Of Blogathons and Linodes

For at least the last year, blogathons have kept The Stop Button going. I was aiming for a Stop Button post every other day in 2019. 183 posts total for the year. For Stop Button. The only “theme” the posts would have is lots of them would be blogathon posts. Because blogathons take the hard work out of figuring out what to watch. I keep meaning to do a blogathon directory for Stop Button but it’s a lot of work. However, I am rather grateful blogathons aren’t just still a thing but also the quality of said blogathons. The bloggers putting them on have been de facto programming my movie watching (and blogging) for a couple years or whatever. The least I owe is a nice directory of blogathon posts.

Maybe after… I don’t know, after something.

The previous paragraph is just preamble to talk about actually programming The Stop Button again for the first time in recent memory. I used to maintain this endless watch list, which eventually ended up in Google Sheets because there were various calculations going on trying to randomize selections but with some intentional weighing. I’m not doing the spreadsheet thing again.

I am, however, using a tech-fueled system to program.

I’ve been trying to get a Linode going for at least a year. I could look and see when I first tried to get a WordPress install up and going, but it still bothers me I couldn’t figure it out. Just way too much work. Maybe not if I knew how to get a domain up and going in 2019 (or 2018) but I don’t and learning how wasn’t going to happen. There’s also the problem of Linode’s help files either being out of date or not seeming aware of the contents of the other help files they link. What was supposed to be simple turned into a major headache. So no Linode WordPress.

I did, however, manage to get a Mediawiki up and running and I manage my watch list with it. So yay, I finally set up my own Linode. Though still not with a working domain name but—again—it’s not worth the trouble.

It’s also not a public website so it’s fine.

I am now ready to program The Stop Button again on my own. Only I still have a bunch of outstanding blogathons to participate in so The Stop Button won’t officially start the new programming schedule until September. I’m also waiting on a few things before I select the first titles. Also not sure how I’m going to talk about those. But progress. Real, visible progress has been made. Albeit only in managing a watch list.

Which reminds me: I need to backup that watch list.

Linode makes it real easy too. Two buttons to click and two dollars a month, which doesn’t even eat into my credit balance because there was a Linode promotion running on “Core Intuition” when I signed up. Now Linode advertises on almost all the podcasts I follow.

Anyway. Success. And love to the blogathon bloggers, who’ll get that directory… someday.

Probably after September.

I really wish I could get a Patreon going to justify taking time off to blog, which ought to be too much of a shameful confession to make but whatever.

Blogging changes

I’m trying something new at Visual Reflux, which has been neglected. And since I’ve been cross-posting from VR to Comics Fondle, Comics Fondle has been neglected. Stop Button I’ve kept up on. Mostly. But Visual Reflux as a new primary site has been a bust. I spent most of my blogging time this year doing Stop Button, which I wanted to keep active but ended up focusing on once again. Even without much of a programming philosophy, I focused on it. Though some of it was doing so many blogathons I never could get started writing about TV, which was theoretically what 2019 blogging was going to be all about.

When I started Visual Reflux earlier this year I wanted to go with self-hosted WordPress, to get into the geekery of blogging again, which has been very disappointing. Primarily because I had wanted to set it up on Linode, then kept failing and finally giving up.

Spoiler: Visual Reflux is going to WordPress.com real soon. I can’t with this… it’s 2019.

And the second half of 2019 is going to be a lot, blogging-wise, even though it’s not going to be a lot of blogging. It’ll probably be about the same amount between the three blogs–VR, Comics Fondle, Stop Button. Or at least not so heavily focused on Stop Button everything else suffers. The plan as of right now is to use Visual Reflux for everything not comics or movies. TV posts, Summing Up category posts—these colloquial ones—music posts, which might happen. And whatever else isn’t comics or movies. Except the new capsule reviews I’m doing at Stop Button. Those are going to get crossposted to VR on a post-by-post basis, not weekly or something. So I’m going to have to check the format for really short posts on those ones.

And Comics Fondle is finally going to get a site overhaul. Not sure I’m going to go into all the categories and tags but there’s going to be some browsing. It’ll get a whole new theme, which VR might get too.

Stop Button is going to have a programming schedule (of sorts). I’ll write about it on its own.

Planned posts is going to be a thing for Visual Reflux. Next post will be about The Stop Button. How blogathons kept me interested in film enough to keep the blog going while not having any interest in picking what movies I watched and wrote about. Then a post about what the new Stop Button schedule is going to be like and be. It’s a very, very low bar constraint-wise. But it’s what I got.

Then an aside about Linode.

Then a post about refreshing Comics Fondle, maybe written as I do it just to get me to both do the refresh and the post.

Then I don’t know what. A conclusion and recap maybe?

But right now sleep.

