Category: Z-View

“Around the World” (1943) starring Kay Kyser, Mischa Auer & Joan Davis / Z-View

Around the World (1943)

Director:  Allan Dwan

Screenplay by:  Ralph Spence

Starring: Kay Kyser, Mischa Auer, Joan Davis, Wally Brown, Alan Carney, M.A. Bogue,  Georgia Carroll, Chester Conklin, Barbara Hale and Marcy McGuire.

Tagline: The musical that’s going places – and momma does she move!

The Story:

World War II is underway.  Kay Kyser takes his band on a tour of military bases around the world to entertain our troops with song, comedy and pretty girls.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Kay Kyser and his band were popular on radio, feature films and television.  Kyser combined real musical talent with comedy and wasn’t afraid to let members of his troupe shine.  Around the World is filled with songs interspersed with one liners, sight gags, double talk and musical silliness.  Oh, and there’s a story that runs through the different stops.  It has a surprisingly sad, yet inspirational ending.

“Top Secret!” (1984) directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, starring Val Kilmer / Z-View

Top Secret! (1984)

Director:  Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Screenplay by:  Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Martyn Burke

Starring: Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, Omar Sharif, Jeremy Kemp, Warren Clarke, Ian McNeice,  Michael Gough and Peter Cushing.

Tagline: Shhh!

The Story:

While on tour in East Germany (a very Nazi-like place), rock-and-roll superstar, Nick Rivers (Kilmer) falls in love and is drawn into international intrigue.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

I put off seeing Top Secret! for years decades because of less than stellar reviews.  Recently I saw a clip of Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge and Peter Cushing in the Swedish bookstore scene.  The scene was staged so that it could run backwards in the movie.  The end result is English dialogue playing backwards for Swedish and the actors pulling off very interesting effects. Check out the scene and see what I mean.  I thought that was extremely clever, so I decided to give the movie a chance.

There are sight-gags galore.  I was surprised/amused by the abuse that Omar Sharif took.  The cow-disguise and the underwater fight scenes were worth the price of admission.  If I was to pick any nits, I’d say take out a song or two and add more silliness.  Still, if you’re a fan of Airplane-type humor, then you’d probably enjoy Top Secret!.

“The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) directed by James Whale, starring Boris Karloff, Colin Clive & Elsa Lanchester / Z-View

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Director:  James Whale

Screenplay by:  William Hurlbut, story by William Hurlbut, John L. Balderston based on premise suggested by FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger,  Gavin Gordon, Douglas Walton, E.E. Clive, Dwight Frye, Billy Barty, Walter Brennan, John Carradine and Una O’Connor.

Tagline: A BRIDE FOR THE MONSTER COMES TO LIFE IN A SCIENTIST’S LABORATORY!

The Story: 

The Bride of Frankenstein picks up immediately where Frankenstein ended.  Miraculously, although severely injured, Henry Frankenstein (Clive) is not dead. As the crowd breaks up, some carry Henry back home to recover.  Meanwhile the monster, also thought to be dead, has survived the destruction of the windmill.  It climbs out and begins to wander the countryside.

Once healthy enough, Henry pays a visit to his friend Doctor Pretorius (Thesiger).  Pretorius shares results of his experiments and encourages Henry to continue efforts to create living creatures from cadavers.  Henry is hesitant.  Despite Pretorius’ pleas, Henry refuses.

Things heat up when the monster returns, Pretorius prevails and Henry is forced to create The Bride of Frankenstein.  We learn there’s one thing worse than an upset bride.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

It’s rare that a sequel is better than the original.  The Bride of Frankenstein is one of those rare ones.

Universal wanted a follow up after the success of Frankenstein.  Director James Whale was hesitant to return.  It took four years and multiple writers to come up with a suitable script.  Once Whale and the script were in place, Karloff, Clive and Frye returned to reprise their roles.

