Robert Wm. Gomez's

The Killer Is on the Phone (7/10)

Not that it matters, but the title of this film has nothing to do with what happens on the screen. There are maybe two seconds where we see the killer on the phone but it is just a throwaway moment. I wanted wicked taunts and heavy breathing! I assume the Italian producers were just trying to cash in on a 70s telephone-based murderer craze? In any event, this is a mystery thriller which is pretty light on the thrills and very heavy on the talky bits. Despite this abundance of dialogue, Telly Savalas is underutilized having maybe three lines.

Rage on PC (5/10)

Going Down to Brown Towne

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. This game is the epitome of bland first person shooters and Id Software should know better. They still seem not to know that there are colors beyond brown. There are no attempts at originality here. The post-apocalyptic setting is like a colorless, un-fun Borderlands. The barely-there plot is a rehash of the Fallout fish out of water structure.

The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper (7/10)

Pulpy science fiction about a remote planet on which the inhabitants are convinced exists a super-computer that could solve all their problems. The characters search for it, and, in the process, build a thriving planetary economy.

The Last Jedi (8/10)

I went into this having avoided the trailers or anything that could potentially spoil this for me. Despite its flaws I really liked The Force Awakens and was excited to see the story continue. For the most part I enjoyed The Last Jedi, but the plot was extremely clunky. There's a whole section where Fin and annoying girl go to space Monte Carlo and rescue space horses. The entire fin plotline could be removed from the movie without consequence.

Grave of the Fireflies (7/10)

This classic Studio Ghibli cartoon is about the horrors of war. But it's really more about the horrors of a teenager who is too much of a stubborn jerk to get help for himself and his toddler sister.

To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter by Vladimir Bukovsky (7/10)

A memoir of what living in The Soviet Union was like in the 60s and 70s. Bukovsky spent most of that time in prison camps and mental institutions. His big contribution was exposing the use of psychiatric evaluations to label dissenters as mentally unfit for trial. Despite being the harrowing nature of his predicaments, he makes it seem like routine daily life in the U.S.S.R.

Seven Chances (8/10)

I've never actually seen a Buster Keaton movie until this. Holds up very well and has some great scenes of Buster trying to outrun boulders and a mob of angry brides.

Room (8/10)

This starts as an engaging thriller and then tricks you by turning into a teary drama. A lot of the movie relies on an underwear-clad child actor and Brie Larson's zits. Both do outstanding work.

Free Fire (7/10)

This was a movie that I really wanted to see. It's directed by Ben Wheatley, who made the gangster-hybrid stunner, Kill List. The premise is great: a gun deal goes bad in the first fifteen minutes of the film and what follows is one gigantic standoff with bullets flying and dialogue shouted from behind cover. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to expectations. The characters aren't particularly interesting and neither is their cross-talk. In the hands of Tarantino this could have been a masterpiece.

Arrival (7/10)

A sci-fi film about a bunch of space squids that communicate with coffee rings. Another blockbuster that steals plot elements from "The Demon with a Glass Hand" episode of The Outer Limits.

Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back (6/10)

This would have been much better if it were just a cartoon instead of this live-action/CGI mess. There are tons of original visual ideas but the execution just looks stupid. Why in Buddha's name would you CGI a monkey face when a rubber mask would look a zillion times more realistic? Still, there are some fun moments between the incoherent plot points. Nothing will match the opening twenty minutes of the first Journey to the West.

Una Farfalla Con Le Ali Insanguinate by Gianni Ferrio (6/10)

Format: 
CD

I bought this knowing neither the composer nor the movie. It was cheap and had an interesting cover... never a good metric for making a music purchase. For the most part this is an okay soundtrack, but is lacking the off-kilter dissonance of other Italian soundtracks of the time. I thinks it's a little too piano-heavy for my tastes and main title sounds a bit too much like the theme song from The Young and the Restless.

The Heroic Ones (5/10)

This Shaw Brothers kung-fu swordsman epic is a bit of an overly long mess. The "heroic" characters are kinda jerks who deserve what's coming to them. The film is most noteworthy for its bloody drawing and quartering scene. Expands finger painting to a whole new level:

The Heroic Ones - Quartering Scene

The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (6/10)

I listened to the audiobook version which features many of the original cast members reprising their roles. The book itself is somewhat of a disappointment and cheapens the mystery of the series by dwelling way too much on U.F.O.s and L. Ron Hubbard. If you are looking for answers, this ain't the place.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (9/10)

As much as I like horror, I am woefully unfamiliar with many of the classics of the genre. Amazon was offering this one for free so I finally made time to see it not really knowing what to expect. It's definitely not the gore-fest that the title would imply, but the off-camera suggestion of violence is pretty disturbing; especially in the matter-of-fact  in which the killer commits his acts. The movie suffers from some amateurish performances and limited character development, but otherwise holds up incredibly well and provides some genuinely creepy moments.