Category: Z-View

“Ida Red” (2021) starring Josh Hartnett and Frank Grillo / Z-View

Ida Red (2021)

Director:  John Swab

Screenplay by:  John Swab

Starring:  Josh Hartnett, Frank Grillo, Melissa Leo, Sofia Hublitz, William Forsythe, Deborah Ann Woll, George Carroll, Mark Boone Junior and Nicholas Cirillo

Tagline:  Crime runs in the family

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Ida “Red” Walker (Leo) is the head of her family since her husband was killed in the robbery that put her behind bars.  Red’s two grown sons, Wyatt (Harnett) and Dallas (Grillo) continue to commit crimes under mom’s direction.

When Red learns that she has terminal cancer she makes it her (and her sons’) goal to get her out.  She has a two-pronged plan: 1) Pay off the head of the parole board and 2) commit a dangerous heist that will get them enough money to get the family out of the law’s reach.  Wyatt and Dallas agree to the plan despite the fact that they’re under the watchful eye of FBI Special Agent Lawrence Twilley (Forsythe) and a local cop who has a connection to the family!

Ida Red is a well written, well directed low budget crime film.  It boasts an excellent cast.  Frank Grillo steals every scene (especially memorable is his dance that will bring back memories of Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs).  Sofia Hublitz has a subplot that shows the pull of being in a crime family (and a nice plot twist to boot).  It’s nice seeing William Forsythe back in action and I always enjoy it when Mark Boone Junior shows up.

Ida Red earns 4 of 5 stars.

“The Satan Bug” (1965) / Z-View

The Satan Bug (1965)

Director:  John Sturges

Screenplay by:  James Clavell and Edward Anhalt based on The Satan Bug novel by Alistair MacLean

Starring:  George Maharis, Richard Basehart, Anne Francis, Dana Andrews, Frank Sutton, Edward Asner, Simon Oakland, John Anderson and James Hong

Tagline:  The price for uncovering the secret of the satan bug comes high – YOUR LIFE!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

When a newly developed virus known as The Satan Bug is stolen from a research lab, Lee Barrett (Maharis), a former intelligence agent is brought back to track down the thieves before the bug is released to kill everyone in Los Angeles.

The Satan Bug story was ahead of it’s time.  The idea of a lab-created virus that gets loose seems commonplace today, but in 1965, this was first rate science fiction!

The cast consists of several familiar faces from popular television shows of the era.  George Maharis was the co-star of Route 66.  Richard Basehart starred on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  Anne Francis was the star of Honey West.  Frank Sutton would soon play Sgt. Carter on Gomer Pyle.  Ed Asner would go on to play Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant spin-off series.   If you’re a child of the era, it adds a bit of charm to The Satan Bug, but if you’re not of the right age, the cast won’t give you the same joy.

The Satan Bug has a great plot, but there’s more talk than action.  Then when the action comes, it doesn’t live up to the expectation.  For these reasons The Satan Bug earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” (2022) / Z-View

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (2022)

Director:  Akiva Goldsman (Ep.1); Maja Vrvilo (Ep. 2); Leslie Hope (Ep. 3); Dan Liu (Ep. 4); Rachel Leiterman (Ep. 5); Andi Armaganian (Ep. 6); Sydney Freeland (Ep. 7); Amanda Row (Ep. 8); Christopher J. Byrne (Ep. 9); Chris Fisher (Ep. 10)

Teleplay by:  Akiva Goldsman (Ep. 1 based on a story by Akiva Goldsman & Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet); Henry Alonso Myers & Sarah Tarkoff (Ep.2); Akela Cooper & Bill Wolkoff (Ep. 3); Davy Perez & Beau DeMayo (Ep. 4); Henry Alonso Myers & Robin Wasserman (Ep. 5); Robin Wasserman & Bill Wolkoff (Ep. 6); Beau DeMayo & Sarah Tarkoff (Ep. 7); Akela Cooper & Onitra Johnson (Ep. 8); Davy Perez (Ep. 9); Henry Alonso Myers & Akiva Goldsman (Ep. 10)

Starring:  Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Jess Bush, Melissa Navia, Christina Chong, Rebecca Romijn, Celia Rose Gooding, Babs Olusanmokun, Gia Sandhu and Paul Wesley.

