution….it’s just that there seems to be one way out: suicide.

Fortunately (or so it seems) for Cayden, at this point he meets Wild Joe, a loner werewolf who points him in the direction of Lupine Ridge (SUBTLE, MOVIE), where most of the werewolves live and the most vicious secretive pack on God’s green Earth are, before vanishing to the roof to watch him go. (I just noticed that Cayden apparently motorcycles through St. Louis on his way to Lupine Ridge. Okay, random way of showing he’s traveling through the midwest, especially since he’s supposed to be keeping a low profile on the run, but sure.)

So anyhow, Cayden finally arrives in Lupine Ridge and instantly finds himself the center of attention at the only bar in town. Which might be a good thing when the attention is coming from the hot bartender, but is less so when it’s also coming from the rough-looking type at a table in the back (Jason Momoa: Connor [wait for it] Slaughter), or from the calm old guy at a corner booth who smokes a pipe and watches what goes on without speaking (John McHattie: John Tollerman). Or the shifty guy who tries to pick a fight (some actor.) Or the other shifty kind of guy who just stares a lot (some actor: some shifty guy who will meet no good end. I think his arm gets bitten off.)

Tollerman offers Cayden (aka Danny) a job on his farm and things seem to be going well for a while (read: for the space of one scene.) A home is offered, no prying is done, and no questions are asked, even with Cayden hauling gigantic rocks out of the ground by hand and hurling 50-pound haybales into the hayloft without tools and scaring the animals just by walking past. Oh, and chopping wood shirtless. That’s always a good sign.

Cue Connor-Momoa showing up to ask said questions instead. Tollerman covers: Danny is his nephew, whom he originally didn’t recognize at first; and incidentally, Danny, stay out of Connor’s way.

The next morning, there’s a slaughtered (GEDDIT), gutted sheep in one of the pens. Tollerman, however, seems to blame hungry wolves from up in the hills…what else could it be, Danny boy? OH HAH, THEY’RE HAVING LAMB FOR SUPPER BUT CAYDEN CHOOSES TO START WITH SALAD LOL HOW DID I MISS THAT BEFORE. Good one, movie.

Anyhow, Cayden also pursues a closer acquaintance with the hot bartender (Merritt Patterson: Angelina), in defiance of the advice given him by the shifty-eyed guy–who warns him to get out of down before he gets them all killed. He doesn’t know who Cayden is, but he’ll figure it out and when he does, man….(cue both of them noticing that Connor is on the other side of the parking lot, smoking a pipe and watching, uh oh.)

Hot Bartender Angel and Cayden bond over both being orphans, as people tend to.

Meanwhile, shifty-eyed guy is executed by wolf after a brief interrogation. Honestly, I realize that running is really the natural reaction, but surely there’s a point at which someone is going to try and climb a tree…or put their back to it and try to fight. Oh well. Angel and Cayden stumble over the evil wolf camp in the woods, where the pack is, well, they’re eating him.

Angel reveals that, yes, she knows about it; she knows Cayden is a wolf; and the Tollermans also reveal that they (HAH) TiVo’d the news report about him. Mr. Tollerman is a wolf, too. In fact, most of the townspeople are, and Cayden really is his nephew. His mother, Lucinda, was his sister’s daughter–a pureblooded werewolf of the old lines. Connor raped Lucinda; the Tollermans took her in, faked her death, and then adopted Cayden out…only for Lucinda to commit suicide and Connor to run completely off the rails.

There’s been an arrangement for years: the wild pack runs in the hills (and has been steadily devolving, spending less time in human form and more time as animals); the town wolves tend to live totally as humans, intermarrying with them (“I just like men with chest hair”) and both sides are supposed to keep a low profile and maintain the secret. Problem is: Connor’s getting older, and he wants a pure-bred son. With Angel–the last remaining pureblood. And Angel, lest her remaining family be murdered, perforce has to go along with it.

Our hero and heroine bond some more over being orphans…Caden self-made, and Angel’s via murder-suicide. She and her sister have never managed to decide whether it was the wolf, the man, or the alcohol that did it. Angel tries to reassure him that he doesn’t have the soul of a killer, and also that being a wolf can be kind of a sweet deal, actually. Especially if your girlfriend is also a wolf as well. (Tollerman is very careful to announce his presence before he enters the barn, one discrete timelaps later.)

Next on the agenda is a council of war….but the town wolves aren’t very sanguine about their chances against the wild ones–especially if Connor finds out that his destined babymama has been fooling around with the stranger from out of town. Some of them are basically fully human and haven’t changed shape in years. (“Yeah, I can barely grow my sideburns anymore. Just a little fuzz. Hic!”) They’re totally willing to overlook livestock going missing, children going missing, and Angel being given to Connor…

…Cayden isn’t. “Stay in your homes tonight. And lock your doors.” See what I said above, about heroes. I like this one. [Oh boy, I’m visualizing my next attempted watch party…]

Unfortunately, since we’re only about halfway through the movie, what happens is a) Connor finds out that Cayden is Lucinda’s son, b) doesn’t care, c) Cayden gets his ass kicked and d) barely manages to throw himself off a cliff to presumed-certain death but actual safety. In his defense, he’s fighting an entire pack of people in biker vests and fuzzy masks sorry, wolves. Also, e) Caydenwolf has a poofy cowlick just like the human form does, lol.

Anyhow, who should turn up at this point but Wild Joe, a barely less undesirable alternative to the actual pack of veral wolves. But he does provide Cayden enough impetus to get up and limp back home to Angel and Tollerman, and, once Cayden regroups (seems that wolfing out + vigorous wolfy exercise is the secret to instant healing), the council of war reconvenes. It’s a council of two, and they’re the only people who can or will fight. They have no choice but to, at this point! But at this point, they’re going to fight smart.

Cue ANFO and shotguns, and needless to say, I officially love this movie. Mind you, this movie doesn’t appear to actually know what ANFO is, because the bombs appear to be made of cow manure and gunpowder from shotgun shells stuffed into burlap sacks, but at least they tried.

But Connor moves faster than expected, snatches the home folk, and leaves a cordial wedding invitation written in what’s either blood or very smeary red ink. Huh. Which is it? I consider this a decent question because all parties, when we see them that night at the, uh, party, appear to be in one piece–including Clara and John. So…where did the red ink come from? Were those invites printed off ahead of time or written ahead of time? I mean…that would kind of make more sense than carrying around a bottle of liquid ink, right? Or did one of the pack wolves cut themselves and write it?

