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The Doctor Looks at Murder (1940): Corpselight

Edward M. Marten, The Doctor Looks at Murder (Blue Ribbon Books, 1940)

[originally posted 26Nov2001]

A microscope examines something very small on the book's cover.

“Tumble down the skyscrapers, life is, in fact, on the other end of the microscope.”
photo credit: laybooks.com

What a delicious little book this is. In 1940 it was no doubt offered in the same way books of “medical curiosities” were offered in the seventies (“absolutely no one under sixteen ears of age may order this book!”), and to his credit, Marten is more than willing to play the role, tossing off case study after case study in what would then have been considered lurid detail. It would barely rate a PG today, but that doesn’t make it any less fun when considered in the time frame of its release.

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Down Terrace (2009): Sensitive New Age Killers

Down Terrace (Ben Wheatley, 2009)

Robert Hill glares out from the lobby card.

The world and everything in it.
photo credit: denofgeek.com

Netflix, in their inimitable quest for complete inaccuracy, lists Down Terrace as a comedy. If you can see, say, The Homecoming as a comedy, maybe. (I was going to use Endgame, but there’s enough farce in there that it actually does work as a comedy.) I found it one of the bleakest movies I have seen so far this year, a movie so far removed from the comedy world that I’m not even sure they inhabit the same planet. This is a movie about, as another review of the film that I read recently put it so very well, “unlikable people doing unlikable things”; that is as good a summary as anything I could come up with.

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Cast Away (2000): They May Take Our Lives…But They Will Never Take…OUR WILLLLLSOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!

Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000)

[originally posted 26Nov2001]

Tom Hanks, looking surprisingly unshaven, dominates the movie poster.

Forrest Crusoe.
photo credit: Wikipedia

Okay, I have to get this out of my system right now. “Castaway” is ONE WORD. Not two. ONE.

And now, on with the review.

It has been a painfully long time since Robert Zemeckis made a good film (Peter Jackson was responsible for The Frighteners, Zemeckis only lent his name); depending on your point of view, that could be Death Becomes Her, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Back to the Future, or if you’re really a purist, Used Cars. Cast Away was the great white hope, the movie that would bring Robert Zemeckis’ career back from the grave he’d dug with such abominable tripe as Forrest Gump and What Lies Beneath.

Sorry. No luck.

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Empire of the Ants (1977): Crude of the Clods

[ed. note: today is supposed to be the next installment of One-Track Mind. Since I haven't even started yet, I switched out the review I had scheduled for next Wednesday instead. Hopefully things will die down a bit and I can scrawl some music reviews in the next week.]

Empire of the Ants (Bert I. Gordon, 1977)

A giant ant towers over the principal cast on the movie's poster.

They’re big, they’re bad, they’re black, they’re mad.
Photo credit: madamepickwickartblog.com

In the late seventies, I was at a friend’s house and I caught a few sequences of It Happened at Lakewood Manor on television. I had no idea what it was, and I spent years, decades actually, tracking that movie down. This, of course, brought me into contact with pretty much every ant-related movie that was made in the seventies. Once I found out Empire of the Ants dealt with monster-sized ants, I knew it wasn’t the movie I was looking for, but when I found a listing for it in the mid-eighties and saw Joan Collins’ name attached, I had to wonder what sorts of shenanigans this movie held in store. Now I have seen it, and I know the answer, and I wish it was 1985 again and I was just stumbling upon this movie and still wondering how ridiculous it could be.

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King Pinch (1995): A Rogue in Need Is a Rogue Indeed

David Cook, King Pinch (TSR, 1995)

[originally posted 26Nov2001]

Pinch inspects the most recent ill-gotten gains on the book's cover.

How I Met Your Mother.
photo credit: forgottenrealms.wikia.com

The typical Dungeons and Dragons-related novel has one pace to it: breakneck. I’ve wondered more than once if one of the writing guidelines for new TSR authors is Poe’s old maxim that all novels should be written as if they are to be read in one sitting. (This, of course, is why Poe wrote only one novel.) I’ve read a lot of D&D-themed novels, and very few break that mold. The most recent to cross my desk is David Cook’s King Pinch.
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Heist (2001): Dock of Games

Heist (David Mamet, 2001)

[originally posted 26Nov2001]

A montage of the principal actors adorns the movie poster.

Somewhere in there is a single man waiting to get out.

Beware: if you go to see a David Mamet film expecting a linear time, you’re going to have problems.

The mind that brought us the best con movie ever, House of Games, returns to the life of the small-time crook who wants to be big-time with just as much gusto as panache as before. Mantegna has been replaced with flavor du jour Gene Hackman, and former Mamet wife Lindsay Crouse has been replaced with present Mamet wife Rebecca Pidgeon, but otherwise, your small time con artists (Hackman, Pidgeon, Delroy Lindo, and Mamet regular Ricky Jay) are shooting for a brass ring well outside their sphere of influence. Nothing unusual. Mamet throws the monkeywrenches into the works in this one with a small-time mob boss (Danny DeVito) and his layabout nephew (Sam Rockwell, late of The Green Mile and Galaxy Quest); mob boss says that nephew must come along on the job, and crime ring leader agrees.

Complications ensue.
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Warrior (2011): The Best Fight Film Ever Made

Warrior (Gavin O’Connor, 2011)

Half the face of each protagonist adorns the French version of the movie poster.

Family Fights First.
photo credit: johnrieber.com

That the ending of Warrior is predictable from the moment the two sequences that set up our two main characters have finished is entirely irrelevant to one’s enjoyment of this sublime piece of cinema, or at least it should be. Warrior is a simple story, simply told, that is carried on the backs of those two lead characters, and the acting ability of the actors who play them. There are many other things to enjoy about this movie indeed (even if you’re not an MMA fan, or even a sports fan in general, and I am living testament to this), but the centerpiece is the perfect performances by Joel Edgerton (The Thing) and Tom Hardy (Inception). Neither of them has carried a major role before; both are usually found in minor supporting roles. I predict that, after Warrior, that will change rapidly.

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