Capsule movie reviews to date

Lights Out (2016, Savannah Bloch)
Not Recommended
Well-made (particularly well-photographed by Cooper Ulrich) but ultimately pointless short about young mother Alixzandra Dove dealing with a naughty toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed. Dove’s okay, director Bloch’s okay; the writing does it in.
DVD, Streaming
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Henry Fool (1997, Hal Hartley)
★★★½
Obnoxious jerk Thomas Jay Ryan befriends (and exploits) introvert garbageman/unknown great American poet James Urbaniak, seducing his sister (a spectacular Parker Posey) but encouraging his writing. Very long, very difficult. The last act is truly phenomenal stuff.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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It Came from Outer Space (1953, Jack Arnold)
★½
Richard Carlson and Barbara Rush see a spaceship crash and can’t get anyone to believe them until it’s too late and the aliens start messing with the townsfolk. Arnold’s got a few big directing missteps (he races through every scene and doesn’t know how to compose shots on his sets). Simultaneously too short (at eighty minutes) and too long. Ray Bradbury wrote the original story treatment.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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It Happens Every Spring (1949, Lloyd Bacon)
★½
Ray Milland’s a college professor with a science-powered baseball who becomes a star pitcher. Paul Douglas is his catcher, Jean Peters is his girlfriend. Great performance from Douglas and some good writing can’t save the dull film. Milland’s disinterested and charmless, Peters is good but not in it enough to matter.
DVD, Streaming.
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The Killers (1946, Robert Siodmak)
★★½
Okay but overlong noir has insurance investigator Edmond O’Brien sure there’s more to his claim involving Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, and Albert Dekker. Flashbacks galore don’t add up to a good character arc for anyone involved. Ostensibly based on the Hemingway short story, but not really.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Perry Mason: The Case of the Sinister Spirit (1987, Richard Lang)

Satisfactory PERRY MASON TV movie has Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, and William Katt in a haunted hotel. Perry (Burr) has to defend old pal Robert Stack (who phones it in). Actually good Kim Delaney figures into the suspect pool, along with annoyingly awful Dwight Schultz. Burr gets a lot to do but Hale doesn’t. An otherwise amiable Katt’s comes off bored with his Delaney flirtation. Rocky in parts, but goodwill (and Delaney) carry it.
DVD.
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King Kong Escapes (1967, Honda Ishirô)

Charming Toho (paired with Rankin-Bass) KING KONG features a lot of homage to the original, great villains, appealing romantic leads (albeit chaste ones because 1967 and interracial romance), and an excellent fight scenes. Drawbacks include bland white guy lead Rhodes Reason and the King Kong suit. Also Ifukube Akira’s self-derivative score (reusing classic GODZILLA themes) though it too eventually is charming-ish. Goofy, but all right.
None.
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Paris Blues (1961, Martin Ritt)
★★
Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll are American tourists in Paris who meet expat jazz musicians Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier. They pair off on color lines (a change from the source novel, where Newman’s character romances Carroll’s); the men grapple with possibly returning to the States with their new ladies while still trying to hit it big. Bad script and often inert direction from Ritt does it in. A real missed opportunity; wastes the cast.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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The Incredible Hulk (2008, Louis Leterrier), the extended version
★★

Fan-made extended version–putting in deleted scenes to flesh things out to star and uncredited co-writer Edward Norton’s original intent–suffers from most of the theatrical version’s problems, but does give Norton a much better arc before he bows out to let the CG take over. Some great stuff for him and love interest Liv Tyler. It’s sad the film won’t ever get an official revision, as fan attempts show potential incredibleness. The CG end’s still bunk.
None.
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🍿
Irreversible (2012, David Levinson)
Not Recommended

