Friday, June 23, 2017

Movie Review: Fighting Belle (2017)

Fighting Belle (2017) - USA - Romantic Comedy - Not Rated (Family)
Written by Antonio Gangemi, Aimee Parrott & Sean Riley
Directed by Sean Riley
Starring Jessica Harthcock, Noah Cook, Donnie Pierre, Mallory Hynes, Carol Ann Scruggs, Joel Rogers, Ryan Czerwonko, Sherri Eakin, Caroline Delatte, Austin Langley, Joshua Powell, Naomi Prentice, G. Tremain Merrell, Daisy Prescott

A southern fried romantic comedy with a distinctly different approach to finding love succeeds in delivering a one-two punch with a wonderful performance by Jessica Harthcock and excellent direction by Sean Riley.

It's the biggest day in Delilah's life. She's a southern belle in a proud and prominent family, winner of multiple beauty pageants, and she is walking down the aisle today, her wedding day, to be married to the man she loves in front of all of her family and friends. Wait! What's this? The groom is having second thoughts? Jilted, humiliated in front of family and friends, and now all alone, what's a girl to do? Well challenge the groom to a rematch, with boxing gloves that is. Works for me.

Fighting Belle is a microbudget independent production that was shot in 9 days on location in Mississippi on a budget of only $15,000, as I've been told. As in any low budget production there are seams that show through, in this case primarily being inconsistency in the audio, and occasional inconsistency in the lighting. That being said, what has been accomplished on such a low budget is amazing, and any failings of a low budget are more than made up for by the performances and the direction.

The camera work is well done using multiple camera angles in even the simplest of scenes. The director Sean Riley succeeds in not letting the camera or viewer linger. Changing up the perspective often and successfully, keeping the flow and not creating confusion, keeps the attention of the viewer, and Riley certainly accomplishes this very well. There's some nice scene structure as well. A particular scene at a charity event uses Harthcock's wonderful ability with expressiveness to lead into a wide shot showing the characters in different positions then drawing them across the scene into place. It is beautifully orchestrated and portentous in its setup. I'm seriously impressed with the group composition in this film as well.

Jessica Harthcock gives the viewer a deceptively brilliant performance in this. I say deceptively because it's multi-faceted incorporating humor, physical comedy, tenderness, romance and feeling, yet she is so effortless in doing it that she just seems natural. Sometimes the very best performances are the ones hardest to see, but if you pay close attention, or cheat like I did and watch it twice, you'll see a performance that brings a character to life while Harthcock completely disappears into the role.

An interesting assortment of characters populate the movie including Delilah's gym mates such as the intimidating yet sexy Slice, the buoyant Romeo and the head-turning Tandy played by Noah Cook. In a movie filled with caricatures Noah Cook provides a balancing straight man character as well a catalyst to bring out Delilah's more intimate self. Additionally Noah Cook's physical prowess as well his intensity brings a believability to the boxing aspect of the film. I would be remiss if I did not make a special mention of Mallory Hynes as Delilah's sister Charlene who adds a soulful southern charm to the film, Caroline Delatte as Tandy's too smart for her age little sister, and also Daisy Prescott who is just the most adorable flower girl.

My first time watching this film I felt there were parts that lingered. A second time through and really it is the inconsistency in the audio that created that and not the story itself. The narrative is well structured not leaving anything out, nor are there any superfluous scenes. The story takes its time to focus on the characters and the budding love story; the plot seed of a jilted bride getting revenge is just that, a seed, and that seed grows into a story of a young woman finding love and people finding themselves once they step out of their expected roles. The last bit of the movie did feel a little rushed to me, though it's not incomplete at all and was probably just me wanting a little bit more.

Despite the often times under-classed audio in this, the performance of Jessica Harthcock alone would be worth recommending the movie, but add to that an interesting supporting cast of characters and especially fine direction showing a promising director in the making and my recommendation goes up another full notch.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

You can Buy or Rent Fighting Belle from Amazon Video

Visit the Fighting Belle Facebook Page

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Movie Review: Flesh & Blood a Go! Go! (2017)

Flesh & Blood a Go! Go! (2017) - USA - Horror - Unrated
Independent Short Subject - MollyWalsh Video Productions - 30 mins
Written and Directed by Adrian Baez
Starring Karri Davis, Shane Ryan, Nicoletta Hanssen (credited as Nico D.), Adrian Baez (as A. Baez), Matt Holbrook, Denis Tolyarenko, Jacqueline Dusza, Maggie Smith

An at times ambiguous story with a lingering third act succeeds more in its imagery, 80s backdrop and soundtrack resulting in a nihilistic murder romp.

Sleeping in her car and looking for work in Los Angeles, a young woman is approached by a man claiming to be with a new glamour magazine and sets up an appointment for her to take part in a photo shoot. What follows is a world of drugs, blood splatter and snuff photography.

Straight up if it were not for the smartphones being used and a flat screen TV on a wall this could have been an 80s period film. The use of a 35mm program SLR with a manual focus lens, an old style boombox complete with cassette player and no hint of being any newer than 1985, and a generous soundtrack that toes the line between death metal and synth-pop all smack of the 1980s. The film itself frankly feels 80s to me as well.

The 80s backdrop, bold imagery including a splatter scene that seems like it fell out of an old splatter movie and the pumped up soundtrack are the strengths of Flesh & Blood a Go! Go! Baez's camerawork and editing are also a strength as an otherwise basic story that has a tendency to drag in the 3rd and 4th acts would drag even more if he just let it observe. A combination of documentary style camerawork and music video editing help move the story along. What's not its strength is both unintentional and intentional ambiguity. 

I had to go back to confirm that the character of Mick and the Murder Photographer (as per the credits) are not the same person. Mick (1st act) is played by Shane Ryan and the Murder Photographer (2nd and 4th acts) is played by Adrian Baez, but they physically resemble each other just enough to cause confusion. Of course carefully listening to the dialogue will confirm that too, it's just so momentary that's it's easy to miss. 

The prologue additionally is a source of confusion. The woman, Jacqueline Dusza, is there to set the atmosphere, and frankly for eye candy too, but has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Realizing this up front will save you from a WTF feeling later as once again there are physical similarities, this time between the women in the film.

Ultimately Flesh & Blood a Go! Go! is simply nihilistic. Life has no meaning in its existential being. Hence the philosophy of snuff; art gives meaning to life, so the taking of a life is giving it something it does not possess.

I originally was leaning toward a 2 Plus rating on this. I view films twice, once on TV and once on my laptop. The second time around it moved better for me, was more enjoyable (you don't know how twisted that sounds until you've seen it), I liked the 80s vibe, and with headphones I was able to appreciate the soundtrack even more. The soundtrack really works to pump some energy into the film and move it along. The soundtrack alone as well is worth the price of admission.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

You can get a limited edition DVD on the MollyWalsh website.

