Saturday, October 15, 2016

Horror Film Gems

BOO! Halloween will be here soon, so I’ve been thinking about scary horror movies, of course. Below are four released from 2000 to 2005 that managed to scare the socks off me. Fortunately, they are available on DVD now for horror movie fans to enjoy.     

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002). "Let the dangertainment begin," exclaims Busta Rhymes in one of the most creative thrillers in this highly popular horror-flick series. Playing a TV reality show producer, Rhymes’ character arranges for a group of teens to spend Halloween night in the place where Michael Myers’ murderous rampage began. Giving these college students tiny cameras as they explore Michael’s dilapidated old childhood home, Rhymes  expects BIG ratings for his daring program. How could he foresee that more than ratings would be at stake? For during the show, Michael unexpectedly returns -- and wants to make sure none of the interlopers leave alive.  

AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000). Stylish, satirical, and soulless, American Psycho goes inside the mind of a serial killer who looks more like a matinee idol than a murderer. It also questions if Patrick Bateman, the film’s title character, is any more demented than the society in which he lives. Symbolizing the materialism and self-centeredness of the 1980s, Bateman (Christian Bale) cares about things, not people and spends his leisure time in torturing and killing numerous victims. Although playing an unbalanced character, Bale has no problem balancing horror with dark humor in this remarkable performance. His monologues about pop music, delivered so authoritatively in the midst of terrifying and raunchy activities, both shock and amuse. The hunky Welsh-born actor even manages a comic flair while wielding a chain saw! Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel, the film version of American Psycho emphasizes black comedy over gore, but it’s still a very frightening movie. American Psycho is the first movie since Natural Born Killers to give me nightmares. 

THE CELL (2000).  In The Cell’s spectacular opening scene, a woman in a flowing white garment gallops her sleek black horse over gigantic dunes of dark pink sand. She is Catherine Deane, a psychologist inside the mind of a young coma patient. But this dreamlike landscape pales in significance to the nightmarish world of serial killer Carl Stargher, the man she agrees to treat next.Deane (Jennifer Lopez) has mastered a new therapy technique which enables her to experience what is happening in another person’s unconscious mind. When Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) loses consciousness after a seizure, the innovative therapist must help FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) find out where his latest victim is hidden before it’s too late. The only way to do so is by taking a dangerous trip inside the madman’s head. And what a creepy, disturbing trip it is! 

DEAD and BREAKFAST (2005). "Bed and Breakfast" is the first thing we see flashed on screen, but immediately after that, the word “Dead,” written in a blood-red color, splashes over Bed. Clearly, the title is really Dead and Breakfast instead. A clever way to get started, isn’t it? Fortunately, this little independent horror movie also serves up similar creativity and campiness almost from beginning to end. It’s a hoot! The story seems traditional enough. Six friends are traveling together to a wedding when they stop to stay for the night at a sinister inn in a creepy Texas town. After opening a mysterious object, one member of the group (Oz Perkins) turns into a violent ghoul. Before long, the ghoulish creatures outnumber the town’s living inhabitants. If this sounds a bit like zombie/ghoul movies you’ve seen before, you’re on the right track. But this one also features surprising musical numbers. (Think Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Shaun of the Dead.) 

You’re welcome, horror flick fans!

(If you would like to read my full review of each movie described above, please go to

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Saturday, October 01, 2016

A Poet Among Critics

Richard Jack Smith writes poems with ease
about movies designed to please.

Plus even some he thinks fall flat
and keep him from tipping his hat.

A fine poet among critics,
rhymes and images he does mix.

His reviews earn two thumbs up
and a poetry Loving Cup!

Here’s a tip of my hat to Richard Jack Smith for his amazing new book, A Poet Among Critics. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to mention that the poetry bug also bit me – and is forcing me to use poetry in film reviews too. But Richard’s book includes so many more poems than mine! And films of almost every genre are represented.

Because my favorite genre is “Musicals,” I’m delighted to see movies like Top Hat and Burlesque included. Next to musicals, I enjoy thrillers. Happily, the book also contains Richard’s unique poetic take on films like Nick of Time, Phone Booth and Psycho. Other genres are not neglected.  Sci-fi flicks, horror movies, Disney offerings, comedies, dramas, popular franchises and classics like Citizen Kane, King Kong and The General also receive careful attention.

Richard’s use of lush language helps make his poems come to life. Such remarkable visions he creates! For example, below are the last few lines of his perceptive, artistic Top Hat film poem.

Ginger Rogers, what a beauty!
Her moves creating ecstasy.
Black shapes upon room tone grey.
Suits and dresses so elegant, they say.

A cigarette held just so
before dancing on tip-toe.
A woman’s cheeky eyes
that love defies.
Leading to a romantic beat
and the audience cheering on their feet.

Those well-chosen words conjure up the 1935 Ginger and Fred Astaire musical romp, for sure. And A Poet Among Critics overflows with that kind of poetry magic. Well done, Richard!

