Film Review: The Night Stalker (1972)

Also known as: The Kolchak Papers (working title), Kolchak: The Night Stalker (long title)
Release Date: January 11th, 1972 
Directed by: John Llewellyn Moxey
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: The Kolchak Papers by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Music by: Bob Cobert
Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Carol Lynley, Barry Atwater, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Elisha Cook Jr.

Dan Curtis Productions, ABC Circle Films, ABC, 74 Minutes

Review:

“Rumor has it that the day Anthony Albert Vincenzo was born, his father left town. The story may be apocryphal, but I believe it. The only point I wonder about is why his mother didn’t leave too.” – Carl Kolchak

I was a pretty big fan of the Kolchak television series when it was in syndication back when I was a kid. It originally aired before I was alive but I remember my granmum having it on her television set in my younger, most impressionable years.

Sadly, I hadn’t seen it since the ’80s and I never saw the two television movies that predate the single season show. So I figured I’d start with the original Night Stalker movie and go from there.

I’m glad to say that this was pretty close to my memories of the show and seeing Darren McGavin ham it up while monster hunting was a sight to behold and enjoy, once again!

More than anything, watching the original film, which I found in HD on YouTube for free (as long as that lasts) motivated me greatly to continue on with the second film and twenty-ish episode series.

McGavin is great in this and it’s my favorite role that I’ve ever seen him play. It’s like it was tailor made for his specific talents, as it maximizes his strengths and charisma. I’m not sure how close the Kolchak TV material is to the original novel but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

In this story, ace reporter Carl Kolchak is investigating strange murders that appear to be vampiric in nature. No one wants to believe what Kolchak starts to uncover and even after the vampire gets into a skirmish with police while stealing blood bags from the hospital, those in power try to suppress Kolchak’s narrative.

Eventually, we get a showdown with the vampire and the end result sees Kolchak having to leave Las Vegas or be charged with murder for killing the bloodsucking fiend.

While the picture can feel hokey and dated, I mean, it is a ’70s television movie, it’s still an energetic, charming, entertaining ride and pretty solid shit for its time and production limitations.

Plus, Darren McGavin is stupendous.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel The Night Strangler and the television show Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

TV Review: McMillions (2020)

Original Run: February 3rd, 2020 – March 9th, 2020
Directed by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Written by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: various

FunMeter, Unrealistic Ideas, HBO, 6 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As a McDonald’s shareholder, a loyal customer for decades and a massive fan of the Monopoly game, this was a story that absolutely intrigued me. So seeing that HBO made a documentary series telling the story of how the McDonald’s Monopoly game was rigged was a must watch for me.

My only real gripe about this is that I never felt like the scheme was all that clear. I understood how they found people to be “winners” of the top tier game pieces (and it was fantastic hearing their stories) but I never clearly understood why the criminals behind the scheme did it in the first place.

Selling these lucrative prizes at a small fraction of what their actual value was, was kind of baffling. I feel like there had to have been a much better way for them to exploit the system and in the end, they got caught, anyway.

Also, I had always assumed that McDonald’s was involved in the shenanigans because the actual story and all the facts weren’t something I delved into before this. I had just always assumed that by giving the pieces to “friends and family members” meant that some McDonald’s exec was just doing that for personal or corporate favors.

This was interesting as hell though and I watched all six episodes in one sitting.

In the end, I’m glad that those who were roped into the scheme, didn’t have their lives ruined based off of the poor circumstances they were in when the schemesters chose them to exploit for their own gain.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent crime documentaries and series.

Comic Review: Downcast, Vol. 2: Wrize & Fall

Published: 2020
Written by: Clint Stoker
Art by: Ignacio Lazaro, Damian Penalba, Kelsey Shannon (cover)

Sweet Comics, 56 Pages

Review:

I’m actually glad that I got the two graphic novels for Downcast at the same time, as it helped me retain the plot details due to not waiting months between the volumes.

Although, I still shouldn’t have slept on this when the first one came out because I like the series a lot.

This one concludes the story but I hope that Clint Stoker and the same creative team eventually get back together to tell us another tale in this universe.

This picks up where the first one left off and it resolves all the issues that our heroes were faced with.

Ultimately, they are in over their heads due to stumbling on a unique power courtesy of a MacGuffin. I don’t want to spoil it because I’d rather people read this. Using that MacGuffin, they try to free their father who was imprisoned by a fascist government. All the while, they piss off that government and find themselves on the run while still trying to complete their difficult objective.