You can find out more about this movie and other productions on Facebook.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Indie Filmmakers: Getting Higher Ratings for Your Movies

Whether it was three decades ago or today's online community with its social media, good buzz on a movie has always been necessary. Things have changed though and the expression "there's no such thing as bad publicity" does not apply to films when it comes to their online ratings. 

We don't buy printed movie guides anymore. Instead of just what one reviewer says being pertinent it is now the average of what anybody says that determines a movie's online rating. So if everybody is talking, just how can you influence everybody? Well, you can't; but you can influence the talk before it gets started.

For some context for this article, I am just someone with a blog who posts opinions about movies. That does not make me a film critic and I am certainly not a filmmaker. As a filmmaker, you know better how to promote your film better than I would, but as a reviewer I know some things that makes reviewers tick, and I'm going to share one of those that will help some of you to get better ratings on your films just starting out.

The key is that we who review movies online are not very original. We're even less original than the flurry of remakes, sequels and reboots flooding the theaters and TV today. This is nothing new as often times through the years anybody who has had to share an opinion on something has often relied on the opinions of others to form theirs.

The reason, as I have probably stated to some of you, that I don't read reviews before I write mine is that I find so much duplicity in online reviews. People are often swayed by the opinions of others for their own opinions, and that is central to getting good ratings at the outset.

What you need is 1) to find reviewers you feel will be friendly to you and/or your type of movie and 2) who also rate the movies they review on other sites like IMDb, TMDb, and Letterboxd. If your initial wave of reviewers is friendly to you, then your rating is going to be higher. IMDb is the most important site to get a good average rating on as it is the first one that comes up in searches for your movie, and other reviewers will be using it to cull information for their reviews, and will be influenced by the rating; it only takes 5 ratings on IMDb to get a rating average.

Well now just how do you find reviewers who will likely be friendly to you, and who rate movies on IMDb? Well through IMDb, silly. Find movies on IMDb you feel are in a similar category as your movie, that have a good average rating, and check under the critic reviews. Those sites/reviewers most likely posted links themselves and probably rated the movie on IMDb as well. You can follow those links and if you're smart enough to make a movie you're smart enough to figure out who's the easy pickings by reading their reviews.

Of course the bigger sites are important. If you get one of the bigger sites to give your film a review and they pan it, then you're going to have reviewers influenced by that. You may want to consider getting some positive vibe going first before asking the bigger review sites. Reverse the influence so to speak.

I am not an expert on movie promotion or on other reviewers. This is just a trend I have noticed. That doesn't mean it's science or foolproof. But it does give you a perspective you might be able to use to help get your films noticed, and in a more positive light.

Will some reviewers likely be upset with me for posting this, or even likely be offended by my comments? I can only hope! :)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Movie Review: Night Kaleidoscope (2017)

Night Kaleidoscope (2017) - Scotland - Horror - NR
Directed by Grant McPhee
Written by Megan Gretchin and Chris Purnell
Starring Patrick O'Brien, Mariel McAllan, Kitty Colquhoun, Jason Harvey, Robert Williamson, Craig-James Moncur, Gareth Morrison, Ashley Sutherland

A psychedelic fueled antipathy through Dada Land, luridly lensed in sanguinary obscenities, escalates vampiric cinema into something that is as ghastly as it is sensual as it is a unique commentary on art and depravity.

A man sits alone in a room. Alone from the living that is, for his only companion is a corpse under a bloody sheet. Soon, though, he will be joined by vestiges of past events as he inhales a thick smoke, its psychedelic properties unleashing his ability to see into the moment, to see a frightened young woman become the very corpse before him at the hands of bloodthirsty butchers living in the night. These butchers cut at the flesh of their victim, drinking her blood and ripping skin wth their teeth, and they are strangely aware even in the absence of their watcher that he can look into this moment; he is hunting them and they will be hunting him.

Night Kaleidoscope takes a distinctly different approach to the vampire movie in its representation of vampires not as the supernatural entities of films past but as killers who pleasure themselves in the brutal slaughter of their victims. It takes an even more distinctive approach in its darkly atmospheric and surreal approach to filmmaking. Appearing to be shot mostly with available light, and handheld, it is filled with discordant vibes from scene to scene harmonizing (pretend it's not a contradiction for just a moment) the viewer with a world of wanton drug use and hallucinatory clarity.

A cognitive dissonance in film where at once it is rich in visual stylings, horrifying as they may be, yet devoid of much of the narrative dialogue we have been conditioned to expect. Within the first 10 minutes the narrative moves almost entirely frame by frame rather than word by word. Beyond that preamble take no comfort still in the narrative structure, as this is surrealism in cinema; by design devoid of control, the expected, the comfortable.

Richly drawn in speculative style it is. Minimalist in character definition, it is that also. It's the body of work as a whole holding together the disparately rich visual acuity and minimalist script. The viewer is dropped into the middle of an ongoing story as though walking into a strange home only intending to get directions and finding yourself in the midst of something intense. You want to get out but something holds your curiosity. Knowing is something that only comes from observing, without the benefit of a roadmap. Uncomfortable it may be, but it starkly tells its story in an unforgettable manner.

Observation may be a blessing or a curse, and that is up to you. As with any surreal film the details are in the underpinnings of the story, or maybe not. The vampire in story and in legend is very old indeed. At the core of all vampire legends is something that takes an essence of life from another to further itself. That very essence, by legends broad and far, has been provided by an even greater power. At the core of all religion is something that emanates from a higher source and hence everything, to be read as everyone, is subjugated to that source. The mandalas of religion and of social structure are indistinct. 'Higher up' may sound administrative, but it may just as well be provincial; for only the inner circle can afford the perversions it exacts on the proletariat.

Of course interpretation is entirely up to the viewer. There is not necessarily a right or wrong interpretation, as anything's value ultimately lies entirely in what it means to you. There may be an underlying message in Night Kaleidoscope. Images may just exist for the visual style and symbolism solely for the narrative. For sure though, Night Kaleidoscope takes pleasure in happy humping the leg of metaphor all the way down the bunny trail. 

On the whole, Night Kaleidoscope is a visually stunning movie, morbid in its obsession, and vibrantly pulsed by a synth soundtrack keeping straying scenes in check. Its story is complete, but not full, leaving room for interpretation. In comparison with other directors Grant McPhee has made a film with the chilling vision of Murnau, the esoterica of Anger, the destructuring of Roeg, and liberally sprinkled with the violent insanity of Jodorowsky. Night Kaleidoscope ultimately is genre setting.

