First – Our Review Criteria

You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat

— Jaws (1975)

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)

Monthly Schedule – Interactive, you can join … viewing challenges
CURRENT: Watch 33+ Horror/Thriller/Suspense/True Crime movies or TV episodes from October 1 – November 30, 2020
LAST: Watch 100+ Any Movie or TV Episode June 1 – September 30, 2020

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.

Greek-Cypriot Cinebur Gets Creative with the Cinematic Experience, but is the Timing Right?

Not sure if Cinebur is a creative method of movie screenings in 2020 or just an alterate viewing method vs. traditional movie theaters.

Cinebur is an application like Airbnb, except instead of travellers looking for a place to stay, it is for moviegoers who are looking for film screenings. Unlike movie theatres, Cinebur does not have a specific physical location where events are hosted, but its screenings take place in all kinds of venues, from boutiques and hotels, to wineries, schools, art studios, and even local properties of people who want to host screenings for their communities. Depending on the venue, Cinebur offers its viewers cocktails, fine wine, ice-cream or even smoking if the hosts allow it, which give the audience a comfortable, luxurious, homely feeling, but within a social environment where they can share their emotions with the other people, just like in movie theatres.

Cinebur: The Greek-Cypriot Platform Changing The Way We Enjoy Cinema – Greek City Times

I’m familiar with AirBnB, which is for people who want to stay in someone’s house for the night like staying in a motel. I’ve been reading that during the pandemic this type of business has not been doing well, but don’t follow this industry close enough to confirm or deny. Stands to reason though.

So Cinebur let’s movie fans enjoy movies not at theaters, but at alternate locations. It would be more intriguing — but not viable in current times — if it went full in on the AirBnB model and let anybody with a killer theater system invite others to watch movies at their homes. But who would do this during the pandemic? Yeah, that’s the problem.

Instead, these are movie events shown in more public-oriented places and will include other services, similar to the dinner theaters like Cinebarre (see: Cinebarre Salem, Oregon First Experience Seeing Zombieland: Double Tap). We like the dinner and movie at a theater experience but am not sure about Cinebur trying to turn pretty much anywhere into a movie theater experience. I think it’s all a timing thing right now.

Then again, outside the United States right now this might be a good idea. What do you think? Would you want to go see a movie other than at a theater and at your own home (or with friends at their home)?

Lea Thompson Shares What Happened To Lorraine’s Fake Breasts after filming Back To The Future Part II

Back To The Future Part II ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Be honest, you’re curious what happened to Lorraine McFly’s fake breasts. Lea Thompson, who played the famous Back To The Future character, spills it.

“From Back to the Future Part II, I took my prosthetic breasts,” Thompson tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t want [them] to fall into the wrong hands, because it’s actually a cast of my actual breasts inside.” “So I was like, ‘I’ll take those, thank you very much,'” she adds. “But they got really smelly because they were latex and I threw them away.”

Lea Thompson Says She Took Her Prosthetic Breasts from Back to the Future Part II | PEOPLE.com

Sweaty latex and Back To The Future, quite the visual. The prop I’d be more interested in learning more about is the hoverboard. It was fake, yes, but it looked pretty cool. Or, perhaps, the also fake but curious flux capacitor.

Or maybe that gigantic speaker in the opening scene? Any Back to the Future props you might want to learn more about?

All this behind the scenes stuff is the result of the 35th Anniversary of the original movie. It is being celebrated with a Blu-ray set that contains a bunch of extras like early screen tests from Ben Stiller reading for Marty.

Synchronic ⭐️⭐️

Synchronic – R – 1 hr 41 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Saturday October 24, 2020
AMC Southcenter 16 – Tukwila, Washington
#40 new movie seen in theater in 2020

Two paramedic friends, Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) encounter various people afflicted by a designer drug called synchronic. Dennis’ daughter Brianna takes the drug and disappears.

Steve finds out he’s dying and, upon an unexpected visit from the drug’s creator, learns synchronic can allow the user to travel back in time for seven minutes. Steve buys up all the synchronic in town and searches for Brianna.