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is the prequel to the original Star Trek series.  Set ten years prior to Star Trek, Strange New Worlds follows the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise under the command of Christopher Pike (Mount).  Characters from the original series (Spock, Nurse Christine Chapel, Nyota Uhura, T’Pring and Captain James T. Kirk) are joined by new crew members (Erica Ortegas, La’an Noonien-Singh, Una Chin-Riley).

I was a fan of the original Star Trek.  I never watched any of the other Star Trek television series until Strange New Worlds.  So I’m not a die hard fan of everything Star Trek, so believe me when I say that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is exceptional.  Everything from the production values of the sets, the cast, the direction and the music is spot on.  Star Trek: Strange New Worlds isn’t a copy of the original series, but instead a love letter to everything it strived to be.

The series is perfectly cast.  Anson Mount is amazing in his role, but so are Ethan Peck, Jess Bush, Celia Rose Gooding and Melissa Navia.  The series is well written with each major cast member displaying personality and the feel that they have a life beyond the scenes that they’re in.  If you’re a fan of the original series there are things that begin in Strange New Worlds that will reverberate in the original series (the relationship between Spock and Nurse Chapel; seeing Nyota Uhura’s growth into a Star Fleet officer, the romance that will fail between Spock and T’Pring, and more).

I loved every episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and cannot wait for season 2.  Star Trek: Strange New Worlds earns 5 of 5 stars.

“The Gray Man” (2022) Starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans / Z-View

The Gray Man (2022)

Director:  Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Screenplay by:  Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Starring:  Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

A man known as Six (Gosling) is a CIA assassin.  When a mission goes sideways, Six gains information about corruption within the CIA.  A team led by Lloyd Hansen (Evans), a sociopathic mercenary is then sent to kill Six.

The Gray Man is a fast paced action thriller that is fun while you’re watching it, but doesn’t have much substance to stick with you later.  Chris Evans steals the show as the crazy ex-CIA hitman.  It’s always good to see Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard.

The Gray Man earns 3 of 5 stars.

Texas Carnival (1949) / Z-View

Texas Carnival (1949)

Director:  Charles Walters

Screenplay by:  Dorothy Kingsley, George Wells (story)

Starring:  Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Keenan Wynn, Paula Raymond,
Tom Tully
and Glenn Strange

Tagline:  FOR THE MILLIONS WHO LOVED “THE GREAT CARUSO” AND “SHOW BOAT” ANOTHER BIG MGM MUSICAL!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Cornie Quinell (Skelton) and his partner, Debbie Telford (Williams) run the dunk tank at the Texas carnival.  When Cornie sees a drunk man (Wynn) being taken advantage of by two of the carnies, Cornie comes to his rescue.  It turns out the drunk is Dan Sabinas, a rich cattleman.  Dan tries to give Cornie several thousand dollars for his help.  Cornie refuses the cash.  The Dan tries to give him his car.  Again Cornie refuses and instead gets drunken Dan into a cab to take him home.  As the cab leaves, Dan invites Cornie to visit the hotel he’s staying in.

Cornie and Debbie drive Dan’s car to the hotel where Cornie is mistaken for the rich cattleman.  Because of Dan’s invite they stay in his hotel suite waiting for Dan to arrive. Cornie meets Sunshine Jackson and a mutual attraction develops, meanwhile Debbie and Dan’s foreman, Slim Shelby (Keel) begin to hit it off.  Cornie ends up loosing $17,000 in a high stakes poker game meant for Dan.

When Dan arrives, he’s sobered up and doesn’t remember meeting Cornie! Cornie has a plan though…

Texas Carnival rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Hellboy” (2019) / Z-View

Hellboy (2019)

Director:  Neil Marshall

Screenplay by:  Andrew Cosby based on the world and characters created by Mike Mignola

Starring:  David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim and Thomas Haden Church

Tagline  Demons Have Demons Too.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

In the final days of World War II, the Nazis make a last ditch effort to win the war by attempting to summon demons from Hell.  Lobster Johnson and American forces stop the Nazis, but not before a demon child that will be called Hellboy appears.  Hellboy is raised by Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm (McShane) to fight things that go bump in the night.  You know, witches, demons and the like.

Vivienne Nimue, the Blood Queen (Jovovich) has a plan to get Hellboy to turn his back on humans and rule as her King.  Normally we wouldn’t have to worry, but lately Hellboy has been having self-doubt and “daddy issues.”