And where do I go in rating this movie? Somehow, appropriately, my review has been written as fragmentary and disjointed as the film is at times. It surely has taken longer to write what I hope is an appropriate review. Even before I have written a review I know where my rating for a film lies; the review just explains how I got there. I knew my rating was on the positive side, 3 to 3 Plus, after the first viewing. For sure this movie is a different experience which at first had me wondering what I had gotten myself into, to something that has lingered and grown in its lasting effect.

The movie and imagery stayed with me after the viewing; though not necessarily unusual for some films, the degree to which this movie stayed with me and instilled in me a drive to want to understand it more was intense. This drive alone had me upping my rating to 4 Fingers. Through writing most of the review I have been conflicted about staying with 4 Fingers or taking the bold move and upping my rating; again this is unusual for me.

What has pushed up the final rating definitively for me is in myself referring to Night Kaleidoscope as being genre setting. It is its own unique film. Elements of horror, vampire cinema and surrealist cinema are here, but it goes beyond its inspirations to create, in my opinion, its own genre. It's not defined by any other film than itself, and when a film sets its own template for others to follow, that defines a genre and that is more than worthy of one more tick up on the rating scale.

My Rating: 5 Fingers, I give it a high five!

If you would like to watch and/or review Night Kaleidoscope, it is available to view or download for free during the rest of the month of September on Vimeo.

You can stream or download the movie from Amazon.

Visit the movie website for more information.

Grant McPhee on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Indie Film Crowdfunding: The Electra Complex

The Electra Complex is a feature length film written by Clarissa Jacobson and Jessica Janos, directed by Jessica Janos and starring Violet Paley and Kansas Bowling as two punk rock conceptual artist strippers destroying Hollywood circa 1992.

Time and Place: Hollywood, 1992.  

What Was: Beepers were in, G.G. Allin was alive. Ecstasy was cool and a sick house in the hills was selling for under half a mil.

What is: Too bad Rachel Keith, squatter punk, 19, only has five...  


Jessica Janos, from an interview on We Are Moving Stories talks about her upcoming project:

"Electra Complex, a feature film I wrote with Clarissa Jacobson. Set in early 90s Hollywood, it’s about two punk rock, conceptual-artist strippers. Our logline is: Pussy. Brains. Punk. FUCK YOU!!! I’m yet to see how effective that logline is, but this is a funny, deep, dirty, sexy, sad, victorious story and so fun to read."

Guy Jackson said of the screenplay:

"For my money, THE ELECTRA COMPLEX is also one of the single best feminist screenplays I have ever read. It pulls off that win by setting its audience up for a Sleaze-A-Thon of sex, drugs, strippers, and women making seemingly horrific life decisions, and all seeming for the benefit of the leeriest of audience members...THEN reverses that flow in A Flow Reversal Miracle that'll make men question every dark thought they've ever had about women and make women cheer. It's a reversal that also achieves an extraordinary substance, it turns a new angle of spotlight on maltreatment of women."

This is Independent Filmmaking. There are no billionaire studios getting big business support in exchange for screen credits. These are filmmakers who have to pay their own way, and pay for everything. They depend on the support of regular people like us and not freebies from big business. As such, this film is being made in parts, as many independent films are, as they are able to get the funds. You can help them to make the next part.

Support this indie film by donating on their IndieGoGo Page.

Keep up with The Electra Complex on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Movie Review: Night of Something Strange (2016)

Night of Something Strange (2016) - USA - Horror Comedy - NR
Directed by Johnathan Straiton
Starring Trey Harrison, Rebecca C. Kasek, Wayne W. Johnson, Michael Merchant, Toni Ann Gambale, Nicola Fiore, John Walsh, Janet Mayson, Tarrence Taylor, Kera O'Bryon

Through its uber gross-out facade is an actually entertaining horror comedy that is mostly well done.

A janitor at a hospital makes his way to the morgue where he proceeds to mount and have sex with a female corpse. Had he checked the toe tag on the corpse he might have seen that this female died of radiation exposure, but now he has contracted some super-STD turning him into a zombie killing people and spreading the disease. Meanwhile a group of teens on their way to beach week stop over at a roadside hotel for the night only to encounter walking hard-ons among other dangers.

Let me be as frank as I can right up front; this is one of the grossest movies I have seen. Within the first 20 minutes I shut it off. Forcing myself to return, and I really didn't want to, I discovered the movie improved, and considerably at that. Surprisingly this is actually quite well scripted. As annoying as I thought these teens were going to be, they weren't, and the whole lot of them did a fine job acting, and Nicola Fiore did a damn fine job of getting naked. Let me just say that again; Nicola Fiore did a damn fine job of getting naked.

Beyond the actors and the writers there are some professionals at work here. The cinematography does not linger into distracting corners but stays on target, even though taking place at night the movie keeps its light levels up, the special effects despite being gross are well done, and the editing keeps things moving briskly past the first 20 minutes.

There are continuity errors in this. There's something disgusting done to the character of Brooklyn (Tarrence Taylor) then just seems to have disappeared; and I'm not complaining as it was so disgusting I'm glad it disappeared. Continuity errors abound in the makeup and costuming. The SFX makeup in this is very good, but several times it doesn't quite match the action of previous scenes. The most obvious of continuity gaffes is in the outfit of Cornelius von Zombie (Wayne W. Johnson). Some of it may be the dark color of the outfit, but his jumpsuit seems to stay relatively clean compared to what he goes through in this. And I sure hope they gave Wayne hazard pay as they focus a lot on kicking him in the balls.

In a rare move for me, I am actually giving a movie a passing grade that I don't recommend. It is well made, scripted and acted as I have said, but it is so gross, particularly in the opening minutes, I cannot recommend for somebody to watch this, at least not without having a vomit bag handy. Additionally I take umbrage with the writers being stuck in 80s attitudes. I mean this was released in 2016, not 1986. 30 years later homophobia and the all too stereotypical token black guy strike me as being out of place.

My Rating: 3 Fingers. There are talented people at work here; writers, cast & crew. I would like to see more from them, once they get past their gross-out phase. And once they do get past it I'm pretty confident they've got a Four or Five Finger movie in them somewhere.

For more on the movie and to get copies of it, visit their website.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Proposing to Join with Others for a Grassroots Indie Film Review Blog

A movie review blog or indie film blog is nothing new under the sun. I'm not proposing something groundbreaking, just a simple blog where several movie reviewers come together, with a narrow focus on low and no-budget grassroots indie films.

There are plenty of indie film sites out there, but for me I have been looking for more coverage of startup filmmakers making a short or feature for the first time with little or no funds and the help of borrowed equipment and friends or film students, not of the so-called indie film made by Hollywood insiders but not backed by a major studio.

If you've paid any attention to my Twitter page (yes, I'm talking to the two of you) you have probably noticed me posting a lot about the movie Fear Town, USA. To me this is an ideal example of grassroots filmmaking. It was made for around $10,000 which was probably put on a credit card for all I know, and made by a group, a large group, of film school students and improvers. What they accomplished was an amazing horror comedy I don't think more seasoned veterans of the industry could have accomplished with ten times the budget.