Elsa Lanchester isn’t listed in the opening credits instead a ? is used to name who was playing the Bride. The same was done in Frankenstein when a ? was listed instead of Karloff’s name as the actor playing The Monster.  Despite being the title character the Bride only appears for a few minutes at the very end of the film.

The scene where Henry visits Doctor Pretorius and is shown the little people he created has always seemed a bit out of place to me.

The Bride of Frankenstein has more humor than the original, but the balance is right and it doesn’t detract from the film.  I’m looking at you, Una O’Connor.

There are some surprising uncredited cameos in The Bride of Frankenstein. Billy Barty plays a baby, while Walter Brennan and John Carradine show up as town folk.

“Frankenstein” (1931) directed by James Whale, starring Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff & Dwight Frye / Z-View

Frankenstein (1931)

Director:  James Whale

Screenplay by:  Garrett Fort, Francis Edward Faragoh based on FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

Starring: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan, Dwight Frye and Marilyn Harris.

Tagline: The Man Who Made A Monster!

The Story: 

Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Clive) dreams of creating a living being from body parts stolen from cadavers.  Frankenstein’s hunchbacked assistant, Fritz (Frye) steals the corpses of  recently hung criminals.  When Frankenstein achieves success, his creation becomes uncontrollable.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Although based on Mary Shelley’s famous novel, the movie uses her story as a springboard.  The “monster” looks different than Shelley described thanks to make-up artist Jack P. Pierce.  Universal copyrighted the look through 2026.  In the novel the “monster” is intelligent and able to carry on conversations.  It was quite a shock for me as a kid reading the novel after seeing the movie.

Although Boris Karloff isn’t listed in the opening credits, and is covered by heavy makeup throughout the film, Frankenstein made him a star!

“The Omega Man” (1971) starring Charlton Heston / Z-View

The Omega Man (1971)

Director:  Boris Sagal

Screenplay by:  John William Corrington, Joyce H. Corrington based on I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson

Starring: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo, Eric Laneuville, Lincoln Kilpatrick, John Dierkes, Monika Henreid, Linda Redfearn and Stewart East.

Tagline: The last man alive… is not alone!

The Story: 

Two years after a World War where biological weapons were used, U.S. Army Col. Robert Neville, M.D. (Heston) believes himself to be the only living human.  Neville spends his days looking for signs of other humans and killing any mutants that he finds.  The mutants rest during the day and come out at night.

To protect himself, Neville has fortified an apartment building.  He lives on the top floor.  The lower floors are booby trapped.  He has floodlights to brighten the area since bright lights blind the mutants.  Neville also has dozens of automatic weapons and bombs to keep them at bay.  Each night the mutants show up to taunt and attempt to breach Neville’s home.

When Neville learns that their is a small band of humans living somewhere near, he makes it his mission to find and help them.  But the mutants are also looking.  It’s all going to come to a head and sometimes there are no happy endings.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

I saw The Omega Man when it was first released.  I was 12, and the perfect age for sci-fi/horror.  I loved Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur and more importantly The Planet of the Apes.  So I was excited to see his next adventure.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Re-visiting The Omega Man in the years (decades) that followed I found it to be less thrilling.  There are scenes (particularly those with the motorcycle) that the Neville is obviously not Heston.  There’s a 70s vibe that permeates the film.  The clothes, the language, the attitude are all hip.  At least they’re supposed to be.

Heston spends a lot of time shirtless.  He was in great shape for his age, so perhaps he put it in his contract.  ; )

Director Boris Sagal mostly worked as a director of television shows and made-for-tv movies. At times The Omega Man feels like one.

Rosalind Cash plays Heston’s love interest.  In 1971, this was controversial.  I guess it still is with some folks.  Look for a young Eric Laneuville of Room 222 and St. Elsewhere fame as one of the kids.  Laneuville went on to a career both acting and directing!

The Omega Man isn’t great cinema, But it does qualify as a fun “drive-in” movie.

“Magic” (1978) starring Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret & Burgess Meredith / Z-View

Magic (1978)

Director:  Richard Attenborough

Screenplay by:  William Goldman based on his novel MAGIC.