The idea is somewhat fresh, which is always appreciated. Take a drug and travel back through time based on where you take the drug at? I was thinking sort of like Sound of Thunder without the machine or radical future change consequences

Time travel stories are often convoluted and difficult to parse logic-wise. This one tries to stay away from paradoxes but viewers can’t help pondering credibly how this would work. A sci-fi story needs plausible elements with the science to be more effective. Pretty much none of that exists here. Those that can get past that will probably find this more enjoyable.

The biggest problem is the most interesting parts are when Steve takes the drug, not much that’s happening in the mundane present time. The first 45 minutes of the movie are slow and difficult to get into. Kara had to bump me a few times because I was literally starting to nod off.

The last 45 minutes are significantly better, especially as Steve learns more about how synchronic works and his search for Brianna deepens. The ending, which won’t be spoiled here, is a bit on the predictable side, but it’s handled well.

There is a non sci-fi feel to the way the film is shot. Like it’s not as dark and dreary as the story. The sound effects are good and soundtrack, although a little understated is OK. The acting is nothing special, but that could be that it’s mostly Steve doing the one man show routine. He wasn’t bad, but we don’t find ourselves rooting for him quite the way we should.

Kara and I were a bit apart on this one in our just left the theater video review (see below).

Uneven pacing is what makes this one come up short and miss being recommended. It’s a compelling idea and with better execution, particularly the first half of the movie, it could have been a good movie. Alas, as presented it comes off as somewhere between bad and mediocre. Not recommended.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️ (Todd) ⭐️ (Kara)

The Empty Man ⭐️

The Empty Man – R – 2 hr 17 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Friday October 23, 2020
AMC Kent Station 14 – Kent, Washington
#39 new movie seen in theater in 2020

Four young adults are hiking in the mountains and cross a bridge that we expect to collapse, sending them to their deaths, but that’s just a set piece for the moment. Instead, one walks away from the group and falls down a chamber inside the rocks.

His friend rappels down and finds him sitting cross legged and trance-like staring at this spooky-looking human-creature skeleton, telling his friend “touch me and you’ll die.”

Being a horror movie, of course he’s going to ignore this warning, helping him out of the cave and trying to carry down the mountain, only to get tired. With weather worsening, they stay in a lodge near the bridge. Inside there, they try to figure out what’s wrong with their friend.

That’s just the beginning and it is kind of intriguing but turns out this is just a prologue to the real story which is a retired police officer turned private eye investigating the disappearance of a young woman. There’s another bridge scene and viewers are treated to a cult-like fascination with bridges, death and a mythical creature known as The Empty Man.

Oddly, The Empty Man likes to pattern his ghostly behavior on Charles Manson’s penchant for leaving messages at crime scenes. Only they aren’t witchy, they are more obvious like, “The Empty Man was here!”

This movie suffers — badly — from way too much lore, exposition and backstory. While it’s based on a graphic novel — and no, I haven’t read it — this isn’t exactly Lord of the Rings. It also is a victim of excess runtime. The story isn’t as complex as it wants to be, and yet it’s approaching 2.5 hours?!? That’s too long for, once stripped down, a pretty basic horror story.

We never get to know any characters that well except for the detective and even his characterization is thin. Instead, we’re focused on who or what is The Empty Man. At some point viewer fatigue sets in with too much mystery without action. It doesn’t have to be a nonstop killathon, but we need plot twists, turns, something, besides, hey, that’s kind of weird behavior.

The biggest problem here is that it simply isn’t scary. It’s loud and has some very cliched jumpscares, but spooky lore and skeletons by themselves aren’t scary. Not that The Empty Man needed to go all Freddy Kruger or Jason Vorhees, but the shadowy figure doesn’t deliver enough of any personality to be scary. I guess that’s the point, it’s “empty” … but empty isn’t scary. Empty can be eerie, like go watch The Twilight Zone’s debut episode (see: TV SERIES Review: The Twilight Zone (1959) S1E1 – Where is Everybody?½ (#1 of 156)) but not even that level of awesomeness could hold a viewer beyond 30 minutes.

We were checking our clocks in the theater multiple times past the hourly mark, which had us contemplating leaving before it finished, but we pushed through and got to the end, which, unfortunately, didn’t redeem anything. The story is largely boring, not horrifying and neither of us could find much good to say, except that it wasn’t the worst horror movie we’ve seen in 2020.