I'm not looking to set a maximum budget behind a film to qualify it as grassroots cinema. Just something made outside of the circle of Hollywood in a place called Hometown, USA by people who are doing their own thing, many looking for that first break into the industry.

My proposal is to use a free blog service like the one hosting this blog. The reason for that is simply because the group does not have to depend on any one person to hold a domain or provide the hosting, and should something happen to that one person the blog falls. A free blog service allows us to contribute as we can to the content and effectively be an equal partner in the blog.

As you can probably tell from my simple template on this blog, I don't like bloated websites. I live in a small town and in small towns we don't get the best of service compared to big cities. I don't like waiting for ads and heavy graphics to load. My idea is to make a blog easily accessible to anyone. It might not look as pretty as some of the bigger blogs, but it is easy to find one's way around.

It will depend on how many of us get together as to when we can start up a blog. Maybe over a few months time. And of course others would be welcome to join in as we go.

The one thing I don't want to involve in a blog is racist and sexist BS. If someone has a problem with that then they're not welcome to join. I have left a group blog for that very reason. It was a good blog, used to be a good blog, but after a few times of posting a disclaimer that I did not support the views of other members of the community, I got tired of it and just left, and sincerely wished them well on my departure. That is all I have to say about that.

If you are interested in joining with me on a grassroots indie film blog, contact me via Twitter or via email as this comment system is not very reliable.

Toxic Fletch

Monday, April 24, 2017

In Focus with Matthias Von Braun: Dark Surrealist Filmmaker

Matthias Von Braun proudly describes himself as a science fiction fetishist and dark surrealist filmmaker. He has screened his short films at renowned art galleries, film festivals and fetish play parties around the world including Zara duRose’s Welcome to the Pleasuredome party in London and the Friendly Pervs play party in Berlin. He makes his home in London, England, and behind the lens of a camera writing and directing his own short subject films.

His short films include Decay, Decay II, Slave (to technology), Switch, Lost in Transmission, and several short films and an hour long film in production. Matthias works in Black & White which provides an ideal medium for exploring the relations of light and shadow as well form, line, space and texture.

Matthias Von Braun has several upcoming films he is working on. Evolution and Orifice are two ambitious short films, by his very words the most ambitious short films he will have ever made. They are surreal science fiction fetish films featuring male and female nudity. Post-Human Perversions is an hour long film he is working on set in a post-apocalyptic world. More information on his films can be found on his YouTube page, his IndieGoGo page, his IMDB page, his Website and you can follow him on Twitter.

It's always thrilling for me to discover the work of different filmmakers, and I have a particular fondness for indie films. Indie filmmakers like Matthias Von Braun are their own people doing their own thing in the world of cinema. Yes, they are influenced by those who have come before, but that is just the spark, one of them, and the resulting passion from that spark culminates in a very personal work of art put onto a canvas called film.

To learn more about Matthias Von Braun, about his work and the man behind the work, I have asked him several questions, and got some insightful answers.

Fletch: When did you first become interested in filmmaking and how did you get started?

Matthias: I’ve suffered from depression for my whole life and withdrew into television at a young age. I’d watch anything but I found classic science fiction films the most absorbing. I’ve never really taken to reality so filmmaking seemed like a perfect career. I made short films with friends and eventually went to film school. I lived and breathed film for four years working part-time at an independent cinema while at film school. I went through a bad breakup in my final year and emigrated. I currently make disturbing little films in London.

Fletch: Why did you choose to work in Black & White?

Matthias: I make films in black and white for a number of reasons. I love the aesthetic but I also like how it’s perceived by others.

Fletch: People will, as we all naturally do, have their own assumptions about what terms like science fiction fetishist means to them. How would you define it to someone?

Matthias I’ve always been interested in science fiction and I’m also interested in BDSM. I’ve been to fetish clubs and enjoy kinky sex. I find certain ideas in science fiction erotic. 

Fletch: Who and/or what have been your influences as a filmmaker?

Matthias: Ridley Scott’s Alien and Blade Runner, David Lynch’s Dune, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser films, Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo films, Alex Proyas’s The Crow, The Wachowski’s The Matrix Trilogy, Nice Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.

Fletch: When I first watched Decay, the first thing that came to mind for me was the work of Wilson Bryan Key who wrote on subliminal manipulation in advertising, and specifically the use of sexually charged images not consciously recognizable as such.

Are you familiar with his writings, or similar writings?

Matthias: Yes I distinctly remember lectures on the subject at film school.

Fletch: Do you incorporate a deeper meaning in your work beyond the imagery, or is the imagery more raw so the interpretation is left to the individual viewer, or both?

Matthias: I would have to say both.

Fletch: Reading on your website I see you have film festivals and fetish play parties scheduled for showings of your films.

What kinds of places show your work (art galleries, film festivals, etc.)? 

Matthias: Screenings of my work include Modern Panic VII Art Exhibition in London, Sexhibition Sex Convention in Manchester and many more.

Fletch: Being you use the word "fetish" in the description of your work, have you ever been denied a showing because they felt it was too taboo?

Matthias: No I don’t think any of my films have ever been rejected for screening.

Fletch: You've completed a film and are showing it at a venue, whether online or at a festival. What is your objective for the audience to get out your work?

Matthias: I’d like the audience to feel something, some kind of emotional response. I don’t care what that response is as long as they feel something.

Keeping Up With Matthias Von Braun

In the works for Matthias Von Braun are two short films, Evolution and Orifice. Evolution will be a terrifying glimpse into human evolution featuring Post-Human cybernetic slaves. Orifice will be his most sexual short film to date. An inhumanly cruel dominant female Post-Human will seduce and destroy her human male victim.

Additionally Matthias Von Braun is working on Post-Human Perversions, a longer feature film of an hour in length. Post-Human Perversions is set in a post apocalyptic underworld inhabited only by Synthetic Androids and Organic Biomechanoids. They are cursed with human sexuality and share our capacity for Love and Depravity in equal measure.

Keep up with Matthias Von Braun via Twitter and YouTube. Check out his credits and works on IMDB and his festival appearances and further information about his work on his Website.

Toxic Fletch

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

10 Fun Facts About Demon Possession in Movies

Eh...sort of.

I found this sitting around in my file folder. I had written this after a viewing of the movie Antichrist (1974), and similar The Exorcist clones from the 1970s. The one thing these clones have in common, other than being near duplicates of one another, is they are not very good, to outright wretched.

Of course they do have other things in common too. Let's say 10 of them. I made this list sort of as a mini primer on demon possession movies. Obviously I have taken liberties for the sake of having fun with it, but these 10 things are certainly inspired by the myriad clones of The Exorcist.