Anyhow. Party. Connor, it might be added, is wearing a gigantic pimp coat + hat. One wonders if that’s what Momoa showed up in and they just had to roll with it, because it looks even stupider than his usual outfits. ConnorMomoa is playing this off a bit weirdly, too, actually–he’s been fairly intense and straightforward so far, but at this point he’s going for a bit of broad comedy and it’s weird. Funny, but weird. I guess he’s supposed to be drunk and playing to the crowd. Nevertheless.

(Angel is dressed up in a strategically-shredded white dress and she’s also tied to a tree and drugged.)

So, by the way, remember that shifty guy from the beginning who I thought got his arm ripped off? My bad, he actually gets his throat cut when Cayden takes out the sentries. Nice.

Anyhow, Cayden arrives in time to object to the wedding, fling Connor’s delusions of wolfhood in his face, and then….not get his ass kicked, because this time he’s fighting the way a hero should fight when the time comes to fight: all-out. No, that’s not the point of this scene. The point is, BIG FIGHT, MUCH RARRR, and this time even Angel gets in on the action. She breaks Tollerman out of the cage–to go enact part B of the plan AKA things go explodey down at the farm–but stays with the human Clara and her almost-human sister Gail to guard them. (That’s actually very smart play on the filmmakers’ part, since it allows for the heroes to run around and do hero menfolk things with the focus on the action, without crowding the battlefield and storyline with excess characters.)

Cayden, like a hero does, gives his enemies one last warning. Then some things go boom and a bunch of wolves get killed, including one who gets shot in the head while he’s standing in the middle of the front yard arguing with Connor, oh that was delicious. NICE. Then they get lured into the barn and the barn blows up all explodeylike, except that Connor leaps out of the flames and tears off his vest which would be a lot more interesting if he wasn’t all FurryMomoa at the moment, MOVIE.

Anyhow, FurryMomoa fights Cowlickwolf. Much GRR. Shwoosh arrrr vrrrr. Etc. And if you’re wondering why John Tollerman, with his rifle, isn’t just shooting the villain, it’s because a) Cayden tells him not to, b) he was reloading. Connor, with his dying breath (I presume it’s dying, anyway, because he turns back into a shirtless Jason Momoa, and OF COURSE THE CAMERA STAYS STEADFASTLAY ABOVE HIS CLAVICLE) protests that he actually loved Lucinda and had to take the fall for her getting pregnant so her father wouldn’t kill her.

At this point, Wild Joe turns up to taunt Connor a bit. Turns out, Wild Joe was exiled from town by Connor’s father (for being too wild…the mind boggles)…and now, poetic irony, the son destroys the father whose father destroyed the son and also who ate the brother, how the table turns, best served cold, etc, except that in Wild Joe’s case he probably just bashes it against a rock so it quits wiggling and blows on it a couple of times. Joe is, in fact, so busy gloating that he lets slip that he actually killed Cayden’s adoptive parents.

(“You did what?”

So Cayden attacks Wild Joe and gets punched in the face, at which point Connor attacks Wild Joe and Wild Joe rips his throat out. Joe then turns his attentions back to Cayden, but then Tollerman shoots him nonfatally a couple of times or at least until he runs out of ammo and Joe falls over. (“You were never too wild for this town, Joe–just too crazy.”)

Wild Joe then has the nerve to say that wolves–real wolves–only kill for food, or defense. Woooh boy, where to start with that one. a) not true, b) even if so, it doesn’t help your case, c) you’re a moron who just admitted you killed the hero’s adoptive parents in order to manipulate him, killed his biological father, attacked and brutalized him, twice, and then begged for help. And we get the most satisfying line in the movie: “I’m not a wolf, Joe. I’m a human being.”

It’s at this point Joe realizes he’s standing on a bomb, and Cayden is holding a lit match.

So now it’s all over but for burying the bodies in the soybean field and getting breakfast and loading up the motorcycle for a long ride, destination: Dunno, Uncle John, Angel wants to go ANYWHERE THAT IS OUTSIDE OF LUPINE RIDGE. Uncle John bids them goodbye and warns them to be careful of sequel hooks, uh, I mean, werewolves.

So, yeah. That’s this movie. It’s actually pretty good.


Twins of Evil (1971) – Attempted Watch Party

“So Riders, what are we watching?”
“Okay, so, there’s this movie about this man, who is a man of God and he smites evil.”
“Sounds good!”
“And then his nieces show up and he ends up driving them to evil and then he regrets it.”
“Still sounds good….let’s start it!”
“Why are you grinning like that, Riders?”

“Is this old-timey kind of movie?”
“I mean, is it set in old times, or does it have old actors?”

“I guess.”
“Puritan, right?”
“Yeah, but they have crucifixes and they make the sign of the cross. I think the filmmakers just got confused.”

“Just like that?! Just like that they burning her?”
“Was it like that really?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, in America they did have vigilantes, and they did go around and accuse people and they did burn witches.”
“This isn’t America.”

“Are those real twins?”

“I saw a black man.”

“So who is this man? Him who is fooling around with the girl? Is he a Puritan, too?”
“He is in black and white, too, look.”
“That’s ’cause he’s in his underwear!”
“That’s a lot of underwear.”

“Oh! They are going to become bad girls. So thus they are twins of evil. I get it now, ahhh.”

“OHHHH HE BETTER NOT GO IN THERE WITH THEM!…phew! He evil, man! He’s the one who needs to be burned at the stake.”
“Well, he’s trying to smite evil.”

“I mean…I’d personally not be all that fired up about pleasures beyond the grave.”

“He gon’ kill her?”
“He gon’ kill her? Riders. Put the other one on”
“Yes, Riders what is that other one you said with the soldier who has to rescue his daughter?”
“Aww you guys, we didn’t even get to the bit with the vampires yet!”
“There are vampires in this movie?”

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) – Movie Review

v88jsf9oc4vd2egwhgclagfs87So I have been a fan of Peter Cushing for a long time, and who hasn’t? He’s been the Grand Moff Tarkin, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Blyss (aka, Dr. Syn, the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh), Van Helsing….and….Victor Frankenstein. (Also, apparently, Mr. Darcy in a TV Pride and Prejudice miniseries? Hah. I’d pay money to see that. Can you even begin to imagine the snideness?) Christopher Lee–not that you would recognize him, or want to–also got his start in this movie, because, I guess, if you’re 6’5 and really good at shambling and glaring, you’ve got it made. And then there’s also Robert Urquhart as Paul Kempe and a couple of miscellaneous 60s-era Hammer Horror babes as the love interests. Obviously, though, the show belongs to Cushing and Lee.

Basically, I don’t have a lot to say extra about this movie. It’s perfectly cast, it’s fast-moving, it’s scary (or at least horrifying, or at least it is to me), it’s got thrills and kills and, if you have about 90 minutes of your life and nothing else worthwhile to do, it’s a pretty good way to fill that time.