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter, E.J. André, David Ogden Stiers, Jerry Houser, Lillian Randolph, Beverly Sanders and Steve Hart.

Tagline: Abracadabra, I sit on his knee. Presto chango, and now he is me. Hocus Pocus, we take her to bed. Magic is fun; we’re dead.

The Story: 

Charles “Corky” Withers (Hopkins) is a failed magician.  Nerves got the best of him when he was on stage.  So Corky developed a new act.  He performs as a ventriloquist with a dirty-mouth, wisecracking dummy named Fats.  Corky is on the verge of a huge deal for a television special and more.  The only hitch is that the producers are demanding Corky get the usual medical check-ups.

And THAT is a deal breaker.

You see, Corky isn’t in his right mind.  Just ask Fats.  He’ll tell ya.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

I saw Magic when it was first released.  My girlfriend (now my wife) really liked it.  I found Magic to be just okay.  I recently re-watched Magic and my opinion of it improved.

Richard Attenborough perhaps best known as Hammond in Jurassic Park directed Magic. You might think that the director of A Bridge Too Far, Ghandi and A Chorus Line would be an odd choice for a small horror/suspense film, but Attenborough does a fine job,

Anthony Hopkins is marvelous as the tormented talent.  Burgess Meredith goes low-key as Corky’s flashy manager. Their “five minute” scene is a standout.  Ann Margaret downplays the make-up and glamour. She’s still a looker.  Ed Lauter gets to show off his acting chops as Ann Margaret’s about-to-be-jilted husband.  His scene with Hopkins in the rowboat is another movie highlight.

My biggest nit-to-pick is that Ann Margaret’s character should have seen the signs that Corky wasn’t all there. Most folks would counter that she couldn’t see past the bad relationship with her husband, and Corky, her high school sweetheart was a way out.

“Hang ‘Em High” (1968) starring Clint Eastwood / Z-View

Hang ‘Em High (1968)

Director:  Ted Post

Screenplay by:  Leonard Freeman, Mel Goldberg

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Pat Hingle, Ed Begley, Ben Johnson, Charles McGraw, Ruth White, Bruce Dern, Alan Hale Jr., Arlene Golonka, James Westerfield, Dennis Hopper, L.Q. Jones, Joseph Sirola, James MacArthur, Bert Freed, Mark Lenard and Bob Steele.

Tagline: The hanging was the best show in town. But they made two mistakes. They hung the wrong man and they didn’t finish the job.

The Story: 

Jed Cooper (Eastwood), a former lawman, is found with a dead man’s cattle.  Despite a bill of sale, the six vigilantes don’t believe Cooper.  The put a noose around his neck, hang him and ride off.

Marshall Dave Bliss (Johnson) saw what was happening from a distance.  He rides in and cuts Cooper down.  Although he’ll carry a scar on his neck for the rest of his life, Cooper will live.  Marshall Bliss turns Cooper over to Hanging Judge Fenton (Hingle).  Fenton checks out Cooper’s story.  When he finds it to be true, he offers Cooper a job as a Marshall.

Cooper accepts.  His first order of business will be to track down the men that tried to hang him.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Hang ‘Em High was Clint Eastwood’s first starring role in a Hollywood movie.  It was also the first film Eastwood produced through his Malpaso production company.

Ted Post was handpicked to direct Hang ‘Em High by Clint Eastwood. Post had directed 24 episodes of Rawhide and the two had a good relationship.  Post and Eastwood would reteam for Magnum Force.

The supporting cast is made up of well known character actors (Pat Hingle, Ed Begley, Charles McGraw, Ruth White, Bruce Dern, Alan Hale Jr., Arlene Golonka, James Westerfield, Dennis Hopper, Joseph Sirola, James MacArthur, Bert Freed and Mark Lenard) and former cowboy stars (Ben Johnson, Alan Hale, Jr., L.Q. Jones and Bob Steele).

