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Review: Black Friday

Brain surgeon Boris Karloff is so dedicated to scientific/medical breakthrough that he accepts a large sum of money from dying mobster Stanley Ridges to save him. Save him how, you ask? By transplanting the mobster’s brain into the body of a dead professor friend of Karloff’s (also played by Ridges), that’s how. In order to get his promised money, Karloff tries to jog the mobster’s memory to find out where the money is. This proves to be a pickle. Somehow both men’s personalities and memories are existing inside the same body (?!), so we get scenes of the two very different personas fighting for dominance over the same head and body. Unfortunately for Karloff, the dangerous gangster’s personality proves far too fixated on taking out revenge on the mobster rivals who wronged him in the first place. Bela Lugosi plays one such rival gangster (and sadly doesn’t share any scenes with Karloff).   Despite once again pairing Bela Lugosi up with Boris Karloff, this 1940 gangster fantasy fr

Review: The Impossible

The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand from the point of view of a vacationing British family headed by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor.   Gruelling, extremely effective 2012 rendering of the real-life 2004 Boxing Day tsunami from director Juan Antonio Bayona ( “The Orphanage” , “A Monster Calls” ) and writer Sergio G. Sanchez ( “The Orphanage” ). It’s sometimes uncomfortable, unpleasant, and overall frighteningly convincing. This may not be a cinematic journey some of you wish to take, and I appreciate that. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse the film of exploiting or wallowing in real-life misery. With one minor annoyance aside (I’ll get to that later), I found this film a compelling experience and very well-made. Bayona sets a scene of eerie, ominous, yet beautiful calm before the tsunami hits and the scenery just gets obliterated. You’ll be treated to some of the most harrowingly convincing disaster scenes in cinematic history. The only moment in the entire film where I

Review: Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga

  Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play Lars and Sigrit, Icelandic wannabe musicians whose dream is to represent Iceland at the Eurovision Song Contest and win. Well, it’s Lars’ dream. Sigrit humours him because she’s always been in love with the oblivious dope who is uber-focussed on the music. Although the people in charge of choosing the Icelandic entry find Lars and Sigrit’s act ‘Fire Saga’ an embarrassment, a bizarre calamity results in them having no choice but to send them to the big contest held in Scotland. Will Lars’ dream of Eurovision glory come to fruition? Scheming Russian entrant Dan Stevens certainly hopes not, as he tries to drive a wedge between Lars and Sigrit. Pierce Brosnan plays Lars’ macho father who is embarrassed by his son’s musical pursuit.   By attempting to give some love to Eurovision fans whilst also playing to the standard Will Ferrell audience, this overlong, hit-and-miss 2020 comedy-drama probably won’t satisfy either camp (no pun intended) fully.

Review: The Raven

Brilliant surgeon and avid Poe fan Bela Lugosi has an infatuation with one of his patients (Irene Ware), despite her having a fiancé and a disapproving father (Samuel S. Hinds playing the latter). Meanwhile, a wanted murderer (Boris Karloff) arrives at Lugosi’s home asking the famed surgeon to alter his face so he can escape his misdeeds. Lugosi agrees, but disfigures Karloff’s face and forces him into killing for him before he’ll correct the deformity.   Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff team up for another barely connected Edgar Allen Poe adaptation, and this 1935 film from director Louis Friedlander/Lew Landers ( “I Was a Prisoner on Devil’s Island” , “Return of the Vampire” ), and screenwriter David Boehm (the semi-classic weepie “A Guy Named Joe” ) is another winner. In fact, the only flaws here are the fact that the script is practically devoid of any connection to Poe (if anything there’s more “Pit and the Pendulum” than “The Raven” ), and it’s a bit slight in length. Otherwise

Review: Katarsis

A monk (Ulderico Sciaretta) goes to a nightclub to see an acquaintance who works there and proceeds to tell her a story from long ago. In his youth, the monk and his five boozy friends end up in a dingy old castle where a haunted old man (Christopher Lee) offers them treasure if only they can find his lost love.   One of the more obscure – and forgettable – films in the career of Christopher Lee, this 1963 film from one-and-done writer-director Giuseppe Veggezzi is for Lee completists only, like me. And frankly, even I didn’t get much out of this one. It’s been dreadfully edited – apparently the film went through more than one production company and much of the film was changed before its eventual release. The seams show. Badly. Characters are introduced early that have no bearing on anything else. The film’s opener sets up Ulderico Sciaretta’s monk character as our protagonist only for him to be a bit of an also-ran for the bulk of the film, not to mention seeming like a completel

Review: The Woman in the Window

Edward G. Robinson is a college professor of middle age, specialising in matters of the criminal mind. While his wife and kids (one played by a young Robert Blake) are away, Robinson meets and is infatuated with a model (Joan Bennett), who was the subject for a painting/mural outside a gentleman’s club he frequents. She’s in some trouble, and she’s about to drop the poor naïve fool in it, too. All because he couldn’t keep from having a wandering eye while the wife’s away. Tsk, tsk. Raymond Massey plays Robinson’s slightly condescending District Attorney friend, whilst Dan Duryea turns up late as a sinister blackmailer.   There’s few things I hate more in movies than when a film fails to stick the landing. This 1944 mystery from director Fritz Lang ( “Metropolis” , “Man Hunt” , “Rancho Notorious” , “The Big Heat” ) and screenwriter Nunnally Johnson ( “The Grapes of Wrath” , “My Cousin Rachel” , “The Dirty Dozen” ) is one such frustrating near-miss. Damn it, this thing was on its way

Review: Follow Me

Keegan Allen plays a minor YouTube celeb who vlogs his supposedly wacky adventures with his friends (Siya and George Janko) and girlfriend Holland Roden. This time they’re travelling to Russia to explore an escape room that is apparently not nearly as lame as it sounds. They first go to a Russian nightclub with their Russian pal named Alexei, and get into a scuffle with some goons. Anyway, once in the escape room it proves to be very difficult and predictably deadly as our protagonists puzzle for their lives. Denzel Whitaker plays a buddy Allen hasn’t seen in a long time who tags along for the trip, Pasha Lychnikoff plays a sinister Russian bad guy.   Writer-director Will Wernick gives us another escape room film with this 2020 tedium. However, while Wernick is the man behind a film called “Escape Room” , he didn’t make the precise “Escape Room” film you’re probably thinking of. His one (which I’ve not seen) came out in 2017 and is in no way affiliated with the mediocre 2019 “Esca