1) Demons are apparently hard of hearing as they have to be told repeatedly to depart before they eventually leave.

2) Demons have a telekinetic ability to throw things around a room including, but not limited to, furniture, plates, candle holders, records (CDs) and priests. I admittedly admire this ability as it looks like it would be fun.

3) Demons have an obsession with vaginas and thusly possess females and spread their legs in front of priests. Obviously they have no understanding of priests or else they would know that possessing a little boy is more likely to get interest. (Oh...that was sooo evil!)

4) Demons must have poor vision as a priest wearing a cross has no affect on them but the same priest holding the same cross out in front of them puts it withing range of the demon's sight.

5) Never, never, ever feed a demon, especially anything that is green or contains peas. Remember...feed a cold, starve a demon.

6) Demons are good housekeepers. After all, they do leave a body in better shape than it was while they were possessing it.

7) It's not that the exorcism is painful. Really. I mean, have you seen some of the guys they send to do exorcisms? You'd scream too.

8) Being possessed by a demon causes excessive gas in the subject. Hence, this explains levitation.

9) Demons have no sense of direction. When given the opportunity to run, they will run to a church or a holy site.

10) Demons like to speak Latin. Not because it represents anything significant as it is usually gibberish, just that it really pisses off priests and that makes it a fun thing to do.

And always remember...Just Say No to Demons

Toxic Fletch

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Movie Review: The Incubus (1982)

This is a review I originally wrote for another review website but the website has since disappeared. It's a little longer and more detailed than my usual review being I was writing for screencap margins. I happened to be looking around in a file folder and found it. Figured I would post it here.

The Incubus (1982) - USA - Horror - R
Directed by John Hough
Starring John Cassavetes, John Ireland, Kerrie Keane, Erin Noble (as Erin Flannery), Helen Hughes, Duncan McIntosh, Harvey Atkin, Mitch Martin

On the tail end of the 70s supernatural/satanic horror boon and the apex of the slasher cycle, it would make sense that several movies came out which married those two premises. This is one of them and that's the most that can be said about it...except maybe that the marriage didn't work out.

Dr. Sam Cordell (John Cassavetes) has been in the small New England town of Galen for a year now. It's a quiet town, that is until a series of brutal rapes start happening. The first victim survives the rape, though hospitalized in critical condition due to the violence of the rape and the physical damage to her, and the shock of something she saw but is unable to tell. Her boyfriend and subsequent rape victims are not so lucky as someone or something is on a rampage leaving dead and mutilated bodies in the wake. The doctor, a journalist and a cop are on the trail of whomever or whatever is committing these atrocities, with mounting evidence of something strange afoot, including a young man, the boyfriend of Sam's daughter, who keeps having strange nightmares.

::spoiler alert::

It's an Incubus!

Oh, wait. Do you suppose the title gave that away?

Unfortunately the title of this movie is the only part which has such clarity. It moves along as though the viewer is familiar with the characters. An example would be the character of Lt. Drivas who appears in several scenes and obviously is someone in authority, but I actually had to look his character up on IMDB to find out he was a police lieutenant as he appears in several scenes, flaunts his authority, and yet leaves the audience wondering who was that unmasked man. 

The movie even takes additional liberties with leaving elements of the story hanging. In the case of one of the attacks, in this case with multiple victims, one has to assume all the victims were killed as it is unclear in the movie. Additionally there is a background story on John Cassavetes' doctor character alluded to in flashbacks and a short conversation and then just disappears.

The art direction in this is right out of a slasher movie, and I don't mean the good ones. Bodies are carried away on stretchers covered in white sheets which are covered in blood. Damn, the medical teams in this sure are sloppy. The same is the case for forensic evidence left behind at scenes presented for the sake of looking bloody for the camera despite how inconsistent it is with the scene that was just played out. How the hell did a bloody handprint get there?

The performance of Kerrie Keene in this is stiff. I don't know if it is her lack of experience, or nerves? Checking on IMDB this is listed as her first movie, though that doesn't necessarily mean it's her first acting experience. Maybe it was the direction they gave her for the way they wanted her to portray the character, but she seems to mostly have one style of expression which is somewhere between being pissed off and a deer in the headlights. Her eyes stare wide as her dialogue is delivered with baited breath, like an angry child talking under its breath to its mother. If it is the direction it would seem a poor choice when having someone work off of other seasoned actors like John Cassavetes and John Ireland.

As for the rest of the acting, though there is some overacting most of the performances in this are very good, better than one might expect. The dialogue is not consistently good, just mostly good. The acting and dialogue are much like the other parts of the movie I have mentioned, inconsistent.

The Incubus comes off like a puzzle you just put together, but a few pieces ended up missing. The puzzle is still complete enough to see what the end result is, and the movie successfully tells its story, but those missing pieces just glare at you, irritate you. The Incubus has several missing pieces that, though not necessary to complete the story, get in the way of the enjoyment of the movie as one sits wondering just who the hell that Drivas guy is and why did the doctor's past disappear, among other pieces.

For my personal taste, the story is too choppy and the presentation too inconsistent to enjoy, and it's not sooo bad as to be enjoyed for that. It just kind of falls in the middle in a place called Forgettable.

My Rating: 2 Fingers

This movie is available on DVD and Instant Video. The DVD is expensive but the Instant Video is very affordable.

Toxic Fletch

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Movie Review: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990)

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990) - USA - Drama - TV Movie
Directed by Larry Elikann
Starring Joanna Kerns, Dan Lauria, Ed Begley Jr, Bonnie Bartlett, Lindsay Frost, Alan Autry, Joe Spano, Holly Fields, Brock Peters, Stephen Elliot, Robert Ginty, Clarence Gilyard Jr, Richard Masur, Silvana Gallardo, Richard Herd, Michael T Weiss, Charles Siebert

Average, depressing and formulaic, this has TV movie written all over it and yet is still well made and entertaining if you have 3 hours to spare.

Dr. Clare Winslow is a seismologist monitoring tremor activity for an underfunded agency. Recent tremor activity leads her to believe a much bigger tremor is going to hit Los Angeles. She finds herself up against city officials who don't want to panic people if she's wrong, a sleazy land developer who wants to shut her up at least until he can unload beach property, and a tabloid TV reporter who uses creative editing in an interview he did with her which gets her in even more hot water.

Overall The Great Los Angeles Earthquake is well made with a cast of who's who of TV stars from the 80s. A main story line runs the course of the movie while intersecting other micro stories. With an all-star cast and various human drama stories involved, stop me if you've seen this before. They could have, and may well have, made a movie poster of this featuring headshots of all the stars in it. Its formula is straight out of the 70s disaster movies, updated with stars contemporary with the time.

