31 Frightful Films – #4 Twixt

  I chose the film Twixt for three reasons: It was directed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola, it stars Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning, and the hero is a struggling writer on a book signing tour. Said writer stops in Swann Valley, a small town with two distinguishing features: a mass murder occurred there and the town belfry features seven clock faces-none of which show the same time. Hall Baltimore is this author’s name and he is promoting the latest in a series of novels about witches. “How does it feel to be the bargain basement Stephen King?” asks the town sheriff played by Bruce Dern. Hall Baltimore drinks too much, has lost his daughter in an accident and his wife yells at him via Skype about how broke they are and threatens to sell his precious first edition Walt Whitman. The wife is played by Kilmer’s real life ex-wife Joanne Whalley.

  Okay, so Drunk Writer discovers that Edgar Allen Poe once stayed at a coal hotel which is now boarded up. When he passes out from drinking that night he dreams of Elle Fanning. She’s ghostly and sad. Kilmer dreams in black and white with splotches of over saturated color (like Schindler’s List). He also meets Poe in his dreams and between the long-dead author and the girl in white they give him clues about the murder. Meanwhile, in awake land the sheriff wants to collaborate on a book about the murders and Kilmer/Baltimore sells his agent on the idea. From then on he seeks answers in his dreams. He’s sick of writing the witch books but he’s unable to write anything else. Little by little things are revealed but no one is trustworthy. There’s also some business with bad kids that live across the lake and they drink and drug and fuck and they might even be vampires. 

Christa’s Review

Here are the good things about Twixt. It’s got some goodies for lit nerds like myself. F’rinstance, in a newspaper article about the murders a witness named Pym is quoted. Pym is a famous Poe character. Stuff like that. Cool, but not enough to save the film. Other decent stuff: All the actors are turning in good performances–no one is half-assing it (Would you even dare with FFC?), there’s a funny but where Kilmer/Baltimore is trying to write an outline and he’s doing silly voices and one is Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, and finally it’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking. If you sat back and watched it with the sound off and didn’t try to make sense of it, it would serve as a feast for the eyes but in a very overwrought, saturated style…sort of similar to Sin City. 

The best I can say about this is it’s “interesting.” But it’s not at all frightening or tense or compelling. I give Twixt zero Afghan of Doom. unloved afghan


31 Frightful Films – #3 Exeter

The third scary film I watched this October was Exeter. I saw it on Netflix. It stars no one you’ve heard of and its selling point (according to the poster) is the horror cred of the producers and director. The premise: There’s this institution for fucked-up children and over the years a crap-ton of kids died inside it/because of it. It was finally shut down in the 1970s (that is an important point to remember) because of the abuses that went on inside. In the present day a Catholic priest, Father somebody, wants to renovate the place and has hired a strapping young man to help him. Well, his friends and friends of friends hear that there’s this big creepy place and that sounds like a great place for a big party. Does capital e Evil enjoy being woken up by screaming teens and their shitty music? It decidedly does not.exeter-2015-poster

Meanwhile, a cliche squad of after-partiers linger after the crowds break up and –of course– get trapped inside the institute. Let me introduce you to the crew. Dudebro 1 and Dudebro 2. Both handsome lugs with dark hair. One is Father Somebody’s protege and the other is rather dumb and sexist (it’s the only way to tell them apart). Then we have Fat One with Glasses, The Stoner, The Tagalong Kid Brother, and then oh yes two girls: The Blonde Slut and The Brunette Gothy Smart Girl. They each behave exactly as you would predict because you’ve seen these characters over and over your entire life.

