October 2019 Watchlist

  • great-pumpkin-charlie-brown
I don’t watch as much television as I once did, but I’ve always been a huge film and TV fan and try to catch a movie or episode when I can. Though I like a variety of genres, my preference is sci-fi/fantasy, and Halloween provides the perfect annual excuse to view a plethora of silver screen outings in that range. Below is my alphabetized watchlist from last month, with a succinct review accompanying each entry. Before we go further, however, I want to clarify a few of things:
 
1. There were a few first time viewings, but I had seen most of these at least once (if not 50,000 times) before.
 
2. Although I’m sure one bias or another affects my opinion, I try to review films and series as objectively as possible, analyzing intent, technical execution, and result. Therefore, my assigning a high rating to something does not necessarily mean I liked the film, because “liking” comes from the realm of tastes and preferences—subjectivity, not objectivity. 
 
3. It also doesn’t mean I endorse or condone all things or any particular thing depicted in any given film, special, or episode—which is why I’m flagging in brackets all highly rated works sporting certain non-family-friendly content. 
 
The Flicks:
 
Being There (1979) – 8/10
 
Peter Sellers is a masterclass in this subtly humorous indictment of the inanity of politics and notoriety, still applicable today. [Language and Adult Content]
 
Beowulf (2007) – 5/10
 
The motion capture CGI is spectacular, but tasteless creative choices make for a sour take on a classical epic. 
 
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) – 6/10
 
The dark psychological horror and meticulously crafted narrative of the original are largely replaced here with cheap thrills and non sequiturs, but the slam-bang ending is one of the best in the Universal creature feature stable.
 
Clash of the Titans (1981) – 4/10
 
Had it been released in special effects master Ray Harryhausen’s heyday—say, immediately following Jason and the Argonauts—it would’ve been a classic; in the ILM age, however, it’s an outdated curiosity featuring gratuitous nude shots to make it “current” (because it’s the 80s, man!).
 
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) – 10/10
 
Effectively balancing horror, science fiction, and an ensemble cast, Creature is the last great classic Universal monster film.
 
Dragonslayer (1981) – 8/10
 
A well-staged, grounded, action/adventure take on “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” tale, featuring sensational creatures effects from Industrial Light and Magic.
 
Dracula (1931) – 10/10
 
Though it isn’t quite as good as Frankenstein, the tropes (particularly Lugosi’s take on the titular undead) are so well-established in this version of Bram Stoker’s masterwork, they’ve informed horror movie plots for nine decades and counting.
 
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – 10/10
 
The first Star Wars sequel can’t top the original in…well, originality, but it does manage to surpass it in depth, scope, visual delight, and bleakness.
 
Excalibur (1981) – 6/10
 
When the Shakespearean theatricality works, it serves the film well; when it doesn’t work, it severely undercuts the gritty, grimy realism and spectacular set pieces. [Adult Content]
 
Frankenstein (1931) – 10/10
 
Though it deviates significantly from the source material, Frankenstein refuses to shy away from the biggest theme of the original book (man is not God), delivering a true horror masterpiece with philosophical, psychological, and emotional depth.
 
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985) – 10/10
 
The signature comic strip humor, a couple of great Lou Rawls-led musical numbers, and a genuinely spooky ghost angle make this one of the fat feline’s best specials.
 
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) – 10/10
 
Though it lacks the heart of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the gags are funnier, the animation’s sharper, and there’s still some serious themes of faith embedded within.
 
A Most Violent Year (2014) – 10/10
 
Writer/director J. C. Chandor deftly presents his story about rival heating oil companies in 1981 New York as a gripping, gritty crime thriller, while Oscar Isaac spearheads a stellar cast. [Language]
 
Return of the Jedi (1983) – 9/10
 
The final installment of the original Star Wars trilogy discards the darkness of the previous chapter for a more humorous, child-friendly adventure but still manages to serve as a satisfying closer to arguably the greatest saga to ever grace the silver screen.
 
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003) 8/10
 
Though the occasional innuendo is totally unnecessary in a kid’s movie, the film is a gorgeously animated, well-scripted, action/adventure. 
 
Star Wars (1977) 10/10
 
Still the standard-bearer for blockbusters, George Lucas’s original sci-fi masterpiece boasts groundbreaking special effects and a big dose of old-fashioned fantasy/adventure.
 
The Wolfman (1941) – 8/10
 
Lon Chaney, Jr. may be ill-suited to the role of the human Larry Talbot, but he fits Talbot’s titular, canid alter-ego so well, the film is still a classic.
 
Yesterday (2019) – 7/10
 
Though a pleasing, late-film reveal actually undermines the film’s already-shaky fantasy premise, Yesterday manages to get by with a little help from its friends—namely, wit, charm, and Beatles music. [Language]