Short film with a reverse order narrative gimmick and nothing else. The story–about asshole Timothy Paul Driscoll dumping girlfriend Alice Hunter–is terrible. Writer/director Levinson seems utterly unaware his protagonist’s loathsome.
Streaming.
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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005, Shane Black)
★★★
Black comedy about thief Robert Downey Jr. masquerading as an actor and getting wrapped up in a noir-ish L.A. conspiracy. Val Kilmer’s sort of the hard-boiled P.I., Michelle Monaghan’s sort of the femme fatale. Great performance from Downey and phenomenally constructed script from director Black enable the whole thing. Kilmer and Monaghan are both excellent as well. The film takes itself a little too seriously (and Black’s got some willfully unpleasant tangents in addition to his insightful genre deconstruction).
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Japón (2002, Carlos Reygadas)
ⓏⒺⓇⓄ
Suicidal Alejandro Ferretis–he’s got a bad leg–travels to a rural area to do the deed, then meets an older woman (Magdalena Flores) and decides life’s worth living so long as she gets jiggy with him. Pretentious, self-indulgent, long. So long. Reygadas’s uneven direction is at least better than the script; the all-amateur cast is far from impressive.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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Joint Security Area (2000, Park Chan-wook)
ⓏⒺⓇⓄ
Ineptly executed decent idea–soldiers on either side of the Korean border becoming pals and how wrong things go. Park sentimentalizes more than directs. Some of the acting makes it bearable, though far from all of it.
DVD.
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L.A. Confidential (1997, Curtis Hanson)
★½
Middling (at best), “handsome,” Oscar-bait adaptation of James Ellroy corrupt cops novel set in early fifties L.A.. Good performance from Russell Crowe and a great one from Kevin Spacey can’t make up for ineffective lead Guy Pearce, risibily bad Kim Basinger turn as femme fatale, or director Hanson and Brian Helgeland’s disjointed script. It also underuses David Straithairn, which ought to be a crime.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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The Lower Depths (1936, Jean Renoir)
★★½
Problematic, reductive adaptation of Maxim Gorky play about residents of Russian flophouse and their successes and failures trying to get out of poverty. Great performances from Jean Gabin and Louis Jouvet, but director Renoir loses track of the film when away from them.
DVD.
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The Man in the Iron Mask (1998, Randall Wallace)
★★
Fun adventure has Leonardo DiCaprio as twins–one good, one bad–but really it’s just an excuse to do OLD MAN THREE MUSKETEERS with Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, and Gerard Depardieu (Gabriel Byrne’s fourth wheel D’Artagnan). Excellent performances from the Musketeers–with Irons and Malkovich always erring on the right side of ham–and Byrne’s got some good moments. DiCaprio’s okay enough; it helps he’s not in the movie very much.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Matewan (1987, John Sayles)
★½
Strangely simplistic take on a 1920s West Virginia coal miners work stoppage. The film’s jumbo scale gets away from director Sayles in the script so he relies way too heavily on caricature. Great performances from Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell, and David Strathairn. Very disappointing.
DVD.
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The Missouri Breaks (1976, Arthur Penn)
★★★★
Singular Western pits rustler-turned-farmer Jack Nicholson against mercenary Marlon Brando. Exceptional on most fronts, including Penn’s direction, Nicholson’s performance, and the John Williams score. Brando’s good too, he’s just not Nicholson.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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My Name is Nobody (1973, Tonino Valerii)
★★½
Fun but creatively lazy comedy Western about aging lawman Henry Fonda teaming up with amateur gunslinger Terence Hill to take on “The Wild Bunch.” Sergio Leone came up with the story, produced the picture in some uncredited but important capacity, and even directed some scenes. Or just one. He can’t doesn’t save it. In addition to the wonky narrative, the film gets way too preachy about the end of the Old West.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Night Moves (1975, Arthur Penn)
★★★★
Superlative mystery drama about L.A. private investigator Gene Hackman going to Florida on a case (to avoid his crumbling marriage to Susan Clark) and getting mixed up with stunt men, smuggling, and Jennifer Warren. Young Melanie Griffith is the missing person in the initial case. Exceptional performances from Hackman and Warren. Clark’s real good too. Penn’s direction and Alan Sharp’s script are both phenomenal. There’s nothing else like it; one of the best American films of the 1970s.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Olga’s Chignon (2002, Jérôme Bonnell)
★★★½
Patient, deliberate drama about a family coping with the mother’s death. Only the wrap-up is uneven; an excellent debut from writer-director Bonnell.
DVD.
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Over the Rainbow (2002, Ahn Jin-woo)
★★½
Romantic drama about a weather guy (Lee Jung-jae) trying to rediscover his past after a car accident leaves him with partial amnesia. Part of that rediscovery involves old friend (Jang Jin-young). Good performances from Lee and Jang–an outstanding one from Jang–make up for the third act problems and some general confusion involving the film’s extensive flashbacks.
DVD (R3).
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The Philadelphia Story (1940, George Cukor)
★★½
Just okay class comedy gets by on Cary Grant’s considerable charm as he tries to win ex-wife Katharine Hepburn back before she gets married again. Thin characters and stagy adaptation limit Hepburn most (Jimmy Stewart’s manifestly miscast). The rushed finish doesn’t help things either. Some nice direction from Cukor, though never in the pacing.
DVD (R3).
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Safety Last! (1923, Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor)
★★★½
Outstanding comedy has Lloyd going from store clerk to “Human Fly” as he tries to make it in New York City. Superb physical antics from Harold Lloyd; the film ends with his breathtaking attempt to scale as twelve-story building. Also a very accessible silent film for newbies
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Sea of Love (1989, Harold Becker)
★★★★
Beautifully written (by Richard Price) mystery has Al Pacino as a bachelor cop who tries to catch a killer who picks his victims through a dating service. Ellen Barkin is the date who becomes more than part of the job. Phenomenal performances from Pacino, Barkin, and John Goodman; great use of the New York City locations.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Caught in a Ham (2019, Miguel Jiron)
Not Recommended
Initially amusing, highly derivative (but in a homage-y sense) spin-off of a SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE character (Spider-Ham–an anthropomorphic “funny animal” Spider-Man variant) unfortunately serves as a prequel to that movie instead of a vehicle for Spider-Ham.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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The Shadow (1994, Russell Mulcahy)


