Cinemax Friday: Die Watching (1993, directed by Charles Davis)

Mentally scarred by the night that his mother murdered his father, Michael Terrence (Christopher Atkins) is a video editor who makes his living filming naked models and who deals with his mental issues by then asphyxiating those same models.  Michael’s main kink is that he ties his victims up in front of a monitor and then films them as they die, basically forcing them to witness their own murders.  In other words, Michael is one sick puppy who has perhaps seen Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom a few too many times.

Despite the fact that dead actresses and models are turning up all over Los Angeles, Detectives Lewis (Tim Thomerson) and Barry (Carlos Palomino) have no idea that Michael is responsible.  In fact, no one suspects Michael.  His neighbor, an aspiring artist named Nola (Vali Ashton), even hires Michael to help her promote her artwork.  Despite the fact that Nola already has a boyfriend, she and Michael fall in love.  Falling in love causes Michael to lose his urge to kill but it may already be too late as a video of one of his murders has fallen into the wrong hands.

For some reason, Christopher Atkins was a direct-to-video and Cinemax mainstay in the 90s.  I’ve never understood why because he was a terrible actor with absolutely no screen presence.  Unlike C. Thomas Howell, who was bland in mainstream films but usually surprisingly good when he did direct-to-video work, Atkins was always forgettable regardless of whether he was appearing in a major studio production or something like Die Watching.  For a film like this to work, the film has to convince you that there’s at least a chance the murderer could have been a decent human being if not for his tragic past.  Atkins just comes across like a natural born weirdo.  Atkins gives a sweaty and nervous performance but he makes Michael so obviously disturbed that it’s impossible to buy that Nola would dump her boyfriend for him.  Judd Nelson or, again, C. Thomas Howell probably could have pulled off the role.  Christopher Atkins just feels wrong.

Of course, the target audience for this film doesn’t care about the acting or the plot or anything else.  They care about the women and those who watch a film like this solely for the nudity won’t be disappointed.  Vali Ashton is actually really likable as Nola, though the film is stolen by Erika Nann, who plays Nola’s sex-obsessed roommate and who gets the best lines.  (Of course, there’s a difference between getting the best lines in Die Watching and getting the best lines in something like Hamlet.)  It’s also good to see Tim Thomerson in practically anything, even when it’s something as dumb as Die Watching.  

Die Watching is pretty dire but it does predict the rise of a very specific type of internet culture.  When Michael accidentally sends one of his murder tapes to a producer instead of one of his sex tapes, the producer is not disturbed but instead, he’s intrigued by the commercial possibilities.  Even Michael knows that’s messed up!  If Die Watching were made today, of course, that producer would probably own an adult website and he would be talking about selling the murder videos on the dark web.  It just goes to show that the more things chance, the more they remain the same.


Scenes That I Love: Valmont’s Nightclub from Danger Diabolik!

The film is 1968’s Danger Diabolik!  The music is courtesy of Morricone.  The direction is courtesy of Mario Bava.  Does the scene make any sense?  Does it have to?  This film is all about pure style and it’s hard to think of any place as stylish (by 1968 standards) as Valmont’s Nightclub.

Today, as we continue to honor the memory of Ennio Morricone and celebrate the birthday of Mario Bava, this just seems like the perfect scene to share.

Song of the Day: Deep Down by Ennio Morricone

Danger: Diabolik (1968)

Since today is Mario Bava’s birthday, it only seems appropriate that today’s song of the day should come from one of his films.

From Ennio Morricone’s score to Mario Bava’s 1968 film Danger: Diabolik, here is Deep Down!

