Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Well, there’s not much to say about 2020 that’s worth mentioning, and as far as my movie blog goes, there’s not much to write about, either. Last year was an off year for many people, in many regards, and for me this site was no exception: I found myself concentrating more on my baseball site, and then my job, and not so much on the Monolith. I’m not sure why, but whenever I’d sit down to write a review or article, I just couldn’t find the enthusiasm or desire to continue, so I’d get partway done and put it on hold. Hopefully, 2021 will be different, and I’ll post more than the measly three reviews I wrote in 2020.
Like last year, 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. With me not working for half of the year, there wasn’t a whole lot of Blu-ray or DVD purchasing going on, and the scant few books I did buy were all baseball-related (I’ll post those on my other site soon), and the only literary item I bought that was related to movies was a collector’s edition magazine!
So once again, make yourself a bowl of popcorn, sit back in your favorite couch or futon, and enjoy! And don’t worry, this one won’t take long at all to slog through!
Total films watched in 2020: 191
(Total from 2019: 216)
New to me in 2020: 109
Total CM reviews in 2020: 3
Total CM reviews since start of blog: 227
At home: 157
At the theater: 1
At a friend’s house: 33
DVD – 41
Blu-ray – 20
HD-DVD – 2
Beta – 0
Theatrical – 1
Broadcast on TV – 56
Pay-per-view on TV – 2
Digital file on TV – 57
Streaming on laptop – 11
Netflix on TV – 1
1920s – 2
1930s – 11
1940s – 23
1950s – 47
1960s – 19
1970s – 23
1980s – 34
1990s – 4
2000s – 11
2010s – 16
2020s – 1
• I watched 43 episodes of Svengoolie on MeTV.
• I borrowed just three movies from my library (it closed when the pandemic hit).
• I watched two movies twice: Female Jungle and Bunco Squad, both times for gathering review notes.
• My friend Julie and I watched 13 movies during a pandemic ‘stay inside’ weekend visit I’d made to Tucson.
• June was my busiest month, with 21 movies watched.
• I watched six episodes of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Netflix.
• My movies for Halloween night were Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Evilspeak.
• My Christmas movies were Miracle on 34th Street and Die Hard.
The Last Picture Show
About the time that the world became aware of the pandemic, and about a month or so before everything began shutting down, I’d traveled to Tucson to visit my friend Julie for a few days. For my birthday she took me out to see a movie at a Harkins mulitplex there, a Tuesday Night Classic screening of one of my favorite Hitchcock films, Rear Window. It was my first theatrical movie of the year, and my first since the previous October, when I saw Joker at the same theater for her birthday. That trip to see Rear Window would be my one and only visit to a movie theater in 2020, and with my decision to drastically cut back on watching current movies (basically most anything from the 2000 forward), it could very well be the last time I see a movie at a theater ever again. I’m tired of inconsiderate people in theaters on their phones or playing video games (yes, it happened), I’m tired of ticket prices skyrocketing, I’m tired of assigned seating, and most of all, I’m tired and exasperated with lazy filmmaking and uninspired screenwriting.
My Five Favorite ‘New-to-Me’ Films
With only one theatrical film seen last year (and that one was from 1954), my five favorite ‘new-to-me’ movies of 2020 are all going to come from home viewing experiences, either off broadcast or cable television, or movies I’ve watched on-line. Quite a few were beyond-the-mainstream film noir movies, and most were quite good, so I could’ve filled up the entire list with nothing but noir. But I figured I’d better mix it up a bit, so the handful that didn’t make the cut included Man in the Dark (1953), Abandoned (1949), Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948), The Killer That Stalked New York (1950), and Bunco Squad (1950), the last of which I took off the list so I could save it for a true review, coming soon.
I’m always up for a good zombie apocalypse story, and South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho provides it, with a twist: a zombie outbreak occurs inside a commuter train just as it’s departing a station in Seoul, and a handful of unaffected wind up trapped inside. There’s usually not much you can do different with a zombie film (the zombies…well, attack non-zombies), so it’s refreshing to find one that tries something a bit different. In this case, zombies are still attacking non-zombies, but the question here is, where do you go? You can’t just step off the train, and your hiding places and escape routes are severely limited. And that’s what I liked about it: trying to figure out what these people are going to do. Tense, thrilling, and frightening all the way through, and if you like zombie films or horror in general, it’s a definite must-see.