So the movie begins with a minister paying a visit to the imprisoned Baron Frankenstein, who, even knowing he is within a few hours of the gallows, is more intent on insisting to the impassive padre that he listen to his side of the tale. This leads us directly into flashback-land. Turns out, Victor was an arrogant–and highly intelligent–twerp from puberty on up, with a keen interest in biology and a keener sense of his own importance.

He, together with his once-tutor and later co-discoverer, Paul, bring a drowned puppy to life. Exactly why this involves things as many bubbling and/or gently steaming beakers in as many colors as it does is kind of a mystery, but science! I suppose. Frankeinstein 2Paul is jubilant at the thought of the practical medical and scientific knowledge they can share….Victor, on the other hand, is all for keeping their newfound powers, er, I mean, scientific discoveries, to himself. Ourselves, I mean. Until they’ve perfected it! Until they create the perfect man! The man with the hands of the artist and the mature brain of a genius!

Now….just to be clear, Paul takes some convincing. Just….not a lot. And you’d think that outright gibbet-robbing would take more than a single “we are like unto gods” monologue, but it’s with barely more than a dubious expression he helps Victor collect a body. And then we get a brilliant line: “What are you going to do with that?” “Take the head off. It’s no use to me, anyway.”

The giant, open-topped vat of acid in the back room, however, could potentially be exceedingly important, er, I mean useful.

Victor, struck by a sudden flight of scientific inspiration, dips out. I will take a moment to say that no one other than Peter Cushing could play this role this way: someone completely devoted to their vision of science! (and also personal gratification therein,) utterly lacking in morals, but also deeply steeped in polite behavior and gentlemanly manners and as such, completely at ease within the standards of admittable behavior in society. Also, he looks really good in a cravat (why did those things go out of style in the first place?)

Frankenstein 5
Oooh, Mister Darcy!

This is perhaps why he has not one but two love interests: the housemaid Justine, with whom he is already having an affair; and Elizabeth, his cousin, with whom he has an arranged marriage upcoming. Elizabeth arrives somewhat early, and there’s what would be, in less competent hands, a wonderfully awkward four-way, eight-sided discussion when she, Justine, Paul, and then Victor all meet up in the doorway.

Then Victor dips straight out again, because he’s, well, got to go put his new stolen hands into a bubbling beaker before they start to go bad or something.

Paul tries to impress on him that it’s about time to stop. Why, you might ask? Is it because going cross-country to steal a dead artist’s hands off his body is the action of a crazy person? Nope. Is it because it’s illegal? Nope. Is it because by meddling with Things Man Was Not Meant To Know is intrinsically harmful to sanity and humanity? Nope. Is it because that vat of acid definitely doesn’t meet OSHA standards? Of course not.

It’s because a) the hot girl who just walked in would be pretty disturbed to find that her fiance is trying to resurrect the dead, you are interested in hot girls, Victor, right? Right? Victor, are you listening to me? Victor? Oh, and also, b) I’m interested in hot girls and also my sanity.

So Paul attempts to persuade Elizabeth to leave. Unfortunately, she’s attached to the idea of marrying Victor.

Victor, meanwhile…


Anyhow, Paul sidles up to the laboratory (did you pronounce that with five syllables?). Victor attempts to gloat to him a bit, but is put back on the defensive by his erstwhile tutor’s insistence that what he’s doing is evil and reckless. Once again, not that he really recognizes it as defense, he’s mostly just hurt and puzzled that his brilliant ideas aren’t being recognized and lauded the way they should be. Well, yes, true, the Creature is hideous. And yes, he’s been robbing graves (“What doctor or scientist doesn’t?”–the man has a point), but as far as the actual mind, he’s planning on implanting only the best! in his Creature. The brain of a genius. Of superior intellect. Of a lifetime of knowledge!

Also, he’s just invited the illustrious, elderly Professor Bernstein for a visit.


So naturally, about thirty seconds later, Victor is down in the vault prying the lid off the coffin. He’s just gotten the brain into a glass jar when Paul wanders in. Y’know, got to wonder about Paul: he absolutely knows what’s going on is beyond wrong–for reasons apart from the approval or disapproval of hot girls–not to mention illegal; but he really isn’t doing anything about it. He attempts to apprise Victor of the wrongness of this path, but he never actually uses any persuasive tack that Victor would actually recognize, such as: society will never recognize your genius; or, you will get in trouble for this and your work will be destroyed and ignored. Not to mention, the only time he raises an actual finger to stop Victor is now…and he half-asses it utterly, too.

Paul succeeds in smashing the glass jar against the wall–causing Victor to show the first actual emotional distress in the entire movie–and then follows up by….leaving the room. He then goes to Elizabeth and tries to convince her to leave, too. But, note, without using any words to the effect of, “Victor is doing immoral and illegal acts up in his laboratory (FIVE SYLLABLES), he’s not gonna stop, we need to get out of here before everything blows up in his face and ours.” In fact! When Elizabeth asks what is up in that laboratory (FIVE SYLLABLES!) he specifically denies that it’s “Wicked or insane.”–merely that Victor is blind to the consequences of his actions.


Elizabeth, as any woman would who is hearing bad things about the man a man she is dependent on and also desperately wants to be in love with, throws him out.

(Victor is fishing glass shards out of the Professor’s brain and apparently doesn’t like the odds on snagging another genius brain, because he’s started procedures going in the Tank of Bubbles.) Needless to say, there’s also a thunderstorm going on. Having started the flywheel at full speed ahead and all supplementary flasks at Maximum Bubble, Victor goes off to ask Paul for help….only for a direct lightning strike to supercharge the generators while they’re still downstairs arguing.

(Victor has the most amazing fraction-of-a-second almost-smile before the Creature reveals his face and then tries to strangle him, but I can’t freeze-frame quickly enough to get a screenshot of it.)

And then by the next morning, it’s escaped into the woods, where an old blind man and a cute young boy are gathering wood by the side of a river, and, interestingly, the Creature is wearing clothes now. It–he?–also seems at least as much discombobulated by the terrified blind man as he is of him….at first, anyway.

Anyway, the safari catches up with the Creature pretty soon, and then Paul shoots it in the face with a shotgun, which can’t be good for what’s left of it’s (his??) brain, either. And now he’s dead and they bury it.


Man, these guys. These guys! AS THEY ARE BURYING THE BODY OF A STITCHED-TOGETHER CORPSE MADE OF PARTS THEY HAVE ACTIVELY ROBBED FROM GRAVES, Paul is still going on about how Victor has done “monstrous acts”, “monstrous,” I tell you! Done with that shovel yet? No? Tamp down that end of the mound a little bit more, ‘kay? And Victor, for his part, is going “I’ll never forgive you for this. Evah! Wait, where are you storming off to? COME BAAAACK!” YOU GUYS ARE MORONS.

