We – Todd & Kara – use Letterboxd (TJSNK = the initials of each member’s name in our family) to keep track of the movies watched and provide short reviews with ratings. Star ratings are assigned based how entertaining the movies are: with anything 3-star and above being RECOMMENDED.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Love it, Must See ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½ – Amazing ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Great ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ – Good ⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Entertaining ——– anything rated below is NOT recommended ——- ⭐️⭐️½ – OK ⭐️⭐️ – Mediocre ⭐️½ – Bad ⭐️ – Terrible ½ – Unwatchable
Weekly Schedule – average 3 posts per day Monday – Sunday – Streaming reviews, news and movie & TV discussion Wednesday – All wide opening films in theaters are profiled (examples) Thursday – Sunday – Opening films are watched, rated and reviewed (text reviews posted to Letterboxd, and video reviews to YouTube channel) Friday – FIRST LOOK Fridays profile movies coming to theaters (details) Sunday – no later than Sunday night, NOW PLAYING REVIEWS (examples)
Todd Russell is the author of all reviews and watches all movies. Some movies are reviewed with another TJSNK family member.
These are our (mostly his) opinion only and don’t expect everybody else on the internet to agree (or disagree), but love to discuss more about movies and TV.
Todd started this blog to explore from a fan’s perspective the theater-watching experience, movies, movie lists and other features that Letterboxd doesn’t (yet?) make available (why can’t we blog through there?). Also to explore the Regal Unlimited Plan (member since August 2019), streaming video channels and TV without cable. Subscribe below to get notified when new posts are made.
Anthology shows are one of my favorite subgenres (see: Ranking Movie Genres – What are YOUR Favorite Genres?) and Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories in the 80s was a softer, more fantasy-based morality anthology show than the harder sci-fi of The Outer Limits and the deep, introspective, twisty, turny The Twilight Zone.
The 80s Amazing Stories featured stories by Richard Matheson, which also contributed to The Twilight Zone. I remember some episodes being a bit too overly-sentimental (Spielberg’s Achilles heel), but some were strong.
Subscribers to Apple TV+ can watch the rebooted Amazing Stories (2020) which has a 10 episode run starting on March 6.
The reboot the 1980s sci-fi anthology series kicks off its new trailer by teasing five different stories involving superheroes, aliens and weird anomalies in the sky. Scenes from the trailer are bracketed by the phrase, “The beloved series returns with five unique stories.” Amazing Stories also features the late Robert Forster’s final acting role.
Shudder has the Creepshow reboot, Apple TV+ gets Amazing Stories and, yes, Steven Spielberg is executive producer, but haven’t seen if he’s actually directing any episodes. Spielberg got his directorial start with the episode “Eyes” on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery anthology show. Good episode, too, for those who haven’t seen.
With Harley Quinn wrapping up its final episode of the season one this Friday, 2/21/2020 and Star Trek: Picard half-way through its first season run, I am contemplating whether or not to sign up for an Apple TV+ subscription. Based on the trailer and the strength of at least some of the original show, I’m interested.
The service itself doesn’t seem to offer anything else except originals, which is at least a unique way to launch a streaming channel. Good old Apple, doing things its way still, even in the absence of Steve Jobs. No other streaming movies or TV shows, only original content. Hmm, so you’re paying $4.99/month for access to how many shows? 9 at launch, according to this article.
One of the most noteworthy is The Morning Show starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon launched on Apple TV+ its first season on November 1, 2019 with the first three episodes bingeable and then the remaining seven at one per week. The first season concluded on December 20, 2019.
Binge vs. Weekly Releases — Which one is better?
