Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Throughout the years that I’ve been writing for this blog, I’ve never once posted an article spotlighting my previous month or year of film-watching. However, I’ve always enjoyed reading what other movie bloggers have discussed and detailed from their recent movie-watching past, so I figured I’d finally jump into the fray and do the same—albeit a bit late, as always—with a look back at my year in film, 2019. I’ll be combining certain elements from each of the recaps posted monthly and annually by blogging friends Lindsey at The Motion Pictures, Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies, and Mikey at Wolfmans Cult Film Club, and adding a topic or two of my own.
So grab some popcorn, kick back in a comfy chair, and enjoy! And if this is boring as hell, let me know, and I promise you’ll never have to suffer through it again. Until next year, of course.
Total films watched in 2019: 216
New to me: 119
Total CM reviews in 2019: 20 (ugh!)
Total CM reviews since start of blog: 224
At home: 186
At the theater: 12
At a friend’s house: 10
In a hotel room: 8
DVD – 81
Blu-ray – 53
HD-DVD – 1
Beta – 0
Theatrical – 12
Broadcast on TV – 38
Digital file on TV – 16
Streaming on laptop – 12
Netflix on TV – 3
1920s – 1
1930s – 10
1940s – 15
1950s – 40
1960s – 31
1970s – 28
1980s – 27
1990s – 13
2000s – 12
2010s – 39
• I watched 29 episodes of Svengoolie on MeTV.
• I borrowed 47 Blu-rays and DVDs from my library.
• I watched five movies twice…and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai three times (and twice in one night!).
• I watched five Frankenstein movies, four Dracula films, and three Dr Jekyll titles.
• March was my busiest month, with 24 movies watched.
• I watched eight episodes of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Netflix.
• My movie for Halloween night was The Pit and the Pendulum.
• My Christmas movie was Miracle on 34th Street.
My Five Favorite ‘New-to-Me’ Films
I’m not sure of the rules regarding ‘new to me’ film lists, but since I only went to twelve theatrical films last year (five of which were revival screenings), I thought I’d include any previously-unseen film I saw last year, and not just those released in 2019. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), three of my five new-to-me favorites were released after 2014!
While scouring the Internet looking for movies I might like to watch, I spotted this one, which came with an attention-grabbing title: Rorschach: Scariest Film Online? Okay, I thought, I’ll check this out and judge for myself. Well, let me tell you: it was definitely the most unnerving, tension-filled film I’ve ever seen on-line, if not the scariest (but it definitely delivered on that count as well). Two amateur paranormal investigators visit the home of a woman and her young daughter, where some mysterious and unexplained things have been taking place; the two don’t expect to find much, but oh boy, do they ever. Not an action-packed, in-your-face monster-fest like Poltergeist, but more a quiet, ‘slow-burn’ horror film, that still packs quite the wallop if you immerse yourself in it. I watched this in the dark, with headphones, and I suggest you do the same; there were subtle sounds I picked up that definitely added to the chill factor.
My first Jean Harlow film, and I was impressed from the get-go; she plays a secretary to publishing boss Clark Gable, and though the relationship is strictly a work-related one, rumors begin to fly when the two try to keep a merger secret, and soon wife Myrna Loy, who Gable is happily married to, begins to suspect an affair. Far more serious than you’d expect, and not the screwball comedy the title and poster lead you to believe. Gable, Harlow, and Loy are all outstanding, and the story is adult and smart; for more, check out my review here.
Quentin Tarantino films are hit-or-miss with me, but this one was definitely a hit. Leonardo DiCaprio plays an actor at the sunset of his career, while Brad Pitt plays his long-time friend and stuntman; the film is set against the backdrop of Hollywood in 1969 and the Manson family murder of Sharon Tate. The story seems to meander at first, with different stories playing out along different paths, but then you realize it’s all going to come together, and when it does, well…I’ll just say I absolutely loved that final thirty minutes, and to me Pitt more than deserved that Oscar he won for his performance. I also loved the film’s visuals, too, and the look and feel of 1969 that Tarantino re-created without the use of CG. And have I mentioned how much I loved the ending? Tension, dread, and cool all wrapped up in a supremely-satisfying bundle.
I only knew about this movie from its trailer, and as I found out, all that I thought I knew was wrong…plus, it was much better than I ever would’ve expected. A young couple, played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, move into a house, after which the man soon dies; the rest of the film is spent experiencing life in the house—and beyond—from his viewpoint, as we see him as a typical ‘white sheet with two eyes’ ghost. One of the most profoundly melancholy (and at times, the most incredibly sad) movies I’ve ever seen, and I was quite impressed by how Affleck could portray emotions without dialogue or gestures, but by simple movements alone (and yes, he was under the sheet for the entire film). A story of time and loneliness and the afterlife, that had me mesmerized from start to finish.
I borrowed this one from the library on a whim, and I never expected to enjoy it as much as I did…what an outstanding film! Katharine Hepburn works with three other women in the research library of a major television network; Spencer Tracy is an efficiency expert who arrives to see how a new super-computer—which can perform research faster than its human counterparts—will be integrated into the library. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a pairing of Tracy and Hepburn, but the screenplay (written by Henry and Phoebe Ephron) was just as exceptional, and equally as fun, as was the supporting cast. And for me, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the idea of living in New York at that time, being around these people, and working in that department; the film just made it all seem so happy and wonderful.