NOTE: Richard Jack Smith writes film and soundtrack reviews for ReelTalk Movie Reviews. He is the author of two other books, Magical Movie Moments and Incidental Gold. For more information about A Poet Among Critics, please e-mail Richard at 

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ode to Dorothy Morris

Almost everyone who knew Dorothy Morris understood that she was smart and fearless. Personally, I knew she was smart early on because she married one of my favorite cousins, Frank Morris – or Mickey as all of his cousins called him while growing up together. And I know Dorothy was fearless too – because she married Mickey! But I also know she touched many lives. Whether at Liz’s café, which she ran for many years, or at family get-togethers, Dorothy was always a joy to talk with – and on any topic. Those are four of the many thoughts that keep going through my mind about Dorothy -- and they inspired me to write this little poem about her.

Ode to Dorothy Morris

Fearless and smart and lots of fun,
she lived her life -- with so much done.

Her family and friends galore
felt her glow and long for more.

But Dorothy leaves them all a gift.
For knowing her gave each a lift.

Her love goes on.
It can’t be gone.

Her glow shines on for those who care,
and in our hearts becomes a flare. 

Rest in Peace, dear Dorothy. You will be missed – but never forgotten.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

A Remarkable Film Starring Antonio Banderas

Through the magic of brilliant cinematography and gorgeous location shots, Finding Altamira takes us back to the 1800s in Spain during a time of conflict between religion and science. It tells the story of Marcelino Sautuola (Antonio Banderas), an amateur archeologist who owns the land where mysterious paintings are found in one of the caves on his property. Marcelino and his colleague Juan Vilanova (Nicholas Farrell) believe the art was created by humans much earlier than anyone ever suspected. Unfortunately, this belief does not meet with approval from the church or from other scientists. Plus, Marcelino’s wife (Golshifteh Farahani) cannot fully support his theory because of her religious beliefs, which causes family problems. But his darling little daughter (Allegra Allen), who first sees the cave art, stands by him. I hope this remarkable film will be remembered during the 2016 awards season.

Altamira hides works of art.
And finding them is where things start.
A little girl falls in a cave.
Then looking up, she’d like to rave.

Her father sees the pictures too.
He wants the world to know they’re true.
But forces stand against this man
and plot to wreck his earnest plan.

Banderas nails his crucial role.
We cheer the man’s most worthy goal.
The film itself pleases the eye
with lovely sights that make us sigh.

Don’t miss this one if you like art
or movies filled with lots of heart.

(Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films; not rated by MPAA.)

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Sunday, September 04, 2016

Ode to Jackie Chan

You can’t go wrong with Jackie Chan.
He gives us thrills, so I’m a fan.
Skiptrace shows Chan’s amusing side
and takes us for a fun wild ride.

Johnny Knoxville adds his own touch.
Compared to Chan, it’s not too much.
But he gets laughs along the way
and won me over, I must say.

Great stunts galore fill up the screen.
While Chan fights people who are mean.
Exotic places come in view --
wide vistas, and not just a few.

This film may go on way too long.
But still I want to sing a song
of praise for Jackie Chan’s talent,
which age has only slightly dent.

More power to you, Jackie Chan.

Keep making films, cause you’re the Man!

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Halloween Movie Treat

Don’t be afraid this Halloween.
Halloween Party’s on the scene!
It’s full of laughs and costumes too.
Plus romance blooms and might be true.

The characters all seem so real
in outfits that we want to steal.
Quirky and funny, they’re a sight
to enjoy on this special night.

A fortune teller comes and goes.
That mystery just grows and grows.
We’re like a fly upon the wall.
We see and hear about it all.

Great music puts us in the mood.
It makes us feel – well -- so darn good.
More treat than trick, this flick should be
for Halloween the one you see!

NOTE: Fortunately, viewers everywhere will be able to enjoy Linda Palmer's Halloween Party (from Runaway Productions) on iTunes beginning September 2, 2016.

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Monday, August 01, 2016

Man on a Mission

Author Phil Hall is on an important mission, and he reveals all about it in his new book, In Search of Lost Films. It’s no surprise that Hall would become interested in finding lost movies. He’s a distinguished film critic with impeccable research credentials that make this offering as well as his previous books -- including The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time and The History of Independent Cinema -- so enlightening and worthwhile.   

Movies disappear. Why, oh why?
So many lost. We ought to try
to find as many as we can.
That’s why I am a Phil Hall fan.
His book appears the place to start
helping locate some true lost art.

Hall’s love of cinema shines through all his writings, and In Search of Lost Films is no exception. This latest book explains why so many films throughout the world have disappeared. Hall also describes a number of these films and discusses the difficulty of evaluating the work of stars like Theda Bara and Lon Chaney because so many of their films are missing. But my favorite part of the book lists the various (and sometimes strange) places where certain lost films have already been discovered.      

As usual, Hall’s writing style is reader friendly and chock full of fascinating details for movie fans.

I predict that besides being a great read, In Search of Lost Films will motivate many readers to join Phil Hall’s vital mission. Personally, I’ve already started looking closer at storage areas, closets and yard sales for suspicious-looking film canisters!  

Publisher: BearManor Media (
Release Date: August 8, 2016

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