Previous Entries In Our Tribute To Morricone:

  1. Deborah’s Theme (Once Upon A Time In America)
  2. Violaznioe Violenza (Hitch-Hike)
  3. Come Un Madrigale (Four Flies on Grey Velvet)
  4. Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence)
  5. The Strength of the Righteous (The Untouchables)
  6. So Alone (What Have You Done To Solange?)
  7. The Main Theme From The Mission (The Mission)
  8. The Return (Days of Heaven)
  9. Man With A Harmonic (Once Upon A Time In The West)
  10. The Ecstasy of Gold (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly)
  11. The Main Theme From The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly)
  12. Regan’s Theme (The Exorcist II: The Heretic)
  13. Desolation (The Thing)
  14. The Legend of the Pianist (The Legend of 1900)
  15. Theme From Frantic (Frantic)
  16. La Lucertola (Lizard In A Woman’s Skin)
  17. Spasmodicamente (Spasmo)
  18. The Theme From The Stendhal Syndrome (The Stendhal Syndrome)
  19. My Name Is Nobody (My Name Is Nobody)
  20. Piume di Cristallo (The Bird With The Crystal Plumage)
  21. For Love One Can Die (D’amore si muore)
  22. Chi Mai (various)
  23. La Resa (The Big Gundown)
  24. Main Title Theme (Red Sonja)
  25. The Main Theme From The Cat O’Nine Tails (The Cat O’Nine Tails)

Here’s The Trailer For After We Collided!

For those of you who were wondering if the worst film of 2019 was going to have a sequel …. well, here’s your answer!

Joseph Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin are back as the two most boring young lovers alive.  This trailer certainly makes it look steamy but I’ll be surprised if the actual film lives up to the promise of the preview.  That’s one reason why I love trailers.  Trailers are often more interesting than the film itself.

Anyway, After We Collided will be released on October 2nd so don’t worry!  In only a few more months, you will once again have a chance to watch two people with almost zero romantic and sexual chemistry take a shower together.

The Things You Find On Netflix: Tread (dir by Paul Solet)

On June 4th, 2004, the small town of Granby, Colorado was briefly the center of the nation’s attention.

On that day, an armor-plated bulldozer rumbled down the streets of Granby.  The driver of the bulldozer was a local business owner named Marvin Heemeyer.  Heemeyer, who had previously been at the center of a zoning controversy, spent two hours driving the bulldozer through various buildings in Granby.  He destroyed the muffler shop that he had once owned.  He destroyed a nearby concrete plant.  He drove through the Granby City Hall.  He smashed the bulldozer through the offices of the local newspaper.  He demolished the home of a family who he felt had conspired against him.  He took out a hardware store.  For two hours, the police chased him, firing their weapons at the bulldozer and discovering that nothing could slow him down.  In fact, it wasn’t until one of the bulldozers’ treads dropped into the hardware store’s basement that the rampage stopped,  Unable to free the tread, Marvin Heemeyer committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Before he went on his rampage, Heemeyer recorded himself talking about why he was going to do what he did.  He mailed those tapes to his brother in South Dakota a few hours before getting in the bulldozer.  His brother later turned those tapes over to the FBI.  In the tapes, Heemeyer discussed what he felt was years of harassment by the Granby town council and the zoning board.  He described himself as being an “American patriot” and he even went so far as to say that he felt his rampage was predestined.  He also went on to express amazement that he was able to spend two years openly modifying the bulldozer and turning it into a tank without anyone asking him what was going on.  He also made clear that when he entered the bulldozer for the last time, he knew that he was never going to leave it.  He truly was going on a suicide mission.

Those tapes are at the center of Tread, a documentary about Marvin Heemeyer and his 2004 rampage.  The film alternates between people discussing their memories of Marvin and that day and the taped voice of Marvin himself attempting to explain his motivations.  Almost everyone who is interviewed talks about what a friendly and genuinely nice person Marvin seemed to be.  Even though Marvin spent two years planning his rampage, no one — not even his girlfriend — appeared to suspect a thing.  Even in the weeks directly before his rampage, Marvin was making plans for the summer.  One friend of Marvin’s does speculate that Marvin spent “too much time alone.”

As many people interviewed point out, Marvin was, by most measures, a successful businessman.  He had a reputation for being the best welder in the county and he opened up a muffler shop in a building that he bought for $44,000.  He later sold that building for $400,000.  However, as the tapes reveal, Marvin didn’t view selling his shop for a profit as being a success.  Instead, he viewed as something that he was forced to do by the town council and their refusal to side with him in a zoning dispute that he had with the manufacturers of a concrete plant.  Marvin felt that the town was ruled by one family and that family was conspiring against him and singling him out for harassment.