★★★

After a silly opening, this 1930s-set adaptation of the 1930s pulp vigilante gets real good, real fast. Masterful script (from David Koepp), great cast (save Jonathan Winters), and some strong direction from Mulcahy. Lovebirds Alec Baldwin and Penelope Ann Miller have plenty of chemistry, as do Baldwin and nemesis John Lone.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Sling Blade (1996, Billy Bob Thornton), the director’s cut
★½
Sometimes lovely film about developmentally disabled Thornton (who stars, writes, directs) getting out of the mental hospital he’s been in since killing his mother and her lover as a child. He soon bonds with 12-year old Lucas Black, who’s experiencing his own traumas. Way too long, way too many montages. Embarrasing-to-the-production bad performance from Dwight Yoakam. Daniel Lanois’s music is almost as bad. Otherwise, well-acted and well-executed.
DVD.
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Sneakers (1992, Phil Alden Robinson)
★★★
Delightful comedic thriller has Robert Redford leading a group of high tech security experts who run afoul of Redford’s old hippie pal/nemesis Ben Kingsley. Great performances throughout (from an awesome, varied supporting cast), wonderful direction from Robinson, and a lovely, playful James Horner score. 126 minutes of expertly executed fun.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Speak (2004, Jessica Sharzer)
★★½
Pretty good young adult novel adaptation with a great performance from Kristen Stewart and some strong direction from Sharzer. The short running time hurts it.
DVD, Streaming.
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The Spies (1957, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
★★★½
Gérard Séty runs a failing psychiatric hospital and agrees to hide mysterious Curd Jürgens (for a fee). The hospital is then overrun by spies from both East and West, complicating things. All the acting is good; Séty is excellent. Very complex script, superiorly navigated by Clouzot’s direction.
DVD (R2).
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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982, Nicholas Meyer), the director’s edition
★★★★
Layered, complex TREK outing has William Shatner and company dealing with aging in the 23rd century, but also with Ricardo Montalban returning (from the original show) and going after the good guys. Beautifully produced, with fantastic direction, and a gorgeous James Horner score. Excellent acting from pretty much everyone.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984, Leonard Nimoy)
★★½
Well-made but problematically scripted sequel has William Shatner and the gang galavanting across the galaxy to try to resurrect a fallen comrade. Along the way, the Klingons (led by an enthusiastic but underwhelming Christopher Lloyd) go after Shatner’s kid (Merritt Butrick, back from II) and Robin Curtis (taking over from II’s Kirstie Alley). It’s a messy narrative. Great direction from Nimoy though. And some nice work from the cast, particularly DeForest Kelley.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Superman II (1980, Richard Lester), the restored international cut

Fan attempt to recreate foreign television version, which includes multiple scenes directed by original SUPERMAN director Richard Donner (the films were initially shot back-to-back). There are wildly different tones, including Lester–presumably–doing sequences laughing at people in disaster scenes. The version does offer some good Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure) interaction (the only in the series) along with fleshing out of the Lois and Clark romance. But it doesn’t fix any of the narrative’s outstanding problems. The original R.I.C. was traded online until Warner Bros. shut it down–after corporate sibling “Entertainment Weekly” did an article praising the fan effort–so no home video availability.

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Love Exists (1960, Maurice Pialat)
Highly Recommended
Director Pialat’s “tour” of Parisian suburbia, with Jean-Loup Reynold voicing the first-person narration. Covers Pialat’s childhood, the socioeconomic realities of the present, and some other features as well. Beautifully shot in black and white by Gilbert Sarthre. Superior twenty minutes. None.
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They’re a Weird Mob (1966, Michael Powell)

Rather bad comedy about Italian immigrant Walter Chiari moving to Australia. The acting is actually fine, it’s the script (by director Powell’s long-time partner Emeric Pressburger–under a pseudonym). May have been responsible for kicking off the Australian film industry? But otherwise, a big stinker.
DVD (R4).
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Thieves Like Us (1974, Robert Altman)
★★★★
Wonderful gem of a movie romance (between Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall) amid a 1930s-set crime drama. Will Carradine pick a life of bank robbing or listen to Duvall and go straight. Great performances from all involved and Altman’s direction excels in the setting. Screenplay by Calder Willingham, Joan Tewkesbury and Altman.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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36 Quai des Orfèvres (2004, Olivier Marchal)
★½
Sometimes quite good cop movie about good cop Daniel Auteuil and good-but-complicated cop Gérard Depardieu jockeying for the same promotion and both becoming morally compromised (or worse). Loses its footing more and more as things progress. Auteuil’s good, Depardieu’s awesome, but they can’t save the film from director Marchal or the script.
DVD.
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The Three Musketeers (1993, Stephen Herek)
ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