Naturally, the next scene is Victor in his laboratory (five syllables), and Paul walking in to bid his farewell. He’s no longer needed there, after all, of course. NOT THAT HE DID A DAMN THING WHILE HE WAS THERE, MIND YOU, but whatever. His work is done. You know, after having helped raise and educate this man, and stood beside him while he started his work, and then stood back while he continued it, done. Whatever lets you sleep at night, man.

Victor, meanwhile….

Frankenstein 14
Name a more iconic duo.


So, no matter what else you can say about this movie, it’s got multiple things going for it: the actors, their performances, the tight scripting and fast pace…and by golly, it’s got the very freakiest of freaky designs for The Creature. Apparently Christopher Lee had to eat his lunches alone, because no one else on set wanted to sit anywhere near him. Dude.

Victor is a fairly simple creature, really. All he wants to do is be left alone (with the occasional other person to come by now and again and tell him how brilliant he is) to work on his projects, and also screw over conduct household affairs in peace. Whyyyy?! this can’t just happen is something of a mystery to him. And to him only. The former (Paul) source of gratification has gone, and the latter is about to blow up in his face, as Justine reveals that she’s pregnant, jealous, and desperate.

Thing is, despite his single-mindedness and arrogance, Victor isn’t actually stupid, and he’s a fairly adept manipulator when he wants to be and when he actually can understand what people want and are motivated by. Unlike Paul, who has always been wishy-washy, Justine doesn’t make any bones of the fact that she wants Victor to marry her or else she’ll turn him over the authorities.

Now, here’s another thing to say about this movie: it moves fast. There really isn’t any wasted time: things happen. For instance: we skip directly from ahead ahead to the wedding rehearsal. Or at least, to some guy rehearsing his wedding toasts before his wife drags him off.

Contrast this with Victor’s brush-off of Elizabeth as he heads straight back to the laboratory. (FIVE SYLLABLES!) Paul arrives, gormless as ever, and heads up to the laboratory (FIVE SYLLABLES!), where oh my gosh, Victor is preparing some food for the Creature?! OH MY GOSH. THIS MOVIE.

OKAY, I’m not sure whether it’s my lunch sitting queasily or it’s really just this movie hitting home the way it does, but this is genuinely disturbing to me. Like, seeing the Creature tied up, and then it hides its face, it’s creeping me the hell out.

Victor has to have a gloat, naturally, and then has to display his mastery over the Creature for Paul’s benefit. Oh ye gods. Credits to Christopher Lee, it’s really genuinely disturbing to watch it flail around to obey while he orders it up and down like a dog. (Although I also think that curry mix was expired.) And, naturally, Paul isn’t impressed with this–especially when Victor points out that the damage to the superior brain was his fault to begin with.

But! The final straw! Is when Victor admits that, well, try and try again. And again. And again! if need be. With superior brains each time, naturally. Paul storms out to notify the law for real this time….WALKING DIRECTLY PAST ELIZABETH AND OUT THE DOOR AT WHICH POINT VICTOR ALSO RUSHES PAST HER AND OUT THE DOOR ALSO.

Did we mention that the laboratory (FIVE SYLLLABLES) is unlocked and standing open right now?

ARGH. Also, B-T-DUBS, there is a grand total of five minutes left in this movie. Wow.

Anyhow, all parties (except Paul, who has buggered off again, NATURALLY), end up on the roof, Elizabeth gets shot, the Creature gets set on fire and did we mention that giant vat of acid? Yeah.

We cut back to the jail cell, where Victor is trying to persuade the preacher and then Paul turns up to…be completely passive-aggressive and refuse to utter a word about this whole business, leaving Victor–you know, the man he TAUGHT FROM A, yes, indeed, snotty and obnoxious and arrogant, KID–there to scream incoherently and die with everyone believing he’s an insane criminal murderer.

Well, I mean, yeah, it’s true, but it’s true for the wrong reasons, and Paul’s still a little bitch.


And then Baron Frankenstein is led to the guillotine, THE END.

A sequel, you say?

DNF Movie Review – Occupation: Rainfall (2020)

Operation-Rainfall-600x873 TLDR: it starts of really quite well, and then it lost me about thirty minutes in, just about when the plot killed any good will I had towards an action-heavy, low-cringe opening.


The blurb–and the opening voiceover narration–tells me that this movie is set two years after an alien invasion struck Earth in two waves, first by a drone bombardment from orbit, then by actual invasion. The invasion was thwarted, as these tend to be, by a “handful” of brave men and women rather than, y’know, the combined might of the world’s militaries; but the second wave is proving harder to deal with.

Right off the bat, this movie gets on my right side, because it gets straight into the business of us watching a handful of “brave men and women” fighting aliens…like, right into it, and it’s got things I like, like air support, and helicopters, and radio chatter, and lasers, and less than seven minutes in someone says the mission is a go, which is always fun. (pause here to note that someone, presumably our hero, flips off an alien with a grenade pull-ring on his finger. HAH.) With one very brief exception, there has been no exposition so far and actually, as of ten minutes, no cringe.

But that may change. Oh, and it’s also set in Australia.

There are also some aliens who don’t want the war to continue, and are helping, supplying, or fighting with the humans. They aren’t very well regarded by the humans who have lost friends and family members to, y’know, alien warfare.

There is also a hot Asian chick and a slightly less hot Australian chick who flies a fighter jet. Both of them show rather more cleavage than is professional in an apocalyptic military situation. I mean….are uniform dress codes really going to go that far downhill after the apocalypse? The guys aren’t going around shirtless. They seem to be in decent order. Odd and also, come to think of it, universal in the lower class of post-apocalyptic movie. Terminator (the good one) did not have this–the soldier girl was wearing pretty much an identical uniform to Kyle. Hm. Mad Max (the second one) didn’t have this, either. The Warrior Woman wore the same kind of cobbled-up hockey pads as the guys. Uh…The Blood of Heroes (that movie with Rutger Hauer, you know. The one I haven’t actually watched yet)–that one didn’t have excess cleavage, either, but it was about professional touring athletes, not soldiers. Well, semi-pro. Well. Kinda.


So! At the briefing, the squadron leader guy (who is less handsome than the flipping-off-aliens guy and therefore less a) important, b) heroic) is in favor of evacuating Sydney along with all civilians. Some older guy with an indescribable accent points out that they’re still finding civilians. Also, something something, send a ground recon, any volunteers? (Hot Soldier Guy volunteers. I have a feeling he prepared for this role by watching Black Rifle Coffee Company videos, because he’s got that exact attitude and beard.) The other person going along is one of the alien defectors, and they’re riding space horses. What, were regular horses too expensive to film? Were ATVs too expensive to film? Sheesh.