Just leaving the theater, we discussed the horror of how bad it was versus it being horrifying. It’s a sad statement when Kara who generally dislikes horror films liked this more than me who loves all things horror. Loves good horror films, that is, which this one isn’t.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ½ (Todd) ⭐️ (Kara)

TV SERIES Review: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? S1E17 – That’s Snow Ghost ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Season 1
CBS (HBO Max)
January 17, 1970

Episode 17 – “That’s No Snow Ghost”

The gang wants to do some skiing and the only place, conveniently, open to go is some creepy, barely inhabited ski lodge. They talk to the owner who warns them to keep their windows locked or the Snow Ghost might get them. The snow ghost will turn them into ghosts

(Never thought about this when younger about why a Yeti would want to turn others into ghosts. As an adult, it just doesn’t sound right, but hey in 1970 maybe this was spooky)

Turns out there is a legend of a Yeti in the area, and the creature is responsible for haunting the lodge. The gang isn’t buying it, and decides to solve the mystery.

While following tracks, it leads to a chasm and they run into the Snow Ghost and, Fred exclaims, “he can fly!”

They find a cave and a monk Mr. Fu Lon Chi, from Tibet tells the gang about the ghost of the Yeti.

After all this weirdness, will the gang solve the mystery of the flying, ghostly Yeti? Why is the Yeti scaring people away from the lodge. What’s with the Tibet cave?

Summary

Yeah, this is an odd episode. Maybe the most odd story of the entire first season as it’s just a bunch of different myths mashed up. The Yeti creature would have been fine, I’m not sure why we needed the Yeti to fly or the whole idea of him turning others into ghosts, but hey.

Scooby antics are toned down as well. Although there is a fun exchange where Scooby takes Mr. Chi’s wolf’s bone.

Scooby works to save Velma from being chopped up in the sawmill

This episode is kind of weak to end the first season on. Like they threw in every remaining idea they had just in case this series wasn’t renewed for a second season. Still, it’s original Scooby Doo and the gang, so at it’s worst, it still is recommended watching. The saw mill Scooby scene alone is worth recommending.

Overall episode rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Screenrant ranks 13 different versions of Scooby Doo series. #1 is obvious, but the rankings of some of the other series throughout the year is interesting. It seems hard to believe that they are still making different versions of the show. Recently, I caught an episode of the newest Scooby Doo series on the Boomerang streaming service.

Stephen King’s Son Joe Hill Would “Jump” At Chance To Write And Direct Maximum Overdrive Reboot

Maximum Overdrive ⭐️

Stephen King has only directed one movie during a cocaine-fueled addiction haze in his life and the experience soured him on ever returning to try again. The movie was terrible, but the short story it was based on is good.

There was a reboot called Trucks (same name as King’s original short story), but now King’s son, Joe Hill is saying he wants the chance to write and direct another reboot.

“I would only want to jump into directing if I had a chance to do the reboot of Maximum Overdrive,” Hill tells Mick Garris on October 28th’s season 5 premiere of Post Mortem With Mick Garris that Bloody Disgusting had a chance to listen to early. “If someone offered me the chance to write and direct a relaunch of Maximum Overdrive, I’d jump at that in a second.”

Joe Hill Wants to Write and Direct a Remake of Stephen King’s ‘Maximum Overdrive’ – Bloody Disgusting

Hill’s story idea for a reboot is good: get away from the comet and make it about the fear people have of self-driving cars. There are very real fears people have with self-driving cars, so it’s timely and relevant, but I don’t think the short story “Trucks” is worth all these movies.

I would be interested in seeing Joe Hill direct something and a sober Stephen King sit in the chair again (see: Yes, Stephen King Should Direct Again – How about an episode of Creepshow?). Both men have other stories they could adapt into a movie. Let’s just be done with “Trucks” It’s had way more screen time than it deserves.

FIRST LOOK: Synchronic

This is showing at a nearby AMC theater in south Seattle and released today. Hadn’t seen anything about it prior to seeing it on the movies available list at AMC and seeing that it was showing at only one theater nearby.

It made its world debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019.