Call me a purist, but I’m more a fan of releasing new episodes weekly like TV has done vs. the Netflix binge model (all episodes in a season dropped at once). I enjoy looking forward to something new released each week. There are pros and cons to waiting, sure, but impatience isn’t generally considered a healthy trait. There is a good related discussion at the DC Universe community boards, see: Bingeing vs. weekly release
I looked around but didn’t see if Apple TV+ are going to binge drop the entire Amazing Stories (2020) season of 10 episodes or release a new one every Friday or do something in between like they did with The Morning Show. Anybody reading know yet? Looks to me like the first episode is all that’s dropping on March 6. That contains five stories, so it will be a pretty meaty episode vs. Creepshow which only had two stories each episode.
UPDATE 8:13am PST: Hollywood reporter article says the first five episodes are dropping, so, assuming this is accurate, each story is a standalone episode. They also indicate there is no idea when the other five episodes will drop.
The episodic anthology Amazing Stories is set to bow March 6 with its first five episodes, though there was no information about when the remainder of the series from executive producer Steven Spielberg will return.
Anybody reading already have Apple TV+? They offered the first year to those who bought various Apple gadgets. Am sure that applies to some readers. What shows do you like on there? Tell us your experience with the service thus far it in the comments.
We can’t blame Blumhouse for asking, it’s Sony for giving it up with almost zero quality control.
Jason [Blum] wanted to keep working with me. He heard that I had this idea, and being the master producer that he is, he went to Sony and he said, “Can I have the rights to Fantasy Island?” They said yes. They gave it to him.
Thanks a lot, Sony for just giving up the IP without any sense of quality control. Blumhouse gutted the TV show and gave us a shell of what it once was.
Before I can get into specifics with this critique, you best know SPOILERS follow. If you don’t want the film to be spoiled (pretty difficult, actually), then bookmark and come back … now.
… you’ve been warned SPOILERS AHEAD ….
Blumhouse leaves the filmmakers alone — for better or worse
On one hand, you can applaud Blumhouse for having a reportedly hands off attitude. They set a budget and let the filmmakers make the movie. That’s amazing creative freedom, if the movie doesn’t suck.
Apparently, Sony is also hands off with their IP. Respectfully, I’d suggest with IP somebody should be test screening these films a little better.
The fantasies aren’t that good
There are four fantasies and none of them are spectacular. Let’s take them one at a time.
Woman who wants to get revenge on a childhood friend. Then she gets the chance to do that, but wimps out. She steps off the plane complaining about the lack of Wi-Fi on the island and doubts the fantasies are real and then her fantasy seems real. She also is the one with the lamest twist of all the fantasies.
Two brothers who want to party it up and yet are then attacked by a gang of thugs.
A man wants to honor the life another man in the military who fell on a grenade.
Woman who wants to change that one mistake she made, by saying yes to a man she loved instead of no. Then she gets that fantasy and has a child.
It’s like we’re checking all the cliche story boxes versus telling anything that fresh and new. Or, heck, if you can’t do that, then go back in time and retell some of the best episodes of the TV series.
Then there’s a bonus fifth guy running around all Rambo on the island, because he doesn’t want Roarke to know what he’s up to. Ok, yeah.
These were pretty average to bad fantasies.
Why Explain The Origins of the Island?
I’m still reeling, still trying to understand why it was necessary to explain how Fantasy Island works? And the whole fountain of fantasy water idea was dumb. So Roarke has guests drink the tainted water and then their one fantasy is fulfilled? How does the water “just know” to only issue one fantasy per person?
We didn’t need the origin story. The mystique surrounding the island was enough to make it all work. Also, when you make Roarke so absolutely tied into the process, he doesn’t have the man of mystery vibe working either. Making him a pawn to the island’s power just weakens a character that is supposedly in charge of the island. This is so completely out of the character played by Ricardo Montalban I don’t even know where to start.
Wait, it’s Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island. In parallel reboot world, Roarke can be weak and strong whenever he wants to be. O…k.
Tattoo isn’t a midget, he’s a gay Chinese man with a tattoo that says, “Tattoo”
Can’t make up this stuff. What were they thinking when they took a gigantic crap all over the legacy of Herve Villachaize?
Not a midget (that’s what Herve referred to himself as). It’s a full height man. Why not give this role to another little person?
