“Synchronic” (2019) starring Anthony Mackie / Z-View

Synchronic (2019)

Director:  Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Screenplay: Justin Benson

Stars: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Ally Ioannides and Ramiz Monsef

Tagline: Time is an illusion

The Plot…

Steve (Mackie) and Dennis (Dornan) are New Orleans paramedics.  Recently they’ve been getting calls where the victims have used a new street drug called Synchronic.  The drug often leaves the user incoherent or dead under unusual circumstances.  One person appeared to be victim of a sword fight, another died from the bite of a poisonous snake not found in the state and yet another was found stabbed with an ancient sword.

While at a local smoke shop, Steve is able to purchase several Synchronic pills.  A man claims to be the chemist who invented Synchronic attempts to buy the pills from Steve.  He offers much more than Steve paid.  The chemist wants to destroy the pills. Later Steve learns that the chemist believes the pills allow young people who take Synchronic to easily travel through time.  Adults, because of their body chemistry, have problems when taking the pills.

When Dennis’ daughter (Ioannides) doesn’t come home and can’t be found, Dennis and Steve learn she was last seen at a party where Synchronic was available.  Steve believes that the only hope to find her is to take the Synchronic himself…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I like well done time travel films and Synchronic qualifies.

Anthony Mackie is always good and this outing is no exception.  Ally Ioannides doesn’t have a lot to do, but I enjoyed seeing her.  She’s grown up since Into the Badlands.

OWNING UP by George Pelecanos

George Pelecanos has a new one coming out.  Actually four new ones if we want to be accurate.  Here’s the lowdown…

Four blistering novellas, drawn together by themes of strife, violence, and humanity; “Every time I read one of George Pelecanos’s novels, I’m left a little awed.” (Dennis Lehane)

When the son of the Carusos is involved in a hold up, the family home comes under siege in the form of a no-knock warrant. Months after the cops destroyed their home, the Carusos struggle to return to normal. Elsewhere, two former inmates reunite by chance on the set of a TV production. Both have found their way on the straight and narrow path, that is, until one sees the potential for an easy grift. A teenage boy must step into the man he’d like to be as a hostage crisis grips his hometown. A woman adrift meets a man tied to her grandmother’s past, an encounter that awakens her to a bloody history that undergirds the place she grew up.

Pelecanos’ portraits are characterized by shades of grey, resisting the mold of heroes and villains, victims and perpetrators, good and evil. At once streetwise and full of heart, Owning Up grapples with random chance, the bind of consequence, and the forked paths a life can take.

OWNING UP by George Pelecanos drops February 6, 2024.

The Invisible Woman (1940) / Z-View

The Invisible Woman (1940)

Director:  A. Edward Sutherland

Screenplay: Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, Gertrude Purcell, story by Curt Siodmak, Joe May

Stars: Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore, John Howard, Oscar Homolka, Donald MacBride, Margaret Hamilton, Charles Lane, Mary Gordon  and Shemp Howard.

Tagline: The YEAR’S FUNNIEST FUN!

The Plot…

Richard Russell (Howard) has always used part of his wealth to fund eccentric Professor Gibbs’ (Barrymore) inventions.  When Gibbs comes up with a method to turn people invisible he needs a test subject.  Out-of-work model, Kitty Carroll (Bruce) volunteers.  When gangsters learn of the device, they decide to steal it.  Kitty, Professor Gibbs and Richard are in over their heads.

Let the fun begin!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Invisible Woman was a 1942 Oscar Nominee for Best Special Effects.

If at times John Barrymore seems to be looking past who he’s talking to or in different directions as he speaks, it’s because cue cards were placed in strategic locations around the room.  Sadly Barrymore’s alcoholism had taken a toll.

Watch for Shemp Howard as the gangster named Frankie!  Margaret Hamilton of Wizard of Oz fame also has a supporting role.

The Invisible Woman (1940) earns 3 of 5 stars.