Y’know, now I want to see a movie with the heroes riding tactical side-by-sides into battle.

Black Coffee Soldier Guy continues to act with consummate unprofessionalism towards his alien ally, but never mind, the evac is beginning and jets go vroom and doors go slam, and it’s actually very exciting until it stops happening one brief montage later, hmph. The unprofessionalism continues when the civilian Grays–females and juveniles–are also left behind/refused to be let on the transports, despite Hot Asian Chick speaking up for them.

Anyway, Sydney goes boom.

OK, honestly, I’m bored at this point and don’t really know or like any of the characters except Gary the Alien (Lawrence Makoare, AKA Lurtz, Gothmog, and the Witch King of Angmar). Not that they’re poorly written!–everyone so far is pretty distinct. But they are unlikable.

This movie needed to strip down, go bare-bones on the plot, go small-scale. Take us minute-by-minute on the evacuation. Go house to house rescuing the civilians. Show our heroes going down to the last bullet. Or something like that. That’s how it kind of started out, and being down at the ground level is an interesting and new perspective on an alien invasion (Battle: Los Angeles the only other example I personally could name), without pretending that your heroes are going to make a massive difference in the outcome of the war all on their own–but acknowledging that they can make a difference by saving some lives right here, right now. A ragtag band of brave men and women successfully getting a convoy of refugees out of a warzone? That’s interesting. Saving the entire world and winning the war at one cunning stroke? Dude…it’s been done before and it was boring and unconvincing every single time after the first.

Yeah, and at this point I wandered off.

Ride Lonesome (1959) – Movies With My Mother (repost review)

“He’s a bounty hunter?–I got no use for bounty hunters. He’s like a mercenary!”

“What are all these other saddles?”

“What! What is he doing!?”
“He’s dead.”

“But Indians don’t come out at night.”
“They should leave now!”
“No, if they leave now, the Indians will get them when they’re out in the open at night.”
“But Indians don’t come out at night! Or is it in the day that Indians don’t come out…”
“They can’t leave now.”
“Why not?”

“Who’s he? This guy.”
“That’s James Coburn.”
“What! He! He is very young! What is he in the movie?”
“He’s the dumb sidekick.”
“….he was very young.”

“Why is this fool going out at night! There could be Indians! Yes! It could be them making that noise and you can’t tell! They do, you know!”

“Still, she could have held it together.”

“Who are they? Mescaleros again? They don’t want to talk this time?…they might not even give a horse this time.”

“Ooof, that guy looked like the horse came down on him.”

“They went away? Too many of them dead?”

“To get a what?”
“A woman.”
“No, he said something else. To–”
“Get a woman.”
“No, he said something else before that.”
“To get his hands on a woman.”
“There no Indian women?”
“She’s blonde.”
“If there was dye, back then, people could dye their hair!”

“Why don’t they build a fire?”
“They could build a smokeless fire.” [The Mother of Skaith has also read her Louis L’Amour.]

“Amnesty? They had amnesty for killers?…haha, maybe he got the wrong word it’s some other word.”

“What’s with the feather in his hat? What kind of foolishness is this? Is this to tell us something about his character? I’ve never seen anybody like that. Psssht!”

“What! If the leg is broken, I thought you can’t do nothing for the horse!”
“It’s not broken, it’s just hurt. He doesn’t want to stand up, because it’s hurt, so he just wants to lie there and he thinks he’s dying.”

“Maybe they just need to rub the leg. And put comfrey on it.”
“They don’t have comfrey, Mom.”
“They can find comfrey!”

“What’s he doing? He’s fixing to do something. What’s he doing?”
“He’s moving to go get that gun over there.”
“Oh. Why?”

“He should not have done that! Even if he lied, he should not have proven that he lied! Now no one will believe him, even when he’s not talking about guns! What did he prove!?”
“Billy is a coward, though. That’s why it worked.”
“It doesn’t matter that the boy is a coward! You should not lie to him!”

“That’s Lee van Cleef!”

“What’s she doing?”
“She’s doing her hair.”

“What’s that?”
“A tree.”
“Yes, but what–oh, it’s a hanging tree? What is the point of a hanging tree? I didn’t hear what he just said, what did he say?”
“He said, Brigade used to hang people from it.”

Shoot ‘im!”

“There are very few platinum blondes like her, you know.”
“Probably not natural.”
“That’s what I said, they’re rare.”

“So he gon’ tell her, fool, and she’s gon’ tell him! Not very bright!”

“…Oh, you mean she’s not a natural blonde. Probably.”

“Why would he hang her!”
“He was young and getting revenge.”
“But why would he hang the man’s wife! That’s not revenge, she’s not the man!”
“He wanted to hurt him, that’s why he went after her.”
“But he didn’t need to do that!”
“But he did it because he was bad.”
“Oh, he is a bad man.”
“Yes, Mom.”

“Is he joshing him?”
“He’s gon’ make him a partner and he’s a half-wit?”
“He’s a good guy!”
“–and a half-wit!”

“Does Coburn get killed?”
“Oh. I’d be sorry to have that.”

“Is that a threat? Not a threat…a…what’d you call that?”

“What are they looking at?”
“What is the smoke for?”

“Oh, he’s burning the tree? Why?”

“See, I told you it was a good movie!”
“And you didn’t even want to watch it!”
“It was five out of ten.”
“You are mistaken, it was nine out of ten.”

Review: Beyond Skyline (this movie, seriously)

exeilcptltl51tpmjsjyoooeviI feel like people just really like the idea of Frank Grillo. I mean, he’s a good-looking, charismatic, athletic guy who moves well and acts very naturally when he’s yelling. People like the idea of Frank Grillo being the person who yells at them to keep to the left, hey hey hey I said left! when evacuating a stopped subway train during an alien invasion (or when there’s anarchists attacking), or being the person who takes point during the we-are-slinking-down-a-suspiciously-deserted-street-all-stealthy-like, because, again, he moves well and handles his gun that never runs out of bullets with movie-star-like stylishness. And, mark this: people LOVE Frank Grillo sleeveless, shirtless, in a disheveled and tattered shirt, or in a clinging, wet, easily-seen-through-shirt. And it’s not like the guy doesn’t have range! He gets to whisper-yell encouragement to young kids and frightened women, and yell-coach a pregnant woman through labor (not kidding) even though she’s not due for another six months. WHAT.