I’m a fan of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy as well as the first two Hellboy films starring Ron Perlman and directed by Guillermo del Toro.  While I would have loved them to return for a third film, I was open to a new director, star and take on the character.  When the first posters/photos started coming out, I liked the look.  Sadly the movie is nowhere as bad ass as the publicity materials.  Hellboy has a cool appearance, but is physically too small.  He should be huge,  In the film he looks to be the height of an average person.  Hellboy also came off as whiney.  If Hellboy doesn’t work, the film is in trouble.

As to the story, it’s all over the place.  We get the origin of the Blood Queen.  We get the origin of Hellboy.  We get extended scenes of Hellboy fighting giants.  We get Hellboy fighting a pig-fairy,  We get Hellboy fighting a one-eyed witch.  In between we get Hellboy complaining to his “dad”, showing what a rebel he is by refusing to take his feet off Winston Churchill’s desk and jokes that often fall flat.

I wanted to like Hellboy, but can only give it 2 of 5 stars.

I Dood It (1943) / Z-View

I Dood It (1943)

Director:  Vincente Minnelli

Screenplay by:  Sig Herzig, Fred Saidy

Starring:  Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell, Sam Levene, Lena Horne, Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra and Butterfly McQueen

Tagline HAPPY DAYS AND SWEET MUSIC WITH RED SKELTON AND ELEANOR POWELL

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

By day Joseph Rivington Renolds (Skelton) works at a hotel’s dry cleaning shop.  By night, Renolds “borrows” a tux from the shop and attends a Broadway show.  It’s the same show every night because Renolds is in love with the show’s star, Constance Shaw (Powell).  Through a misunderstanding when Renolds and Shaw meet, she thinks he’s a mining tycoon.  They end up getting married!  Things become strained when the truth comes out and the stakes are raised when Renolds discovers a bomb hidden in the basement of the theater!

Red and Eleanor make a great couple.  Lena Horne performs!  Butterfly McQueen has a small role that I wish had been expanded.  Eleanor Powell performs a memorable dance with lariats that is worth the price of admission.  I Dood It rates 3 of 5 stars.

Lovely to Look At  (1952) / Z-View

Lovely to Look At  (1952)

Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Screenplay by:  George Wells, Harry Ruby, Andrew Solt (additional dialogue) based on Roberta by Jerome Kern, Otto Harbach

Starring:  Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton, Howard Keel, Marge Champion, Gower Champion, Ann Miller and Zsa Zsa Gabor

Tagline: One of the Grandest Romantic Musicals in Years!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Three buddies, Al Marsh (Skelton), Tony Naylor (Keel) and Jerry Ralby (Champion) are having no luck raising money to back their musical.  Their luck seems to have changed when Al gets a letter from France informing him that his Aunt died and left him 50% ownership in dress salon.  The boys go to France to sell Marsh’s percentage and use it for their musical.  That’s the plan until they meet Stephanie (Grayson) and Clarisse (Champion) the ladies who own the other 50%.

Lovely to Look At didn’t resonate with me.  The production numbers were okay, but not great.  Even Skelton’s bits felt flat.  For these reasons Lovely to Look At rates 2 of 5 stars.

The Strange One (1957) / Z-View

The Strange One  (1957)

Director:  Jack Garfein

Screenplay by:  Calder Willingham based on his play End as a Man

Starring:  Ben Gazzara, Pat Hingle, Peter Mark Richman, Arthur Storch, Larry Gates, Clifton James and George Peppard

Tagline: You’ll never forget BEN GAZZARA as the louse, “Jocko”

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Cadet Staff Sergeant Jocko De Paris (Gazzara) is a senior at Southern Military College.  De Paris bullies and torments underclassmen.  One of De Paris’ favorite things to do is force young cadets into situations that benefits him, but if caught would get the cadets expelled.  Because of his reputation and force of character, no one will stand against him until…

It’s interesting to note that The Strange One features the film debuts of Ben Gazzara and George Peppard.  Kudos also to Arthur Storch for his portrayal of Cadet Simmons.  The Strange One earns 3 of 5 stars.