Why gay? Herve was not only heterosexual, he was hyper heterosexual. Known for his strong sex drive which today might register as sexual harassment toward his co-workers and guests on the show. There’s nothing wrong with gay people, don’t even go there with me, but making an iconic straight character gay is saying what exactly? We can do it, just because we can? Stupid and wrong. Let’s not make established straight characters gay and vice versa.
Chinese instead of French. Herve was French, so why make his character Chinese? Maybe it would be different to find a little person that was French like Herve, so fine, maybe a little person that is Chinese. But a normal height Chinese man? How about a normal height French guy? How can we screw up this character tribute so badly?
Again, you just can’t make out how horrific this treatment of Herve Villachiaze is in this movie. Let’s just dance on his grave while we’re at it, Blumhouse. You should be ashamed. Seriously.
Reviews by Others
A lot of these reviews of Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island by others are unfavorable. Rotten Tomatoes critics have it sub 10% rotten, but audiences are treating it a little better.
But Why Tho? (5/10): “is everything you want and expect from a theater Blumhoudr film. It stumbles a bit but winds up where you need it to.”
Andrew Reviews: “But it’s an intellectual property that can be exploited, and it’s being packaged for the young lovestruck souls on Valentine’s Day by furnishing watered-down PG-13 horror that only ever elicits predictable jump scares and a cheap lugubrious aesthetic (an eerily slow camera that always implies a forthcoming scare, ear-splitting sound design, and a terribly on-the-nose score).”
Becky Tyler Art & Photography: “This film is so abysmally bad I wasn’t even going to bother with a review after I watched it yesterday, but if this review keeps anyone else from wasting their time then I guess writing this is worth it.”
CULT FACTION: “Within the script is a great movie plot that somehow got manipulated into a presentation that more resembles Love Island than Fantasy Island.”
Drew’s Writing Loo: “….is clearly aiming for absurdist B-movie enjoyment, but that’s a tough invitation to accept when the choppy tone seems just as lost on the cast as it is to the audience.”
Dyl’s Movie Stuff (1/10): “…is so very dumb and embarrassingly unscary. Please do yourself a favor and skip this one.”
Flag of Ulysses: “It works marginally better as a mystery in the film’s latter half but it comes at the expense of over-explaining and completely demystifying the very premise of the titular island and its enigmatic overseer, which the original series wisely never did (to my best recollection).” (ed. one of the few to title it as Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island)
Halloween Year Round: “It’s everything that a remake should be…at least in theory. In practice, this film wastes its immense potential on annoying characters and a plot that completely falls apart when you approach it with logic.”
High Contrast / Nate Blake: “Despite the presence of smartphones, social media and a cast that’s just a bit more representative than you would have seen on ABC four decades ago, this is mostly a lazy transplant, not a worthwhile re-imagining. If only I could go to an island where lame remakes didn’t exist.”
Jordan Peterson / Movie Minutes: “It’s when all those seemingly disparate stories start to come together down the back half of the film where things get messy. The more fascinating elements that make Fantasy Island what it is quickly give way to an overarching narrative that is more convoluted, formulaic, and exhaustively dull.”
Jaedennoel / Keithlovesmovies: “Other than a few references to the original television series, Fantasy Island will surely disappoint fans of the television series which could have lead to a whole other demographic viewing the film.”
Keith & The Movies (2/5): “…does nothing to justify its existence. It’s just a blob of fairly interesting ideas pasted together and thrown out for consumption. And you can bet Blumhouse is already eyeing a sequel.”
Nightmare on Film Street: “…the reality here is, FantasyIsland is a sightly miss of a movie. The malefic update has a lot of creative potential on paper. The film just so happens to lose steam whenever it comes time to gel everything together.”
Ready Steady Cut: “Not enough of Fantasy Island lands in this precious space of engrossing idiocy to go down as some kind of cult classic midnighter or anything, but it’s at least a high note to end on for a film that is mostly otherwise just an obvious misfire.”
