Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Remember a year ago, when I said there wasn’t much to say about 2020, in relation to both the world and my movie blog? Well, as far as the blog went, there was even less to say in 2021! I ended up having zero reviews last year, and only two posts overall…even my movie watching had drastically declined. Once again, I found myself concentrating more on my baseball site, and when I’d tell myself I was ready to get back into the swing of things with this site, it just never happened.
So hopefully, I can make this year a better year for the Monolith and myself, and write a lot more reviews and posts this time around. I’d also like to take part in more blogathons, especially the two I helped create and enjoy being a part of: the Video Store Action Heroes, with Greg at Destroy All Fanboys!, Mikey at Wolfmans Cult Film, and Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies, and the Mini Cheese-athon I share with Lindsey at The Motion Pictures. And I’m going to do my best to keep up with commenting on fellow movie-blogger posts, instead of letting the e-mail notifications build up like the couple hundred or so that did in 2021.
So as always, pop yourself a big bowl of your favorite popcorn, find yourself a comfortable place to sit, and enjoy this short but sweet trip back to the Cinema Monolith of yester(last)year!
Total films watched in 2021: 121
(Total from 2020: 191)
New to me in 2021: 79
Total CM reviews in 2021: 0
Total CM reviews since start of blog: 227
At home: 94
At the theater: 0
At a friend’s house: 27
DVD – 30
Blu-ray – 17
HD-DVD – 0
VHS – 0
Beta – 0
Theatrical – 0
Broadcast on TV – 34
Digital file on TV – 21
Pay-per-view on TV – 2
Free streaming on TV – 12
Streaming on laptop – 5
1920s – 0
1930s – 5
1940s – 12
1950s – 38
1960s – 8
1970s – 11
1980s – 18
1990s – 6
2000s – 7
2010s – 12
2020s – 4
• I watched 34 episodes of Svengoolie on MeTV.
• I borrowed nine movies from the library.
• I watched two movies twice: Earth vs The Spider and The Undead, both times on Svengoolie.
• December was my busiest month, with 18 movies watched.
• My movie for Halloween night was Taste the Blood of Dracula.
• My Christmas movie was Fatman.
The Lost Picture Show
This was the one and only CM promise I was able to keep last year: no more movies seen at a theater. Sad but true…I’ve decided to give up on my days and nights at the local cinema, simply because I no longer enjoy going, and for the most part I have no interest in the films being released these days. Do I miss it? Not as much as I thought I would, save for the extra-large bags of Harkins popcorn I used to buy, which I can still walk in and get to-go without forking over the exorbitant cost of a movie ticket. And how about this sobering statistic: last year was the first year I hadn’t seen a movie at a theater since 1967!
My Five Favorite ‘New-to-Me’ Films
Like with 2020, with no new theatrical films seen in 2021 (well, there was one, but it was first seen on Blu-ray, and it did make this list), my five favorite ‘new-to-me’ movies are all going to come strictly from home viewing experiences. Which to me is not a bad thing.
Because I’ve worked so many years in X-ray and rehab, I always enjoy watching films that are set in hospitals, and are related to the many facets of the medical field. This one I found by chance one night on free on-demand cable: one I’d never heard of, at just 62 minutes and with a no-name cast, that I expected to be all over the charts when it came to medical reality. But no, this was a smart, tight, efficient little film, that held my attention from start to finish. More a series of vignettes than a full-fledged story, this surprised me by not shying away from some pretty serious issues for the time, and by doing so well at getting the tone and feel of a hospital setting right. It won’t win any awards, and maybe those outside the medical world won’t be so enthusiastic, but for what it was, I commend it for a job well done.
I wanted to defy a classic movie channel’s edict that this was a ‘problematic’ film, so I immediately bought it sight unseen – to hell with you, TCM! – and watched it upon arrival. What an absolute blast, and for someone who’s not a big fan of musicals, I was surprised at how much I loved it. The title pretty much says it all: seven brothers living high up in the mountains are looking for seven women to be their brides, and head down to town to do so. A grand, happy time all around, but one musical number really stood out for me, and as I found out later, has stood out for many: The Barn-Raising Dance, which was simply amazing. This film is nothing but pure, innocent joy, and anyone who calls it ‘problematic’ needs to get their empty head examined.
Based on the title alone, I thought this was going to be a bit cheesy or outrageous, and something not to be taken seriously…but it wasn’t that at all, and not by a longshot. Instead, it was a compelling and at times heartfelt character study of a man who’s tasked with assassinating Hitler during World War II, and decades later is called upon to go after a diseased Sasquatch in the Canadian woods, who’s spreading a deadly virus. Mostly, though, it’s about Sam Elliott, playing a man who just wants to live a quiet life, after too many hardships and and one particular missed opportunity. Elliott was just outstanding, and he plays his character in such low-key, ingratiating way, I felt I could watch him just hang around his house and small town for two solid hours and not be bored at all. A must-see in my opinion, and I’m truly surprised it isn’t more popular or well-received than it is.