Although it was sometimes advertised with the tagline: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good the Bad and the Ugly…NOW The Man With No Name is back!, Eastwood’s character in Hang ‘Em High is NOT The Man With No Name.

“The Night Stalker” (1972) starring Darren McGavin / Z-View

The Night Stalker (1972)

Director:  John Llewellyn Moxey

Screenplay by:  Richard Matheson based on THE KOLCHAK PAPERS by Jeff Rice 

Starring: Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Charles McGraw, Kent Smith, Stanley Adams, Larry Linville, Jordan Rhodes, Barry Atwater, Edward Faulkner, Buddy Joe Hooker and Elisha Cook Jr..

Tagline: A vampire killer loose in Las Vegas? It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

The Story: 

A serial killer in Las Vegas continues to leave victims drained of blood.  Reporter Carl Kolchak (McGavin) believes that the murderer believes he’s a vampire.  When Kolchak turns in an article saying that, he is called into a meeting with his editor and the police.  Kolchak’s story is rejected.  His editor thinks it would tarnish the paper’s reputation.  The police think it would panic the public.

What everyone doesn’t know, but will learn – the killer is a vampire!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Night Stalker was released as an ABC Movie of the Week in 1972.  I was 11 years old and couldn’t wait to see it. I wasn’t the only one.  The Night Stalker became the highest rated tv movie up to that point.  The following year, Kolchak returned when The Night Strangler was released.  Kolchak: The Night Stalker was then adapted into a television series.  It lasted one season, but became a cult classic.

The Night Stalker was produced by Dan “Dark Shadows” Curtis.  It features an outstanding cast considering it was a made-for-tv movie.  Darren McGavin is Carl Kolchak.  It was cool to see him play the character in two movies and the television series.  Carol Lynley doesn’t have much to do as Kolchak’s girlfriend.  Ralph Meeker has a nice role as Kolchak’s buddy on the force.  The Night Stalker is filled with great character actors including Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, Charles McGraw, Kent Smith and Stanley Adams. Even Elisha Cook Jr. gets a cameo!

I loved The Night Stalker when I was a kid.  A recent rewatch was fun.  The Night Stalker rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Old Dads” (2023) directed by Bill Burr, starring Bill Burr, Bobby Cannavale & Bokeem Woodbine / Z-View

Old Dads (2023)

Director: Bill Burr

Screenplay by: Bill Burr, Ben Tishler

Starring: Bill Burr, Bobby Cannavale, Bokeem Woodbine, Miles Robbins, Rachael Harris, C. Thomas Howell and Bruce Dern.

Tagline: Times have changed. They didn’t get the fax.

The Story: 

Jack (Burr), Connor (Cannavale) and Mike (Woodbine) are long time friends and business partners.  They are each also dealing with the joys of being an “old dad”.  They’re out of step and struggling with new ways of thinking.  Growing old ain’t for sissies.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

I liked Old Dads better than I thought I would.  Hats off to Bill Burr who co-wrote, directed and starred.  Bobby Cannavale and Bokeem Woodbine are excellent as Burr’s friends.  C. Thomas Howell and Bruce Dern appear in small but important roles.

I enjoyed Old Dads and think it could easily be adapted into a tv series.  There’s a lot of potential about three old dads who are out of touch with modern society.

“The Getaway” (1994) starring Alec Baldwin & Kim Basinger / Z-View

The Getaway (1994)

Director:  Roger Donaldson

Screenplay by:  Walter Hill,  Amy Holden Jones based on THE GETAWAY by Jim Thompson

Starring:  Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Michael Madsen, James Woods, David Morse, Jennifer Tilly, James Stephens, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burton Gilliam, Royce D. Applegate, Daniel Villarreal, Alex Colon  and Richard Farnsworth.

Tagline: Choosing between love and money is one thing. Getting away with both is something else

The Story: 

Carter “Doc” McCoy (Baldwin) was serving time in a Mexican prison after being double crossed on his last job. Thanks to Jack Benyon’s (Woods) influence and cash payoffs, Doc is now a free man.  Well, almost.  Doc owes Benyon a debt that will be paid off after Doc’s next job.