Ship Ahoy  (1942) / Z-View

Ship Ahoy  (1942)

Director:  Edward Buzzell

Screenplay by:  Harry Clork, Irving Brecher (uncredited),Harry Kurnitz (uncredited) from a story by Matt Brooks, Bradford Ropes, Bert Kalmar

Starring:  Eleanor Powell, Red Skelton, Bert Lahr, Virginia O’Brien and Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra featuring Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich

Tagline:  “Red”, Radio’s Bad Boy, Is Good In This One!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Tallulah Winters (Powell) is a dancer who performs with Tommy Dorsey.  As they are about to leave on a ship bound for Puerto Rico, Tallulah is duped by Japanese spies into carrying a prototype magnetic mine with her.  Tallulah thinks she is working for the US government.  On board the ship Tallulah meets Merton K. Kibble (Skelton), a prolific writer of pulp stories.  They are well on their way to falling in love when she overhears Kibble dictating a story and believes he is talking about her.  Confusion ensues as the Japanese try to get the prototype and Kibble tries to get the girl…

If you’ve never seen a Red Skelton movie, this is one I’d recommend to try first.  It’s a lot of fun.  There are love story and spy subplots.  Bert Lahr provides comedy relief — he and Skelton make a great team.  Plus you get Frank Sinatra singing in his movie debut!  (I also learned that Buddy Rich was with Tommy Dorsey and that the word “groovy” was in use in 1942!)  Ship Ahoy is a fun trip and rates 4 of 5 stars.

Killer Joe (2011) Starring Matthew McConaughey / Z-View

Killer Joe (2011)

Director:  William Friedkin

Screenplay by:  Tracy Letts (based on his play of the same name)

Starring:  Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon and Marc Macaulay

Tagline: A totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Chris Smith (Hirsch) is debt to Digger Soames (Macaulay) to the tune of $6 grand.  If Chris doesn’t raise the cash soon, he’s a dead man.  Then Chris gets the idea to have his mother killed for her life insurance.  Chris talks to his dad, Angel (Church), who quickly comes on board. He has no love for is ex-wife, but plenty of love for the idea of quick cash.  Likewise, Angel’s wife (Gershon) is in.  The tough sell is going to be Dottie (Temple), Chris’ sister.  They’re right, it takes about a minute for Dottie to like the idea.

Chris and Angel know of a hitman called Killer Joe (McConaughey).  Killer Joe agrees to the hit, for $25,000 paid up front.  When Chris and Angel can’t come up with the money, Killer Joe agrees to keep Dottie as a retainer.  As the time for the hit gets closer, Joe’s relationship with Dottie takes a turn.  Chris begins to have doubts about the plan, but it’s too late… too late for a lot of folks.

Killer Joe is a surprisingly dark, violent, funny (at times) tale of murder for hire. It is well written, well cast and well directed.  Thomas Haden Church plays the stupidest man in one of the stupidest families I’ve ever seen.  I like the twist in regard to who started the idea of the hitman murder.  With that said, I’m rating Killer Joe just 2 of 5 stars.  There’s a scene involving Angel’s wife, a fried chicken leg and Killer Joe that goes way over the line.  Killer Joe was released with an NC-17 rating for “graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality.”  This is a movie that divides audiences.  I can see why people would really like it, and also why people would be turned off to it.  That’s not a bad thing, just be aware that your mileage may vary.

Killer Joe rates 2 of 5 stars.

The Flying Ace (1926) / Z-View

The Flying Ace (1926)

Director:  Richard E. Norman

Screenplay by:  Richard E. Norman

Starring:  Laurence Criner, Kathryn Boyd, Boise De Legge, Harold Platts,  Lions Daniels, George Colvin, Sam Jordan, R.L. Brown and Steve Reynolds

Tagline: SIX SMASHING REELS OF ACTION!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

When a $25,000 railroad payroll is stolen under mysterious circumstances, Captain Billy Stokes (Criner), a World War I flying ace who has returned to his job as a railroad detective, is assigned to solve the mystery.  Captain Stokes, with the able assistance of his one-legged partner, Peg (Reynolds) are up to the task.

The Flying Ace features an all African-American cast.  I love The Flying Ace poster above.  The movie has humor, thrills, mystery with a subtle love story subplot.  If you enjoy silent movies, you should give The Flying Ace a go.  It earns a 4 of 5 star rating!