Red Mango Reviews (5.5/10): “I’m sure the age 13-17 crowd and people who don’t watch ACTUAL horror movies will get a scare or two, but for me, this movie was an overly bloated story with WAY TOO many sub-plots and an ending that you’ll see coming a mile away”
rogerinorlando / Movie Nation (2/4): “The moments of peril seem like “Saw” outtakes, and the big “EXPLANATION” could bring Harlan Ellison back from the grave for another lawsuit.”
Society Reviews (1/5): “It is a shame that Fantasy Island fails on the only interesting concept the movie had going for it but at the end of the day, this proves to be just another low budget horror film with little effort given both in front and behind the camera.”
The Jam Report / Doug Jamieson (1/5): “Sadly, there’s little enjoyment to be found with Fantasy Island. It’s as uninspiring as the horror genre gets. You won’t be scared. You won’t be terrified. And you sure as hell won’t be entertained.”
The Monster Lady (4/10): “The storyline, “twists” and character deaths were way too predictable and it felt as though the movie dragged on with trying to make the character backstories complex. There were a lot of random plotholes with how the island and fantasies operate, but honestly I stopped caring halfway through”
Voice of the Hwy: “If crimes against cinema merited prosecution, Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island would go directly to death row. “
Zach’s Zany Reviews: “Never, ever have I’ve seen a great concept to a feature film, let alone one from an old television show, be so terribly fucked up in its execution. I mean, where to start?”
Linked above and wondering what would be the cool thing to do next? Commenting once in awhile is always good. If you have the trackback/pingback come to your site then just approve it because after people read your review then they can come here and follow links and read someone else’s review.
Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs and pull quote from my reading list as well as other new blogs shared, liked and discovered.
Yes, we thought the experience was excellent. It certainly made Rambo: Last Blood more entertaining with dripping overhead, various scents sprayed in the air, a slow swaying boat-like movement and more.
Next month we’ll be back in Las Vegas, this time staying at the River Rock Casino, home of the only 4DX theater in Vegas. The next movie we’ll likely be seeing in 4DX is …
We do have a Regal 4DX theater in downtown Seattle, but traffic downtown and parking is a nightmare, so not somewhere we’ll likely be going. Too bad, because we both really enjoyed the format and think it has the power to elevate the entertainment experience.
Have you seen a movie in 4DX yet? Are you planning to soon? Is there a theater near you that has 4DX? Let’s discuss in the comments.
His name is Terry Notary. He’s not CGI, he’s flesh and blood. Notary is man playing Buck, the CGI dog.
“When they said they wanted me to play Buck, I was like, ‘Wow, I have to really figure out how dogs relate to human beings on a deep level.’ You know, they’re truly connected to humans, for eons, they’re our best friends, really. And there’s no filter when they look into your soul. There’s no fear of seeing you [or] letting you see them,” Notary explained. “It was really about trying to be present for [Ford] and really let him forget that I was a human, and be a dog and dissolve into it. And when we did, it was magic.”
In order to line up all the CGI, it is necessary to have a stand-in, which explains why Notary was there, complete with tennis balls attached to him so that the CGI could be synced as well as giving Harrison Ford someone tangible to look at during filming.
Only one other movie since August 12, 2019 when I started this blog has had more reader interest — at least in terms of clickthru traffic — as FIRST LOOK: The Call of the Wild.
Today, this FIRST LOOK post has more traffic and clickthrus than any other post to date. While, I realize this little blog is a tiny space in the massive internet, it has motivated me to dig around and learn more about the film, if I can. In particular, the tennis ball man, Terry Notary, since our FIRST LOOK primarily dealt with the CGI dog. That’s what seems to be the primary topic.
There’s been renewed interest in Harrison Ford because he also announced that filming on Indiana Jones 5 will begin soon, possibly as early as April 2020.