The story maintained its quality and the satisfying ending makes this volume a little bit better, overall.

As with the first one, I also really dug the art style and the look of the book.

If you’re still able to get this, you should definitely give it a shot.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as other crowdfunded indie comics.

Film Review: Picasso Trigger (1988)

Release Date: February, 1988
Directed by: Andy Sidaris
Written by: Andy Sidaris
Music by: Gary Stockdale
Cast: Steve Bond, Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, Harold Diamond, John Aprea, Roberta Vasquez, Guich Koock

Andy Sidaris Company, Malibu Bay Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Give ’em a lei, blow ’em away.” – Clayton

Picasso Trigger is the third of the twelve films in Andy Sidaris’ Triple B Series. Like all of the other movies in the series, it features hot chicks, often times naked, as well as tough, cool dudes, lots of guns, lots of explosions and a fun, goofy spy thriller plot that is one part James Bond, two parts Charlie’s Angels and ten parts awesome.

This one features some returning actors playing returning characters. I was definitely glad to see Harold Diamond back, as he is one of my favorite actors in these sort of films.

If I’m being honest, the plots to these films don’t really matter and you don’t really need it to get in the way of the overall spectacle.

I liked this almost as much as the previous film but I’d have to say it’s a slight step down. I think that one took the edge because it had a few awesome bazooka scenes. Although, this one features a dude getting blown to pieces by an exploding boomerang thrown by a hot chick.

Picasso Trigger is pretty much more of the same but honestly, when the same is pretty damn enjoyable, what’s not to like? Plus, each movie gives us new babes and more creative action sequences.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other 11 films in the Triple B Series by Andy Sidaris, as well as the American films of Amir Shervan.

Film Review: Grand Central Murder (1942)

Release Date: May, 1942
Directed by: S. Sylvan Simon
Written by: Peter Ruric
Based on: Grand Central Murder by Sue MacVeigh
Music by: David Snell
Cast: Van Heflin, Patricia Dane, Sam Levene, Cecilia Parker, Virginia Grey, Tom Conway

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Where were you raised? Didn’t anyone ever tell you its bad luck to whistle in a dressing room?” – Mida King, “I’m sorry miss, I… I was raised in a cattle boat, where folks whistle when they feel like it, including the cows!” – Whistling Messenger

Grand Central Murder is an example of a very early noir picture just before the style really started to take shape. It’s also a comedy and because of that, isn’t a straight crime picture but more of a tongue-in-cheek, amusing take on the evolving crime genre.

This sits just between the super popular gangster films that ruled the ’30s and the noir boom that happened in the mid-’40s. It also stars Van Heflin, who might just be the perfect guy to be featured front and center in a film that works as a bridge during this stylistic shift.

While I liked the amusing bits, I think that this would’ve been a much better and actually, really good, crime picture had it played it straight.

What I did like about this movie is that it doesn’t waste time and it moves at a brisk pace getting from point-to-point without trying to pad itself out with a bunch of filler. Even with the comedic moments, the film still flows like a steady river and picks up the right sort of momentum, leading into the climax.

Like a typical noir picture, it has a mystery that comes with some swerves. But I thought that the reveal and the solving of the crime was well done, especially in a time where this picture couldn’t be influenced by all of the other films like it. For the most part, those films didn’t exist yet.

Granted, I can’t necessarily call it an intelligent film but it’s more than competent and it certainly entertained this noir buff for 73 minutes.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other very early film-noir pictures.

Comic Review: Batman R.I.P.

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Tony S. Daniel, Lee Garbett

DC Comics, 213 Pages

Review:

I’m pretty sure I liked this when I read it back when it was current, about a decade and a half ago. However, I found it just weird and wonky this time around. But I’ve also aged quite a bit and in that time, read some truly incredible comics.

I was probably really into this, as it came out at the height of my Grant Morrison love. Plus, back then, I was more into weird shit and experimental storytelling. However, I don’t feel like any of that necessarily benefits the most mainstream of all mainstream comic book titles.

Having now recently read a good amount of Grant Morrison’s Batman run, my opinion on it has soured quite a bit. It’s stuck in this weird limbo where it’s too weird to feel like it fits within the top Batman title and it isn’t weird enough to truly feel like Grant Morrison, unrestrained. 

This feels like watered down Morrison and by trying to sit on the fence between mainstream acceptance and Morrison’s typical narrative style, it’s really just a boring, baffling dud of a comic.

