Author: Craig Zablo

Mike Flannigan’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” – The Trailer is Here!

She’s coming for them all.
In this wicked series from Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) and based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, ruthless siblings Roderick and Madeline Usher have built Fortunato Pharmaceuticals into an empire of wealth, privilege and power. But past secrets come to light when the heirs to the Usher dynasty start dying at the hands of a mysterious woman from their youth.

“Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) / Z-View

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

Director: William Castle

Screenplay: Ray Russell

Stars: Oscar Homolka, Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton, Guy Rolfe and William Castle.

Tagline:  YOU decide the fate of Mr. Sardonicus during the “Punishment Poll”! Vote “mercy” or “no mercy” right in your theatre seat!

The Plot…

The year is 1880.  Sir Robert Cargrave (Lewis), a world famous physician gets a letter from Maude (Dalton), his former lover.  She requests that he come meet with her husband in a matter of great importance.  Because Cargrave still has feelings for Maude he goes.

Her husband is the rich and feared  Baron Sardonicus (Rolfe).  Upon arrival at Castle Sardonicus, Cargrave is greeted by Krull (Homolka), Sardonicus’ disfigured servant.  When he meets Maude, she says that if Cargrave cannot cure her husband, Baron Sardonicus will take it out on her!  Baron Sardonicus enters the room so she cannot say more.  Cargrave is shocked to see that Sardonicus wears a mask.

We learn that Baron Sardonicus’ face is hideously disfigured.  Sardonicus expects Dr. Cargrave to cure him.  If he doesn’t then Maude will be “punished”.  As Dr. Cargrave decides his next move, he learns that as deformed as Sardoniscus’ face is, his sadistic behaviors are even worse.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

William Castle, the King of Movie Gimmicks, came up with a winner.  Before the start of the film, William Castle tells the audience that the cards they were given on entry will decide the ending of the film.  Before the last scene, Castle will return to tell the audience to hold up cards with glow-in-the-dark thumbs.  Sardoniscus will either be given “mercy” or not depending on how the majority of the audience votes. Thumbs up equals mercy.  Thumbs down, no mercy.   Truth be told, there was only one ending – no mercy.

Most William Castle films focus on horror and jump scares.  Mr. Sardonicus places emphasis on suspense.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Mother” starring Jennifer Lopez / Z-View

The Mother (2023)

Director: Niki Caro

Screenplay: Misha Green, Andrea Berloff, Peter Craig from a story by Misha Green[1]

Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Lucy Paez, Omari Hardwick, Joseph Fiennes, Jesse Garcia, Yvonne Senat Jones, Gael García Bernal and Edie Falco.

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

“The Mother” (Lopez) is an unnamed ex-military, soldier brokering an arms deal between two of her former lovers, ex-SAS Captain Adrian Lovell (Fiennes) and arms dealer Hector Álvarez (Bernal).  When she discovers that they are both also involved in child trafficking, she turns FBI informant.

While “The Mother” is at a safe house being interrogated, and nearly ready to give birth, the safe house is attacked.  All of the FBI agents except, William Cruise (Hardwick) are murdered.  Cruise is badly wounded, but saved by “The Mother”, who is also wounded and nearly loses her baby.  Realizing she is a marked woman and her child would always be in danger, “The Mother” agrees to put the baby up for adoption with three conditions:
1.  The baby will be put in a good, safe home
2.  Cruise will send her a birthday photo every year
3.  Cruise will let her know if the child is ever in danger

Cruise agrees. The child is adopted and named Zoe (Paez). “The Mother” moves to Alaska to live off the grid.

Twelve years later Cruise contacts “The Mother”.  Zoe who is in grave danger.  Álvarez has learned where she is and is planning to kidnap her.  Together Cruise and “The Mother” move to save Zoe, but will they be too late?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Jennifer Lopez is more than capable to play an action hero.  Unfortunately, The Mother is content to coast.  The story hits all the marks you’d expect.  It feels like moviemaking by numbers.  There are no surprises. It does have enough star power and action to hold our attention.  Unfortunately except for Lopez, the stars are under-used.  I’d have loved to have seen Omari Hardwick and Edie Falco given more to do.