All goes well until it doesn’t.  Before Doc and his accomplices meet to divide the cash, the double crosses begin.  Doc doesn’t know who he can trust.  After he finds out what his wife, Carol (Basinger), did to get his release from prison, Doc’s not even sure about her,

The cops and Benyon’s men are after them.  Doc and Carol need a clean getaway.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The two biggest differences in The Getaway directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw and this one are 1) Doc and his wife are more of a team in the remake, and 2) there’s more nudity.

McQueen and McGraw fell in love while filming The Getaway.  They later married.  Baldwin and Basinger were already married when they starred in the remake.  They later divorced.

I’m a fan of both versions of the film.  THE GETAWAY is my favorite novel by Jim Thompson.

Baldwin and Basinger are aided by a great supporting cast.  Standouts include Michael Madsen, James Woods, David Morse, Jennifer Tilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burton Gilliam and Richard Farnsworth.

There was talk of a sequel, but it never happened.  It’s not too late.

“The Devil on Trial” (2023) / Z-View

The Devil on Trial (2023)

Director:  Chris Holt

Written by:  Chris Holt

Tagline: Did the Devil Do It?

The Story: 

In 1981, Arne Johnson stabbed Alan Bono to death.  Bono was Johnson’s landlord and had, in the past, dated Johnson’s girlfriend.  Although there was no doubt that Johnson was the murderer, he claimed he didn’t remember doing it.  When the case went to trial, his defense was that he was possessed by the devil/a demon and therefore wasn’t responsible.

This documentary explores the foundation for that defense and the result of the trial.

In 1980, Arne Johnson was dating Debbie Glatzel.  Some of Debbie’s family believed that her younger brother, David was possessed by the devil.  On more than one occasion David had to be held down by family members (and Arne) while David cursed, screamed and convulsed.  David’s behavior was extreme enough that his mother contacted Ed and Lorraine Warren.  The Warrens were famous for their involvement in The Amityville Murders.  The Warrens assisted David’s mother in getting the church to conduct an exorcism.  During the procedure, as David was struggling, Arne reportedly yelled at the demon, “Leave this little kid alone.  Take on me.  I’m here.”

So when Arne killed David, he asserted that the devil/demon had made him do it.  This documentary uses actual voice recordings. archival footage, home movies and actor recreations to recount the story.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

While Arne wanted to use the “the devil made me do it” defense, he never got to.  The judge ruled that “possession” was not a valid defense.  He didn’t allow it.  Arne ended up being found guilty of manslaughter.

Now to David Glatzel.  Some of David’s family believed that he was possessed.  One of David’s brothers said it was an act.  He said that during one of David’s sessions while cursing, hitting and yelling, David’s father came into the room.  Father grabbed David and slapped him.  Dad told David to shut up and sit in a chair.  The brother said, “The devil did as he was told”.  In other words, it was an act.

David’s mother was a religious woman.  She may have believed that David was possessed at the start.  By the time the Warrens got involved, it seemed to be more about fame and the money. Also near the end of the documentary a sick allegation against the mother is made.  I won’t give it away, but if true indicates mom had serious issues of her own.

As to the Warrens, this film puts them in a very bad light.  They took advantage of David’s family.  The Warrens kept almost all of the money off book and movie deals in regard to David’s story.  Money that had been promised to the Glatzel family.  If you’ve seen The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, that’s the Glatzel family’s story.

The Devil on Trial leaves it to viewers to determine if the possessions were real or not,  There’s evidence that could support whatever you decide.  As to the actions of the Warrens, the evidence points to them not being on the up and up.

