Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

CM Year in Review 2019

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.

Movie Totals

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

Viewing Locations

At home: 186
At the theater: 12
At a friend’s house: 10
In a hotel room: 8

Source Breakdown

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

Decade Breakdown

1920s – 1
1930s – 10
1940s – 15
1950s – 40
1960s – 31
1970s – 28
1980s – 27
1990s – 13
2000s – 12
2010s – 39

Trivia

• 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!

 

5. Rorschach (2015)

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.

 

4. Wife vs Secretary (1936)

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.

 

3. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019)

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.

 

2. A Ghost Story (2017)

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.

 

1. Desk Set (1957)

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

Blogathons

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.

And Finally…

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!

24 comments on “CM Year in Review 2019

  1. Lindsey
    3/30/20

    Nice to see Wife vs Secretary and Desk Set make your top discoveries list — two of my favorites! A Ghost Story sounds really interesting, too — adding it to my watch list.

    I’m kind of surprised/sad we only had two cheeseathons last year! We should try to beat that in 2020 (though I’ve become even worse at keeping up with my blog, haha).

    Like

    • Todd B
      3/30/20

      Desk Set was so cool…I still need to get it on Blu-ray…perhaps THAT will be the last movie I ever buy! And even if you don’t review it, let me know what you think about A Ghost Story, whenever you see it.

      Yes, we definitely need to do more than two Cheese-athons in 2020! I noticed in one of our Swamp Women comments that our next one was going to involve a giant insect movie…but I don’t remember what we were referring to. Was it from our Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection…The Deadly Mantis maybe? Either way, it’s your pick this time, so just let me know!

      Like

  2. Dracula
    3/30/20

    I remembered hearing the last Blockbuster open was the one in Alaska so I had to verify your claim. And indeed, Bend is the last one standing. Pretty cool you got the movie with the cover with Bend as the address. I remember our days in Santiago, Chile and walking to our local Blockbuster. Then one day it was shut down without notice. It was right next door to a take away pizza joint so that came in handy with the movie pick up. Anyway with such a large CM entry I’ll read more later and be back for a comment or two.

    Like

    • Todd B
      3/30/20

      I had no idea there were ANY Blockbusters left until I read that article, and it mentioned a couple more that had still been open the previous year, but had since closed. And pretty cool that you had a Blockbuster within walking distance…and pizza, too. My last Blockbuster was over on Bell Road, about an hour’s walk away; I couldn’t tell you what my last rental there was.

      Like

      • Grandrapidsgirl
        3/30/20

        Drac “fact-checked” the Monolith?!?!? Wow – that’s a gutsy move. ;o

        Like

      • Todd B
        3/30/20

        Ha, yes, he took his life into his own hands with that one!

        Like

  3. In a hotel room: 8 ? I’m hoping at least half of these were Robin Askwith’s Confessions of a Window Cleaner etc.

    Todd bro you don’t really post all this year then BOOM one almighty top class info filled Buckaroo Banzai Bonanza of a post. Great to see you back. Love the trivia bit too.

    Appearances tell a different story but I’m not really a horror guy. I guess when I’m always running ripping limbs off things I need to unwind with a thriller rather than a horror. So I haven’t seen them in your top five NTM section. Once Upon A Time was so freaking good. Loved that. Incidentally just watched Jackie Brown with my daughter an hour ago. Another tip top QT.

    I only recently heard that there’s a whole series of films with Tracy and Hepburn. I hear they all really good. A friend was telling me about Adam’s Rib so I need to add that with Desk Set. Sounds like some wonderful fun.

    My mini review for Cold Pursuit.
    “Seriously WTF was this. Starts off a bleak dark thriller and then it’s like another director stepped in and thought fuck it, let’s make it a comedy but let’s not tell Liam Neeson! It is so bonkers and I can’t work out it was intentional or not! I gave it an extra point for being an hour long conversation with a friend over how ridiculous it was.”

    Thanks for the links and I’m very much looking forward to the new Video Store Action Heroes.

    Big kudos on the purchases. Wow TAOBB and Jaws on VHS!!! Now that’s some great additions to your vaults. Such bargains you found. Superb. Oh and the Blockbuster rental story and box. Pure class Todd.

    Then the post doesn’t let up! It just keeps giving! Laserdiscs, 80’s movies for pennies and a super cool looking betamovie camera. Top read buddy.

    Like

    • Todd B
      3/30/20

      Yes, that was one hellaciously-long post…and it took me a long time to write it, too! And the funny thing is, I was just about to hit the ‘Publish’ button, and for whatever reason I went to check on something in my closet…and saw two more things I wanted to mention! I guess I shouldn’t printed a warning of some kind in the first paragraph, for those of you with weak stomachs or narcolepsy.

      I’ve never seen Jackie Brown, but I’ve read the book it’s based on (Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard) many times, so I should probably watch it to see if QT gets the tone and humor of the book, and specifically, Leonard’s writing. Usually, the filmmakers don’t. But because of your Seal of Approval (or Wolf of Approval), I’ll check it out.

      Your review of Cold Pursuit is spot on…it’s exactly how I felt about that damn movie. Only I wouldn’t have given it the extra point! And as for Robin Askwith and the Confessions movies…nope, none of them made the hotel viewing list. The ones that did were: Race with the Devil, Stakeout, Betrayed, The Kid, The Last Seduction, Frantic, Palm Springs Weekend, and Predators.

      And I think what I’ll do from now on is, write one massive headache-inducing post every three months, and take the rest of the year off! And one more thing…thanks, Mikey!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve never read Rum Punch but I must add it to the my collection. Jackie Brown is a superbly told story. It plods along at a mellow pace and reveals itself perfectly. Everyone great in it but it’s Pam Grier’s and Robert Forster relationship that holds the film together. They are perfection together. Very recommended.