While “The Mother” is an okay way to spend a couple of hours, Jennifer Lopez and her co-stars deserved better.  So did the audience.

The Mother (2023) rates 2 of 5 stars.

KRAJ the ENFORCER: STORIES by Rusty Barnes

I’ve never read anything by Rusty Barnes.  That’s about to change.  I’m going to put in my order for KRAJ the ENFORCER: STORIES.  Check out the synopsis below,  It may be something you’d like as well.

Meet Kraj—pronounced krai—a low-level errand boy and hitman masquerading as a bouncer for Tricky Ricky Gutierrez, nefarious owner of the Twist, a club in upstate Elmira NY. A place that has both a LGBTQIA night and a cowboy country night, this cockeyed corner bar in northern Appalachia supports Ricky’s illegal schemes, and serves as a rural balm for Croatian-war refugee Kraj.

Kraj plies his trade over a short span, moving from petty theft to strong-arming tips from people at the door, breaking up redneck fights, protecting the club’s nubile female staff and collecting gambling debts owed Tricky Ricky. Kraj eventually gets sucked further and further into Ricky’s underworld plans, where he wants to be seen as a man on the come-up, but he has problems moving up in Ricky’s organization will never solve. His sister Ana, missing since the Croatian War for Independence, never strays far from his mind.

Kraj, together with his sometime girlfriend Cami, newly become manager of a franchisee McDonald’s, and his manager Mikael. negotiates his way through underground fight clubs, prostitution rings, drug deals, petty thievery, and of course, murder. Tricky Ricky gives Kraj a great deal of rope and autonomy to operate.

Will he hang himself with it or swing?



TOO MANY BULLETS (Nathan Heller) by Max Allan Collins!

Max Allan Collins’ Nate Heller series is one of my favorites. Collins takes famous murders, thoroughly  researches them and then sticks Nate Heller in the middle of things.  It’s cool seeing Heller (who ages in real time through the series) interacting with famous people in cases and often with an ending not quite like what we’ve come to believe.  Collins always includes an afterward with insights and a bibliography.

Collins latest Nate Heller yarn is TOO MANY BULLETS.  Here’s the lowdown…

Acclaimed “True Crime” detective Nathan Heller, whose cases have sold more than 1 million copies, returns to uncover the secrets behind Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 assassination in this brand-new novel from bestselling ROAD TO PERDITION author Max Allan Collins.

In 1968, Nate Heller is there when Robert Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel. Heller takes it upon himself to investigate the murder when a friend of his and Bobby’s raises doubts about the LAPD’s investigation. Heller strongly suspects the involvement of Jimmy Hoffa (currently imprisoned), but Hoffa seems to be in the clear as the private eye looks into the possible presence of CIA enemies of RFK’s on the murder night, the apparent manipulation of Sirhan Sirhan into a Manchurian Candidate-style assassin, and a probable second shooter.



“The Batman” Print by Steranko!

Fans are going to be excited to see and maybe even get their mitts on the new prints Steranko created for conventions he’ll attend this year. The Batman art above is one of those.  I love Steranko’s graphic design.

If you get a chance to meet Steranko, don’t sleep on it.  The man is a natural storyteller.  Plus, how often do you get to meet a legit legend?

“Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” starring Kurt Russell & Wyatt Russell – The Trailer is Here!

The trailer looks cool.  Add in Kurt and Wyatt Russell and I’m sold.  Deal me in!

When monsters emerge, secrets follow. Monarch: Legacy of Monsters premieres November 17 on Apple TV+

Following the thunderous battle between Godzilla and the Titans that leveled San Francisco, and the shocking revelation that monsters are real, “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” tracks two siblings following in their father’s footsteps to uncover their family’s connection to the secretive organization known as Monarch. Clues lead them into the world of monsters and ultimately down the rabbit hole to Army Officer Lee Shaw (played by Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell), taking place in the 1950s and half a century later where Monarch is threatened by what Shaw knows. The dramatic saga — spanning three generations — reveals buried secrets and the ways that epic, earth-shattering events can reverberate through our lives.