Christa’s Review

Well. Look, if you want something mindless, dark, and gory, please by all means smoke a bowl and enjoy. It’s got some of the grossest shit I have ever seen on film (and I just watched a Chinese woman chop up and cook human fetuses!) The cinematography is good, the special effects are good. The whole thing LOOKS okay, if you don’t think about it too much. I understand many people don’t care if a horror movie “makes sense” or if people behave in a believable way. I mean, we’re talking about demonic possession which I’d wager most people in Western society anyway don’t encounter in their day-to-day lives. And with films we always expect to suspend disbelief in some ways like the often-cited “Go toward the scary sound instead of running the fuck away” trope. These characters and this story though…I could never lose myself in the film because I was repeatedly pulled out of it by things that make no sense. And I don’t mean an evil spirit being passed from teenager to teenager like a particularly virulent case of chlamydia. I mean…Dudebro 1 and Goth Girl find video cassettes of the patients/inmates. Which they watch on a VCR. Which wasn’t invented until after the institute closed. In a place without electricity. By the by, the institute didn’t lock the brain trust in from the get-go. It’s only after two deaths and one possession that that happens. Why don’t they run the fuck away? Because they’ve been doing drugs. And just in case you’re thinking…no one calls for help? I bet the capital e Evil made all their cellphones break. Or they all ran out of charge. NOPE. Every member of the Derp Squad has a iPhone. Fat Boy has a damn tablet! They look up how to perform an excorcism and watch videos but no one calls the cops, receives a “Where the fuck are you” text from Mom, or even posts anything to social media. And that, in 2015, is where I draw the line. If you’re going to give your characters phones and access to the internet then that is the film world you have chosen and you must abide by the rules of that world.


For all the horror experience on the film making roster here, you’d think the pacing would be better. There are very simple ways to create and sustain fear. You build it slowly, you have a surprise scare here, a creeping horror there, then a moment of humor or character development to let the audience catch their breath and then WHAM! you get ’em again. You do this over and over and you use the musical score to aid you in this. In Exeter…well it just doesn’t work. There’s just a relentless parade of violence and after twenty “attacks” they no longer surprised or scared me. It was boring. And I rarely ever notice a movie score so if I know something was off, it had to be pretty bad.

Having said all that, there is a twist that came completely as a surprise to me and it was a good one. Don’t ponder it at all though because the math doesn’t add up in any way without invoking time travel or worm holes. So…just enjoy it and don’t think about it.

Bottom line, if you like gore/special makeup effects and don’t want to think too hard, kick back with a cocktail or five and enjoy. Otherwise, skip Exeter. I give it half an Afghan of Doom for the gore and the twist.

When Dudebro gets out the scythe...

When Dudebro gets out the scythe…

31 Frightful Films – #2 Dumplings

Dumplings is a Hong Kong film in Chinese with English subtitles. It’s available on Amazon Prime. The premise: A beautiful former actress (Miriam Yeung) in her mid-thirties feels her rich husband’s (Tony Leung) attentions waning. She seeks youthful rejuvenation in Aunt Mei’s (Bai Ling) famous black market dumplings. Since you find out in the opening scene, I will tell you what’s in the dumplings: aborted human fetuses. First trimester fetuses are very nutritious, but the most powerful rejuvenation powers come with second-trimester babies. These are, however, more difficult to acquire. Icky shit ensues.

Dumplings movie poster

Christa’s Review

What makes a horror movie? I asked myself this question a few times as I watched this film. Several times I found myself thinking “This isn’t scaring me.” But does a horror film need to scare you? Or just horrify you? Because I wasn’t scared but I was definitely horrified. This film is gory as fuck. You will see shit you never wanted to see and may never forget. But, this film is not about abortion, really. It’s about an imbalance of power between men and women. About how far a woman will go to hang on to her meal ticket. Does Mrs. Li really love Mr. Li? Or is she just afraid of being cast aside for a 20-year-old? As Aunt Mei says “Every man wants to fuck a 20-year-old body.” What depths will Mrs. Li sink to, what crimes will she command and commit to regain her youth? None of these characters are even a tiny bit likeable. This film was disgusting but compelling, but one aspect that felt forced was the sex scenes. I get that the filmmaker (Fruit Chan. I’m sorry, I laughed every time I saw it) was equating sex with youth/vitality, but it was sort of unnecessary. And though Tony Leung was crazy-hot in The Lover in 1992, now he has white hair and is not so bangable. But maybe that’s the point. Men stay attractive forever? Or money makes them fuckable? Mr Li basically fucks everyone in this film…as if he’s the only man in Hong Kong. I don’t know, maybe he’s the George Clooney of Hong Kong film. Anyway, this film is worth a watch if you can stomach fetal remains…so to speak.

Not scary, but disturbing.

Not scary, but disturbing.