I’m about as anti-government as they come so my natural instinct, when Tread began, was to be sympathetic to Marvin’s anger, if not his solution.  And, having now watched the documentary, I still have no doubt that Marvin probably was, to an extent, targeted by the zoning board and the town council.  The fact of the matter is that it’s rare that people don’t let the least amount of power go to their head.  That’s especially true when it comes to small towns.  There seems to be a natural pettiness that comes along with having power.  That’s true regardless of whether you’re the mayor of a small town in Colorado or the governor of a state like …. oh, I don’t know, let’s just say Michigan and New Jersey.  At the same time, when you listen to Marvin’s voice on tapes, it’s obvious that there was more going on in Marvin’s head than just anger over the zoning dispute.  When Marvin talks about how God obviously wanted him to modify the bulldozer and use it to destroy the town, you realize that, if it hadn’t been the zoning dispute, it probably would have been something else.  Marvin comes across as time bomb while the town leaders come across as being the people who unknowingly lit the fuse.

I have to admit that, until I watched this documentary, I had never heard of him but a simple Google search revealed that, in the years following his death, Marvin Heemeyer has gone on to become a hero to certain anti-government activists.  Though it’s been 16 years since he unleashed his bulldozer on the town of Granby, his story still feels relevant today.  There’s still a lot of angry people out there and, if anything, the people in power have gotten even more heavy-handed and arbitrary in their behavior today than they were in 2004.  That said, if you’re looking for a film that either vilifies or blindly celebrates Marvin Heemeyer, Tread is not that film.  Overall, Tread portrays Marvin Heemeyer as being a complicated man who, in the town of Granby, found the perfect reason (or, depending on how much sympathy you may or may not have for him, excuse) to strike out.

It’s currently available on Netflix.

Here’s The Trailer For Honest Thief!

Liam Neeson’s money has been ….. TAKEN!


Yeah, okay, it’s an obvious joke and not a particularly clever one but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who instinctively makes a joke about Taken whenever I see another trailer featuring Liam Neeson holding a gun or cracking a safe.

Anyway, Honest Thief stars Liam Neeson as a veteran thief who wants to retire so that he can marry Kate Walsh.  However, he’s just been double-crossed by two FBI agents and now, he has to do what he has to do to get his money back.

Honest Thief is scheduled to be released on October 9th.  Here’s the trailer!

Here The Trailer for Kajillionaire!

Here’s the trailer for Kajillionaire!  This comedy has already received some critical acclaim on the festival circuit and, assuming that we’re actually going to give out Oscars next year, there’s been some speculation that Debra Winger could pick a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Kajillionaire will be released on September 18th.  Though I find the title to be a bit annoying, I always find myself relating to any character played by Evan Rachel Wood so I look forward to seeing the film.

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for July

At this point, who knows anything?

I’m making my monthly predictions on the assumption that most of these movies are even going to be released this year (and during the first two months of 2021).  I may be making an even bigger assumption when I predict that they’ll even give out Oscars for 2020.  Right now, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen.

But I am going to keep making these predictions because their fun to make and I believe that you do have to have some sort of normalcy in life.  You can’t just say, “OH MY GOD, EVERYTHING’S SO NEGATIVE!  I’M JUST GOING TO SIT IN FRONT OF TWITTER AND DRINK FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!”  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  A lot of people are, in fact, saying and doing just that.  It’s kind of sad to think about the number of people who I once liked but who I have still, over the past few months, muted because I’m just sick of all the drama.  I suppose I could list them all here just to see if any of them are actually bothering to read my posts but …. no, no.  This post is about the movies and the performers and the Oscars who make every year a special year.