The movie starts like most Frank Grillo movies do, with the backstory and character trappings of our protagonist briskly illustrated by having him roll up to the station and drink something we know is futuristic because it’s sparkly and blue. He’s there to (unwillingly) bail out his son, who needs to be bailed out because this is a third strike and Grillo’s ex-partner doesn’t want to book him if he doesn’t need to. The family relationship has been strained since the wife/mother unit died; but father and son still do share a bond. All of this takes roughly thirteen minutes, and then the aliens start zapping people with blue light and beaming them onto their ship, which is hovering over LA.

(This is where the “Hey hey hey stay on the right!” “Watch the rails!” “I SAID KEEP UP!”) part of Frank Grillo yelling at people comes in, and the gun that never runs out of bullets makes its first appearance shortly after the aliens do. And start ripping people’s brains out. Ugh.

This part lasts until Grillo and the group he is trying to protect (including his mesmerized son), all get beamed into the ship. He happens to escape (no, seriously, how come he’s still got ammo?), and, helped by one of the aliens, bumps into the pregnant woman. She explains that the stolen brains are running the alien….machines…and that the one helping is actually her husband and her child’s father. When the aliens get ahold of children…Such as the one who just arrived…damn that was fast…and the mother dies.

And thus we get, which is also always a thing people like: badass guy protecting a child, because one thing people like is Frank Grillo, minimally shirt-clad, holding a baby. Meanwhile, Son and the Cute train Conductor are somehow not having their brains ripped out, and the mission is on to rescue them.

I am just along for the ride at this point.

There’s a bit of yelling and thrashing around and Son gets his brain ripped out in front of Frank. What the actually meaningful part of this story is right now is a fight between the head alien, and the alien who was the baby’s father, who stayed behind to cover their exit….and had a grenade palmed.

In grand and traditional fashion, one explosive, no matter how tiny, in the right place, is enough to bring the entire ship crashing down. It’s somewhere…tropical…and the locals have by this point apparently figured out that GIANT MOTORCYCLE HELMETS PROTECT YOUR BRAINS. Lol. Also there’s a guy with a flamethrower. He gets a close-up for mysterious reasons.

And then there is an ENTIRELY RANDOM kung fu fight. What?

The plot-relevant part of these guys is that they collect a crystal egg-like thing that fell on the ground. I’m guessing it’s a grenade or a computer or something. Our heroes make it out of the ship, with the visibly-larger baby. Also, it might bear mentioning that Cute Conductor is now also shirtless. Well, in a camisole. Heroes plus baby but soon minus blind guy bump into the motorcycle-helmeted duo. Also, the baby is about two years old now with a nice head of hair.

HEY, THAT’S IKO UWAIS UNDER THE HELMET! (That explains the kung fu, LOL.) THIS MOVIE, SERIOUSLY. You could get an entire TV series out of the plot and genre shifts just this far and we’re only fifty-seven minutes in. (Lol at the motorcycle-helmet girl whaling on Cute Conductor Girl. That’s just unnecessary.) I mean, sheesh, they’re FIGHTING IN A MUD PIT WITH CLINIGING WET RIPPED SHIRTS ON. The guys are, that is. BUT THEN! Other guys arrive, necessitating the guys stopping fighting and joining ranks. Well, that was easy.

HEY I RECOGNIZE THAT GUY HE IS THE OTHER INDONESIAN KUNG FU GUY (and had a flamethrower a few scenes ago.) More to the point, he also has a gun in Frank Grillo’s face. But they get the drop on him and decide to shoot him and then take him along. At this point the kid is about four years old and violence isn’t good for Baby Girl to watch.

And our heroes march through Ankor Wat, or at least a nice CGI version of it to an underground base where they are met by a white guy with a British accent (a chemist by trade), and there is also a dedicated prison space for Other Kung Fu Guy. We are now one hundred and four minutes into the movie. (Wait, hang on, is this Cambodia or Thailand?)

This movie, seriously.

Anyhow, the chemist guy sciences Baby Girl’s blood a little and gets freaked out. This leads to an unconvincing scene where Grank….yeah I’m leaving that typo…explains that SHE IS OUR HOPE! But also she’s running out of blood and her system is shutting down due to the demands of constant growth. Grillo volunteers for the transfusion, since he had stuff happen to him on the alien ship blah blah blah. And Ms. Motorcycle Helmet mellows out a little bit seeing Cute Conductor and Baby Girl cuddling up.

So we cut to…some random woman (who died in the intro) waking up in a hospital bed…

…wait…noooooooooo….she has a wedding ring like the one Grillo has been playing with periodically, around her neck…

No, now I’m really confused.

So cut back to the science guy sciencing a little bit more, blah blah. Did he really just say, “Scientifically speaking”–? Sure did. Heh. And then at minute one hundred and thirteen, it turns out that using Baby Girl’s blood plus one of their canons will free all of the machine-soldier-brains. (“You sure he’s not doing the drugs?”) And thus the world will be saved. Suuuuuuuuuuure, and I believe you guys are going to do that all on your motorcycle-helmeted own, even if you do have a Vietnam-war era base with a punji stick trapdoor.

Anyhow, our peaceful interlude is interrupted by brain-stealing aliens attacking the girls. Ms. Motorcycle Helmet runs into a minefield, drawing the brainstealing thing after her….but steps on something that goes click. It blows her up and destroys the Stealer. Cute Conductor flees back to base, horrified (and we get some more Reassuring Frank Grillo action, also getting Baby Girl somewhere safe. D’awww, he gives her a headbutt.)

But then (have I mentioned we are one hundred and nineteen minutes into this movie?) the Indothaibodians prepare to DEFEND THE BASE while Grillo heads out with the magical blood syringe to rescue the brainwashed (literally? Ew) machines. (“Fucking Americans.” Hah.)

The aliens start to move down into the underground base (which has been lavishly booby-trapped) while Grillo slinks around topside, action-movie-star-style. He makes it back up to the ship, but the civilians are forced to also flee the safety of the base. But it’s OK, because Iko Uwais launches a grenade at the glowing blue thingy and it blows up. BUT IT’S NOT OKAY BECAUSE THE ALIEN LEADER IS ACTUALLY THERE IN HIS ALIEN GIANT MECHA SUIT OH NOES.

I think that’s about as much as I’m going to be bothered with. They’re fighting in the ruins of Ankor Wat and then the good mecha piloted by the Son who’s been rescued by the power of seeing his dad’s wedding ring shows up and lets just say Ankor Wat is going to be a little bit more ruined than it was before. Baby Girl arms the torpedo canon and then it gets fired off by Son and the alien machines’ eyes turn from blue (evil) to red (good). The family unit reforms….they’re gonna name Baby Girl after Grank’s dead wife Rose…and…

Cut to the woman from the beginning….Rose, all grown up, I assume…and despite the fact that she’s dressed in street clothes….look, SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS COULDN’T HAVE STUCK HER IN A BODYSUIT OR SOMETHING? HELLO SHE IS A SEMIALIEN WEAPON IN COMMAND OF A SHIP ABOUT TO TAKE THE WAR TO THE ENEMY WHY IS SHE DRESSED UP LIKE SHE JUST HIT FOREVER 21? She gets hailed with “Captain on deck!” YEAH RIGHT but whatever because they’re taking the fight to THEM NOW.