31 Frightful Films – #1 The Visit

The Visit is an M. Night Shyamalan film. Which either fills you with anticipation or dread. Perhaps a bit of both. You’ve probably seen the trailers… two kids visit their grandparents. The grandparents are a bit “off.” The trailer shows Granny asking her teenage granddaughter to clean the oven from the inside. “Just a bit further…get all the way inside…” which immediately conjures up memories of a certain gingerbread house. So that’s the premise of the film. Kids in a house with strange old people. Grandpa tells them it would probably be best if they didn’t come out of their rooms after 9:30.


Christa’s Review

I saw this in the theater with my daughter and a friend and I think everyone in the theater hated me. I squeaked, I squealed, I hollered “What the fuuuuck?!” I also skootched way way down in my seat…I was almost on the floor. If I’d had the Afghan of Doom with me I would have been underneath it a good part of the time. As it was, I had to make do with my hoodie. This is a good Shyamalan film. I did not see the twist coming. Or, I knew SOME twist had to be coming, but did not guess correctly. AT ALL. So cheers to you M. Night. You got me, sir. And while I’ve got your ear…welcome back to my good graces. Here are the two things that made The Visit work so well for me:

1) The kids are likeable and believable. They aren’t small actors saying grown up lines. They act like young people. Not precocious TV-sitcom kids, but actual living and breathing kids. They have quirks (the sister is making a documentary of the visit and she exibits all the silly yet sincere pretentions of film students. The brother is a “rapper.” His rhymes are not very good, but inventive and funny in a dorky way.) and treat their grandparents with respect…no sulking or backtalk. They genuinely like and care for one another and want their mother’s parents to like them.

The Visit still

2) The film plays on our fear of old people. Don’t shake your head at me….you know it’s true. The elderly are frightening because they forget stuff and they smell weird and they can be an odd mix of fragile and ferocious and it’s hard to know what to do with them. They are also terrifying because we will all face aging with our own loved ones and then personally (should we be lucky enough to live long enough to fall apart). Is Grandma doing that odd thing because that’s her personality or because she’s old? Is she sick? Does she have dementia? Did Grandpa just shit his pants? And am I supposed to pretend it didn’t happen? These issues are compounded by the fact that the kids have never met their grandparents before and are trying to mend a rift in the family. They are doubly incented to just play nice and go along with whatever is happening in the house at night.

Was it scary? Yes. Was it entertaining? Absolutely. Did it haunt me and give me bad dreams? No. I give The Visit a three-quarter-afghan. up to nose


A note about the ratings. I watch horror films with the Afghan of Doom (if I’m at home), and rate the scariness of the film on how much of my time I spent under the afghan and how much of myself had to stay under for protection.


unloved afghan

Film was not scary, or was boring or terrible. Poor Afghan of Doom is abandoned on the sofa.








I’m thinking about maybe hiding under the Afghan of Doom, but I’m not sure. Almost scary.










Okay, this is scary. I need the Afghan's protection, but I'm not too scared to watch.

Okay, this is scary. I need the Afghan’s protection, but I’m not too scared to watch.









Holy shit this is scary! I don't want to look, but I have to. But only through a tiny hole in the Afghan of Doom.

Holy shit this is scary! I don’t want to look, but I have to. But only through a tiny hole in the Afghan of Doom.









All the way scared. I can't even. Save me, Afghan of Doom!!!

All the way scared. I can’t even. Save me, Afghan of Doom!!!









My Defensive Handgun Class


In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to take a general defensive handgun class. Now some of you might be wondering why a Retired Marine would need to take a defensive handgun class. Well, let me tell you, not all Marines spend all day shooting guns. In fact, almost none of them actually do that. And even those that do shoot all the time, I would say that most of them probably do not have a good idea on how to safely use them in a civilian environment. And then of course, there are the things that are taught in the Marine Corps, that aren’t needed at all in the civilian world. I know as a CCW holder, I feel more comfortable about my abilities and what can and can’t be done now that I have taken the class.