Graphically violent–but still PG–Disney adaptation boasts a shockingly good performance from Charlie Sheen, an appealing one from Oliver Platt, and a good villain turn from Michael Wincott but it’s otherwise fairly dreadful. Bad direction and a bad script (from David Loughery); awful performance from Chris O’Donnell (as D’Artagnan). Kiefer Sutherland tries and fails. Tim Curry’s a caricature of himself. It’s the pits.
DVD, Streaming.
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Tremors (1990, Ron Underwood)
★★★
Isolated desert town–full of lovable goofballs (led by handymen Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward)–has to contend with giant killer worm monsters. Great acting (Gross’s survivalist redefined the actor), wonderfully paced script, excellent special effects. It’s loads of fun.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Triple Cross (1966, Terence Young)
★★
WWII espionage thriller has English thief Christopher Plummer convincing German captors wants to spy for them so he can go back to the UK and become a double agent for the British. Good performances compensate for a shallow script and medicore direction from Young.
DVD, Streaming.
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The Twilight Samurai (2002, Yamada Yôji)
★½
Widowed samurai Sanada Hiroyuki has given up the warrior life to take care of his kids. Then childhood love Miyazawa Rie comes to town and things start changing. Good performances–especially from Sanada–but the narrative’s disjointed and suffers from a constant lack of focus
DVD, Blu-ray.
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Turn (2001, Hirayama Hideyuki)

A young woman (Makise Riho) gets in a car accident and, when she wakes up, finds she’s the only person in an otherwise empty world. Or is she? Oh, she also repeats the same day over and over again. Likable performances, but the film concentrates way too hard on its fantastic situation and not its characters.
DVD (R2).
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28 Days Later (2002, Danny Boyle)
★★★★
Cillian Murphy wakes up from a coma to discover the world overrun by zombies and has to try to survive. Not just from the zombies, but also from the military. Visually stunning, with Boyle shooting on DV; great script by Alex Garland; excellent performances. Murphy makes an outstanding Everyman. The film has at least one alternate ending version; rating is for whatever is on the U.S. DVD release.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Versus (2000, Kitamura Ryuhei)

Technically magnificent action/horror picture has Sakaguchi Tak fighting zombies with a samurai sword while wearing an ultra cool black leather trenchcoat. The writing is always iffy, but Kitamura’s direction tends to compensate enough.
DVD, Streaming.
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Volcano (1997, Mick Jackson)

Nicely paced disaster movie about a volcano growing out the La Brea Tar Pits. Anne Heche is the scientist, Tommy Lee Jones is the city guy, Gaby Hoffman’s his daughter. It’s occasionally annoying, with bad dialogue, but the cast is great. Heche and Don Cheadle are outstanding; Jones is fine. The film takes itself just seriously enough, which is not much.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005, Nick Park and Steve Box)
★★★½
First and only full-length theatrical outing for director Park and his clay animated creations Wallace and Gromit. It’s a great expansion of the duo’s adventures, but one is kind of okay. The clay animation and writing are exceptional work, as always, from Park and company.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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White Dog (1982, Samuel Fuller)
★★★½
Somewhat infamous film–studio Paramount shelved it before release due to controversy about the subject (cutesy star Kristy MacNichol adopts an awesome new dog, only to discover he’s been trained to attack Black people) and director Fuller stole a print and bounced to Europe to get it released somewhere at least. The film runs short, leaving a few too many plot threads untied, but it’s real good. It’s deliberative and thoughtful, nicely directed by Fuller, with strong performances from the four principals. Nice to see Paul Winfield lead a movie. Finally available officially, on DVD and Blu-ray (but from Criterion, not Paramount).