My Dad had recommended this one to me several years ago, and I finally had a chance to see it on cable. For me, a gripping story with smart direction from John Frankenheimer, and a master class in acting from Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, and a handful of other greats. During the Cold War, the President plans on signing a peace treaty with the Soviets; a Marine colonel discovers that the Joint Chiefs of Staff plan on ousting the President, and immediately alerts him. The two then have seven days to try and stop the coup. Based on a book that detailed a similar event that occurred during the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s, it quite often reminded me of what was happening with our most recent President now.
After years of searching, I was finally able to track this one down, when I chanced upon it one night playing on the Movies! channel. And yes, it was as good as I’d always heard, and though the subject matter didn’t necessarily fit into the noir mold, its other aspects definitely did. A young boy, known for telling lies and tall tales, witnesses a murder one night from his bedroom window, and can’t convince anyone of what he saw…they all think it’s just another tale. But the couple responsible for the killing soon discover that the boy is a witness to their crime, and decide he must be silenced before someone does believe him. I’m usually not that big on child actors, but Bobby Driscoll does a commendable job here, and director Ted Tetzlaff really spices the proceedings up with some outstanding noir lighting and camera angles, and ratchets up the tension as you wonder how the boy will escape his predicament…or if he escapes it. Based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, who also wrote the story that Hitchcock borrowed for Rear Window.
For such a small, barely-known film, I thought it had a pretty cool story to tell, and the people involved told it with conviction. A science fiction morality tale where five random people scattered around the globe are brought aboard an alien spacecraft, where a representative of an alien society informs them that his race is searching for a new planet to inhabit, and since their ‘moral code’ does not allow them to kill, the five are given three capsules each, with each capsule capable of instantly destroying all humanity within a 3,000 mile radius of the person using it. His intention is clear: YOU five kill off the world, so we aliens can take over and still abide by our code. The question then becomes, who of the five—if not all of them—will crack open the capsules? As it turns out, things are not that simple. Some neat twists are thrown our way by director William Asher and screenwriter Robert M. Fresco, and the lead actors (Gene Barry, Valerie French, and George Voskovec) help keep the proceedings serious and somber.
I happened upon this while on-line and thought I’d give a try, simply because it was short (77 minutes), and was a good fit for an early-to-bed work night. Like I’ve said in the past, being a fan of film noir, it’s always a treat to find a small, unheralded one that I’ve never seen, and turns out to be much more than I’d expected. I recognized the star, Adam Williams, from his small part as a henchman in North by Northwest, and he did an outstanding job here in the lead, in one of his first acting roles. He plays a seemingly mild-mannered gardener, a nobody who goes unhinged after his wife cheats on him, and as revenge begins murdering blondes throughout Los Angeles using his garden shears. Nice work from director Arnold Laven, who takes advantage of many bygone locations around LA that don’t fit the typical ‘landmark’ mold, and I enjoyed following the two police detectives on the case as they used clues and early forensic-type techniques to track the killer. At times, the subject matter is quite shocking for the early-1950s, but that only made the story more real. A quiet little classic that’s definitely worth a look.
And Three New-to-Me Films That Were Much Worse Than I’d Expected
1. Howard the Duck
2. Two-Minute Warning
3. Day of the Dead
Of the three measly reviews I posted in 2020, one happened to be for a blogathon: Southern Comfort, for the Video Store Action Heroes, consisting of myself, Mikey at Wolfmans Cult Film Club, Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies, and Greg at Destroy All Fanboys. For the second year in a row, I participated in no outside blogathons, and there were no entries in the Mini Cheese-athon blogathon I take part in with Lindsey over at The Motion Pictures…hopefully this year we’ll get to posting a few.
Additions to the Monolith
I guess the promise I’d made to myself a few years ago to stop buying movies came closer to being obeyed in 2020, when I purchased just two, both DVDs, over the course of the year. I was in a Goodwill store and found the two shown above, and because it was some sort of discount day, both were priced at $1 each…I deal I really couldn’t pass up. Being a fan of SCTV, of course I had to buy Strange Brew, starring Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Bob & Doug McKenzie from their ‘Great White North’ skits, and I happened to spot a mint copy of the noir classic The Lost Weekend, so for a buck I grabbed that one as well. The Parks & Recreation set I received as a Christmas gift from Julie, who knew I’d only seen the first few seasons of the show, and was eager to watch the rest.
My Only Addition to the CM Vault
Last year was the 45th anniversary of the release of my favorite film of all time, Jaws, and I discovered that Time magazine was putting out a special edition collector’s magazine to celebrate. It took me three stops at three different stores, but I finally found one at my local Safeway, and it now sits on my bookshelf along with two other collector editions I own, for film noir and Star Trek.
