Body Double (Brian De Palma – 1984) B+

Excellent cheesy and solid B movie that at once is smack dab in the middle of that style (sex, violence, gore,…) and yet transcends it with long dialogue-free sequences, cool camera angles and several well-developed characters. The problem is when you cast Gregg Henry in a film I’m immediately thinking “oh, he’s the bad guy…”. This is only part of the twists and turns of this Hitchcock-flavored De Palma movie though. When the true meaning of the “body double” becomes clear I was very pleasantly surprised by how tight and well-executed the plot is.

Scanners (David Cronenberg – 1981) B+

Solid classic B movie entry from one of the masters of modern body horror. There is a community of people with psychic abilities, corporations would like to harness those abilities,…a story as old as time (or the mid 20th century, I don’t really know). The film is more focused than that generic plot though. Cameron Vale, made recently aware of his abilities by a Dr. Paul Ruth, is set on a path to hunt down a rogue psychic with very strong abilities (played so well by Michael Ironside) who is leading a small army of his own with the goal of – what else – domination of the ‘normal’ humans. Exploding heads, psychic telekinetic battles and some interesting practical effects ensue. Fun stuff.

The Pianist (Roman Polanski – 2002) A

Never seen Polanski’s highly-acclaimed WWII pic before. It is not what I expected. It is not a story of fighting the Nazis or a tale about resistance. It’s a story about survival told from the perspective of Wladyslaw Szpilman played by Adrian Brody. He was a Jewish pianist in Poland when the Nazis gradually started their harassments, then oppression, then extermination of the Jewish population. We see these atrocities through his eyes and experiences as he is simply trying to survive. I really admired how this is at once a small story of one man when it comes to focus yet also manages to illustrate what a horrific and evil time that was for Europe and the world. The acting is excellent, the pacing and direction perfect. It is a classic and deservedly so.

The Tomorrow War (Chris McKay – 2021) D

It’s bad. For a movie like this (action, sci-fi, popcorn fare) it should at least not be boring. This was boring. It also should have some decent CGI/creatures. It does not. Chris Pratt is overacting and his dramatic chops are just not there. Possibly needed some more solid direction.

What Happened Was…(Tom Noonan – 1994) A

It’s movies like this that make the annual Criterion Channel fee so worth it. I am not sure I ever would’ve heard of or seen this one anywhere else and it is a gem of a little film. Sure, it is just two people on a date, their first date, at the woman’s Manhattan apartment. That is it. We watch her prep the place, he shows up, they talk, eat dinner (she made scallops over the weekend and heats it up in the microwave) and have drinks and talk, and talk. The whole thing seems to go on in real time. Like the great My Dinner with Andre (and to a degree Jeanne Dielmann), if you like those types of “people talking” movies you get sucked in the conversation and you learn so much about the characters by what they say, how they say it, their pauses and body language. By the end, it feels as if we had known them for much longer than a couple hours.

Army of the Dead (Zack Snyder – 2021) C

Really good first 15-20 minutes, plus the very likable Dave Bautista make this not a total waste and it has some fun moments. Unfortunately, it is overlong, with badly written characters and a total waste of a really cool premise (Las Vegas heist WITH zombies!).

The Guest (Adam Wingard – 2014) B+

He shows up saying he was a friend of the family’s son, who was killed in Afghanistan. He’s not really lying about that but he he has a bit more baggage than your average soldier. Dan Stevens plays this soldier called David and he does an excellent job as a dry, robotic killing machine. There’s not a ton of plot here, it’s excellent for the dynamic pacing, Stevens’ performance and the fun action set pieces.

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