An advantage this movie does have over some of its predecessors is a more brutal reality check. Don't get your hopes up that a particular character will survive because it would be the nice thing for the movie to do. The intent, as I see it, is to portray a more likely outcome should such an event happen, and that means high mortality, and at that it succeeds. If you like a movie where lots of people die, this is your movie. If you like a movie where people are heroically saved in seemingly impossible situations, you'll want to look elsewhere. It would be a good movie for preparedness but it is depressing.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

This is available on DVD.

Toxic Fletch

Monday, March 20, 2017

Movie Review: Supervolcano (2005)

Supervolcano (2005) - Drama/Disaster Movie - UK/CAN/USA - TV Movie (BBC)
Directed by Tony Mitchell
Starring Michael Riley, Gary Lewis, Shaun Johnston, Adrian Holmes, Jennifer Copping, Rebecca Jenkins, Tom McBeath, Robert Wisden, Susan Duerden, Jane McLean, Sam Charles, Kevin McNulty, Eme Aneke, Garwin Sanford, Joanna Gosling, Shelagh Mitchell

Supervolcano is simply the best disaster movie I have ever seen.

Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies a huge chamber of magma as Yellowstone is a supervolcano. A super eruption happens about every 600,000 years, give or take, and with it being past due and tremor activity having increased in the area, a reporter quizzes the volcano experts at Yellowstone. Another vulcanologist who has been predicting an eruption has the reporter's ear and this gets the government asking questions, and getting answers they don't want to hear should a super eruption happen. And if it happens it will be catastrophic on a worldwide scale. This is a fictional account of that actually happening, or as it says at the beginning of the movie "This is a true just hasn't happened yet".

What sets Supervolcano apart from any other disaster movie, especially those dealing with volcanoes, is its docudrama style of presentation. The story alternates with singular explanations, like interviews, from the different participants in the story. This has the unique advantage of explaining things on a factual level as they take place in the story.

Don't know the difference between a red and gray eruption? You will. Do you know how many times a passenger jet flies through an ash cloud each year? What is volcanic ash and how many inches does it take to collapse a roof? What affect does breathing ash into your lungs have? What about the affects on the weather? These and many more things you will learn about volcanoes, and this is a movie, not a documentary.

The characters in this did not fall out of a comic book or spy novel, but seem like people you would expect to see dealing with a disaster. The acting is superb and writing is brilliant, combining to create a tense and educational drama that will have you on the edge of your seat. One scene in particular was so well done as it turns into near a screaming match between scientists on the edge, the tension so thick you can hardly breath.

They obviously did a lot of research for this movie. A companion documentary was also produced. Not just the effects of a super eruption were well researched but the response before and after a disaster as well. You don't have the obligatory call to the president scene in this movie, but the departments that would actually deal with a disaster is the focus. Why ask someone who doesn't know a damn thing about how to deal with a disaster when they are surrounded by people who do, or can learn to deal with it?

And of all things, this is a made for TV movie, made by the BBC. As disaster movies go, this has special effects, a talented cast, a well written screenplay, sets and locations that give it authenticity. It has those things other good disaster movies have, then it goes beyond that and offers so much more.

My Rating: 5 Fingers. I give it a high five!

This movie is available on a Region 2/PAL DVD. You can also find it on YouTube.

Toxic Fletch

Friday, March 17, 2017

Movie Review: Anderson Bench (2016)

Anderson Bench (2016) - USA (Louisiana) - Black Comedy - Unrated (mature themes)
Directed by John Schneider
Starring Jordan Salloum, Maddie Nichols, Brande Roderick, Dane Rhodes, Chasen Joseph Schneider, Phil Redrow, Duke Davis Roberts, Ann Dalrymple, Steven Esteb, John Schneider

A twisted plebeian morality play, minus the morality, takes an excursion into the theater of the absurd in a most wickedly delightful way that will have you laughing inappropriately, and slapping yourself because you did.

Anderson Bench is stuck in a road trip of life that has no off-ramp. He follows the rules having a pothead for a boss to whom comprehension is a myth, a nagging shrew for a wife he maintains yet keeps his heart locked away, and only finds a soulmate in a mouse. Then he meets Bethany, a brash girl several years his junior who not only has the contradictory quality of a deliberate spontaneity, but a homicidal tendency to go with it. Ahead is the road to hedonism, but its off-ramp is a dead end.

Black comedy is a double-edged sword in theater: it is simultaneously easy to do, and difficult to do well. Anderson Bench is black comedy done well. Its humor is a surreal escapism thoroughly drenched in hedonism. Throw your mores out the window while viewing this or you may find yourself offended; and if you're not offended...the shame, the shame!

I love independent films. I've watched several big budget movies in a row and been disappointed with every one of them; it obviously wasn't a good week. I rarely don't like an independent film, for the reason that they are not cut and paste but somebody doing their own thing. Anderson Bench is definitely its own thing; you haven't seen this before. Elements of the film, yes, but not crafted and told like this. I get the impression that some seeds of this were sown in a youth spent at Saturday matinees in the 70s.

This may sound strange, but I sometimes find beauty in the abject. In the opening scenes of Anderson Bench we are introduced to the surroundings, of dilapidated motels, rustic corner stores, a road we know does not lead to prosperity. The beauty is not in the poverty but in the sustenance of the people. As a child I grew up in some of these communities, communities like them, in the south. I found the brief tour reminiscent, and appropriate. Like Anderson Bench the exteriors are wearing away; Anderson Bench finds no beauty in his abject world.

Anderson Bench is an experience, or experiment if you will. If you're looking for straight lines from A to B with no detours, you won't find it here. What you will find are moments where you question why you are laughing at something. In John Schneider's cameo scene I found myself roaring, and questioning why because it's so disgusting, and yet I'm still laughing. That's one scene out of many that may have you questioning how well you know yourself.

The music is wonderful. In an unusual use of music it plays continuously throughout the movie, save for a stark silence to emphasize a statement. At times I did find the music to be overplaying the dialogue. I was using headphones though and that can happen with headphones, so open speakers would likely be a better option.

All performances in this movie are great, with an obviously talented cast having fun with their roles. Jordan Salloum and Maddie Nichols have excellent chemistry together with Jordan bringing to fore the frustration of Anderson Bench and his rapture he finds in Bethany played so excitingly and even frighteningly unpredictable by Maddie.

I do want to call out Brande Roderick for her wonderful performance. I had no idea that was her, as her face is not revealed until later. I like that John Schneider chose to do her character this way as I found myself focusing on the behavior of the character, and surely did not expect her to look like that. It's also a good lesson for the whole of the movie: make no assumptions.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

You can get it on DVD or as a download at John Schneider Studios.

Find out more about his films and music at John Schneider's Official Website.