The art is good, damn good. However, that’s not enough to save it from how disappointing it is, overall. Besides, this is a story from the pages of the most popular comic book in the medium and if the art isn’t up to snuff, DC Comics should close up shop.

This kind of wore me ragged, honestly. I don’t want to read anymore of Morrison’s Batman work and I consider it to be overrated, at this point. I also say that as someone that once liked it.

In the end, Morrison shouldn’t have his hands creatively tied but he also shouldn’t be allowed to go into Batman with reckless abandon. That’s what DC’s Elseworld Tales are for and frankly, that’s where Morrison’s Batman work should be.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s Batman run.

TV Review: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)

Original Run: May 27th, 2020
Directed by: Lisa Bryant
Based on: Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson
Music by: Justin Melland

RadicalMedia, JP Entertainment, Third Eye Motion Picture Company, Netflix, 4 Episodes, 55-57 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I didn’t know as much about this story as I probably needed to. Sure, I, like most people, know the general gist of it but not the details.

Although, if I’m being honest, I kind of expected this to go much deeper and also expose the guy’s ties to some of the politicians and celebrities that were in his orbit.

Regardless of that, this was still a decent primer on the horrible shit that this guy did.

Frankly, this was pretty tough to get through, as you come to realize how deep the rabbit hole goes and how many different under-aged girls that this guy sexually assaulted on a constant basis.

Most importantly, this serves as a warning against the type of people that prey on young girls, as well as looking at their behavior and the methods that they could use to exploit and violate others.

As a documentary, I thought this was just okay. I feel like it needed a lot more information and that it could’ve gone a lot deeper into Epstein’s reach among the elite.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent Netflix true crime documentaries.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 6

Published: February 23rd, 2017
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 240 Pages

Review:

I feel like it would be hard to top the greatness that was the previous Fantastic Four – Masterworks volume but this did follow it up pretty nicely and also expanded the Marvel universe by introducing the world to Black Panther and his enemy Klaw.

The earliest arc in this collection focuses on Black Panther and his home of Wakanda. It also brings in the Inhumans, as well. While I love this story, it’s somewhat overshadowed by the epic tale of Doctor Doom stealing Silver Surfer’s powers and cosmic surfboard.

It also features some other Fantastic Four villains sprinkled in but it’s the Doom story that really takes the spotlight, here.

As is the norm for these early Fantastic Four – Masterworks editions, the stories were written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby. While I’m now sixty percent of the way through their 100 issue run, the series hasn’t gotten dull or even really tapered off. Everything is still damn solid and Kirby’s artwork seems to still improve with each volume, even if he was a long-time veteran by this point.

All in all, this is still a great collection that lives up to the hype and only serves to make me appreciate Lee and Kirby’s partnership on this title even more.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Film Review: Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)

Release Date: March, 1987
Directed by: Andy Sidaris
Written by: Andy Sidaris
Music by: Kevin Klinger, Gary Stockdale
Cast: Ronn Moss, Dona Speir, Harold Diamond, Hope-Marie Carlton, Cynthia Brimhall, Rodrigo Obregon

Malibu Bay Films, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Look at you two… Every shot, a postcard! I’m gonna give you the best seat in the house!” – Ashley

As much as I enjoyed Malibu Express, I assumed all the other movies in Andy Sidaris’ Triple B Series would taper off in quality. Well, I’m glad to say that this one is slightly better than its predecessor.

I think a lot of that has to do with this one embracing its comedic elements even more and being pretty over-the-top with the more bonkers shit.

It also helps that this film features Harold Diamond, who was always enjoyable in the movies he did with a similar cult action director, Amir Shervan.

While you could write this off as more of the same, I liked the buddy-action approach, as well as dumping in more Playboy Playmates and sexiness.

That being said, this did look a bit cheaper than the film before it. That doesn’t necessarily make it worse in that regard, it just made it so that the special effects people had to get more creative and they certainly did and succeeded. But you also have to suspend disbelief when the one dude is using a bazooka pretty recklessly but that just makes this picture more fun and absurd, in a great way.

This is absolutely a cheesy action movie but it’s also supposed to be. It felt like Sidaris was self-aware after making just one film and he took advantage of that, giving us a flick that didn’t try to pretend it was something better than it was. It knew its limitations but turned them into amusing strengths.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other 11 films in the Triple B Series by Andy Sidaris, as well as the American films of Amir Shervan.