October Positivity: Power of the Air (dir by Dave Christiano)

The 2018 film, Power of the Air, tells the story of David Williams (Nicholas X. Parsons).  David thinks that he can be a committed Christian despite the fact that he spends every weekend at the movies.  In fact, he and his friends have a streak going.  For over 40 weekends, they have gone to the movies and David has never once worried about all of the violence, nudity, and adult language that he sees.

Some might say that this is because David is an adult who has found a way to relax after work.  However, a Nigerian missionary named Emeka Odum (played — quite well, it must be said — by Veryl Jones) says that it’s because David is using the movie theater as a substitute for church.  As Odum explains it, the movie theater has become America’s new house of worship and, as a result, America is now a second-rate nation that has lost its way.  Why, in three years, America might even have a president who obviously doesn’t know where he is half the time.  And it’s all Hollywood’s fault!  Well, actually, the movie suggests that it’s really your fault for going to the movies.

If that sounds like an old-fashioned message, that’s because Power of the Air is a very old-fashioned movie.  That is perhaps not surprising, as this is a Dave Christiano production, but it still feels strange to hear David — the character and not the director, though one gets the feeling that it’s not a coincidence that they share the same name — announce that he can no longer watch any movies that feature people cursing.  I mean, avoiding a movie because of violence makes sense to me.  Avoiding a movie because of nudity or political messaging is also understandable.  Everyone has different things that they’re looking for.  But avoiding a movie because of cursing is basically just another way of announcing that you’re never going to watch another movie.  I mean, I’ve known plenty of Christians who do curse.  At the same time, I do have to admit that I hardly ever curse but that’s just because I don’t want to sound like everyone else.  I gave up cursing for Lent and my sisters all accused me of cheating because, according to them, it’s not really a sacrifice if you give up something that you don’t actually do.

Anyway, David wants to use mass media to spread a good Christian message so he comes up with the idea of broadcasting a commercial on all fifteen of his city’s radio stations at the exact same time.  As he sees it, this will mean that everyone will hear the commercial whether they try to change the station or not.  (Or, you know, they might just turn off their radio.  Or they might turn down the volume.  Or they might resent having David’s message forced upon them and respond by going to a Marvel film.)  Unfortunately, Charlie (Patty Duke), the manager of the biggest station in town, doesn’t want to run a religious commercial.  Can David change her mind?

Of course, I think the real problem with David’s plan is that the days of people spending all day listening to the local radio stations are pretty much over.  That’s true today and it was true when this film was made in 2018.  There are now so many options out there and so many other ways to keep oneself entertained during the day that the idea of everyone in the city listening to local AM radio seems a bit naïve.  David really should have started a podcast or something.

Anyway, Power of the Air is a fairly slow-moving film and it’s one of those films that will mostly appeal to people who already agree with its message.  The film is probably most interesting as Dave Christiano’s feature-length justification for making the type of movies that he does.  The main message seems to be that if only more people watched Christiano’s films, then David wouldn’t have had to spend all that money on those radio ads.

Horror On TV: Circle of Fear 1.18 “Legion of Demons” (dir by Paul Stanley)

Shy Beth (Shirley Knight) is now to the city and still struggling to make friends.  Fortunately, her friend Janet gets her a nice corporate job.  Unfortunately, Janet then vanishes and Beth discovers that her co-workers are more than just office workers,  I won’t spoil the twist, since the title of this episode already did that.

Legion of Demons aired on February 2nd, 1973 and it undoubtedly led to a lot of viewers saying, “I think they filmed that at my office!”


The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The First Power (dir by Robert Reskinoff)

In this 1990 horror film, Lou Diamond Phillips plays Russell Logan, a Los Angeles police detective who specializes in capturing and sometimes killing serial killers.  (“So far,” a news reporter breathlessly tells us, “Detective Logan has captured or killed three serial killers!”)  His latest triumph is the capture of Patrick Channing (Jeff Kober), also known as the Pentagram Killer because he carves a pentagram on his victims.