“The Unknown” (1927) directed by Tod Browning, starring Lon Chaney & Joan Crawford / Z-View

The Unknown (1927)

Director:  Tod Browning

Screenplay by:  Waldemar Young; from a story byTod Browning;  Joseph Farnham (titles) 

Starring:  Lon Chaney, .Norman Kerry, Joan Crawford andJohn George

Tagline: Against a background of colorful circus life, and the sinister shadow of the underworld, is played a drama of love and revenge that will grip you! And through it stalks the mysterious figure of a deformed circus performer- The Unknown – a role just made for the brilliant Lon Chaney!

The Plot: 

“Alonzo the Armless” (Chaney) works as a circus stunt performer.  He uses his feet to throw knives and shoot a gun with deadly accuracy.  Alonzo is not the man’s real name. He goes by it because he’s hiding from the law.  The truth is that Alonzo has arms. He keeps them bound tightly to his body. No one (except his trusted partner Cojo) is aware of the deception.  Alonzo hides his arms because he was born with a deformed double thumb that the police know about.

Alonzo is in love with the circus owner’s daughter, Nanon (Crawford). Although Namon likes Alonzo, she is unaware of the depth of his affection for her.  Malabar, the circus strongman, also has feelings for Nanon.  As Alonzo’s obsession with Nanon grows, so does his willingness to cross any line to have her.  Before the tale is done, Alonzo will murder multiple people and do something so unexpected, to say more would ruin the twist.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Tod Browning and Lon Chaney collaborated on eight films.  The Unknown is considered to be their best work. It has been called a “masterpiece of silent cinema” and I couldn’t agree more.

The step that Alonzo takes to win Nanon is so shocking that the audience is still reeling when Browning hits a twist worthy of O. Henry.  If you haven’t tried or liked silent films, I’d suggest you give The Unknown a shot.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” (2023) created by Mike Flanagan, starring Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood & Mary McDonnell / Z-View

The Fall of the House of Usher (2023)

Director:  Mike Flanagan (Eps.1 – 2, 5 – 6); Michael Fimognari (Eps. 3 – 4, 7 -8)

Teleplay by:  Mike Flanagan (Ep. 1); Emmy Grinwis and Mike Flanagann (Ep. 2); Justina Ireland and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 3); Mat Johnson and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 4); Dani Parker (Ep. 5); Rebecca Leigh Klingel and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 6);Jamie Flanagan and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 7); Mike Flanagan and Kiele Sanchez (Ep. 8)

Starring:  Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Mary McDonnell, Henry Thomas, Rahul Kohli, Samantha Sloyan, T’Nia Miller, Zach Gilford, Willa Fitzgerald, Michael Trucco, Katie Parker, Matt Biedel, Crystal Balint, Ruth Codd, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Kate Siegel, Sauriyan Sapkota, Malcolm Goodwin   and Mark Hamill.

Tagline: Nevermore

The Plot: 

Roderick Usher (Greenwood) and his sister Madeline (McDonnell) teamed to take over Fortunato Pharmaceuticals.  Along the way they fudged test results, broke laws, lied under oath, ruined lives and committed at least one murder.  Now, decades later Roderick is CEO of Fortunato and one of the richest men on the planet.  His sister remains his trusted partner.  Over the years Roderick fathered several children from different mothers.  Now the kids are grown and using daddy’s money to try to build their own dynasties. But when Roderick’s offspring begin dying under unusual circumstances, one after the other, we learn what happened all those years ago that leads to The Fall of the House of Usher.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Mike Flanagan has created another winner.  Rather than a literal adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Flannigan has given us modern interpretations of many of Poe’s short stories, poems and characters integrated into a single, unified story. This is genius.

The Fall of the House of Usher features an amazing cast.  I would not be surprised to several Emmy nominations from this production. Standouts include:

  • Carla Gugino: who owns every scene she is in.  I will be disappointed if she isn’t recognized for a Best Actress nod.
  • Bruce Greenwood: He’s perfect as Roderick Usher.  The role was originally cast with Frank Langella.  Problems on the set led to Greenwood getting the role and I would be hard pressed to say anyone could have done it better.
  • Henry Thomas gives the performance of his life.
  • Samantha Sloyan: I first became aware of her in Mike Flannigan’s Midnight Mass.  She was amazing there.  She’s also amazing here.
  • Carl Lumbly: was a great choice to go head to head in many scenes with Greenwood.  Lumbly, like the audience, slowly learns what has and is happening.
  • Mark Hamill: totally nails the role of the Usher Family’s attorney and “fixer”.  I’ll admit I was surprised at just how good Hamill is as the older, tough guy who has seen and done things we can’t imagine.