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White Nights (1985, Taylor Hackford)
★★½
Not entirely ludicrous tale of defector ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov (played by defector ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov) crash-landing in the Soviet Union and being forced into a cover-up involving Vietnam-era, tap dancing defector Gregory Hines. Phenomenal dance sequences occasionally get a little long (with Baryshnikov the more impressive). But Hines’s performance is easily the best. The Lionel Ritchie Oscar-winning song is a little much.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Perry Mason: The Case of the Lethal Lesson (1989, Christian I. Nyby II)
ⓏⒺⓇⓄ
Quintessential middling TV movie has Mason (Raymond Burr) teaching law school and his star pupil (William R. Moses, ingloriously replacing William Katt as the series’ blond P.I.) falsely accused of murder. Way too little Burr (he’s good when he’s around), way, way too little Barbara Hale. Moses’s arc involves his rich girl-poor boy romance with boundlessly annoying Alexandra Paul. They’ve got zero chemistry, which is mostly Moses’s fault though the direction and script are also weak. But, hey, could be worse. Followed by THE CASE OF THE MUSICAL MURDER.
DVD.
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Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake (1988, Ron Satlof)
ⓏⒺⓇⓄ
Poorly written, poorly directed PERRY MASON entry has Raymond Burr defending David Hasselhoff, which ought to have some kind of absurd value but doesn’t. Burr’s great (in lousy courtroom scenes), Hasselhoff’s atrocious (worse, it’s a try and fail not a don’t try and fail). Okay support from regulars Barbara Hale and William Katt. Hale’s not in it enough; it’s Katt’s last PERRY MASON. Great performance from Audra Lindley in the guest stars; pretty much everyone else is lousy. Though David Ogden Stiers has some good moments. Title’s way too long too. Followed by THE CASE OF THE LETHAL LESSON.
DVD.
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The MacKintosh Man (1973, John Huston)
ⓏⒺⓇⓄ
A miscast Paul Newman (he’s a British spy posing as an Australian for a bunch of the movie) tries to take down corrupt politician James Mason. Huston’s direction dilly-dallies and lolly-gags when it’s not dawdling. The script (credited solely to Walter Hill, who swears it’s not his fault) is bad. Newman having zero chemistry with female lead Dominique Sanda doesn’t help either. And the Maurice Jarre music is too slight. An unfortunate misfire, especially given those involved.
DVD, Streaming.
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Encore (1951, Pat Jackson, Anthony Pelissier, and Harold French)
★★★
Last (after QUARTET and TRIO) and most successful entry in trilogy of anthologies of W. Somerset Maugham adaptations. Three stories, all of them well-directed, at least one of them well-written, and all of them rather well-acted even when the writing’s not there. Great performances from Nigel Patrick, Roland Culver, Glynis Johns, and others. Maugham pointlessly and charmlessly introduces each story, which sometimes gets things off on the wrong foot.
DVD (R2), Streaming.
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Godzilla, King of Monsters! (1956, Terry O. Morse and Honda Ishirô)
ⓏⒺⓇⓄ
Unfortunate Americanization of the original Japanese GODZILLA adds dubbing and Raymond Burr to the story of a nuclear-powered monster destroying Japan. The whole atom bomb metaphor gets shucked; the script is bad, the shoehorning of Burr is bad (in writing, performance, and direction). See the original. Skip this one. Even if you have nostalgia.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Trio (1950, Ken Annakin and Harold French)
★★
Second (after QUARTET) in a trilogy of anthologies adapting W. Somerset Maugham short stories has good acting, okay writing, and some excellent direction (from Annakin not French) but just doesn’t quite work out due to its lopsided attentions. Maugham introduces the stories, sometimes getting cut off mid-sentence, which is sort of funny, sort of not. Followed by ENCORE.
DVD (R2), Streaming.
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Frankenstein Unbound (1990, Roger Corman)
★★½
After destroying the future trying to save the environment, scientist John Hurt goes into the past where he finds the events of Frankenstein (the novel) unfolding around him, with Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda) witnessing Dr. Frankenstein’s descent into madness. Raul Julia’s an amazing Frankenstein, Nick Brimble’s an amazing monster. Hurt’s a tad passive but very affable. He and Fonda sell their May-December romance. Nice direction, excellent music, lovely Italian locations, good special effects. Based on a Brian Aldiss novel.
DVD.
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Olden Times

I can’t remember the first time I discovered The Stop Button made it on Wayback Machine. It was a long time ago, maybe when I was trying to pad out content moving over to Sandvox. Somewhere–at least back then–a bunch of the first Stop Button (hosted on jablog) exists.

I’m currently doing yet another site-wide overhaul of existing material on Stop Button. I finished up the internal linking project last year (or the year before?) and haven’t really had any projects going with the site, leading to a lot of failed starts on other projects. Zines, e-Zines, e-Books, e-Zines as e-Books, on and on. Leading up to a capsule project (which would have been a capsule e-Zine then e-Zine as e-Book). But one thing I’ve always had a problem with on Stop Button is the search result excerpts.

For example, if–until today, you searched for “Frankenstein Unbound,” you got:

I don’t like the auto-excerpt because I don’t write with ledes. In the olden days, I had a custom excerpt along the lines of “A review of Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound, starring John Hurt, Raul Julia, and Nick Brimble,” which I also don’t like but at least it wasn’t the auto-excerpt.

But then I got thinking about those capsules I was writing and I wondered how they’d look. So now you get:

Maltin-esque capsule, a nice “Continue reading->” link, not wild about the star rating being separated but whatever. It’s a “good enough” amid an “I like it.” I’ve got a bunch of capsules done, but it’s a multi-year project. Two years I think.

I’ve been posting them on micro.blog, but I’m going to start doing them on Visual Reflux too. I think I meant to post them on VR but then didn’t. Not getting any engagement on micro.blog so… who knows, maybe VR will be better.