So the class I took was the General Defensive Handgun class taught by InSights Training Center at the West Coast Armory in Bellevue, Washington over the course of two days. It was taught by Greg Hamilton, founder and chief instructor at InSights. Greg, who looked like Steve Zahn to me, was a fantastic instructor that not only told you what you needed to know, but would tell you why you needed to know this, and how this would affect you in a situation. Not only was he able to teach you what he needed, he would then be able to tie this in to real world scenarios that he or a close friend had experienced. He isn’t some internet warrior who is just trying to act like a big tough guy with all the information off the net, but is somebody who has been in situations that he is teaching from.

In fact, one of the first things he does it tell you that the equipment you have sucks for every day carry (EDC). And then he goes on to explain why it sucks. What you should be looking for in equipment, and the priority of things you should be looking for. Throughout the course, he constantly disproves common firearm myths by using simple science to show why it doesn’t mean what everybody thinks it means.

But the classroom portion was only a portion of what we learned. We also spent a lot of time during those two days on the range, firing rounds, and learning things broken down in to steps. Instead of just teaching how to draw your weapon, it was broken down in to simple steps that can be practiced in each point. We would practice taking the handgun from the ready to on target, from the holster to the ready, reloads, tactical reloads, and malfunctions to name just a few.

Over 800 rounds later, with numb fingers, and sore hands, I feel that I have learned a lot, and still have some way to go. Thankfully, they included a bunch of dry fire excises they recommend people do in order to get more proficient in what was taught in the class.

While a little on the expensive side, for those that have the opportunity to take these classes, I highly recommend them. The staff is top-notch, and the West Coast Armory is a first-rate facility. And the training will make you more comfortable in handling your firearm in defensive situations, and better prepare you to avoid these situations all together. I’m sure after some practice, I will return for another class or two.

One Year Later

GySgt Charter Retired

On this day last year, I retired from the Marine Corps. Well, I had my retirement ceremony and started my retirement, even though my actual retirement date wouldn’t be until May 30th. But I started my retired life and I started it with my wife and daughter as we drove across the United States on our victory lap, visiting family, friends, and places all along the way.

So what have I been up to since then? Well, I’ve recently, as in yesterday, decided to try to teach myself to play the guitar. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to learn, at least a little bit, so I picked up a little electric guitar starter kit and something I saw on Shark Tank called a Chord Buddy to attempt to teach myself guitar. I think that at first the Chord Buddy seemed like a good thing to help, but the more I played with it, the more I’m not sure about it. I think I would rather learn the actual chords instead of the Guitar Hero version of the chords. Time will tell how this works out.

But lets start at the beginning. Let’s start with when we got to Washington. It’s been great being home with our daughter, and getting to see her every day. Getting to put her to bed and wake her up in the morning. So the first few month have been getting to know my daughter Allison. The flip side of this is that my oldest two children, Haley and Hunter are in New York and I don’t get to see or talk to them as much as I did before. I even got to spend a day with my daughter at school as part of a program called Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students), and I loved it. We go to Home Depot once a month for their Kids Workshops so she can build things. She loves it so much, I bought her her own set of tools to use at home and there.


For Father’s Day, we went to Safeco Field and watched the Mariners play baseball, got an awesome Seattle Mariners BBQ Spatula, and ate ice cream out of a mini helmet.



I introduced Allison to the world of geocaching. She loved it when we find it and hates it when we aren’t able to find it.


Last summer I made a trip to San Francisco to take a tour of Candlestick Park before they tore it down. I may or may not have managed to break off a piece of concrete from the stadium and bring it back with me.


Later on, the family took a trip to Aptos, California for a week at the beach house there. We go there every year and spend a week just relaxing in sun and beach.


And while there, I even managed to take in a trip to San Jose to the new 49ers stadium, Levi Stadium, and tour the 49ers Museum and catch the team during an open practice.


And since I am still talking 49ers, I joined up with a great group of 49ers fans in the Seattle area called the Seattle Faithful. It’s been great to have other Niner fans around in the sea of 12’s.


Christa and myself went on a Disney Cruise that was fantastic. We loved every bit of it, even if I did manage to lose my GoPro somewhere in the water while attempting kayaking.


I worked for UPS as a seasonal driver and seasonal helper for a bit. I was trained and hired as a seasonal driver, but they ended up not needing me as a driver, so used me as a helper. I still got paid as a driver, and had better hours, so I really can’t complain. It was nice to get out of the house for a bit and be doing something.