Be sure to check out my previous predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture


Da 5 Bloods

The Father

Hillbilly Elegy


News of the World




West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Ron Howard for Hillbilly Elegy

Spike Lee for Da 5 Bloods

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Chloe Zhao for Nomadland

Best Actor

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods

Bill Murray in On The Rocks

Gary Oldman in Mank

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Hillybill Elegy

Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

Kate Winslet in Ammonite

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Tom Burke in Mank

Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking about Jamie

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steven Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy

Olivia Colman in The Father

Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite

Debra Winger in Kajillionaire

Helena Zengel in News of the World

Film Review: The Comic (dir by Carl Reiner)

The 1969 film, The Comic, details the long and not particularly happy life of silent screen star Billy Bright (played by Dick Van Dyke).  Billy Bright tells us his story from beyond the grave.  The film opens with his funeral, which is sparsely attended and features the type of self-consciously mawkish eulogies that are usually trotted out whenever a generally unlikable person dies.  The only sign of life at the funeral comes when Billy’s oldest friend, Cockeye (Mickey Rooney), throws a pie at one of the speakers.  The speaker says that the pie was Billy’s final joke.

Billy Bright was a funny performer but a miserable man.  That’s pretty much the entire plot of The Comic.  We see the young Billy, performing in silent films and winning laughs through the seemingly impossible contortions through which he puts his body and his face.  Off-screen, Billy marries one of his co-stars (Michele Lee) and starts a production company.  When she discovers that he’s been cheating on her, their divorce is a major Hollywood scandal.

Even before the coming of the talkies, Billy struggles with alcohol.  Once the talkies do come, his career is pretty much over.  Billy became a star in silent films and he stubbornly wants to continue to make silent films, despite the fact that there’s no longer an audience for them.  Billy quickly goes from being a star to being forgotten.  He’s reduced to walking down Hollywood Boulevard with Cockeye and looking at the names under his feet.  When he reaches his name, he discovers that someone has dropped their gum on it.

Billy finally does get his comeback in the late 60s but it’s not much of a comeback.  He appears on a talk show and it’s hard not to cringe a little as the clearly infirm Billy duplicates some of his silent era pratfalls.  He’s reduced to appearing in a rather awkward commercial for a laundry detergent called, I kid you not, White-ee.  “That’s White-ee, baby!” his commercial co-star says after a freshly cleaned Billy emerges from a washing machine.

The idea that most funny performers are actually rather serious and depressing off-stage is certainly nothing new.  Judd Apatow has basically built an entire career out of making films about how funny people are actually carrying around tons of emotional baggage.  The thing distinguishes The Comic from so many other films about angsty comedians is that Billy Bright himself never seems to have a single moment of self-awareness.  Usually, films about miserable celebrities will at least have one scene where the main character realizes that his misery is all his fault.  Billy Bright is pretty much a jerk from the minute we meet him and he’s still a jerk when the film ends.  He’s the type of guy who makes a big deal about picking up his son from school but who still manages to grab the wrong kid because it’s been so long since he’s spent any time with his family that he’s really not sure what his son looks like.  Towards the end of the film, we see him watching one of his old films and what we notice is that he doesn’t seem amused at all.  Is he thinking about how he lost it all or is it possible that this man who made millions laugh never really had much of sense of humor himself?  The film leaves it to you to decide.

The Comic was written and directed by Carl Reiner, who undoubtedly knew quite a few Billy Brights in his life.  As such, the film feels authentic in a way that a lot of other films about creative people do not.  The Comic is a well-made film.  It’s hard not to appreciate the film’s obviously affection for Old Hollywood.  That said, Billy Bright is such an unpleasant character that I found the film difficult to enjoy.  Van Dyke is genuinely funny whenever he’s doing Billy’s silent film shtick and he’s genuinely tiresome when Billy’s ego gets out of control.  It’s a good performance as a generally unlikable character.  How you react to The Comic will probably depend on how much sympathy you can summon up for a character who doesn’t really seem to deserve any.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Mario Bava Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

106 years ago today, the greatest of all director, Mario Bava, was born in Italy!  Today is a bit of a holiday here at the TSL Bunker.  In honor of the great Mario Bava, here are….

4 Shots from 4 Films

Black Sabbath (1963, dir by Mario Bava)

Blood and Black Lace (1964, dir by Mario Bava)

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966, dir by Mario Bava)

Bay of Blood (1971, dir by Mario Bava)