While I’ve turned the spotlight on the actors/actresses above, every member of the cast was excellent.  Mike Flannigan writes a great story, gets the right people for each part and then assists them in creating amazing performances.  The Fall of the House of Usher is an perfect example.  I look forward to what Flannigan does next.

“They Cloned Tyrone” (2023) starring John Boyega, Jamie Foxx & Teyonah Parris / Z-View

They Cloned Tyrone (2023)

Director: Juel Taylor

Screenwriter: Tony Rettenmaier, Juel Taylor

Cast: John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Parris, Kiefer Sutherland and David Alan Grier.

Tagline: Damn…

The Plot…

Fontaine (Boyega) is a small time drug dealer.  When he goes to collect money from a pimp known as Slick Charles (Foxx), Fontaine is ambushed.  He’s shot several times and left for dead. Slick Charles and one of his girls, Yo-Yo are shocked to witness the murder.

They are even more amazed the next day.  Fontaine comes back to collect the debt.  He has no recollection of being shot.  He has no wounds.  As Slick Charles and Yo-Yo discuss what they saw, some memories come back to Fontaine.  The three end up following clues that lead them to discover a widespread government conspiracy.

Fontaine, Slick Charles and Yo-Yo have to figure out a way to quickly expose the powerful cabal behind the conspiracy, If they can’t, well… we all know what happens to people who discover the truth behind big time deceptions.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

This is the second film I’ve seen with John Boyega. He was excellent in The Woman King and is even better here.  Jamie Foxx is always good.  I loved seeing Keifer Sutherland and David Allan Grier pop up in supporting roles.

My simple description of They Cloned Tyrone is cross Three the Hard Way with Invasion of the Body Snatchers minus the aliens. Add a touch of humor.

I liked They Cloned Tyrone but think it could have gotten to the conspiracy a bit faster.  I also wish that they had leaned into the humor a bit more.

A lot of the film reminded me of a 70s blaxploitation movie.  I thought that maybe the film should have been set in that time period.  Another thought then occurred, perhaps the folks behind the film wanted us to see the situation as though it takes place now because the issues are still relevant.

They Cloned Tyrone (2023) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Outlaws” (2017) starring Ma Dong-seok (Don Lee) & Yoon Kye-sang / Z-View

The Outlaws (2017)

Director: Yunsung Kang

Screenwriter: Yunsung Kang

Cast: Ma Dong-seok (Don Lee), Yoon Kye-sang

Tagline: Bare-knuckle cop v/s bloodless butcher. Tonight, things get wild.

The Plot…

The Black Dragon, a Chinese gang led by the sadistic and merciless Jang Chen (Kyesang) moves into a South Korean district. Local business owners are harassed and killed.  To make matters worse, it leads to a gang war.  Detective Ma Seok-do (Dong-seok) and his team are ordered to take down the gangs.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Outlaws was one of the most popular film in South Korea the year it was released.  It came in the top three at the box office.  The Outlaws also won multiple South Korean film awards including: Top 10 Film, Best New Director and Best Supporting Actor.

The Outlaws was popular enough to lead to the production of two sequels: The Roundup (2022) and The Roundup: No Way Out (2023).

I’m a huge fan of Ma Dong-seok aka Don Lee.  He should be a bigger star in the US.

Kudos to Yoon Kye-sang.  He plays a villain that’s charismatic and evil.

The Outlaws is action-packed and violent.  Thankfully it doesn’t linger on the gore.  I look forward to seeing the two sequels.

The Outlaws (2017) rates 4 of 5 stars.