I enrolled at Bellevue College, but then used every excuse in the book to not follow-up on it and do the things I needed to do to register for classes. I’m a dumb ass for that, and I’m thinking of going back and starting all over again.

I took my wife to Las Vegas for her Christmas present to see Britney Spears live in concert. OK, so this was a present for me too. But it was an awesome experience and a great time. The only bad thing was having to rush out of the casino in the morning after the airline called to rebook because of flight troubles. If we hadn’t taken the earlier flight, we wouldn’t have made it home to the next day, so kudos to Virgin America for being proactive.


I treated myself to the WWE VIP Experience when they came to town for a non-televised house show, and started to write my thoughts on wrestling at my own little blog, My Stupid Wrestling Views. I followed this up with a trip to see Mick Foley do his stand up routine and loved it.


I’ve seen a lot of movies, and then started blogging about movies I’ve seen, and how they are doing on my own movie blog, My Stupid Movie Reviews. And by the way, if you haven’t seen Kingsman: The Secret Service yet, and it is still in theaters near you, go see it. It’s a great movie.

I went to the 2015 Props and Hops at the Museum of Flight. Lots of beer, food, and planes. What’s not to like?


I’ve picked up more autographed 49ers collectibles than I have room for.

I’ve picked up a ton of Funko Pop!s for both me and the family.


I go shooting every week or so to relax a bit and release some stress. Even taking some Defensive Shooting classes. Because, why not.


And I’ve now started looking for a job. I say now, but I’ve been looking off and on for a bit now. Depressing at times, especially when you are told that you have no managerial experience. Or the time I got excited about a possible position, and really loved the company and their philosophy, but to not get the job offer. I still check their job openings to see if there is anything there that interests me. But I’ve had some great friends try to get me in with different things and getting people to talk to me, and I’m sure I’ll get something eventually.

And the biggie in the last year is that my loving wife has found out she has breast cancer. Needless to say, it sucks. And dealing with Tricare has been interesting to say the least. But we are slowly stumbling through it all in order to make her healthy again. She writes about her experiences over at Trixieland if you care to read about it. I’ve started writing about my own thoughts about what is going on and my own thoughts as well.


So one year later, I sit here, looking for a job, trying to teach myself how to play a guitar, taking care of my wife, and trying to take care of my family. Could things be better? Of course. But I right now, I love being able to spend all the time I can with them.



Classic November – #4 Rear Window

The second film we chose for the 1950’s was Rear Window from 1954, a Hitchcock classic starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. The premise is that a photographer has broken his leg getting a great action shot on a race track and has been in a cast and wheel chair for six weeks. At the time of the movie, it is his final week in the cast and then he will get back to traveling the globe taking pictures for a magazine. He doesn’t leave his two room apartment in Manhattan. His entire world has been reduced to daily visits from his insurance company nurse (played by Thelma Ritter) and his socialite girlfriend. Having nothing to do but submit to his nurse’s ministrations and fend off commitment with the “too perfect, too beautiful” girlfriend, he has taken to watching his neighbors. His apartment window faces a courtyard at the intersection of three or four different apartment buildings and Jimmy Stewart gets to know them all: “Miss Torso” the ballerina who likes to dance in front of her fridge in her undies, “Miss Lonelyheart” who wears glasses and can’t catch a break with the boys. It’s summer time and everyone leaves their window open so Jimmy gets occasional snippets of sound, as well. This is Hitchcock, so you can guess what happens next. Jimmy, who has taken to falling asleep in his wheelchair wakes up in the middle of a rainy night and sees the neighbor across the courtyard played by Raymond Burr (Perry Mason!) behaving suspiciously. And after that, his nagging wife is gone.