I doubt The Call of the Wild is going to be anywhere as popular as Indiana Jones 5, or even if it will be a good film. Dog films share a special place in people’s hearts and there will be at least some interest in seeing if the CGI Buck is as real looking as a real dog.
Cool trivia: Buck is based on a dog named Buckley from Emporia Animal Shelter: ““We were having a difficult time finding a real stand-in for Buck. The Buck described in the novel is a very specific combination of two different breeds; and this is a combination you just can’t find anywhere.””
2020 Theater Releases JAN | FEB | MAR | APRIL 2020
If you’d like to see a list of all movies released in 2020 click here (that post is being updated throughout the year). Most releases profiled below are WIDE screenings showing on 2,000+ theater screens in the United States. If the movie title has the word LIMITED following then it means it’s being released on less than 2,000 screenings in the United States.
All movie release dates unless otherwise indicated are for the United States, the release dates in other countries may vary.
“Take… the grease!” — the funny part of the trailer, but no comedy can survive on the humor of one joke. I’m worried about the comedic chemistry between this couple based on the trailer, as they don’t seem to be all that funny together, although the situations they are placed in look humorous. Will this be another Like a Boss on the humor scale? Could be. I’m interested though, because I enjoy comedies.
Anticipation for The Lovebirds: 5/10
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
Haven’t seen the first Peter Rabbit film, but this seems like it’s in that middleworld between children-friendly and adults. Trailer isn’t making me super excited for the movie. Was surprised to see it grossed over $350 million, which explains the presence of this sequel less than two years later.
Anticipation for Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway is: 2/10
The last Bond film for Daniel Craig, will he go out with a whimper or roar? I’m voting on somewhere in the middle. He’s got Rami Malek as a villain and that could amp everything up. I hope Bond doesn’t go off the rails into something completely unnoticeable after this. Just get another Bond (a guy, sorry, I don’t think it should be a woman playing James Bond 007). Then again, there is a female 007 in this movie. We’ll find out soon.
Anticipation for No Time To Die: 9/10
The Secret: Dare To Dream
I remember seeing this book everywhere and wondering what the “Secret” was? In mid April I’ll find out. Could have always read the book, I suppose, but wasn’t that motivated. The teaser trailer is equally enigmatic and mostly just toting sales stats. While that’s impressive, I already knew it was popular. Guess I need to see a trailer showing something that actually happens in the movie to be excited.
Anticipation for The Secret: Dare To Dream: 3/10
Promising Young Woman
This trailer makes it look like the woman is hunting men by setup. She pretends to be too drunk and waits for them to take advantage of them and then does … what to them? Revenge is called out, but we don’t actually see any taking place. I’m getting a black widow spider vibe to this tale. Somewhat eager to see it.
Our grandchildren are huge Trolls fans and must admit I like them, too. The sequel idea based on different tribes of trolls having a specific musical genre is sound, but I wonder why rock and roll always gets such a bad rap? It’s good music and I’d argue it’s better than some other types. Still, a troll tribe rolling around to the music of Ozzy Osbourne sounds like the making of a killer soundtrack at least. Looking forward to this.
Anticipation for Trolls World Tour: 7/10
Monster Problems — no trailer available to evaluate anticipation. Scheduled to open in theaters on April 17, 2020.
After a string of bad horror films starting off 2020, my anticipation for this one is reduced. Then again, maybe this will be better because it’s following the sequel to A Quiet Place. It seems to be some kind of evil force based on or originating from slave catching times? Sort of has a more vengeful Harriet vibe going, but that could be totally off.
I cheated a bit and peeked at the Wikipedia page.
Successful author Veronica Henley finds herself trapped in a nightmarish reality and must find a way to break free of the horrors at hand.
So, is this more of a Nightmare on Elm Street meets Harriet?
Anticipation for Antebellum: 3/10
Bad Trip RELEASE DATE CHANGED from Feb 28 to April 24, 2020
Looks like reality TV gone wild. Sign me up! Will admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of reality TV, but there have been some shows (I liked Cops,The Osbournes and Gene Simmons Family Jewels and some others). The whole catch the audience real reactions to crazy scenes is often too gimmicky to hold my interest through a TV series, but in a movie maybe it will work. This one looks like it could be very funny, I just hope the trailer isn’t showing the best parts.