Logan captures Channing thanks to a tip from a psychic named Tess (Tracy Griffith).  Tess specifically made Logan promise her that he wouldn’t push for Channing to get the death penalty.  However, after Logan captures him, he goes back on his word and Channing is sentenced to die in the gas chamber.  To be honest, I wasn’t aware that detectives had the power to decide whether or not to go for the death penalty when it comes to prosecuting murder cases.  As far as I’ve known, that’s always been the job of the district attorney’s office.  Maybe they do things differently out in California….

Anyway, Channing smiles when he’s sentenced to death and then he smiles again when he’s executed.  Logan shrugs all of that off but suddenly, the pentagram murders start up again.  The murderer is killing people in the exact same way that Channing did and he also appears to be targeting the people who were involved in Channing’s capture.  Meanwhile, Tess is running around angry because she specifically told Logan not to allow Channing to be executed.

Hmmmm …. have you figured out what’s going on, yet?

Of course you have!  That’s because you’ve seen a horror movie before.  From the minute that Channing was sentenced to die, you probably knew that Channing would eventually come back from the dead and start murdering people all over again.  It turns out that, by executing Channing, the state of California has granted him the first power, i.e. resurrection.  By committing more murders, Channing is hoping to unlock all of the other powers.  Those powers include the power to appear and disappear at will, possess other people, jump off of roof tops, and mockingly laugh at anyone who tries to stop him.

Apparently, Detective Logan is not a fan of horror movies because it takes him a while to figure all of this out.  (We should keep in mind that he’s a cop so his job is to be skeptical of claims of people returning from the dead.)  But once he starts hearing Channing’s disembodied voice and getting attacked by possessed priests and homeless women, he really has no other option but to accept the truth and work with Tess to try to end Channing’s reign of terror.

The First Power is one of those horror films that’s extremely predictable but effective nonetheless.  Lou Diamond Phillips manages to maintain a straight face, regardless of how outlandish this film gets and Jeff Kober seems to be having a blast as the flamboyantly evil Patrick Channing.  Channing jumps off of rooftops and through windows with a graceful aplomb and the film actually has some fun with the idea of Channing skipping from body to body.  The First Power is often dumb but always entertaining.

The Yankees Win It!

Congrats to the New York Yankees, who defeated the Guardians 5-1 and clinched their Divisional Series!  I have a few friends who I know are very excited tonight!

The Yankees move on the ALCS, where they’ll face the Astros for the right to represent the AL in the World Series!

I’m from Texas so have to cheer for the Astros but I’m still happy for the Yankees and all of their fans tonight!  See you for Game 1 of the ALCS tomorrow!

The China Lake Murders (1990, directed by Alan Metzger)

Officer Donnelly (Michael Parks) of the Arizona Highway Patrol has snapped.  One day, he doesn’t show up for roll call and instead drives out to the desert.  Sometimes, he pulls people over and tells them that they’ve violated a traffic law.  Sometimes, he stops to help a stranded motorist.  Every encounter ends with Donnelly killing someone.  When Donnelly reaches the town of China Lake, he flirts with a waitress (Lauren Tewes) and befriends Sheriff Sam Brodie (Tom Skerritt).  Brodie is investigating the mystery of why so many people are turning up dead in the desert and he slowly comes to realize that his new friend is the one responsible.

The China Lake Murders was produced by the USA Network and it used to air regularly throughout the 90s.  For a while, it held the record for the highest rated basic cable film.  One reason why so many people would watch it whenever it aired was because the movie started out with a warning that it contained strong violence and some sexual content.  That warning was all that it took to convince most people to watch the movie.  While the sexual content is tame (we see someone’s bare back at one point), the violence is indeed strong. 