Rear Window poster

Christa’s review

Beyond the sexism  (window-woman archetypes are only interesting in how they relate to men: the bombshell, the spinster, the newlywed, and the nagging wife), this is a near perfect film. Hitchcock takes a claustrophobic world (and his camera never ventures beyond what Stewart can see from the window or through his telephoto lens), and turns it into a hive of human drama. The subplots are just as interesting as the main event, and even as tense in parts. The suspenseful moments are so well done they may take your breath away. Aside from the murder, there’s the wonderful story of how a man who thinks his girlfriend is too high maintenance to be happy with (or partner to) a not-rich traveling photographer falls in love with her loyalty, bravery, and adventurous spirit. And Grace. Oh lord, Grace is luminously beautiful and her clothes are wonderful and she wears a charm bracelet that I’ve been coveting my entire life. Her voice, her hair, the way she moves…this is why only having made ten films before becoming Her Serene Highness of Monaco she is still a film icon. I’m gushing. I’ll stop. This is in my top ten films of all time and I adore every frame.

Dana’s review

With the name Alfred Hitchcock behind this film, I guess is expecting more than a glorified Peeping Tom movie. While the setting was interesting, the set up went on way too long for me. I think this would have worked as a short 30-45 minute flick, but as a full length movie, it didn’t work for me. Skip it and find something else. If you must see it, watch the first 5 minutes, and then fast forward to the last 30 minutes or so. You won’t miss much.

Classic November – #3 High Noon

And so classic November enters the 1950’s. It took us quite a while to knock out the first movie because a) there are only a few I haven’t seen already (though that wasn’t part of the official criteria, and b) we’re having a hard time finding them available for streaming. Ben-Hur looked like a good candidate–I haven’t seen it, it was made in 1959, and we could rent it on Amazon for a couple bucks. But it’s so looooong. Three and half hours! Gunny would never have stayed awake for that. Another contender (ha) was On the Waterfront, but I wasn’t paying 10 bucks to download it. There are THREE amazing Hitchcock films on the list for the ’50s (though not on Netflix!) and Gunny hasn’t seen any of them. I’ve seen them probably a dozen times each. I was the girl in the theater during Basic Instinct who yelled “Vertigo rip-off!”

ANYWAY, knowing we’re terribly behind this month we methodically typed movie titles into Netflix search and decided on High Noon, the classic Western. Here’s the premise: Marshall Gary Cooper marries Grace Kelly who is a Quaker. This does not mean you can only eat oatmeal, Quakers are absolutely committed to  peace and non-violence. Long story short (or is it already too late for that?) if you marry a Quaker, ya gotta give up your guns and your tin star. Gary Cooper’s down with that–and is on his way to catch the noon train to another town to run a store. Only someone is coming to town on that same train–outlaw Frank Miller–and his brother and partners in crime are at the station waiting for him. Gary has a dilemma on his hands: leave the town in danger, or piss off his new wife and face the man he sent to prison.


Christa’s review

Meh. Gary Cooper is great at Gary Coopering, but I don’t see much conflict or emotion in his eyes. Plus, I just couldn’t help wondering what was up Grace Kelly’s ass. I get that she agreed to marry him under the condition that he give up his gun and badge in accordance with her Quaker beliefs. But leaving people to die? Abandoning her husband of ten minutes when he’s trying to do the right thing? Get over yourself, Princess. I know she’s Grace Kelly and all, but I thought Mrs. Ramirez (played by Katy Jurado)–who was Frank Miller’s girl before she dated Gary Cooper and then after him one of Gary’s deputies, which makes her a big whore in comparison to virginal perfect asshole Grace–was more beautiful and interesting by far. Most annoying though, was the townsfolk who gave zero shits if their town was overrun with criminals. There’s probably some underlying message about apathy and the threat of communism–this being 1952 and all–but I just wanted to kick all their teeth in. The ending was so abrupt, I was startled. But as there was little enjoyment to be had, it was a relief that it was over.

cast of high noon

Dana’s review

OK, so hopping back in to the November Classic, we pick up with High Noon. I didn’t find it to be a great movie, but a good movie overall. But I only say that because I was entertained by it, despite all the plot holes and weird dynamics of the movie. I seriously think that you could do a Mystery Science Theater or Rifftrax on this movie with little effort. For example, why would you be ok with burning down a barn with horses in it in order to get to the Marshall, but not OK with shooting the horses to stop him from getting away. The movie is full of stuff like this that would cause you to pull out the rest of your hair if you actually took it too seriously. Thankfully, I didn’t. Good and entertaining, with some slightly annoying acting. Watch it to say you watched an American classic, but not a movie to watch a second time.