“The Strain”: Season 1 (2014) / Z-View

The Strain: Season 1 (2014)

Created by:  Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan

Directors:  Guillermo del Toro (ep. 1); David Semel (eps. 2 – 3); Keith Gordon (ep. 4); Peter Weller (eps. 5 – 6, 11); Charlotte Sieling (eps. 7, 9); Guy Ferland (ep. 8); John Dahl (ep. 10); Deran Sarafian (ep. 12); Phil Abraham (ep. 13)

Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan (eps. 2, 8); David Weddle, Bradley Thompson (eps. 2, 7); Chuck Hogan (ep. 3); Regina Corrado (eps. 4, 9); Gennifer Hutchison (eps. 5, 10); Justin Britt-Gibson (ep. 6); Justin Britt-Gibson, Chuck Hogan (ep. 11); Carlton Cruse, David Weddle, Bradley Thompson (ep. 12); Carlton Cruse, Chuck Hogan (ep. 13)

Stars: Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Jim Watson, Mía Maestro, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Jack Kesy, Natalie Brown, Miguel Gomez, Ben Hyland, Ruta Gedmintas, Pedro Miguel Arce, Adriana Barraza and Sean Astin.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

A passenger plan lands in New York City.  All but four people on board are dead.  Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather (Stohl) of the CDC is sent in with a small team to determine the cause.  When his efforts to quarantine the four survivors is refused, Eph believes that they will potentially transmit the unknown virus to to others.

Meanwhile Professor Abraham Setrakian (Bradley), a holocaust survivor, believes the cause is strigoi more commonly referred to as vampires.  Setrakian explains these are nothing like movie vampires.  Of course no one believes the old man.

The truth is strigoi are behind the deaths.  A “Master” strigoi is making his move to bring war on humans. The Master is aided by a sickly billionaire who has been promised eternal life and a former Nazi commandant who has aided the master for decades.  Eph and Setrakian are pulling together a team of people who have seen strigoi in action.

The fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan have created a modern day vampire tale with a backstory that extends not just decades, but centuries.  The vampires aren’t the classic creatures of the night seen in countless movies.  And the stakes aren’t just a beautiful woman’s soul.  Here the fate of the world is at risk.

The writers should be commended for creating a huge cast of interesting characters with wonderful backstories.  Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather played by Corey Stoll is the lead.  It isn’t often the “star” is given so many character flaws.  Several members of the supporting cast have lived up to the title co-star.  Kudos to David Bradley as Professor Abraham Setrakian, Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet and Miguel Gomez as Augustin “Gus” Elizalde for playing characters that make the show sing. Jonathan Hyde as Eldritch Palmer, the sickly billionaire who aides the Master and Richard Sammel as Thomas Eichhorst, the Nazi vampire acolyte who has served the Master for decades deserve kudos as well.

Although Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan wrote a Strain trilogy of novels, the series doesn’t follow them exactly.

The Strain: Season 1 (2019) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“We Are the World” – Behind the Scenes Trivia!

Kenneth Partridge at Mental Floss posted The Greatest Night in Pop: 10 Facts About the Making of “We Are the World”. It takes you behind the scenes of who wanted in, who was not invited, and more.  It’s well worth a read.  Before you click over, here are three of my favorite facts and my thoughts on each.

Prince was notably absent from the proceedings.  (According to Partridge, “His (Prince’s) absence likely had something to do with his rivalry with Michael Jackson.”  It’s unfortunate that Prince didn’t participate.  It would have been the icing on the cake. – Craig)

Madonna was also missing—though not by choice. (According to Partridge the organizers didn’t think she could sing.  Madonna apparently carried a grudge of not being invited.  She “opted not to join the ‘We Are the World’ finale” at Live Aide. – Craig)

Not everyone liked “We Are the World.”  (And we’re talking about those who performed on the recording! Billy Joel was quoted as saying, “I don’t think anybody liked it… There was a lot of side-eye.”  Cyndi Lauper thought the song sounded like a Pepsi commercial.  Hopefully opinions changed when they saw the good the proceeds did. – Craig)

The Why Files: Season 1 (2020) starring Andrew Gentile / Z-View

The Why Files: Season 1 (2020)

Creator:  Andrew Gentile

Stars: Andrew Gentile

Tagline: Where Cool Nerds Laugh and Learn

The Plot…

The Why Files started as a weekly Youtube podcast where the host, Andrew Gentile looked at myths, legends, strange phenomena and more.  Gentile approaches each subject with respect and the right touch of humor.  After explaining the subject he then explains what part is true, debunks parts that can be and admits if the truth isn’t known.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Andrew Gentile is an excellent host.  His sidekick is a Hecklefish that adds humor.