Maybe not.

I’m also changing up the footer links on each post.

For 99%-ish percent of the site, the links look like this:

The update, which has <div> tags to make me feel accomplished, looks like this:

Post-specific links were something I’ve wanted since Sandvox–they might have been one of the deciding factors in going to Sandvox–and there’s a lot you could do with them, as widgets, in WordPress. But self-hosted WordPress, not WordPress.com. Back in the olden days, when I ran a local WordPress install on my Mac mirroring the web, but with some related posts plugins going to generate the list for me, post links looked like this:

At some point in 2013, I started adding “also directed by” links. Not just links to the “By Director” index, but links to actual posts.

i.e.:

While we’re doing this trip down blog memory lane… here’s the old header.

Peanuts-inspired.

I manually updated all those links every time a related post “touched” them. So when Alien listed Frankenstein Unbound in its related posts, I went and updated Unbound’s related posts again.

So much fun.

Here’s the 2014 header.

One thing I don’t know about these old posts links is whether they had styling; Wayback doesn’t preserve the CSS.

At least not for Stop Button. Maybe they do with better sites.

But, wait! Look at late 2014.

No links. And why? Because I went through every post and took them off. There had been an OS X (pronounced aa·es·eks) update and it broke whatever I was using to run a local Stop Button mirror. So I couldn’t make the related posts “automatically” anymore.

And then I went in and added the links again on all the posts. So much fun. Fiddling with a fifteen year-old blog is like line-editing a novel draft. It gets really old really fast, yet you can’t stop yourself.

The moral of the story? I should’ve done the Maltin-esque capsules in the first place.

When you’re starting a blog or website, know what you’re going to want it to be doing in ten or fifteen years and know how the web technologies are going to change. Otherwise you’re in for a lot of fiddling.

But don’t it look so much better now?

Younger selves

One thing I do now when blog writing is spend however long I want on it. The whole reason for Stop Button’s old 250 word count constraint and Comics Fondle’s 150 one was so I wasn’t spending too much time writing blog posts. I wanted to be quick at it. Not so much anymore. Now I just go. I don’t edit either, which would seem very strange to my twenty-one or twenty-five year-old self. I don’t draft and revise blog writing. I just write it and post it. There are fourteen year old blog posts I’ve been revising this year finally. Things I’ve collected in print, things with hundreds and maybe thousands of readers, but no one caught the misused word and cared enough to comment. I’ve got a couple of my core readers who’ll let me know if there’s any grammatical or spelling error too egregious but otherwise… I just let it fly.

I would have had zero respect for me. At twenty-one or twenty-five. Zero respect. Though I would’ve also had zero respect for any Internet publishing. I had no respect for any kind of ad-supported writing. I was an elitist about being elitist. Not an elitist’s elitist because… elitists were icky bad, but sort of anti-snobbery snobbery. Contradictions are great ways to get in personality and, for some reason, it really clicks with readers who have mild contradictions. Or at least have observed them. It’s probably also why (middle class White) people are so obtuse about people who vote Republican.

I’ve got my big writing day tomorrow. The most fun I’m going to have with it is probably the header image, though I’m thinking about some quote things. I’ve learned a bunch of fake CSS for WordPress.com lately. I’ve started a long-term Stop Button project involving it. Long term meaning at least a couple years. Last time I did a long term Stop Button project (on the same area of the post, actually) it took so long I forgot when I’d started it or even had it as a goal. This time I’m… just as disorganized. It’s supposed to be a fun project. Quick mental gymnastics. Some standard coding, some inventiveness, pretty columns.

Pretty columns also work for images and quotes, so maybe I’ll incorporate those tomorrow.

I actually have two blogathons starting tomorrow (and running concurrently). Not sure if I’ll just do both posts tomorrow and leave it or stagger them. Guess it depends on how writing goes, which I should be a little more worried about than I am.

It’s one of those posts I should definitely proofread and revise but I might not have time.

Again, this lack of good creative scheduling would rather disappoint my younger selves. Though, frankly, I’m constantly disappointed in them too.

Introvert blogging

The first blog comment I ever got—on jablog—made me question the whole idea of starting a blog. It certainly affected how much I was going to engage with commentators. Back in the early days of blogging, when you read every kind of blog because there were (relatively) so few, people made comments a lot. Even if it wasn’t exactly on point. A gracious read of white men forever commenting on something they don’t need to comment on or don’t know jack shit about could be they’re trying to show they read the thing. It’s also an incorrect read, but based on those early days, I could see it as a bad defense.