In the new sci-fi horror Synchronic, Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan star as Steve and Dennis, two New Orleans paramedics who witness the troubling side effects of a new drug that distorts reality. When personal and professional obligations collide, the terrifying power of this new pill takes them on a mind-bending journey through time.

The costume design secrets behind sci-fi horror Synchronic

A designer drug that distorts reality, don’t almost all drugs do that? I like the box art and the title has a sci-fi ring to it.

Trailer:

Yeah, I’m kinda digging the trailer. No idea if the movie will deliver or not, but I’m a fan of sci-fi horror that’s done well. Anybody see this? Interested in seeing it?

Synchronic is available as a LIMITED theatrical release on October 23, 2020.

FIRST LOOK: Totally Under Control – Hulu

We share your pain in pandemic fatigue, but here in America we have an election coming in a few weeks and many still haven’t voted yet (my ballet will arrive in the next few days). I used to vote on election day in person, but for several years now it’s been strictly mail-in balloting.

One of the topics that many will be considering in who they vote for is what will future politicians will do about the pandemic? Personally, I have mixed opinions about politicizing the pandemic, but worried about the next four years. Heck, I’m worried about the next four months.

We’ve anticipated a wide variety of COVID-19 movies, documentaries and TV shows to begin appearing in entertainment. Totally Under Control scratches that itch on the documentary front.

Filmed in secret over five months, Totally Under Control (streaming on Hulu tomorrow) uses news footage and interviews with experts and government whistleblowers to show how the administration missed each opportunity to either stop the virus from arriving in the U.S. or prevent its spread. The filmmakers present these events in rapid, blow-by-blow succession, lending the doc an urgency that contrasts with the languid federal response to the pandemic.

‘Totally Under Control’: An Essential Pandemic Documentary – The Atlantic

Official trailer:

Totally Under Control is available for streaming via Hulu on October 20, 2020.

“First Major LGBTQ+ Holiday rom-com” Happiest Season Skips Domestic Theatrical Release for Hulu

Those hoping to watch Happiest Season this holiday on the big screen in the United States will now need a subscription to Hulu. Maybe you have one already, so kick back, it’s on the release radar next month.

“I am beyond grateful to Hulu for providing an incredible home for ‘Happiest Season,’ and I’ll forever cherish my journey with Sony Pictures who felt just as strongly as I did about the value of bringing the first major LGBTQ+ holiday rom-com to audiences,” said DuVall. “I’m hopeful that this universal story, told through a unique lens, will join the long list of holiday classics that continue to bring all of us so much joy and happiness.”

‘Happiest Season’ Heads to Hulu From Sony Pictures in U.S. – Variety

What’s curious about this release is why it isn’t happening in the theaters? More and more articles like this one point out that it’s not surprising when movies skip theaters in these times because not that many theaters are open. AMC is almost 90% open in all their theaters across the United States including parts of California and New York state. Sure, Regal closed and some Alamo Drafthouse theaters are closed, but it’s not like there aren’t theaters open nationwide.

Also, curious that being this is billed as the first major LGBTQ+ rom-com release, one would think they would at least try a theatrical release domestically? I don’t get how some of these decisions are being made for theatrical releases in the United States right now. Guess we are in the minority that like seeing new films first on the big screen. A Hulu release probably means they felt they’d make more money this way.

Happiest Season will stream on Hulu starting November 25, 2020.

Night Gallery 50th Anniversary Book Showcases All Paintings

From 1969 – 1973 an anthology show that featured stories based at least in part on paintings. Think Twilight Zone with more supernatural stories and yet often having twist endings.

That’s right, the other anthology Rod Serling TV Show, the darker-themed one.

December 16, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, a weekly NBC series that unleashed weekly tales of spine-tingling terror and suspense.  To celebrate 50 years, Creature Features, an award-winning publisher of high-quality art and pop culture books, commemorates the series with the new book Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: The Art of Darkness.

New Book Pays Homage To ‘Rod Serling’s Night Gallery’ – Horror News Network

If you haven’t seen Night Gallery before, I’m jealous. A bunch of wild, weird and wonderful stories await your viewing pleasure. A young Steven Spielberg directed one episode of this TV series called “Eyes” and starred Joan Crawford.