And a Late Gift from 2019
My sister Kelly bought me this for Christmas of 2019, and for whatever reason I failed to include it in last year’s year-end review. Released by Turner Classic Movies, it’s a really fun movie quiz book that, for me, is both simple and impossible, depending on the question and/or category. How many siblings did Rosalind Russell have? Trust me, I have no idea!
As always, thanks again to everyone who visited and/or commented on the CM blog last year, even though there wasn’t that much to see or comment on. I hope to get more content out this year, and I’ve already begun working on reviews and articles that will hopefully be posted soon, and throughout the coming weeks and months. There aren’t many of you CM followers 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!
Isn’t The Window something? I’ve been a fan since I saw it as a kid on TV back in the 70’s and it gets better with age. Good to know I’m not the only person fed up with most modern movies, although Parasite caught me off guard because I ignored reading anything on it and bought the Blu-ray recently and man, what a film!
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Yeah, it was quite good…much better than I’d expected it to be. I just wish it existed on Blu-ray, with some extras…I’d like to see a nice doc on it, or a commentary. And it’s strange to think that last year I didn’t see a movie at a theater for the first time since the 1960s! I do want to see Parasite, though…by the time I discovered it was directed by the guy who did the The Host, it had already left theaters, and last time I checked, my library didn’t carry it.
Hope you’re doing okay out there, Greg…hopefully we can get some VSAH posts out before too long!
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I dragged my feet in posting reviews as well. Nothing but time on my hands for two months early last year and forced myself. Once I get started comes easy. Bunco Squad a pleasant surprise. Reviewed it a while back.
I held Abandoned in my hand couple days ago but opted for The Sleeping City. Next time. Train movie sounds like classic Lee-Cushing flick Horror Express. Maybe inspired by? I’ll check into Without Warning.
And what did I get for Christmas you ask? A Jaws boardgame.
Cheers and stay healthy….. Mike.
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Yeah, it looks like I’ll just have to force myself to dive into writing reviews and articles again…I know once I get started, I’ll slowly get into it again. And it was your review of Bunco Squad that got me to watch it, finally!
Pretty funny about The Sleeping City…I watched it two nights ago! I couldn’t figure out where it was headed, but the reveal is kinda cool, and I was wondering why it was considered noir, but those last 10-15 minutes finally revealed some noir traits. And yeah, I saw Horror Express years ago, and I guess there are more ‘trapped by monsters on a train’ films than I’d thought…I guess we could add Terror Train to the list as well.
And of course, a great score with the Jaws board game…I picked one up a few years ago, but have yet to play it; all my Jaws friends live too far away!
Thanks for stopping in, Mike…I’ve still got a few of your posts to get caught up on, but I promise I’ll get there!
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Totally agree with you buddy. It was so strange. First thoughts were I was gonna write and watch insane amounts but in reality it was really difficult to get motivated. They got tougher to do. But I’ve got my mojo back and got a jog going rather than a sprint. Plodding on is probably the best term. So the mighty Cinema Monolith might be quiet at the moment but I’m sure, like the giant kraken, you will awaken and start smashing the keypad. Oh it’s all gobbledygook. You then realise you got your baseball glove on! Doh!
191 is a great tally Todd.
Liking that the 50s got a good hit. It’s debatable but the 50s might be my favorite decade?
WTF! Svengoolie? And now that I’ve looked, how have I never heard of it?
How amazing to have watched Rear Window at the theatre. I’m with you on all the reasons that new films at the cinema suck. I did see and loved Tenet and I was very excited for Dune! Maybe that might happen this year?
Train to Busan just went on the list. Thank you.
Seven Days In May is ace….
The Window I haven’t heard of and now investigating.
The 27th Day is so good isn’t it. So interesting and thoughtful for such a small film.
Without Warning gets the CM number one spot and I haven’t heard of and am racing off out the door to get it. Damn it 8pm, damn it’s a pandemic, damn I’ve got no trousers on!
Will be on it soon. Again thanks.
Parks and Recs is very funny. I like to say Ron Swanson is my spirit animal.
Good to see you back and see you next in 2022. LOL! See you soon for that film you held back with all intentions of reviewing.
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I’m figuring (hoping) the same thing…once I get on a roll (or a plod), I’ll slowly get back into it. Still working the baseball site, though, so I’ll have to get that mitt off first! And I always consider the ’40s or ’50s as my favorite decades for film, but wait…it could be the ’70s and/or ’80s as well. Definitely not the ’90s!
I’m still curious about Tenet, since I’ve always liked Christopher Nolan’s films, so I might cheat a little and add that to my library rental list. And if I did ever decide I wanted the movie theater experience again, I’m certain I would only go on Tuesday Night Classics nights for $5. Too many old films I’d love to see on the big screen.