I’ve been thinking about blog comments a lot lately because I just got a number of them. I’m pretty sure there are full years The Stop Button went without any comments. Not three, but maybe two. My blogging style doesn’t promote conversation, which is… what it is. I feel a lot more differently about it now than I did when I started but, conversely, I have a lot less time to watch movies. I’m pretty set in how I’m choosing movies to watch, movies to write about. There was a “Five Favorite Movies of the Fifties” blogathon last week and, while I recommend everyone go and read every post and make a watch list… I still haven’t done it. I don’t have a watch list for movies anymore. Because between my watch list, contemporary releases, contemporary home video releases, direct recommendations, and indirect recommendations I’m… seventeen years behind.

About Schmidt was the first film I remember deferring. Still deferred.

Anyway, at the same time was I getting all these productive comments, I was also getting a little flurry of negative ones. Not on the post for the blogathon, but on random sci-fi movies. The commenter saying they disagreed and they liked the special effects or some such. I get polite, community-building commenting. I don’t get the “thumbs down” posts. I got one years ago on the Alien 3 assembly cut post saying I wasn’t being productive in my post. I responded to the comment saying it wasn’t my goal to make a productive suggestion because no one cares about my suggestions for $49 million dollar movies.

The most famous commenter I ever got was Fred Dekker, who emailed me about my Monster Squad review but left a comment for my Robocop 3 one. He really didn’t like the Robocop 3 one and I took great pleasure in not posting it because he swore so much. In hindsight, I should’ve just edited out all the fucks. But he said something about how I shouldn’t be picking on fifteen year-old movies. I sometimes wonder what kind of comments other people got because, at that time, I seriously got a search engine hit for “Fred Dekker” almost every day of the week. I’m being a little mean but did you watch Predator 4? Also Monster Squad normalizes and promotes the fuck out of homophobia.

In workshops I’ve seen writing students piss instructors off so much the instructor throws an eraser (the student said his work couldn’t be improved on, every word was his exact intention). I’ve also gotten yelled at for arguing about whether or not kung fu is Japanese. That person shit-mouthed me for the rest of the semester, which is hilarious because I was leading a positive discussion of her piece. Me and comments are always on shaky ground.

Visual Reflux is supposed to be all about old time blogging (practice) and part of it is comments.

The funny thing about blog comments is they lead to me and Matt Hurwitz starting “Alan Smithee Podcast,” arguably the highest profile thing I ever did online.

So I don’t know. There are all sorts of tips and tricks to driving comment-based engagement—written back in 2007 or 2008, I’m sure–but I can’t stand even being a little patronizing. Not to drive engagement. To talk shit, sure, but not to drive engagement. Engagement is one of those things I refuse to fret over. If I thought it was worth fretting over, I’d write to encourage it.

Introvert blogging?

Unfettered verbosity

When I started Visual Reflux, it was going to be all my web-writing. I wouldn’t launch A Televisual Feast, I’d roll Comics Fondle into VR immediately and start thinking about bringing Stop Button in too. If it were 2005 and I hadn’t spent fourteen years blogging at thestopbutton.com, it might have worked out. But it really hasn’t. Visual Reflux has a lot of regular content, but it’s more colloquial stuff than me sitting down and writing focused posts about every Fawlty Towers episode, which still may happen but not for a while. And I’ve got a good process for it (thanks to the now portable MacBook Air). So, of course I’m ending up back at micro.blog.

Starting with this week’s “scheduled” daily posts, I’m cross-posting to a.micro.blog (or micro.thestopbutton.com). I waited years for micro.blog to launch—launching and basically quitting Summing Up while waiting for it—subscribed and fairly quickly stopped using it. I’ve ended my subscription twice. I’ve restarted my subscription twice. Cross-posting to micro.blog means a lot more “social networking” than before for this writing. It might lead to more readers, it might not. But not cross-posting definitely doesn’t lead to more readers from micro.blog. I’m also taking down the 100% link-posting to the Comix Gallery Facebook page, which has been the Comics Fondle (blog and podcast) social spot. Outside comments, which I still need to write about in general. However many months in and VR is starting to get more focused, both in terms of content and intent.

Well, if I can keep to a schedule.

I’m getting to the point I’ve got more ideas for daily posts than days to write daily posts. There’s the blog comments post, there’s a “Legends of Tomorrow” post, there’s a newspapers.com post, there’s an iMac hacked to run Mojave post, there’s a media epistemology post, there’s a Phantom Menace post, there’s even a “what’s new at The Stop Button” post. There are a lot of back burners. If writing these daily posts were a traditional writing practice, I’d just set some time aside to write them and maybe even randomize the topics. Draw one from a virtual hat, write about it for thirty minutes or whatever. Unfortunately, I don’t have a set writing time. Set writing time makes all the difference.

Even with a portable MacBook Air.

I could also write a whole post about getting a MacBook Air used as a desktop for two years turned into one meant for portable computing needs.

I think the tl;dr of this post is cross-posting to a.micro.blog is going to be a thing. I don’t know if there’s much else. Unfettered verbosity.