This is what happens when you think you’re all set to watch a particular movie, but it isn’t that movie, and you end up stumbling upon a completely unexpected gem instead. That’s what happened to me when I sat down, popcorn in hand, to watch what I remembered as a Western starring Randolph Scott, but instead turned out to be a noir-like historical thriller starring Dick Powell. Set in 1861, Powell plays a NY police sergeant who discovers an assassination is being planned…but nobody will believe him, including his superiors. Powell then decides to quit the force and try to thwart the attempt on his own. An added bonus: Anthony Mann, a favorite of mine, directs. And who is the tall target, you ask? You’ll probably figure it out well before the movie ends, but it doesn’t matter, because the story and characters will keep you compelled either way. And the Western I thought I’d be watching? It was The Tall T, of course.
The only film of 2021 I cared one iota about seeing, which I did after it’s video release, and man-oh-man did it ever deliver! Never mind that it was nearly an exact re-telling of John Wick, which I also loved (the same screenwriter wrote both), it was still a highly-charged barrel of fun…in a way, a lighter, not-quite-as-serious version of John Wick. Bob Odenkirk is completely believable as a kick-ass action star, playing an everyday guy – a normal job, a house in the suburbs, a wife and two kids – who is yanked back into the world of his former job as a government assassin, with crowd-pleasing results. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of action films, and as you might expect, I went on-line and purchased the Blu-ray immediately following the end credits.
And Three New-to-Me Films That I Expected to Like More Than I Did
3. Pretty Woman
Additions to the Monolith
Did I break my promise of not buying any more movies this past year? You bet I did! And did I have room on the Monolith tower to store them? You bet I didn’t! My most exciting haul was that group of Star Trek ‘Fan Collective’ sets, when I found three of them at a thrift store – still sealed – for $4 each! I then had to have more, of course, so I picked up one on-line (still cheap), and received another one for Christmas from my friend Julie. And while I was at that thrift store scoring Star Trek sets, I picked up Last Stand at Sabre River for a buck, and shortly thereafter The Brady Bunch Movie arrived as a Christmas gift from my friend Doug, a cult favorite of his. I also picked up another film inspired by an Elmore Leonard story, 3:10 to Yuma, a Criterion Blu-ray I’d wanted for a while, and finally grabbed when I found it on sale, while The Mule took the final spot in my Eastwood section of the Monolith.
You Can’t Piss on Hospitality!
Joining the ranks of my favorite best-worst movies – Twisted Brain, Curse of Bigfoot, The Creeping Terror – is the film that spawned a documentary actually titled Best Worst Movie: yes, it’s the new-to-me cheese classic Troll II, about a family trying to survive an attack by…trolls. I have a friend at work, Hannah, who loves corny cult films as much as I do, and she recently introduced me to this one, and am I ever glad she did! This film is just jam-packed with everything you’d ever want in a mind-numbing, laugh-out-loud, off-the-charts crazy film, and more: a completely demented story, from a completely demented director, a slew of imminently-quotable dialogue, untrained actors doing the best they can with the material handed to them, weird-ass moments that can never be explained, and best of all…it’s available on Blu-ray, and I now own it.
Additions to the Monolith II
On December 31st, I decided to make one last movie haul, and picked up three noir Blu-rays that were cheaper than I’d expected, that I didn’t already own, and that featured few good extras (thanks, Mike’s Take on the Movies, for the recommendation of The Web). I then checked Amazon for another movie I’d wanted, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, and was thrilled to see it was selling for just $7.59, so I immediately added it to the cart as well. All four arrived in January (and too late to make that first photo), but since they were purchased in 2021, I decided to include them in this post’s additions.
One to Add to the CM Library
I picked this one up when I bought those four Blu-rays on December 31st…I was checking out some books on film noir, and this TCM horror collection popped up in the list. Thank heavens Amazon has that ‘take a sneak peek’ option, because once I did, that book was sold! I’m not sure I agree with a couple of their choices (Hocus Pocus a fright favorite…say what?), but the other three dozen or so entries fit the bill nicely, and both photos and behind-the-scenes stories of each are top notch. And for me, a steal – in hardback no less – at $16!
And As I’ve Said Before…
Thanks once again to those who have visited and commented here on the site all these years, and a double thanks to those who will actually come back and visit in 2022, after the site went MIA in 2021. I’ve got a dozen or so reviews that are about three-quarters done, and a handful of articles that just need some fine-tuning before they’re ready to post, so already I’m well ahead of last year’s miserable pace. And believe it or not, I even have a few ideas for Jaws articles that I hope to post this summer. And of course, as always, I look forward to chatting with you all in the comment sections, and hearing your stories, thoughts, and memories of your movie adventures.