Let me know if you watch any of those films, and what you thought…I know Without Warning! is available on YouTube, with a decent print. The Window, not so much, unless that ok.ru site has it.
Ha, yes, see you in 2022! I’m currently working on that review I promised to post, so we’ll see how long it takes me to get it done. And thanks for hanging in there after my long absence!
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Main thing is you are enjoy the baseball site and that’s all that really matters and what it’s all about.
However you popping back did get me watching Without Warning last night. So I thank you very much for that. That was real good, enjoyed it very much. I do like those ones that you are taken through the police procedures and how they would work a case. It was well macabre for a film of that age and you didn’t need to see stuff to imagine the horror. How amazing and tense was the bit when he’s under the bridge, doing his thing, and the bike cops come down and it ends in a mad chase. I’d like to squeeze it in for a review if I can…
5 dollar Tuesday classic movie night sounds amazing.
Looking forward to that review buddy. 🙂
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Way cool that you watched Without Warning!…glad you liked it! I’ll be doing a review on it soon as well…I kinda feel like watching it again. And I’m taking my notes for Bunco Squad with me to Tucson…already two paragraphs done!
Yeah, police procedural crime noirs are high on my list, too…I really get a kick out of seeing how they did forensics and such in the ’40s and ’50s. And that sequence you mentioned, under the bridge when the cop shows up…really cool. I liked his run through the farmer’s market, with all those high-angle shots…it looked like it was shot on the fly, since all the bystanders seemed to be surprised seeing this guy racing through the market. And yes, squeeze in that review!
And what’s great about the $5 Tuesdays is that the audience is always a good audience…they’re there to see a movie, and not screw around and make life miserable for everyone else. Do they still have that little 10-person theater near you? Have you been yet? Oh wait…it’s probably been shut down for a while.
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Hope you had/have a lovely time in Tucson. The traveling film reviewer sounds like a great way to find the time whilst gazing out of the window whilst admiring the amazing landscapes. As you careen off the road with a bump. Stepping out to pick up yet another cactus you’ve knocked over on the journey, hoping no one saw! Here’s hoping you’re traveling by train and can go back to gazing out the window.
Yeah I love those police procedural ones too. They always get their guy. Yes his run through the market was excellent and real. Super camera work panning along from up high.
Hey bro I watch The Window last night. Damn man how good was that movie?? The kid was amazing. I wrote a whole section, while I was meant to be working today! Oh my days, what a great film. Another superb recommend. Thank you.
So true on the classic films at the cinema and the better behaved crowd. I hadn’t at first thought of that but now you say, of course they gonna be there for the film, not to muck about.
I still haven’t been to the mini “Colosseum” cinema yet! I know, shocking. It’s closed now but hopefully come May things might start opening again. Just had a nose on their FB page and they have made 2 additional cinema’s to their space and completely revamp the first one with sofas and bar. It looks really homely and comfy. Will be looking into booking it out for friends I think. Make a great night. Maybe Get Carter.
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Yes, I had a great time in Tucson…sadly, however, I found no Trespass…though I did pick up a Bad Company LP in great condition!
That’s cool you watched The Window! Yeah, it had some really great moments in it…I’m even thinking about buying the damn thing! I just wish the disc had some extras on it…I’d like to learn more about that film. If by ‘whole section’ you mean a review, I’m looking forward to reading it!
And the Colosseum…still looking cool! I just checked out their FB page…they’re adding Dolby Atmos speakers AND some new seats! If you have a Get Carter night, I’ll do my best to be there!
And just so you know…no cacti were killed during my drive to Tucson…I saved the writing for after I arrived!
Nice recovery; The Window and Without Warning look good! (and thanks for the ‘mentions’ – fun to be a part of it)! As soon as the Century Theater opens back up (or perhaps I should say “if”), I’m in the front row for the first reasonably good flick they show.
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We can watch Without Warning! next time I’m there…and maybe even The Window, if I own it by then! And just so you know: I just checked on-line, and that theater is OPEN!
Talking of police procedural movies I just watched Code Two (1953). Worth a look if you haven’t seen it. An hour 9 mins.
It’s all mellow to start with, lots of going through the ranks of being a cop but it builds to a superb end. Plus seeing the bike cop doing their training is ace. Keenan Wynn is so good also. Where it’s not essential I’m pretty sure you will very enjoy it like I did Todd.