(Things blowing up spacey)

Hah, there’s a blooper reel over the credits.

Overall, I feel a sense of impatience and pity for this movie. It tries so hard, and it has such energy and promise, and Iko Uwais fighting alien soldiers with dual knives and no sleeves and Frank Grillo fighting alien soldiers a tight wet shirt, and whatshisface, the other Indonesian guy, fighting alien soldiers with a machete and no shirt, and yet still it falls so short. I think it honestly could have worked really well as a series. With this budget (…per episode…) and cast, and enough time to flesh everyone out and make us care that Motorcycle Helmet Girl just got blown up and her chemist boyfriend is sad? With more time to watch Frank Grillo running around yelling at people? With a little more explanation of what the heck Baby Girl is? And then at least half an episode to follow up on the whole we-are-taking-the-fight-back-to-them? Absolutely this could have been a masterpiece. As it is, though…

Rated: This movie, seriously.

Movie Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)

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poster-780TLDR: four chainsaws out of five…but I feel I’m being generous. Also, WORDPRESS DELENDA EST.

So this is a movie starring my childhood hero, Angelina Jolie (oddly enough, my mother likes Angelina, but only as Evelyn Salt and Maleficent), and made by Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan is the guy who wrote Sicario (which is supposedly the best movie about Mexican cartel violence and American intelligence agency incompetence, ever), wrote and directed Wind River (which was very good overall), and is involved with the modern-cowboy show Yellowstone (which a cowgirl of my acquaintance says is good but highly inaccurate despite the fact that it stars some very famous horses…yes, she does watch it for the horses), and apparently is a genuine, rodeo-participating, cowboy who owns some of said horses.

Also, I’ve always thought smokejumpers were really cool.

Review up front: So, overall….this is about three quarters of a perfect movie. The perfect movie would have had the fire as the primary plot and the kid plus the hitmen as the secondary plot. More information about how fires behave, and what the usual procedure is for fighting them, not to mention more information about the geography of the story, would have helped immensely in raising the stakes of the story. As it is, the primary threat of the movie is the relentless hitmen, and the fire is kind of an afterthought, when (IMHO) it should be something hanging over everybody’s heads the whole time and come roaring in at the end.

Also, and this is fairly important, there would need to be scenes of badass firefighters actually fighting fire. ’cause, and I’ll put this right up here in front, there aren’t any.

That being said, as it’s own movie, this one is almost pretty good. I liked all the characters–including the villains, as villains–and the dialogue was, overall, almost bearable and sometimes even pretty good, because it sounds like something people would say who are those kind of people in that kind of situation. (“Sheriff, your wife is on the phone. Do you want to talk to her?” “Absolutely not.”) Most of this is due to the actors being really good. Jon Bernthal is really charismatic and intense; Edward Norton is….oh, um. So, apparently the person I have in the rest of the review referred to as Edward Norton is in fact DISCOUNT Edward Norton, AKA Aiden Gillen. Whoops. He’s a really good villain: calm, intelligent, competent, motivated, and maintains his demeanor and yet is increasingly deranged (and increasingly injured to a level that could almost inspire sympathy.) There’s also the black actress who plays the badass pregnant wife (Medina Senghore,) and she looks like a normal, actual, genuine person in this movie–which, let me tell you, must have taken some doing. I mean, she’s the spitting image of my college roommate. I’m impressed that she managed to act like a normal person when she’s opposite Jon Bernthal doing his charismatic movie-star thing…and still holds her own. Kudos.

There are only a few things that chipped away at my suspension of disbelief–that a person alone in the middle of a forest wouldn’t have at least one gun…what, exactly, is your very sharp axe going to do if you run into a bear?–and the hitmens’ motivation for doing what they do is imperfectly justified to the point where I paused the movie to write about it (see below.)

Overall, yeah, I would have liked more of a smokejumper movie and less of a hitman movie. But it’s pretty good overall.

So our story opens with two storylines: a middle-aged father who gets extremely nervous when he sees that some District Attorney’s house has mysteriously blown up with the family inside, and Angelina (Hannah), a woodland firefighter/smokejumper suffering from PTSD of the gasp-and-ricochet-out-of-bed variation. Also, Jon Bernthal is hanging around. He’s with the local Sheriff’s office. (Heh, he says “Make good choices!” That’s a line I have previously only heard from an Agronomy major from Iowa.) Hannah, though….isn’t. She’s seeking thrills and taking risks and may or may not be actually suicidal. So, spending the fire season in a tower, alone, might or might not be the best thing for her, overall.

It turns out that Dad (a forensic accountant who works for the now-deceased DA) and Son were right to run, because a pair of hitmen is after them. Also, Jon Bernthal appears to be the Kid’s uncle, and his wife’s pregnant. Oh dear. Dad writes out his secrets and gives them to the Kid, with instructions to not read them and to give them to someone trustworthy.

(When given a free choice of vehicles, what do the very best assassins choose? A Ford F150! Woo! GO RHINO! What kind of cars do boring forensic accountants choose? Volkswagons. What kind of cups do firefighters drink out of? RED SOLO CUPS THAT IS RIGHT! I don’t even think Walmart sells them any more. I think you have to go to Target for those things.) Deputy Bernthal consults with his chief, who is interested but offers limited help. We also get a little more on Hannah, who is racked with guilt over being leaving civilians to burn to death. Frankly….not surprising.

Stuff starts to hit the fan, with our very efficient hitmen setting up an ambush on a deserted back road (well…I mean…it’s still a two-lane highway. But I guess that seems kind of deserted to city folk.) Dad stays in the car and orders Kid to head out and call the news. Somehow, I’m unconvinced that this is possible for either of them after the car has literally flown down a giant ravine and been riddled with bullets.

Meanwhile, however, the hitmen also have to kill another innocent bystander who rolls up before hightailing it out (I TOLD YOU GUYS IT WASN’T ACTUALLY DESERTED, DUMBASSES)….at about which point Deputy Bernthal rolls up. The Kid rolls up to the tower/river and bumps into Hannah. Also, the hitmens’ boss has rolled up to a truck stop, and this is pretty bad news.

OK, SO. Pause.