Classic November – #2 The Maltese Falcon

This one was Dana’s pick for films made in the 1940’s. Which is a bit funny (to me) because we had to watch it twice because he fell asleep and missed about 40% of the film the first time around. Which means we had to rent it twice on Amazon. In the future, rewatches on rentals must be completed within 24 hours! The Maltese Falcon is, of course, based on the 1930 novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. He also wrote The Thin Man books which became films starting William Powell and Myrna Loy. Their fictional dog, Asta, is a frequent crossword puzzle solution. Anyway, the version of The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor is actually a remake of a 1931 film. It’s a classic noir detective movie. Beautiful woman flashing cash walks into the office of a wise-cracking and cynical private investigator named Sam Spade and hires him to find her sister. A few bullets later, Spade discovers the woman isn’t who she claims and there’s something about a statuette of a bird that everyone wants.

Maltese Falcon poster

Christa’s review

I confess I’ve seen this film a handful of times. I also read the book. And I also have to confess that it’s not my favorite. There’s no doubt that it’s a classic film and it’s a great example of a genre. It also has great actors and some fine performances (notably Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo). It’s definitely got a great moody style, but so much time has passed that the scenes have become cliches. That’s not The Maltese Falcon‘s fault, but when you’re talking about films that have been copied and spoofed, Casablanca holds up better. Also, I think Sam Spade is a bit of a dick, and Mary Astor…well, I’ve never liked her in this role. I don’t find her beautiful and she’s got zero sex appeal and zero chemistry with Bogart. I don’t buy her as a femme fatale at all. Imagine Lauren Bacall in this role instead and Yow! She could have done justice to both prissy Miss Wonderly and saucy bad girl Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Astor is so bad that I always assumed (my first few viewings of this movie predate IMDB) she was one of THE Astors and John Huston hired her because her rich family was financing the film. But no, Astor was a stage name, and Mary actually won an Oscar for supporting actress. She also had four husbands and a sex scandal under her belt and she’s far more interesting than I would have expected based on her stick-up-the-ass acting. Mary Astor pretty much ruins the movie for me. For my money, The Big Sleep (1946) is a better noir detective movie, and William Faulkner wrote the screenplay. Yes, THAT Faulkner. If I were going to hire a private dick, I’d hire Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe over Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade any day.

Dana’s review

This is one of those films that I had heard about, but really didn’t know what it was about. And after watching if, I have to wonder why it is on the AFI 100 list. The detective is an asshole, the story was bleh, and the film was absolutely boring. This film 100% did not do it for me. Skip this one unless you just have to see what some people consider a classic.

Classic November – #1 Casablanca

We began our November of Classic Films with the often-spoofed, often-quoted Casablanca. A wartime tale about love, loyalty, the terrible things people do to each other and the amazing sacrifices some make for the greater good. It was released in 1942 and stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, and is #2 on THE LIST.


Dana’s Review

I knew almost nothing about this movie except for the often misquoted,  “Play it again, Sam” First off, two words. Ingrid F’n Bergman. Damn!  Now with that out of the way, I realized that there were so many lines that are quoted from this movie that I heard before. And the opening shot of Casablanca reminded me so much of Raiders of the Lost Ark that I wonder if Raiders was playing homage to it. The acting was superb and I really enjoyed the story of love and Nazi’s. For somebody watching it for the first time, it didn’t feel dated, or out of place and completely holds its own 72 years later. If you are like me and heard about it but never watched it, schedule yourself a couple hours to enjoy this timeless classic.

Christa’s Review

I’ve seen this film many many times and love it. Love it so much I was a bit of a Nazi myself making sure Dana stayed awake and paid close attention. With all those characters and shenanigans and rounds of “who’s got the letters of transit” you could get lost. I enjoy this film every time I watch it and am pleased to report that I still cry when the refugees drown out the Nazi singalong with “La Marseillaise.” The best part of this viewing watching my husband experience Casablanca for the first time. The way he laughed at Captain Renault, and grinned when he heard those lines (“Here’s looking at you, kid.” “Of all the gin joints…”). As long as there are people displaced by war, evil people that prey on the weak, and people who choose what is right at the cost of their own happiness, Casablanca will be relevant.