        Hehe Wolf of Approval I’ve always been a bit of imbe”seal”!

        PS even without film reviews a monthly watch round would be cool. Just saying bro 🙂

        Like

      • Todd B
        3/31/20

        As soon as my library re-opens (or Zia re-opens and they have it for $1.50), I’ll definitely check it out. And I highly recommend Elmore Leonard’s crime novels (and even his early Westerns)…I’ve read them many times, and never get tired of them. Lots of fun.

        Which animal got the lowest grades at Sea World? The imbeseal! And about that month film recap…I’ll give it some thought! (Actually, now that I think about it…it might be an easy way to guarantee me at least one post per month!)

        Like

    • badlandsbitch
      3/30/20

      LOL I had the VERY same thought about the hotel room “viewings”!! Curiosity has me off to see if Cold Pursuit is on PPV or any V for that matter!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Todd B
        3/30/20

        Well, most of those hotel room viewings were with YOU in Michigan and OKC, so I wouldn’t be TOO outraged!

        And all those wonderful movie choices you have on your shelf and for free on Comcast, and you’re going to watch Cold Pursuit? Heavens to Murgatroyd!

        Like

      • Haha hopefully that doesn’t mean we are both guilty of it ourselves! LOL

        I think Cold Pursuit is worth the watch to see how crazy it changes. It flip’s from super dark, to the plain ridiculous at the click of your fingers. Liam is poker faced all the way through the film as dark humor is spread out in front of him. Laura Dern pops up smokes a spliff and just disappears for the whole film. It’s such an oddity.

        Like

      • Todd B
        3/31/20

        Yeah, if you’re having trouble getting your jaw to go slack, this is the film to watch!

        Like

  4. Grandrapidsgirl
    3/30/20

    Watching Man in the Dark with the lights on?!? Or would that be considered “ambient lighting” suitable for just such a flick? Sorry, couldn’t resist! Will there be a “worst” 5 of 2019 to look forward to?

    Like

    • Todd B
      3/30/20

      Let’s call it ‘mood lighting so I can see where my popcorn bowl is’! And I’ll probably someday do a ‘Worst of 2019’ post, but that particular list would have to include just films released in 2019…and I still have plenty more to watch from that year before I can create such a list. But as for my three ‘not too happy with’ films I watched last year, here are two more to bump it up to five: St. Elmo’s Fire and Gamera: Super Monster.

      Like

      • badlandsbitch
        3/30/20

        Gotcha!! 🙂

        Like

      • Todd B
        3/30/20

        😉

        Like

  5. Grandrapidsgirl
    3/30/20

    Well that’s anything but boring!! Especially the statistical part as it’s fun to see your high/low ranking “views” (i.e. 1950 & 2010 were a surprise), and do we have predictions and/or goals or objectives viewably-speaking for 2020?!? Thanks for sharing Todd!!

    Like

    • Todd B
      3/30/20

      Yes actually, I do have a handful of movie-watching goals for 2020: watch more movies from the 1930s and 1940s, and a lot less from the 2010s…watch more of my HD-DVD movies…take part in more blogathons, including the Mini Cheese-athon and the Video Store Action Heroes…listen to more audio commentaries from the film noir movies I own…and most importantly, WRITE MORE REVIEWS! And thanks for visiting, Julie!

      Like

  6. Dracula
    3/31/20

    With the impressive stats I actually thought I was on SP78!

    Like

    • Todd B
      3/31/20

      Ha, thanks…these actually turned out to be a bit harder to deal with than my baseball ones. The counts kept coming up off…first I had 114 movies, but then the decade counts didn’t add up, then the viewing locations were off, then I had to re-count my film total. Back and forth, counting and counting…sheesh!

      Like

  7. Better late than never and this is a winner. Loved your recap with so much to share and some cool finds. I didn’t see the Beta cam coming but chuckled when at first I noticed you had included Beta on your list of formats for the year. That camera is cool as is the HD player. I have a laser machine that works and yup Jaws in my collection of discs. Nice to see Tracy and Hepburn getting some love. Great idea on that Blockbuster movie. Thanks for the nod and happy new year! Now that it’s official.

    Like

    • Todd B
      3/31/20

      Thanks Mike, and Happy New April to you! And thanks for getting through the whole post…I just kept finding neat things to add to it over the week I worked on it, and it kept getting longer and longer and longer.

      Yeah, getting that Betamovie camera was a real treat…and finding that HD player, finally, really made my day. And then all those HD-movies appearing at the other thrift store, with a still-sealed copy of The Thing among them (which I’ll keep sealed). And I wondered if anyone would notice that ‘Beta – 0’ entry!

      Hope you’re doing okay up north, and not running out of movies to watch! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 227

From the Monolith: 125

Movies by Decade

1920s – 0
1930s – 6
1940s – 19
1950s – 37
1960s – 34
1970s – 36
1980s – 35
1990s – 6
2000s – 13
2010s – 41

Movies by Genre

Action/Adventure – 42
Comedy – 35
Crime – 22
Documentary – 5
Drama – 26
Horror – 38
Musical – 1
Mystery/Thriller – 19
Romance – 3
Sci-Fi/Fantasy – 27
Western – 8

Movies by CM Rating

10 star – 10
9 star – 28
8 star – 36
7 star – 31
6 star – 22
5 star – 23
4 star – 24
3 star – 18
2 star – 20
1 star – 12
0 star – 3

Movies by MPAA Rating

Pre-1968 – 91
G – 1
PG – 32
PG-13 – 34
R – 60
NC-17 – 0
TV and Unrated – 9

Blogathons I’ve Joined

The Coolest Links

This review has been approved by Team Banzai!
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