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) / Z-View

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

Director:   Alan Rafkin

Screenplay by:  James Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum and Andy Griffith (uncredited)

Starring:  Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Liam Redmond, Dick Sargent,  Skip Homeier, Reta Shaw and Charles Lane

Tagline: G-G-GUARANTEED! YOU’LL BE SCARED UNTIL YOU LAUGH YOURSELF SILLY!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Luther Heggs (Knotts) is a typesetter for the local newspaper.  He dreams of being a reporter.  Luther also dreams of having Alma Parker (Staley) as his girl.  Unfortunately Luther becomes an easy target for jokes when his reports of a murder turn out to be just a drunk knocked unconscious by his wife.  Ollie Weaver (Homeier) a reporter for the newspaper is especially cruel to Luther and to make matters worse, Ollie is dating Alma!

Luther gets a chance at redemption when his boss assigns him a story — Luther will spend the night in a haunted house where a brutal murder occurred years ago.  Despite his fears, Luther spends the night.  Strange things happen that could lead to solving the murder mystery… if anyone will believe Luther!

Don Knotts starring in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is a natural.  Knotts was built to play Luther.  Luther’s dream girl, Alma was played by Joan Staley and she was also built — she was a Playboy playmate of the month!  Fans of The Andy Griffith Show will recognize the similarities between The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and an episode of the tv show.  It was Andy Griffith who suggested that the episode would make a great feature film starring Knotts if the idea was expanded for a new character.  Knotts recruited James Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum, writers on The Andy Griffith Show to come up with a screenplay.  Knotts also suggested Alan Rafkin (who directed several episodes of the tv show) to helm the feature.  There are also cast members in the movie who appeared on the tv series.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken rates 3 of 5 stars (and higher if you’re a kid).

Dark Winds Season 1 (2022) / Z-View

Dark Winds Season 1 (2022)

Director:  Chris Eyre (Eps 1, 2, 5, 6), Sanford Bookstaver (Eps 3, 4)

Teleplay by:  Graham Roland (Ep 1), Anthony Florez (Ep 2),  Maya Rose Dittloff & Razelle Benally (Ep 3), Billy Luther (Ep 4), Erica Tremblay (Ep 5), Maya Rose Dittloff (Ep 6)  // Based on the Leaphorn & Chee novels by Tony Hillerman

Starring:  Zahn McClarnon, Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten, Deanna Allison, Noah Emmerich, Eugene Brave Rock and Rainn Wilson

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Sheriff Joe Leaphorn (McClarnon) and his Deputy, Bernadette Manuelito (Matten) are the law for the whole Navajo reservation.  When bank robbers make their escape in a helicopter are last seen flying over the reservation, FBI Agent Whitover (Emmerich) is sent in.  Leaphorn and Whitover don’t like each other, but have worked together in the past to resolve cases.

A new Deputy, Jim Chee (Gordon) joins the team.  Chee is a college educated officer who left the reservation to better himself.  Leaphorn is unaware that Chee is actually an FBI agent sent undercover by Agent Whitover to keep him informed of the investigation.  As Leaphorn, Manuelito and Chee follow the clues, it appears that members of  the Buffalo Society, a group of Navajo radicals may be involved in the bank robbery.  And Chee isn’t the only person who isn’t what he/she seams…

Dark Winds provides a good mystery in a setting that we don’t see too often.  There is a feeling of respect and authenticity to Navajos due to the writers all being Native American.  I was happy to see that Dark Winds was renewed for Season 2.  Dark Winds Season 1 rates 4 of 5 stars.

TROUBLE IS WHAT I DO by Walter Mosley / Z-View


Trouble is What I Do by Walter Mosley

Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher Mulholland Books; 1st edition (February 25, 2020)

First sentence…

“Mr. McGill?” Mardi Bitterman said over the intercom that connects her desk at the front of our office complex to mine at the far end.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Leonid McGill is a legitimate tough guy.  He’s a former boxer, a full time PI and sometime criminal.  Often his cases are dangerous and involve people you’d cross the street to avoid.  This time the case sounds simple,.  Phillip “Catfish” Worry, a 92-year-old Mississippi bluesman wants McGill to deliver a letter to his granddaughter before her upcoming wedding.  What complicates the situation is Catfish’s granddaughter and her father are unaware that Catfish is her grandfather.  She is from a wealthy white family that runs is social circles that trace their linage back to the Mayflower.

What starts out as a simple case becomes anything but.  McGill can handle himself. Few men give McGill pause.  Stone cold killers, Hush and Eckles, are two who do.  If they want you dead, you better have your will written.  Still McGill presses on.  McGill’s simple case turns into one he may not survive…

I love the Leonid McGill series and Trouble is What I Do rates 5 of 5 stars. 

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