A little skeptical because they moved back the date. Most delayed films suggest production problems and/or negative initial screen testing. Haven’t heard that to be the case here, so we’ll see what kind of trip this is soon.
Anticipation for Bad Trip: 6/10
Ranking the April 2020 movies by anticipation (as of this writing)
No Time To Die – 9/10
Trolls World Tour – 7/10
The New Mutants – 6/10
Bad Trip – 6/10
The Lovebirds – 5/10
Promising Young Woman – 4/10
Antebellum – 3/10
The Secret: Dare To Dream – 3/10
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway – 2/10
Monster Problems – no rating / no trailer
What movies in April 2020 are you looking forward to seeing?
The volume in and around Roku is growing louder (emphasis mine):
“We have now entered the streaming decade when we believe consumers around the world will choose streaming as their primary way of viewing TV,” Roku CEO Anthony Wood wrote in his letter to investors. Roku believes that by 2024, half of all US households with a TV will have either cut the cord or never had cable to begin with.
Our household cut the cord from cable TV long ago, going back a couple times just to see if things had changed (they hadn’t). Cable TV was all about a bunch of channels not worth watching, a ton of commercials and suspect billing practices brimming with fees.
So, when Roku claims this decade as “the streaming decade” my ears perked up. Will this be the decade (2020-2030) that most people cut the cable TV cord? They believe by 2024 50% of households with a TV will not have cable TV.
As new streaming channels open up that are available through Roku, this will increase its presence:
…it would seem fair to assume that Roku may have grown net adds naturally by about 700,000 accounts, bringing the total number of new accounts to around 4 million. It could imply that of Disney’s 26 million new streaming subscribers; Roku only saw a benefit of an additional 600,000 new accounts above its natural rate of growth.
Honestly, with the excessive expense of cable TV compared to cord cutting alternatives I’m surprised we aren’t already past the 50%. Then again, in more rural areas high speed bandwidth might not be as widespread.
If that turns out to be true, that’s quite the tipping point.
Have you cut the cord yet? Do you still have cable TV?
Week #7 of 2020 (2/13-2/16) sees four very different films: a videogame movie about a supersonic blue alien, a romance involving a couple researching her mother who just died, a remake of a 70s TV show and a dramedy involving a family of four not enjoying a skiing trip.
Only one is sticking out and recommended, racing ahead of the others ….
I somewhat expected Jim Carrey to steal the show in this videogame adaptation, but he’s actually one of the underwhelming features.
The speedy little alien has sort of an E.T type storyline that works. It’s a faithful recreation from the SE-GA! game to big screen. The animation is good and it’s an entertaining film that deserves to do good numbers at the box office. Oh, and bonus: check out the super cool 8-bit gaming end credits.
Not the Fantasy Island I was looking very forward to seeing and very much deserving of Blumhouse in front of the title, but this might appeal to viewers who like every single little thing explained ad nauseum.
Open to debate who had a worse time: the family portrayed on the skiing vacation or the viewers slogging through this unfunny, mostly cold, dry movie. Julia Louise-Dreyfuss and Will Ferrell have some of the worst ever chemistry of any married couple portrayed on screen that I’ve seen. Sure, they are having marital problems in the film, but I can’t really see how they ever had any happy times. What a great example of when to seek a divorce.
Want to see what else we recommend NOW PLAYING at the theater?
Here are other movies we’ve seen at the theaters recently and liked (maybe they are available in your area still) that are recommended. Any movie rated at least 3-stars is recommended. You should read any 3-star review (click the title), because sometimes we do qualify those recommendations, meaning we were entertained, but it doesn’t mean that the film was that good.
4-star movies are highly recommended and films rated as 4 1/2 or 5 stars are must see.