Some of my favorite episodes from season one include: Top Scariest Places You Can Actually Visit; Rain of Terror; The Most Top Secret Places in the World; Nanorobotics & Nanotechnology – Can We Live Forever?; The Voynich Manuscript; Stay out of the Nevada Triangle; CIA Declassifies UFO Documents; The Philadelphia Experiment and Time Travelers Caught on Film.

The Why Files: Season 1 (2020) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Road House” starring Jake Gyllenhall & Connor McGregor – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Yes, the original Road House is a cult classic.  Yes, Gyllenhall is going to be roasted when compared to Swayze.  Yet, with all that said, I like the looks of the poster and (especially) the trailer for the updated Road House.  Connor McGregor looks to be an excellent villain.

In this adrenaline-fueled reimagining of the 80s cult classic, ex-UFC fighter Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes a job as a bouncer at a Florida Keys roadhouse, only to discover that this paradise is not all it seems. Road House is open for business March 21 on @primevideo.

“In the Shadow of the Moon” (2019) starring Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman & Bokeem Woodbine / Z-View

In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)

Director:  Jim Mickle

Screenplay: Gregory Weidman, Geoff Tock

Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael C. Hall, Tony Craig and Rachel Keller.

Tagline: Some Crimes Defy Time

The Plot…

The year is 1988.  Three people in different locations bleed from their ears and eyes and then die.  Police officers Lockhart (Holbrook) and Maddox (Woodbine) along with Detective Holt (Hall) are assigned to the case.  Lockhart discovers similar wounds on each victim.  The trail leads Lockhart and Maddox to a suspect in the subway.  She is a young, African-American female who tells Lockhart details she shouldn’t know about his life.  She tells him the date his wife will have a baby.  She further predicts her own death.  When Lockhart attempts to arrest her, a struggle ensues.  She is thrown in front of subway car and dies.

Nine years later people begin dying after bleeding from their ears and eyes.  Lockhart, now a Detective, believes that a copy cat killer is at large.  But when he locates a suspect, he is shocked to discover it is the same woman as before.  She didn’t die and hasn’t aged.

Why are these people being killed?  Is the killer a time traveler?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The film has an interesting premise and starts off well enough.  Along the way I began to lose interest.  I finished the movie but just found it to be okay.

Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine deserved better.

In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Pickup” (1951) directed by Hugo Haas, starring Hugo Haas & Beverly Michaels / Z-View

Pickup (1951)

Director:  Hugo Haas

Screenplay: Hugo Haas, Arnold Phillips based on GUARD No. 47 by Josef Kopta

Stars: Hugo Haas, Beverly Michaels, Howland Chamberlain, Art Lewis and Bernard Gorcey.

Tagline: Easy to “pick-up” – but you won’t – if you know what’s good for you!

The Plot…

Jan “Hunky” Horak (Haas) is a middle-aged widowed railroad dispatcher who works alone at an isolated water stop.  When Hunky takes his first day off in a year, he heads in to town.  He’s surprised to find a carnival set up.  As Hunky walks through the amusements, he is targeted by Betty (Michaels), an attractive blonde.

Betty figures to get a free meal and maybe a couple of bucks from the old guy.  Betty is broke and about to be evicted.  When she learns Hunky has several thousand in his savings account she works him into marrying her.  Betty knows that if Hunky dies… or is killed, the money is hers.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Pickup has a classic set-up.  A gold-digger has plans to end her older husband’s life to take sole possession of all he owns.  Along the way we’re treated to an interesting twist that alerts Hunky to his wife’s plans.  Up until the very end it felt like we were getting a poor man’s The Postman Always Rings Twice or Double Indemnity.  The ending isn’t bad, just not quite in line with the noir that had been set up.

Hugo Haas is perfect as Hunky.  Beverly Michaels is also just right as Betty, the girl that’s easy to pick-up at your own risk.  Watch for Bernard Gorcey (of The Bowery Boys fame) in a small role.

Pickup (1951) earns 3 of 5 stars.