So is the performance of Michael Parks, who plays Donnelly as the ultimate nightmare cop.  In many ways, Donnelly epitomizes everything that people hate about the police.  He’s a bully who hides behind his uniform and his badge.  The movie never explains why Donnelly suddenly snapped but watching him, it’s easy to guess that he’s always been a sadist.  He channeled his cruelty into law enforcement and now that he’s crossed the line and is killing random people, he still believes that his uniform will protect him.  Tom Skerritt, on the other hand, is the epitome of what most people would hope a cop would be, fair-minded and more concerned with helping the community than controlling it.

The China Lake Murders is a little slow.  Since it’s revealed early on that Parks is the killer, there’s not much suspense during the middle section of the film.  Things pick up, though, when Skerritt and Parks finally go after each other.  The two veteran actors bring a lot of gravitas to their roles and their final confrontation does not disappoint.

Game Review: Night Train (2022, Evan Farris)

In this Twine game, you wake up in a train.  The train appears to be deserted, except for you.  Outside the windows, everything appears to be dark.  Do you explore the train and try to discover why you have become a passenger and just where exactly it is that you’re going?  Or do you go back to your compartment and wait for an answer?

This is a short and simple Twine game, written in the style of an old Choose Your Own Adventure book.  You are given various options that you can use to explore the train and hopefully learn what is going on.  Make the right choices and you’ll find the answers.  Make the wrong choice and you’ll fall victim to a fate of Lovecraftian horror.  The game takes less than ten minutes to play and I do wish there had been a few more options but the game’s story is intriguing and it does a good job of capturing the player’s attention.  This game really makes use of a classic Interactive Fiction scenario.  You wake up with no idea where or even who you are.  You spend the rest of the game trying to answer those questions.  There are a few typos in the game but, for all I know, there’s probably a few typos in this review.  None of them are serious enough to really interfere with the experience of playing the game itself.

Play Night Train!

Retro Television Review: Fantasy Island 1.6 “Treasure Hunt/Beauty Contest”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Smiles, everyone!  Smiles!  My fantasy is to get this week’s review over with because, to be honest, this was one of the less interesting episodes of the original Fantasy Island.  So, let’s get to it!

Episode 1.6 “Treasure Hunt/Beauty Contest”

(Directed by Allen Baron and George McCowan, originally aired on March 11th, 1978)

For this week’s episode of Fantasy Island, we have two so-so fantasies and a lot of scenes of Mr. Roarke and Tattoo arguing with each other.  After having an almost brotherly relationship over the past few weeks, Roarke and Tattoo both seem kind of annoyed with each other during this episode.  If I had to guess, I’d say that the episodes are probably being shown out of production order and this episode was written and filmed before the show’s producers were sure what the overall tone of the show should be.  

Indeed, the first fantasy features Mr. Roarke allowing three people to search for a lost pirate’s treasure on an isolated part of the island.  He does this despite the fact that the terrain is dangerous and that he knows that one of the three treasure hunters is planning on killing the other two.  When Tattoo points out that a murder would be bad for business, Roarke kind of shrugs Tattoo off.  Indeed, in this storyline, Roarke comes across as being rather aloof, as if he has little concern for the troubles of humanity.

As for the three treasure hunters, they are Stu Chambers (Michael Callan), his wife Andrea (Jo Ann Harris), and their friend James (Peter Haskell).  Stu is under the impression that James and Andrea are carrying on an affair and, as Mr. Roarke mentioned, he is planning on killing the two of them.  Fortunately, he changes his mind during the fantasy and, instead of murdering his wife and his best friend, he instead helps them survive when they get trapped in a cave.  In the end, they don’t get the treasure but they do win back their ability to trust each other.  One has to wonder what the consequences would have been if Stu had gone through with his original plans.  Is there a Fantasy Island police force?  Would Tattoo be forced to arrest Stu?  Who knows?