And Three Films I Wasn’t Too Happy With
1. Knock Knock
2. Cold Pursuit
3. Naked Lunch
Though I was involved in zero outside blogathons this past year, I did take part in a few of the smaller blogathons I’d created with several of my blogging friends. Lindsey over at The Motion Pictures and I posted two of our Mini-Cheese-athons, which included the UK sci-fi chiller They Came from Beyond Space and the prison escape classic Swamp Women. And the Video Store Action Heroes—Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies, Greg at Destroy All Fanboys, Mikey at Wolfmans Cult Film Club, and myself—presented four differently-themed ’70s and ’80s blogathons over the year, which included: non-blockbuster sci-fi films (for me, it was Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone), cage and ring fighting (The Arena), and transportation-related action films (Disaster on the Coastliner). Watch for our next edition, coming in a few weeks!
Additions to the Monolith
I’d promised myself early last year that I was done buying movies (check out that promise here)…but I broke that pledge a number of times in 2019, as you can see, plus I received a few as gifts, which don’t really count as ‘buying’. And there was no way I was going to pass up on some great deals: VHS versions of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and Jaws, both for under two bucks each (and the Jaws tape is still sealed!), and Anna and the King of Siam and The Social Network were just $3.00 at Savers, my local thrift shop. I found the two MGM Midnite Movies and Edward G. Robinson ‘TCM Greatest Gangster Films’ sets at two different Zia Records stores for only $1.50 apiece, and the first four seasons of The Rockford Files I inherited from my Dad. And that Preston Sturges collection? Just five dollars for seven films, thanks to half-price day at Savers!
And One Cool Addition to the CM Vault
Once I’d heard that the Blockbuster Video outlet in Perth, Australia had closed, leaving the Bend, Oregon store as the only one left in the world, I knew what I had to do: contact them and somehow get a used DVD with their name on the case. And that’s what I did, searching out the phone number on-line and contacting the store’s general manager, Sandi Harding, who was more than helpful in allowing me to purchase a movie from their used rental selection, at the actual sticker cost, and for a minimal amount of shipping. Instead of having her dig through the entire sale bin, reading off every available title, I just told her to look for a mainstream action/adventure film and surprise me with her pick. And what she chose was American Assassin, a 2017 action thriller starring Michael Keaton, and an added bonus was the fact that I’d never seen the movie before. She also made sure the case had the classic blue-and-yellow Blockbuster logo on it, as well as the location’s Bend address. Also, she’d included the store’s business card in the package, as well as a cool ‘Last Blockbuster’ window sticker. Overall, a fantastic addition to the vault!
Bruce, Clint, and Alfred on LD
Though I don’t own a LaserDisc player (yet!), I wanted to at least have a few discs in the collection…and found these three, again at two different Zia stores, for $1 each. And just so you know, they’re representative of 1) my favorite movie, 2) my favorite actor, and 3) my favorite director.
Set the Wayback Machine to…the ’80s!
I’ve been trying to find films I’d missed seeing back in the 1980s—and still have yet to see—either on-line or at my local library, but when both options continually came up empty, I decided that I would just buy the damn things, if I could find them. My one rule was that they’d have to cost $1.50 or less; that way, if I didn’t like them, I could get rid of them without a major loss of investment. So I began that project late last year, and the above photo shows what I’ve found so far, before I put a temporary moratorium on non-essential purchases. And of course, I have quite a few left to track down, including Dreamscape, The Philadelphia Experiment, Vision Quest, Blue Thunder, and yes, Dirty Dancing.
My Red Heaven
I’d been searching for quite a few years, but I finally found an HD-DVD player at a local Savers, in outstanding condition, for just $20…and once again, it was a half-price Monday, so I actually got it for $10! I’d already purchased three HD-DVD movies a few years ago, but a week after buying this player, I wandered into another Savers and found a treasure trove of HD-DVDs for sale, and quickly grabbed most of them, selecting a lot of films I’d never seen before, and some that I’d seen, but didn’t currently own. And yes, I know I have a few clunkers in the bunch, but at $1.50 each, I’m not complaining too much. And besides, those red cases look pretty good stacked on my shelf.
Who Says Beta is Dead?
My friend Doug was at a friend’s house helping him pack for a move, and while they were in the garage the friend asked, “Do you know anyone who’d want this? I’m just going to throw it away otherwise.” And Doug replied, “Yes, in fact, I do.” And that’s how I came into possession of a mint-condition Betamovie video camera, complete with contents that appeared to have never left the box since it was first bought back in 1982…and that includes the camera itself. I can’t say I’ll ever use it, but it’ll sure look cool in the movie camera display case I hope to buy someday.
Thanks once again to everyone who visited and/or commented on the CM blog last year. There aren’t many of you out there, but when I do manage to post something, it’s satisfying and rewarding to see someone has stopped by to take a look, and trust me when I say, I have fun sharing comments with you all. So please, I beg of you…keep coming back!