You can also watch the trailer and/or rent the movie on Vimeo

Toxic Fletch

Thursday, March 16, 2017

TV Shows That Lost Major Stars

With the recent death of Bill Paxton and him having a new TV series in its first season leaving the future of the show questionable, and now with with CBS having moved the show to a Saturday night timeslot very probably signaling its demise, I wondered what other shows have lost a major character/cast member, and what affect that had on the shows.

Not all TV shows that lost major characters were due to the actor playing that character dying. Sometimes they just quit the show, due to problems on the set or due to illness.

Make Room for Daddy/The Danny Thomas Show (1953-1964)

At the end of its 3rd year on the air Make Room for Daddy was faced with a dilemma, I mean other than its low ratings. Jean Hagen who played the mother on the show had reached the end of her 3 year contract and decided not to renew. Well, shows at that time didn't have divorcees and they decided to take a risky move and have the mother die off-screen and they changed the name to The Danny Thomas Show.

Inarguably the move that saved the show was the end of I Love Lucy. ABC had cancelled The Danny Thomas Show at the end of its 4th year, and losing the I Love Lucy show CBS picked it up to put in the timeslot vacated by I Love Lucy. The Danny Thomas Show got a ratings boost from the move and in total lasted for 11 years on the air.

Bewitched (1964-1972)

Bewitched was, almost a pun, a cursed show throughout its run, and then some.

Alice Pearce played the Stephens' nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz until her death during the second year from ovarian cancer, being replaced from the third year on by Sandra Gould. Marion Lorne played the absent minded and adorable Aunt Clara until her death from a heart attack in 1968, being replaced by the similarly absent minded Esmeralda played by Alice Ghostley.

The most memorable change in the series though was what is known as the two Darrins. Dick York played the role of Darrin Stephens from 1964 to 1969 until an increasingly debilitating back injury, suffered during the filming of They Came to Cordura (1959) and re-aggravated by a fall on the set of Bewitched forced him to leave the show; he was actually carried off the set unconscious in his last episode. Dick Sargent took over the role of Darrin from 1969 to 1972. Though the series lasted for 3 more years, the ratings dropped considerably after the departure of Dick York.

Doctor Who (1963-1989, original run)

Doctor Who took the loss of its main actor and turned it into a plot gimmick which allowed the show to continue with great, perhaps unequaled, success through many subsequent changes in its main actor.

William Hartnell was the original Doctor. He began the role in 1963, but as the show progressed in a time where they worked 48 weeks out of the year on production, his health deteriorated causing him to have trouble learning his lines. Faced with losing their main star, the shows producers came up with the idea that since The Doctor was an alien he could change his appearance. Hartnell left the show in 1966 with the setup that he had undergone a 'renewal' when the new actor, Patrick Troughton, had replaced him. Troughton's Doctor then underwent a 'change of appearance' when he left the show to be replaced by Jon Pertwee. From then on The Doctor would go through a regeneration, brought about by a catastrophic occurrence to his previous incarnation, when a new actor was brought on to play him.

M*A*S*H (1972-1983)

In one fell swoop at the end of its 3rd year, M*A*S*H lost 2 of its main stars, McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers. It's tough enough replacing one major cast member at the beginning of a new season, but two main cast members probably had some of the cast and crew checking the want ads. Especially since an arrogant killing off of a beloved character by vengeful producers so an option for returning to the show was not open, was not popular with its audience at the time. Yet, in a creative 2-part opening to its fourth year they were able to keep the audience and even continue for 8 more years. Larry Linville later left the show at the end of the 5th year and was replaced by David Ogden Stiers.

One of the things, if not the thing, that made the new cast changes successful is that the new characters were not carbon copies of the characters they replaced. B.J. Hunnicutt, played by Mike Farrell, was more reserved than Trapper John, and most especially faithful to his wife, something Trapper John never was. Colonel Sherman T. Potter, played by Harry Morgan, was more military and came with the backbone his predecessor Lt. Colonel Henry Blake was missing, not to mention that unlike Henry Blake, Potter was also faithful to his wife. David Ogden Stiers' character of Major Charles Emerson Winchester, tha thiiird, was arrogant and even more snobbish that his predecessor, Major Frank Burns, but unlike Burns he was compassionate and more than an equal to spar with Pierce, played by Alan Alda, and Hunnicutt.

Good Times (1974-1979)

Aside from the two Darrins on Bewitched, Good Times may well be the most notable, if not infamous cast change.

John Amos played the father on the show for the first 3 years. Like other shows Norman Lear produced Good Times dealt with social issues of the time, this one dealing with African Americans in the ghetto, and in particular dealing with poverty and inequality. Or at least that was the intended focus.

With the rising popularity of the J.J. character and his goofiness, mainly with young viewers, the producers focused more on him and this caused conflict between the producers and other cast members who felt the producers were creating a negative stereotype. Keep in mind this conflict was between cast and producers and not between the cast and Jimmie Walker whom they adored.

The most vocal of the cast members conflicting with producers was John Amos, and by the end of the 3rd year he was fired. At the beginning of the 4th year his character was out of state where he had gotten a good job and the family was looking forward to his return and relocating, but they received an unfortunate phone call that James Evans Sr. was killed in a car accident.

Well, this was not the end of the producers' problem as Esther Rolle was also dissatisfied with the show, especially the producers getting her character to date again so quickly and end up marrying, which she felt her character would not do, so she left at the end of the 4th year with the explanation that she would be moving away with Carl, to whom she is now engaged, to Arizona because of his recently diagnosed lung cancer.

One year without Esther Rolle and a new character having been introduced to the show, the ratings fell during the 5th year. Esther Rolle agreed to come back for only one more year, and they concluded everything in a series finale by the end of the 6th year without having been cancelled.

Spin City (1996-2002)

Michael J. Fox was actually diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease before he started on Spin City. He did not come out publicly with it until 1998 as it was progressing. During his 4th year on the show, dealing with Parkinson's and his work schedule were having a toll on him so the producers brought in Heather Locklear as a new character to take some of the workload off of him. Fox left at the end of the 4th year due to the advancing of his Parkinson's and to focus more attention on his Parkinson's foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Even though the show only lasted for two more years after Fox left, being replaced by Charlie Sheen, I don't believe it was just the main character replacement that brought the show down, though this is just my opinion. With Fox in the lead the show was shot in New York, but when Fox left the venue was changed to Los Angeles. Though this would not change the theme of the show, it did mean a relocation for some of the actors who lived in New York and did not have confidence in the series continuing without Fox enough to relocate. This resulted in the loss of 3 other main characters. A total loss of 4 characters after 4 years is not an update, it's almost a spinoff in its own right. It's my opinion that the show would not have taken the ratings dive it did if they had not changed production venues.