Meanwhile, in the other fantasy, Maureen McCormick plays Sally Quinn.  Sally is the daughter of a legendary beauty pageant winner.  She wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and win a pageant herself.  However, Roarke — who seems far more invested in Sally’s fantasy than the treasure hunt fantasy — figures out that Sally’s real fantasy is to win the love of her father, Neville (Gene Barry).  In the end, Sally doesn’t win the pageant but she does learn that there’s more to happiness than being beautiful.

To be honest, both of the fantasies in this episode are pretty dull and predictable.  But we do learn a little bit about what Tattoo actually does on the island.  He’s the accountant.  He starts the show complaining that Mr. Roarke doesn’t charge enough for the fantasies.  Tattoo then says he has a fantasy.  Mr. Roarke laughs him off, saying that candy shop employees never develop a taste for candy.  WHAT!?  

We also learn that Roarke and Tattoo enjoy playing Monopoly but Tattoo apparently cheats by using loaded dice.  And, to be honest, the thought of Roarke and Tattoo arguing over Boardwalk is such an appealing one that it saves the entire episode.

As for next week’s episode …. hopefully, it’ll involve even more Monopoly!


Horror Scenes that I Love: Pennywise Visits The Library In It

Admittedly, this scene from the 1990 version of It is a bit more goofy than scary but still, I love Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise the Clown.  When the first part of the latest version of It came out, it was kind of fashionable to dismiss the 1990 version.  But then the second movie came out and everyone was like, “We waited a year for this!?  Give us back our Tim Curry!”

Anyway, in this scene, Pennywise shows at the Derry Public Library and offers Richie (Harry Anderson) some balloons.

Book Review: The Surprise Party by R.L. Stine

Last summer, after her boyfriend Evan apparently shot himself in Fear Street Woods, Ellen moved away from Fear Street and her friends were left to attend Shadyside High without her.  However, a few months have passed and Ellen now feels safe about returning to Fear Street, if just for a visit.  Her friend, Meg, is super excited!  Meg wants to throw Ellen a surprise party!  Great idea, Meg!  Meg wants to throw it in Fear Street Woods, at pretty much the same location where the dead body of Ellen’s boyfriend was found.  Wait, what?

Meg is shocked when she starts to get phone calls from a mysterious stranger, telling her to cancel the party.  She’s even more upset when someone destroys the invitations that she spent so long working on.  Meg does exactly what I would do in those circumstances.  She makes a list of all the people who she thinks might be responsible.  A few people are put on the list for understandable reasons, i.e., being near the invitations before they were destroyed.  The rest are listed because Meg dislikes them personally.  One kid is listed because he’s way into playing Wizard and Dragons.  Meg’s extremely petty suspect list is probably the most realistic thing about The Surprise Party.  My suspects lists are always a combination of people who have blocked me on twitter and celebrities that I’m sick of hearing about.  My Congressman is usually on the list because he supports the ProAct.

Anyway, it does turn out that there is more to Evan’s death than anyone originally realized.  And yes, the truth comes out at the surprise party.  And yes, all of the twists don’t really make that much sense.  First published in 1989, this was the second of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books and, to be honest, it’s a little bit disappointing.  There’s nothing supernatural about anything that happens.  Instead, it’s just one of those mysteries that can’t be solved because Stine doesn’t give us all the clues until the very last minute.  I spent the whole book thinking Meg was the culprit because throwing a surprise party in the woods where your friend committed suicide is just incredibly insensitive.  And, if this was a later Fear Street book, I have no doubt that Meg would have an evil twin or something.  But no, this is an early book and Meg’s just dumb.

Oh well.  That’s life on Fear Street!

Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors square off in the trailer for Creed III!

After working with Ryan Coogler since 2013, Michael B. Jordan’s making his directorial debut with Creed III. The trailer seems to share along with Jordan’s character Adonis Creed finding a new adversary both in and out of the boxing ring in The Harder They Fall‘s Jonathan Majors as Damian. Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, and Phylicia Rashad are also on hand.

Creed III is set to release next March in theatres.