“Fences” (2016) written by August Wilson, directed by Denzel Washington, starring Denzel Washington & Viola Davis / Z-View

Fences (2016)

Director: Denzel Washington

Screenplay: August Wilson based on his play Fences

Stars: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby,
Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney, Christopher Mele, Lesley Boone
and Rachelle Beinart.

Tagline:  Some people build fences to keep people out – and other people build fences to keep people in.

The Plot…

Troy Maxson (Washington) is a bitter, angry, 56 year old black man.  Once a talented baseball player, Troy was never given a chance to play in the big leagues due to his race.  Then World War II came.  Now that Troy is older, the color-barrier in baseball has broken.  But Troy is too old to play.  So he makes his living as a garbage collector.  Even there Troy see discrimination.  All the drivers are white.  All the workers doing the heavy lifting are black.

Troy’s wife, Rose (Davis) sees times are starting to change.  Cory (Adepo), Troy and Rose’s son, is a bright student and talented football player.  A college is interested in giving Cory a scholarship, but Troy won’t sign the paperwork.  He wants Cory to get educated in a job that will always provide an income.

Troy sees barriers everywhere and is bitter about how life has treated him, never realizing that he is building barriers for himself and his family as well.  Despite Troy’s flaws, Rose loves him.  Sadly Troy’s choices are going to have terrible consequences for his family and friends.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Fences (2016) was honored at the Academy Awards:

Academy Award Wins:

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Viola Davis

Academy Award Nominations:

  • Best Motion Picture of the Year: Todd Black, Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Denzel Washington
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: August Wilson

“Fences” was first a Broadway play.  It opened in 1987 and went on to win Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Actor (James Earl Jones), and Best Featured Actress (Mary Alice).  “Fences” was revived in 2010.  It won Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor (Denzel Washington), and Best Actress (Viola Davis).  All five adult actors from the revival reprise their roles in the film.

Although August Wilson is the only credited screenwriter for the film, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee and Tony Kushner did uncredited work.  They didn’t want their names on the credits to insure that Wilson alone received any writing honors or awards.

Denzel Washing and Viola Davis were rightfully nominated for Academy Awards.  Their roles in Fences may be their best performances ever.  Everyone in the supporting cast is wonderful.

It was fun to see Saniyya Sidney as a very young girl.  Sidney would go on to co-star in The Passage a few years later.

Fences (2016) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Vindicta” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

The poster doesn’t do much for me, but the trailer has my attention!

DIRECTED BY: Sean McNamara
STORY BY: Steven Paul
STARRING: Elena Kampouris, Sean Astin and Jeremy Piven
EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY: Scott Karol and Charles Cooper
PRODUCED BY: Steven Paul

About Vindicta: When a city is terrorized by a sadistic serial killer, a seasoned detective and a newly recruited paramedic are forced into a deadly game of vengeance, only to discover the key to stopping the bloodshed lies in unlocking the truth of their own haunted pasts. Elena Kampouris (Children of the Corn), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings franchise), and Jeremy Piven (Entourage) star in this edge-of-your-seat thriller from the director of On a Wing and a Prayer.

“The Burial” starring Jamie Foxx & Tommy Lee Jones – The Trailer is Here!

Deal me in.

Check out the official trailer for The Burial, in theaters October 6 and coming to Prime Video on October 13.

Inspired by true events, when a handshake deal goes sour, funeral home owner Jeremiah O’Keefe (Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones) enlists charismatic, smooth-talking attorney Willie E. Gary (Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx) to save his family business. Tempers flare and laughter ensues as the unlikely pair bond while exposing corporate corruption and racial injustice in this inspirational, triumphant story.

Song: GOLDEN by Aloe Blacc & Tim Myers