This is the scene that the movie uses to justify the “relentless hitmen who pursue the heroes through hell and high water AND ACTUAL FOREST FIRES)” trope. Which is smart. Because that’s a dumb as hell trope and needs to be justified if it’s going to be used in a serious movie. Problem is….it just tripped over its own feet. The scary black hitman-boss wants them to follow up with Kid because a) they promised, b) it’s possible that Dad had duplicates of everything they already retrieved from the DA’s office, and c) it’ll probably be with the Kid if so. Duplicates. Of case-critical information. That the DA’s office was already in possession of but which their team retrieved. Now, I know that it’s not really likely that everything included in a casefile is going to have backups and/or be on the cloud–but if it’s entered the public record, enough of it’s going to be in enough places, like warrants and affidavits, that breaking and entering isn’t going to solve your problem.

(Although, on further research, someone on reddit points out that the black hitman-boss’s car has government plates. Which…whatever. I stand by what I said.)

Not to mention something else already established by this movie that messes with this premise on a fundamental level: the “information” Dad gave Kid isn’t on a flash drive, or in a briefcase. It’s LITERALLY WRITTEN ON THE BACKS OF A COUPLE OF NAPKINS. Also, these guys have no way of knowing that said “information” is with the kid and not, say, in the car or on Dad’s body.

Now, change this to, “they want the kid alive as leverage,” or, “he saw our faces,” and it makes marginally more sense. But as is, this is stupid. Also, beause it’s SOP for hitmen to wear suits, they change into them at this point. However, they also have badges. However, because this movie INSISTS on adhering to stupid action movie tropes, (DISCOUNT) Edward Norton-hitman announces that they’re going to kill everyone who sees their faces henceforth. Also, he starts a forest fire and gazes at it for a while. (See, going with less movieness and more realism at this point would work better. Fire is cool, but fire is also scary. Just let the guys have a natural reaction to a fire [wow, cool, wish I could stay and watch. Hey, it’s…kind of spreading fast. Um. I’m, um, yeah…] and then show them skedaddling out of there.)

Hannah’s radio, it turns out, has been blown out by the lightning. They have a twelve-mile hike into town. A theoretically heartwarming moment is had when Kid explains what happened to Hannah and hands over the NAPKIN OF INFORMATION to her, which she looks at for about two seconds before deciding they are starting their hike right now.

Aaaaannnd uh oh, the hitmen duo have just arrived at Pregnant Wife. Heh, she immediately retreats through the door and reaches for the bear spray, not that it helps. Hitman #2 spots the nursery (but not her giant six-months-pregnant belly?) and they decide to torture her a bit just to make sure. Which is when she promptly starts lying to them to throw them off. And then there’s a pretty awesome little bit where she gives her husband the distress code (“FUCKING SURVIVALISTS!”) and then turns the bear spray into a flamethrower and sets  Edward Norton on fire then grabs a shotgun and escapes. WOO BABY.

So meanwhile, Hannah and Kid have to leapfrog a field in another lightning storm, and Hannah gets struck. This is kind of a pointless sequence, used as it is to lead into a bonding moment between them…if you want an action sequence, put one in and make it plot-relevant. If you want a bonding moment, put that in and make it worthwhile. He confesses that his father died right in front of him. This scene doesn’t work on EITHER level: it’s not plot-relevant and it’s not touching or meaningful.

Deputy Bernthal (plus the Sheriff) show up at his house immediately, but the Sheriff immediately gets shot and our very efficient hitmen take Bernthal prisoner to help them search. Which is smart on their side, because he actually does immediately find tracks.

So, it’s apparent that Hannah doesn’t know about the big fire (which is at zero percent containment), because she and Kid pause for a break and a campfire. Hannah gets her moment to confess what has been bothering her. She was in charge of a crew and screwed up: three boys died and she could only watch. But we do get this exchange:

Kid: “I watched my mother die of cancer.”
Hannah: “It is impossible to feel sorry for myself around you.”


Bernthal decides he’s had enough at this point, and flips out into taunting/attacking the hitmen, attempting to get them to kill him. It’s two to one, though, and Edward Norton decides to up the ante by telling him that he’s going to be the one who kills Kid….because that’s how badly he, Norton, does not want to shoot a pregnant woman. I’m pretty sure he’s lying. Hitman #2 thinks he’s just losing it, man.

At this point, Hannah and Kid spot the fire; this means they will have to turn around, get back to the tower, and hopefully hook up with a chopper that’s going to be coming out to check on her.

(Pregnant Wife, meanwhile, has saddled up and is heading out into the woods. Personally, I’d have gone with the ATV myself, as late-stage pregnancy + jolting movements apparently don’t tend to go very well together?)

…and Bernthal plus hitmen have arrived at the tower. They send him up….and….#2 Guy climbs a tree. That’s cheating. Edward Norton isn’t doing so well, which is not news to his partner….Hannah and Kid run for it, Bernthal is stuck in the tower, AND OH GLORY THE PREGNANT LADY ARRIVES TO PROVIDE SUPPORT BY FIRE. (oops)

AND BOOM SHE SHOT THE BAD GUY. SHOOT HIM AGAIN ALREADY. SEE THIS IS WHY WE NEED HIGH CAPACITY DEER RIFLES. COMMON SENSE GUN CONTROL. SHOOT HIM AGAIN LADY. Oh, she did. Nice. Now, that was satisfying. That is how you write a good villain and give him his good comeuppance.

(Meanwhile, did we mention it’s actually pretty unrealistic that Hannah doesn’t actually have a gun….in the middle of the forest, in Montana?)

Hannah and Kid are getting closer to the fire….she starts giving him instructions to going on alone.
Meanwhile, Pregnant Lady goes up the tower to check on her husband, who is hurt pretty badly (he’ll make it, right? Right?? It’s only that his wife is pregnant, not like he was going to retire in three days.) Also the fire is almost on them.

Hannah approaches the fire alone. Oh, wait, no. Hitman #2 is still running around like a dumbass. Hannah attacks him with her axe (did we mention she doesn’t have a gun?) but all this nets her is getting repeatedly punched in the face by a semi-insane hitman. The Kid comes back….and wow, Hitman #2 asks him “Could you turn around for me?” Ow.

But it’s ok, because Hannah beats him to mostly death with her pulaski and leaves him to burn to death. She and Kid take refuge in a creek and survive! Nice. The firetower has also survived, and so has Pregnant Lady, who signals to some hotshots in the plane that goes by. Oh, these are the guys who were Hannah’s friends and past crew from the beginning.

The crew calls in a medevac but…uh oh. No rush. Damn it. One of these days, Jon Bernthal will star in a good movie and survive until the end.

Kid is having some existential angst prior to his interview, but Hannah promises him that she’ll stay there and help him figure it out….

…the end.

Again, I give it 4/5. It has almost all the right ingredients. It just didn’t mix them very well together.