It’s on the okru thing. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045636/
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Sounds good, Mikey! I was in the mood for some popcorn tonight, and needed something short and sweet to watch with it. At 69 minutes, Code Two fits the bill perfectly. Thanks in advance for the recommendation and link…I’ll let you know what I thought.
Hey, I watched Code Two last night…what fun! Some neat stuff going on in that one…and some good violent stuff, too. That truck backing up over the cop…good lord! You were right, Keenan Wynn was really good…but man oh man, was Ralph Meeker an obnoxious ass! I’m not even sure his character had a story arc! And was that really Meeker and Wynn racing at high speeds across rough terrain on motorcycles? It sure the hell looked like it. And I think the ‘Best Hot Girl in the Movie’ award might have to go to the nurse at the very end. No, not the second-to-last nurse…the VERY last nurse!
Thanks for the recommend, Mikey…it was a perfect way to end a work night…WITH popcorn!
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Ha it’s really good isn’t it. I kept thinking about it. Good lord indeed on the truck back up. Pure shocker. He moved him into place too, the sicko!!! When it started I was not sure. It looked too staged and was thinking it might be more of a cop recruitment movie. Then POW. So many bits.. Keenan taking Meeker on a mission so the other guy and girl could dance together. Funny.
The random buckets of water? Then pure genius when he threw them. That was neat. It certainly did look like the two stars were riding the hills and rough terrain. Those bikes were crazy big and long. Then the scenes of all the bikes going through tight cones and then the hidden guys throwing stuff at them. Meeker getting a well deserved smack in the face. Even he knew he had that coming. He was soooo obnoxious. Yeah LOL you right after he got the “guys” he kind of went back to ways lol.
Two more quick things… The acid pit and the throw Keenan had taught him into it. Oooft! And the guy who said “take off your white coats you’re a target.” Oh make that three things, then there was the machete guy lol. It sure packed it in during the 69 mins. Yep they saved the best for the last. The VERY last nurse. Worth getting a slug in the arse cheek for. lol
So good to hear you liked it too. Hope you have a great weekend Todd.
Well, look what I just found in my spam folder, nearly three months after the fact! Sorry about that…obviously, it’s been a while since I’ve done anything with the CM site, but as you guessed, I’m back prepping to get rolling again, and found this in the meantime.
You’re right, a lot of things packed into those 69 minutes…and you could just see the acid bath coming! And it’s too bad that last nurse didn’t get her own sequel! I’ll be adding this one to my ‘movies to review’ list!
Hope you had a good weekend, too Mikey…WAY BACK WHEN! And hope you’re having a good one right now as well. I’m working on my apartment, listening to some used LPs I picked up recently. AND getting some CM things in order so I can start reviewing again…as I keep saying again and again!
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Haha no worries at all buddy. We all crazy busy doing something or another. Funny I noticed a few I hadn’t replied to from a few years back! I can’t work out if it’s rude to reply now or just plain sad lol. You know there’s no way people gonna read the reply now and have any idea what you are saying or even talking about. So 3 months is good bro.
Good to hear you prepping up the master machine over at the Cinema Monolith. Oil up the gears etc. Haha yes the nurse should of had her own movie for sure. Just smiling at the camera and dabbing the screen with a wet cloth and telling us everything was gonna be alright.
Hope to see you again on the reviews Todd. I’m not on here as much nowadays. Keep trying to keep it ticking over. Will do my monthly round up and hopefully 2 or 3 reviews. Just so I know what I’ve seen over the years. Funny was looking through a few the other day and it was surprising how many I’d almost forgot I’d seen. A few I had reviewed with love too! I’m either cracking up or trying to cram too much in. So I’ve dialed it back, ticking over in the summer months. So if you do post up a grand little noir or something and don’t hear from me, please give me a nudge. I’ll be straight on it.
Talk about needing a nudge…I took a MONTH to respond to this one! Sorry Mikey…like you, things just keep getting in the way of me working on posts and such for the Monolith. At least you’re keeping your hands in it…I need a good kick-start (or ass-kicking) to get going again. I still would like to at least read all the reviews from you, Mike, and Greg before I post anything here…maybe I can get caught up some this weekend.
Yeah, your ‘few years’ to respond to comments…rude, sad, or just plain hilarious! I suddenly had a bunch of people commenting on my missing Jaws scene post, so I’m trying to get caught up there as well.
I hope to get that grand little noir review up soon…I keep saying that, of course, but I’d like to at least get it posted before the year is out! But trust me, I’ll give you a nudge if 2023 rolls around, and you still haven’t commented on it! Thanks for checking in, Mikey…we’ll BOTH have to start posting more soon! Hope things are cool with you in the UK!