Film Review: Witchboard (1986)

Release Date: December 31st, 1986 (limited)
Directed by: Kevin Tenney
Written by: Kevin Tenney
Music by: Dennis Michael Tenney
Cast: Todd Allen, Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, Kathleen Wilhoite, Burke Byrnes, Rose Marie

Paragon Arts International, Blue Rider Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Hang loose, stay cool, and don’t forget your psychic humor.” – Zarabeth

I had never seen Witchboard and I never had much interest in it. Ouija Board movies have never been my thing, for whatever reason. I don’t know, even as a lover of horror, I always found the concept of them to be too one-dimensional and uneventful.

Seeing this, my assessment isn’t proven wrong and in fact, this movie is also pretty boring. It has a few neat moments but not enough to salvage it or make it something I’d ever feel like I wanted to watch again. And I only really watched it this time because I know some people that are somewhat nostalgic about this film.

Also, this has Tawny Kitaen in it and I remember how much my older cousins and uncles were fawning over her back in the day after she did that Whitesnake video. Yeah, I saw it. Even as a little kid, I thought she was hot. But I was really a Phoebe Cates kinda guy.

Anyway, this is about a group of college aged kids that fuck around with a Ouija Board. One of them (Kitaen) develops an unhealthy obsession, as she starts to talk to the ghost of a child. However, we later find out that this child ghost was an evil wizard all along and he’s possessed her. Crazy supernatural shit happens and the boyfriend has to fight his demon possessed girlfriend in an effort to save her from the wizard’s spirit.

Witchboard has a few amusing characters in it, such as the bizarre psychic girl, and it shows two best friends, fighting over the same girl, have to come back together in an effort to save her. I always love bro movies where the bros gotta put aside their differences and save the day.

This is mostly slow, poorly acted and it doesn’t have anything special or unique to make it stand out in a sea of great ’80s horror. But still, it is ’80s horror and with that, it’s still a decent film to check out if ’80s horror is your cup of tea.

I didn’t hate this, by any means, but I was far from loving it, as well.

Rating: 5.25/10

Book Review: ‘Düngeonmeister: 75 Epic RPG Cocktail Recipes to Shake Up Your Campaign’ by Jef Aldrich, Jon Taylor

I came across this kind of randomly and decided to check it out because it looked kind of neat and I’m always interested in new cocktail recipes.

I like that the book is designed and organized like an old Dungeons & Dragons guide. The art for the cocktails, as opposed to photos, was pretty cool and fit the overall aesthetic well.

At a party, friends and I decided to make a bunch of the stuff that we had ingredients for. Most of it was pretty good and there are a lot of recipes here.

However, if you have bartending experience, there are some recipes of classic cocktails that just have their names changed and sometimes a slight difference in ingredients. 

Nothing that I tried was mind-blowing but this was still a neat little book and a cool concept.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: The Queen’s Gambit (2020)

Original Run: October 23rd, 2020
Created by: Scott Frank, Allan Scott
Directed by: Scott Frank
Written by: Scott Frank
Based on: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis
Music by: Carlos Rafael Rivera
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp, Moses Ingram, Isla Johnson, Christine Seidel, Rebecca Root, Chloe Pirrie, Akemnji Ndifornyen, Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Patrick Kennedy, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Marcin Dorocinski

Flitcraft Ltd., Wonderful Films, Netflix, 7 Episodes, 46-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While everyone was hyping this up over the last few months, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as my opinion often times differs greatly from the modern consensus. However, I’m a big fan of Anya Taylor-Joy’s work ever since first seeing her in The Witch and Split.

I’m glad to say that this was actually damn good. In fact, it was kind of refreshing and it should be held up as a great example of how to tell the story of a strong female character.

The 2010s were the decade of the Mary Sue, especially in regards to popular cinema like the Disney Star Wars movies and Marvel films like Captain Marvel, where female characters are the best at everything by default and every other character in the story has to constantly reassure them that they’re the greatest, the bestest and just f’n perfect.

The Queen’s Gambit ignores that terrible trend and it gives us a young girl that has to overcome a really difficult life, her own failures, her own faults, her addictions and the rivals that are presented like real mountains to climb and not just annoying obstacles.

Additionally, this doesn’t build up the woman by trashing every male character and making them all awful. Just about every character is handled with care and comes off as truly genuine. There are a lot of great male characters in this series and we’ve gotten to a point in entertainment where that’s really rare.

Frankly, this is how you tell a feminist story and with that it’s not specifically a feminist story, as much as it is an inspirational story regardless of the viewer’s gender.

The Queen’s Gambit isn’t just a great story, executed exceptionally well on screen by the director and his crew, it’s also highly emotional due to how goddamned talented the cast is.

The heavy lifting is really done by Anya Taylor-Joy, though, and she proves, once again, that she’s quite possibly the best actress of her generation. She also recently won the Golden Globe, her first major award, for her performance in this. While I now take major awards very lightly, I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more than her for this performance.

Man, I really loved this show and it ends pretty f’n perfectly. I’m glad that it was a limited series, as you can’t really do anything else with it and you don’t need to.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent period dramas.

Documentary Review: World of Darkness (2017)

Release Date: May 11th, 2017 (Germany)
Directed by: Giles Alderson
Written by: Kevin Lee
Cast: various

Figi Productions, Luckyday, 89 Minutes

Review:

After recently watching a good documentary on Dungeons & Dragons, I wanted to watch this, as it’s about a role-playing community I was more involved in.

In fact, I was involved in a relationship about twenty years ago that found itself wrapped up in this game’s orbit quite a bit. It was fun for the time and even though I wasn’t a die hard player or fan, I enjoyed those in the community I got to know and I really enjoyed the original PC game.

That being said, this is a good recount of the history of the White Wolf company and the fans who loved their products. It also goes into how White Wolf sort of fucked themselves and pissed off those loyal fans, essentially sabotaging future growth and brand loyalty.

I remember when all the shenanigans started and while I didn’t understand (or pay attention) to all the details back then, I do remember how pissed off a lot of people were.

This is an interesting documentary because the story of White Wolf is an interesting one. However, beyond that, this plays like many of the other documentaries about niche fandoms.

Also, it didn’t interview some of the company’s former die hards that felt betrayed. Sure, some people here were miffed by it and added their two cents but I felt like the issues were addressed and quickly brushed under the rug and dismissed, looking forward into the future and what the White Wolf IP rights holders hope will be a lucrative business once again.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about table top gaming, video games and specific fandoms.

Documentary Review: Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons (2019)

Release Date: May 14th, 2019
Directed by: Kevin Slagle, Brian Stillman
Music by: Seth Polansky, Noah Potter

Cavegirl Productions, X-Ray Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

I recently read and reviewed a great book about the art of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. I had no idea there was also a documentary about the subject, which came out last year.

Coming across this recently on Prime Video, I immediately added it to my queue and moved it to the top of my list.

Overall, this is a damn good film on not just on the art of Dungeons & Dragons but also the history of the game, the company behind it, the key people involved, as well as the players and still growing fandom.

This well well produced, well edited and featured so many wonderful talking head interviews from just about all the key players, that it made this a really enriching experience.

Mostly, this just made me appreciate the hard work, creativity and craftsmanship that went into developing the game and its numerous expansions and spinoffs.

If you love fantasy art and/or the D&D brand, this is most certainly worth your time.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about pop culture art, unique fandoms and gaming.

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.