There's more than one way to leave a TV show but death is certainly the most permanent. What follows are TV shows which lost a main character due to the actor playing them having died. Some were successful in continuing, most were not.

Wagon Train (1957-1962, NBC; 1962-1965, ABC)

Perhaps it was the premise of being an anthology show depending more on telling the stories of the guest stars each episode rather than the regulars that allowed it to continue after the death of its main star. Ward Bond played wagon master Major Seth Adams from 1957 until his death from a heart attack in 1961. He was replaced by actor John McIntire as wagon master Christopher Hale midway through the 4th year. The show continued 4 more years after that making it pretty successful despite the loss of its main star.

Bonanza (1959-1973)

Some could say that Bonanza was dead in the water by the time Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright, died in 1972 from a pulmonary embolism after gall bladder surgery. The show had been on for 13 years already, and you'd figure at some point one of the sons would have gotten laid by then. In an unusual turn for a TV show with such a popular and major character, rather than write his character off as having 'gone out of town' or having moved, the show acknowledged the death of Hoss. There was no joy on the Ponderosa after Blocker's death, and even if the show could have continued without him, it was cancelled, the rest of the cast didn't want to continue without Dan Blocker.

Petticoat Junction (1963-1970)

Bea Benaderet had been a successful and beloved actress for years playing supporting roles in many popular TV show including The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and as Cousin Pearl on The Beverly Hillbillies. With Petticoat Junction she played the lead as Kate Bradley, owner of the Shady Rest Hotel and mother of the 3 hot chicks in the water tower. Bea Benaderet died of lung cancer and pneumonia in 1968.

The show had previously suffered the death of a cast member in 1967 with the passing of Smiley Burnette who played the engineer of the Cannonball train, and had also been a popular cowboy sidekick in many old westerns. The show also went through many cast changes through the years with only 3 of the original actors from the start of the series making it through to the end of the series.

Oddly the show had intended to end after the 6th year but the network renewed it for a 7th year so they could have 5 full years of color episodes, the first 2 years were black&white, for later syndication of reruns. It was cancelled after the 7th year due to the oncoming and infamous rural purge. The show was actually quite successful despite the number of cast changes, and probably could have continued another year or two.

Though I was never a big fan of Uncle Joe Carson on Petticoat Junction, the actor who played him, Edgar Buchanan, is among my favorite actors.

Chico and the Man (1974-1978)

Freddie Prinze was a promising young comedian of Puerto Rican/German heritage. He was only 20 years old when he started on Chico and the Man playing opposite Jack Albertson's cantankerous old man character. In its third year of production, on January 28, 1977 Freddie Prinze committed suicide at only 22 years of age; Prinze suffered from depression.

During the show's 4th year, it was said that Chico had gone to Mexico to visit his father and they tried to replace his character with a 12 year old boy who is adopted by Jack Albertson's character. In a two-part episode Chico's death is acknowledged. The 4th year was the final year of the show.

The Royal Family (1991-1992)

Redd Foxx starred in the successful Sanford and Son during the early 70s and this was his third attempt at a successful sitcom post Sanford and Son, and unfortunately his last attempt as he died of a massive heart attack on the set of the show only 7 episodes into the first year. The producers brought in a new cast member and reworked the remaining episodes. It was a short lived attempt as the series was cancelled after only 13 of its 15 completed episodes were aired.

Before Foxx's passing, ratings for the early episodes were high. The Royal Family looked to be a hit with viewers but ultimately floundered without Redd Foxx.

8 Simple Rules (2002-2005)

Strangely enough John Ritter's sudden death of an aortic dissection only three episodes into the 2nd year may have actually prolonged the life of the show.

8 Simple Rules just did not have good ratings finishing #46 its first year. With the death of John Ritter so soon into the 2nd year of the show, they brought in James Garner and David Spade as supplemental characters in a creative way to both deal with the death of the character on the show and eventually move the show in a different direction. The show was renewed for a 3rd year and then cancelled.

8 Simple Rules was not strong in ratings. It is just my opinion that the network may well have cancelled the show at the end of the second year without John Ritter's death but after the retooling of the show after his death and that it would have seemed cold to have cancelled it, the network probably let it continue another year, both as a goodwill effort and a genuine hope that the retooling might bring up the ratings.

There are a lot more I could cover which include British shows, shows with a short life and some older shows nobody has probably heard of or seen. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Toxic Fletch

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Movie Review: Meteorites! (1998)

Meteorites! (1998) - USA - Drama/Disaster Movie - TV Movie
Directed by Chris Thomson
Starring Tom Wopat, Roxanne Hart, Abby Meates, Darrin Klimek, Pato Hoffmann, Marshall Napier, Amiel Daemion, Leo Taylor

Destructively powerful meteorite strikes coupled with a divergence of rural townsfolk make for an entertaining movie to kick back for 90 minutes.

A teenage girl exits her home upset with her parents and telling them in a simple moment of teen angst she wishes they were dead; in short order the daytime sky lights up and the house literally explodes. The local sheriff calls on Tom Johnson, a retired police demolitions expert with a past incident he wishes he could forget, to help him investigate this mysterious home explosion. Both of them butt heads with the town mayor because this is the week of the UFO festival, the town's major source of tourism and tourist dollars, and he doesn't want them scaring away tourists investigating something he wants to believe is due to mundane circumstances. With additional meteorite strikes and an eventual warning from an astronomer that the town is in for heavy meteorite activity, a potential disaster is looming large if people are not warned.

I have seen meteorites in movies that bounce off of cars, and where people get under awnings and indoors for protection. In this movie, however, something the size of a coconut or smaller that has fallen miles through the atmosphere rips through vehicles, overturns cars, and leaves craters a car can drive into. Now I'm no expert on meteorite strikes, but it seems like something the size of a cannonball hurtling toward earth at an accelerated rate, as falling objects do, would do a hell of a lot more damage than just bouncing off of a car or rolling off of the roof of a home.

The meteorites in this movie are threatening, they're not just falling out of trees. Houses, building and vehicles are seriously damaged or destroyed when hit. A staple of disaster movies that makes them work is to build up the threat, and that they do in this movie. You can't crawl under a table to get away from these extraterrestrial ingots of siree!

Another staple of a disaster movie which works is making you victims, or would-e victims, likable. You'd think that would be a given, but I have seen many movies in which the people being threatened are assholes and find myself rooting for the disaster. Meteorites! has a mix of folks with likable personalities and a scummy character thrown in who tests their mettle.

The ending I find absolutely unbelievable. No, I'm not going to give it away. Let's just say it's one of those true moments of a willing suspension of disbelief. I think my disbelief was suspended somewhere in outer space, but it still works. Overall it is an enjoyable movie.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Meteorites! is only available on VHS. I did find a nice VHSrip searching it on YouTube.

Toxic Fletch