The Dungeonmaster

1984 | dir: Various | 1h 13m

Also known as Ragewar, this film was truly unexpected: a magician/wizard/demon brings our hero to another realm where setups up seven challenges that must be passed in order to save the hero's girlfriend, all the while using his "technology" which he keeps referring to as a form of magic. He's not wrong, really. Our protagonist is dealing with a jealous girlfriend as he spends entirely way too much time with his artificial intelligence creation, but it's this AI that they must depend on to survive. As the credits begin, you notice there are no fewer than seven directors: this is because the film has seven challenges and each segment is directed by a different person and will vary wildly in quality. For an already short run time, these pieces don't have any time to develop, so they are often wrapped up quickly, confusingly and laughably. It's an enjoyable and fun watch with friends though.

Score: 1 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

1970 | dir: Dario Argento | 1h 36m

I'm always enthralled with these giallo entries, yet I'm not sure if that's because they are good films, or that the genre is still fresh to me. After delving into Arrow Video's catalog, I've really fallen in love with these whodunnit mystery thrillers and Plumage did not disappoint. Credited as one of the earliest of the giallo genre, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage follows an American author who witnesses an attempted murder while living in Rome and goes on to throw himself fully into the investigation of who the assailant is. I may write a more in-depth piece on this for the site as there are many interesting things to discuss, including where this film sits in its influence on future entries in the genre, and the little takeaways that keep me smiling (e.g. Argento's insistence on dubbing all dialog, and the police's nonchalant attitude to letting a civilian becoming so involved with an active investigation). 

Score: 3.5 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd

Spider-Man: Far From Home

2019 | dir: Jon Watts | 129m

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, by this point, a well-oiled machine that basically prints money on command. Spider-Man Far From Home, the second solo outing for Peter Parker and his alter-ego in the MCU, seemed destined to be a smash success, as most Marvel films are these days. And, of course, it is raking in a tonne of dough. There's no question it's a financial success for Marvel Studios and their evil overlords at Disney. It did what it was designed to do, and exactly nothing more.

I went in to Spider-Man: Far From Home as a fan of the MCU in general: a few terrible films, a few great films, a lot of solid films somewhere in between those two extremes, but always well-thought out and part of a larger plan. I remember walking out of Avengers: Infinity War and thinking that this is probably as close as I would get to experiencing a cinematic event that people watching The Empire Strikes Back for the first time in theatres must have shared. I'm impressed at the MCU's long-form storytelling, a sort of modern reinvention of the old serial films that people like George Lucas grew up on, and I'm on board, man. I'm picking up what they're putting down.

So of course following this classical rhetorical device of listing my franchise-appropriate geek bona fides, I will follow up with how disappointed I was with Spider-Man: Far From Home. It wasn't terrible; it wasn't great. It was a standard middle-of-the-road MCU film, but almost cynical in its mediocrity, as though tempting audiences to even try and let their heroes - both super and corporate - fail.

In The Company of Men

1997 | Dir: Neil LaBute | 1h 37m

This movie is a tough sell on its own; the basic setup is this: two misogynistic friends decide to get revenge on the female gender by attempting to ruin an innocent woman's life. How could this possibly turn into a film you would watch? I'm pretty sure this came from a list of "most disturbing" films - and it is, although not in the classic way that comes to mind when you say "disturbing." The film throws itself in the deep end of political incorrectness, offensive language and behaviour, but somehow comes out to be an interesting film. There's a second layer at work here, one that you can feel throughout the runtime and comes to a satisfying payoff in the end.

Score: 4 / 5
IMDB Letterboxd

Good Morning, Vietnam

1987 | Dir: Barry Levinson | 2h 1 m

What can I say save for the fact that Robin Williams is on fire in this role and I should be shamed for not seeing this much earlier (like, decades earlier). This made it onto my watchlist because of my project to watch the top 180 most popular films on Letterboxd of the 80's - a project I started at the beginning of 2018 and have been dragging my feet on for a while. If more films were like this the task would be easier. That being said, some of the subplots feel a tiny bit forced and throwaway, although it does come together nicely.

Score : 3.5 / 5
IMDB Letterboxd

The Curse of La Llorona

2019 | Dir: Michael Chaves | 1h 33m

As a fan of the (so far) two Conjuring movies, I want so badly to enjoy the rest of the universe, but these releases make it really tough. La Llorona is about as generic as it comes, and might actually be worse than The Nun, except that I would lean toward the setting of La Llorona moreso than the boring dusty church and stone tunnels of The Nun. This film is filled with way too many jump scares and cheap attempts to frighten audiences; tension is never properly setup and there is no rewarding payoff. 

Score: 1 / 5
IMDB Letterboxd


2017 | Dir: Adam Randall | 1h 30m

What would you do if your brain was directly wired into the internet? I was reminded of Scarlett Johansson's action/sci-fi Lucy, wherein she unlocks 100% of her brain. It's a silly concept but so is having pieces of a cell phone embedded in your brain that effectively gives you similar abilities. It's not entirely clear what's off limits to our victim-turned-hero, as he manipulates electronics but also car engines and electricity. It's not clear to him what he should do either, save for his motivation for revenge as he goes after the bullies who assaulted his crush. Nothing particularly stands out here, save for the concept itself, which leads me away from the movie and into my own fantasies. 

Score: 2 / 5
IMDB Letterboxd

Weird Science

1985 | Dir: John Hughes | 1h 34m

As geekdom becomes ever more dominant in popular culture and socially acceptable, it's fascinating to go back and see how the old stereotypes are represented, and it seems that most my "research" are in John Hughes' filmography that I somehow missed out on (nearly) entirely growing up. This is also a film that would probably benefit from nostalgia goggles, but I digress: it seems to mean well but was a little too wacky for me to get behind - well, at least the first part of the film. Echoing Frankenstein, the two boys throw together a series of computer settings and scanned images to create their girlfriend, in what I first misunderstood and writing off as completely ridiculous. Then I remembered I was watching a comedy (maybe I was just a bit grumpy that evening) and I allowed myself to go with the flow and enjoy the ride. Some of the followup scenes were hit or miss for me, but overall the movie was enjoyable and I was glad that The Perfect Woman did not play into the "born sexy yesterday" trope that befalls many films. I'm certain this would get better with subsequent views and enjoyable with the company of friends.

Score: 3 / 5

IMDB Letterboxd

Peeping Tom

1960 | Dir: Michael Powell | 1h 41m

This was discussed in some detail on a podcast I just started recently (The Evolution of Horror) where they tackle the path of various horror genres, starting with slashers. In this case, the topic was Psycho and Peeping Tom, both of which came out within months of one another and both being influential, although Peeping Tom ended up being banned and ruining the career of the director, Michael Powell, and Psycho was heralded as one of the greats and Hitchcock was celebrated. So I was expecting a bit of a sleazy, almost trashy film, but Peeping Tom was anything but. Our villain is more sympathetic than Bates, and has more room to develop as an actual character as the film takes place from his perspective.

Score: 4 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd