REPOST: Clownado (2019)

NOTE: We were sent a DVD of this by the fine people of Wild Eye Releasing and thought it’d be worth bringing back to our site. They even sent a sticker, which was above and beyond the call of duty. You can also watch it for free if you have an Amazon Prime membership.

There are times in Clownado that — thanks to the patois used by some of the characters, something I can only think is a gangster Kansas City accent — that I thought it was taking place in the 1930’s, not 2019. That said, the modern cars clued me in that this was no period piece.

A gang of circus clowns get cursed and decide to get their vengeance using a tornado, which brings a stripper, a teenage runaway, a black Elvis and an average guy into their vortex.

This movie was written and directed by Todd Sheets, who directed part of the movie Hi-Death that we covered some time back, as well as Dreaming Purple Neon and Bonehill Road.

Probably the selling point of this film for most folks would be the Linnea Quigley cameo. She plays Spider, the owner of a strip club that unites our main characters. Supposedly, this is the exact same character that she played in Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

And if you know anything of 1970’s adult movies, Autumn Moonspell is played by Jeanne Silver, who was once better known as “Long” Jean Silver. Eileen Dietz, who was the face of the demon in The Exorcist, also is in this.

Not since Mausoleum has a movie had such killer breasts. There’s plenty of gore to be had, but other than a great poster, fun cameos and the name, there’s not much to enjoy here.

Clownado is now available on DVD and streaming. You can check it out for free on Amazon Prime.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent the DVD of this movie by Wild Eye Releasing, but that has no bearing on our review.

Master of Dark Shadows (2019)

We’ve gone on — and will this entire week — about Dan Curtis and Dark Shadows. Finally, this movie — director by David Gregory, one of the co-founders of Severin Films — is here to tell the story of the creative power that was such a part of American TV horror in the 1970’s. Beyond Dark Shadows, Curtis was known for The Night Stalker, Trilogy of Terror and Burnt Offerings before his two mini-series The Winds of War and War & Remembrance earned rave reviews, won multiple awards and dominated the ratings.

Narrated by Ian McShane, this film has reflections by the late Curtis, along with many of the people who worked with him closest and his family. Look for Dark Shadows stars Jonathan Frid, John Karlen, James Storm, David Selby, Roger Davis, Marie Wallace, Chris Pennock, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, Nancy Barrett and Jerry Lacy, along with Ben Cross from the 1990’s series. And Whoppi Goldberg shows up to share what Dark Shadows meant to her, along with Barbara Steele, who co-produced The Winds of War and War & Remembrance with Curtis.

The DVD, which you can get from MPI Home Video, also has an extra where Jonathan Frid dresses up as Barnabas to attend the White House on Halloween 1969 for Richard Nixon’s daughter!

This is a must-watch and the perfect primer — or review — for all things Curtis.

You can watch Master of Dark Shadows on Amazon Prime.

Radio Silence (2019)

A female radio psychologist taunted by a killer is familiar damsel-in-distress fodder for the Lifetime cable network, which also aired the similarly-plotted The Night Caller (1998), Requiem for Murder (1999), and A Lover’s Revenge (2005).

Dr. Jill Peterman (Canadian actress Georgina Haig, who’s very good), a Minneapolis, Minnesota (aka Toronto) “relationship therapist” who advocates a tough-love approach when counseling her listeners, walks away from the business when a listener, “Alexis,” takes her advice of “end this pathetic life” of allowing a man to cheat on her, literally—and she commits suicide on the air.

A year later, with WRMD 96.5 FM at the bottom of the ratings and ready to change to an automated dance format, her old General Manager persuades her to return to the air—with the guilt trip that she’ll be “saving everyone’s jobs.” As she settles back into her show, the mysterious calls from “Alexis” begin. Then her billboards around the city are vandalized with the words “How Do You Sleep?”—a message that’s repeated on the greeting cards enclosed with the deliveries of black roses.

Let slip the red herrings of noir.

Did Alexis actually kill herself? Is she the one leaving threats? Or is someone else behind them? The police never found a woman who committed suicide matching that name and they believe it was a prank—even a rating-grabbing station stunt that backfired. Could it be the win-at-all-costs station owner, her producer, or her promotion-driven production assistant? Is it the barista at the local coffee house who is Dr. Jill’s #1 fan? Is any of this real and is it all in Jill’s head?

The radio studio is a poorly done build that’s darkly lit to hide the “studios” shortcomings of its ubiquitous equipment-strewn business desks and—not another recording studio mixer being used as an audio board. Ugh. But at least there’s some digital touch screen audio equipment used. And the expositional industry jargon between the station owner and general manager about terrestrial radio competing with podcasting, ratings and format changes give the proceedings a sense of reality.

You can watch this Canadian TV movie—reimaged with the sensationalistic When Murder Calls for its U.S debut—for free on You Tube and You Tube.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

Harriet (2019)

Kasi Lemmons started her entertainment career as an actress — she was Bernie in — before starting to direct. The movie I remember her for most is The Caveman’s Valentine. A film about Harriet Tubman was rumored for years and I’m quite glad she got the job, as this is a movie that moves quickly and imparts plenty of emotion and history without feeling preachy or boring. That’s quite a feat for a historical film.

Cynthia Erivo, who was in the stage revival of The Color Purple and who has been great on The Outsider every week, plays Harriet throughout her life, as she escapes from slavery (choosing to either live free or die) and then continually comes back to help others escape. It’s a harrowing tale filled with twists that history class never taught me, such as the fact that the man who gave her the last name Tubman remarried, as everyone in her family believed that she died after she jumped off a bridge to escape her owner Gideon Brodess.

Leslie Odom Jr., who was the original Aaron Burr in Hamilton, is in this, as is Janelle Monáe, a freewoman whose sophisticated ways are in direct contrast to young Harriet.

I would have never watched this movie if not for a freelance assignment where I’ve been creating teacher guides for biographical films. So in some strange way, the predicament of my occupation has led to me experiencing plenty of new things I would have otherwise never had the opportunity to see, listen, watch or learn.

You don’t need to go through all that to see this. I recommend you watch it at your first opportunity.

The Farewell (2019)

Turns out award shows can have a positive result on my movie watching. I wouldn’t have known anything about this film if Awkwafina hadn’t won the Best Actress – Musical or Comedy Golden Globe for her work here.

Luckily, the movie lived up to my expectations and then some.

Based on director Lulu Wang’s real life —  which she first publicly discussed on an episode of This American Life — The Farewell proves that the foreign may not be so foreign. Billi (Awkwafina) learns that her grandmother Nai Nai (played by Chinese theatrical actress Shuzhen Zhao) is dying from cancer, yet her family refuses to tell their matriarch. Instead, an elaborate wedding ruse is invented so that they may all see her one more time.

The truth is, six years after the real life diagnosis, Wang’s grandmother remains alive. She still didn’t know that she even had the disease until this movie. Incredibly, Wang kept the secret from her during and after the making of this movie. She would only discover the true story when she discussed the movie with her sister Lu Hong, who plays herself in the movie. The fact that the movie was released in China as Don’t Tell Her was not lost on the real life Nai Nai, who remarked, “…that’s why you didn’t tell me, because I am the “her” of the Don’t Tell Her.”

The way that families deal with aging is strange. My father had a stroke last year and often worries so much about the shaking in his hands — which he can’t understand and needs an explanation daily — that the rest of my family told him that it was all because one of the knives he uses isn’t balanced properly and that the shaking isn’t really his fault. Much like the lies in this movie, that simple explanation makes things easier for him. Is it right? I’m not entirely sure.

The lesson here comes from Nai Nai’s farewell. She warns Billi of being “the bull endlessly ramming its horns into the corner of the room” and tells her that “life isn’t just about what you do, it’s more about how you do it.” Certainly this seems like no great revelation, but this movie is all about the way the story and the advice and the emotion are told.

I enjoyed it. Perhaps you will. You can watch The Farewell on Amazon Prime.

1917 (2019)

In the same way that I’m dispositioned to despise anyone from Upper St. Clair or Mt. Lebanon — Pittsburgh-centric content, yinz guys — I’m also usually on high alert to dislike Oscar bait like this film. So let me get all my vitriol out of my system before it begins: for a movie that people are proclaiming as a human experience of war, all I could see were the technological advancements and filmmaking tricks that allowed for the continuous shot style of the first half of this movie.

It’s fine. It was up for the biggest prizes in movie making and yep. It’s a fine movie. It has no real soul or reason for you to watch it more than once, but this may be more of an indictment of this reviewer than this film.

It left me cold and I felt like I was begging it for warmth. Just a casual outline of the events of the movie seem like they could be moments worth viewing, such as the choice to save or murder the downed German pilot. Instead, they are just moments.

Sam Mendes has had a wonderful run so far, between his highly regarded James Bond films, Jarhead, Road to Perdition and American Beauty. He has an eye for huge visuals and the ability to tell a great story. This isn’t a small movie, despite really only centering on one character’s experience in the war.

I probably enjoyed the scenes with the drunken soldiers blessing Schofield and Blake before they ventured into No Man’s Land more than anything else in the movie. Although I wonder what the narrative point is of the film, which informs us at the end that everything that the leads have endured was truly for nothing, as the orders will probably change in the next week. This is not the first movie I’ve watched recently that offered little to no hope. Or maybe that was just life itself.

Again — I felt like this movie was an awesome technical achievement. Perhaps the self-congratulatory nature of Hollywood and the press put me off, as I didn’t need to hear its creators sing its praises so much. Or perhaps a steady diet of Mexican, Phillipino, Hong Kong and Italian junk movies have eroded my movie watching abilities, only allowing me to savor movies where black-gloved madmen strangle women and gas-guzzling mutants rise from the grave.

Probably. So what?

Agramon’s Gate (2019)

There’s this party. And these kids. And this psychic reader that they invited. And then, something goes wrong and someone crosses over from the other side to haunt everyone. He or she or it is named Agramon and they cannot be stopped.

This movie comes to us from Harley Warren, who also sent Eternal Code our way.

Yeah, I don’t do Ouija boards or seances at parties. Horror films have taught me so much. No one in this movie learned those lessons.

Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop) is in this, as is Yan Birch (The Stairmaster from The People Under the Stairs). They play Richie’s parents, who we see in flashbacks, and Yan’s character comes back from the dead to get this whole mess going. Or maybe it’s that demon in the title. Just you know — follow my advice. Nobody should get their fortune read or reach out to the dead. Bad stuff always follows.

Agramon’s Gate is available on demand from Midnight Releasing. You can learn more at the official Facebook page.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this movie by its PR company.

8 Slices (2019)

8 Slices is all about a small-town pizza place named Patronies Pizza is about to go out of business, just as its employees begin to question their place in life and their part in the American Dream.

It get it — I’ve been feeling the same way, wondering that if all my hard work and energy is going nowhere, that nothingness and apathy are the new order of the day.

I’m also very hungry for pizza.

This is Nick Westfall’s second full-length film and it definitely has the feel of Empire Records, my go-to workplace ensemble movie. In case you’re wondering why this pizza place is going out of business, well, I’ve never seen so many people work in a pizzeria.

Also, I’ve never been to a pizza place where all of the employees pretend to be famous writers. Mostly, they’re gruff old Italian men or their children who are getting screamed at by their angry elders.

Speaking of frequently yelling parental figures, one of the customers looks and acts exactly like my father-in-law, a man who is obsessed by pizza like no one else I’ve ever met.

Want to know more? Here’s the official site.

Hey! This is our second Dove approved movie! Man, now I have to make up for that with something really insane.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by its PR company.

Ants on a Plane (2019)

The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Instead of reptiles, we have ants. Hey, don’t laugh this movie off and make with the bad Samuel L. Jackson imitations. Besides, this flick is more of the “Uh, excuse me. But I want these goshdarned ants off this goshdarned plane” variety.

And, as this 2019 New York Post article shows, it really happened on a United Airlines Italy-to-U.S flight. And there’s nothing like a real “nature run amok”* event to breathe new life into an old TV movie. And besides, this eco-terror romp is directed by George Mendeluk, he of my fondly remembered, pre-cable TV movies Stone Cold Dead (1979) and The Kidnapping of the President (1980).

It’s good to visit with you again, George, my friend.

Utterly annoying Caribbean vacationers and honeymooners from the Canadian Campus of the Ed Wood School of Thespian Arts—the type of “skilled actors” that leave you rooting for the little lost rain forest ants—are on a return trip from to Miami from Columbia. The cardboard cast soon discovers that a mutated, “super-organism parasite-hive” of deadly bullet ants burrowed its way into a human host—who subsequently “Aliens” them up on the plane. And the ants swarm from his every orifice and make a run for the air vents. And they turn the plane’s electrical system into dinner. And they kill people in the bathrooms because, well, even in the throes of death, one still has to pinch a loaf—ants be damned.

Luckily an entomologist (Jessalyn Gilsig) with a whiny daughter (for the human relationship drama) and a hunky U.S sky marshal (Antonio Sabato, Jr. (for the romantic angle) just happen to be on the plane—that no country will allow to land for fear of spreading an ant plague. (Make a note: Mutant Columbian rain forest ants BAD: don’t fly them in under any circumstances. COVID-19 Coronavirus good: load ’em up, land ’em, stock pile ’em at an army base. Why? Because we think The Walking Dead really happening would be, like cool ‘n stuff.)

F’ the ants, Jessalyn. Cut the friggin’ limes and let’s party with the “good” Corona.

U.S TV fans will recognize Jessalyn Gilsig from her starring roles in the series Boston Public, NYPD Blue, Friday Night Lights, Nip/Tuck, Heroes, Glee, and, most recently, ABC-TV’s Scandal.

While ex-daytime TV actor and former Playgirl-Calvin Klein model Antonio Sabato, Jr. has done a commendable job making his bones on TV series such as Earth 2 and Melrose Place, and his excellent portrayal of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas in 2009’s Drifter: Henry Lee Lucas, we, the staff at B&S About Movies, always go back to the fact that his dad is our beloved Italian exploitation actor Antonio Sabato, Sr. from Seven Blood Stained Orchids and Escape from the Bronx. (Sabato, Jr. recently made the news regarding his industry-wide blacklisting for his Republican political beliefs and not being able to find work, having to sell off his possessions and take work in the construction field to make ends meet. You can read more about it at The Blaze and The Washington Times.)

Since this Canadian TV movie has a strong female lead, it became quick programming fodder for the female-centric cable channel Lifetime in 2007—and having a “hot” Italian-born Sabato as a leading man doesn’t hurt its female fan base.  This eco-terror flick eventually rolled out as a TV movie and direct-to-DVD feature in the overseas markets from 2008 to 2015 under the titles Swarm, Deadly Swarm, and its original title, Destination: Infestation. Of course, courtesy of the United 2019 incident, it was reimaged once again with a new exploitive-marketing title, so as to align it with Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane for its free-online streaming debut on TubiTv.

You’ve seen worse.

But still, Mendeluk is a long ways down the road on his extensive, 70-plus Canadian and U.S resume that began with the highly-rated TV flicks Stone Cold Dead (starring the awesome Richard Crenna and Paul Williams from Phantom of the Paradise, Smokey and the Bandit) and The Kidnapping of the President (starring the always welcomed Hal Holbrook and William Shatner). His most recent work was the 2017 Lifetime damsel-in-distress flick The Wrong Babysitter.

You can rent Stone Cold Dead on Vudu/trailer. The Kidnapping of the President is available for rent on Amazon Prime, but there’s a pretty clean VHS rip for free on You Tube. You can watch Ants on a Plane for free—with commercial breaks—on TubiTv, or pretty clean DVD-rip without commercials on You Tube.

* Back in January 2020, we went crazy reviewing nature-strikes-back films with our “Nature Run Amok” week. Here’s the full list of those reviews so you can catch up.

Arachnia (2003)
Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
Congo (1995)
Crawl (2019)
Cruel Jaws (1995)
Flu Birds (2008)
The Giant Leeches (1959)
Invasion of the Animal People (1959)
Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973)
Jaws (1975)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Kiss of the Tarantula (1975)
Monster Shark (1984)
Monster Wolf (2010)
War of the Insects (1968)
Night of the Cobra Woman (1972)
Play Dead (1981)
Rattlers (1976)
Sharks’ Treasure (1975)
Slugs (1988)
The Uncanny (1978)
Underwater (2020)
The Wasp Woman (1959)
WolvesBayne (2009)
Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1985)

And there’s even more “nature run amok” films with our December 2018 shark tribute week, “Bastard Pups of Jaws,” which features everything imaginable—from 1976’s Grizzly to 1977’s Orca, from 1979’s The Great Alligator all the way out to Renny Harlin’s 1999 shark romp, Deep Blue Sea.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

Art of the Dead (2019)

Here’s the IMDB description: “A collection of paintings unleash horror on an unsuspecting family corrupted by the seven deadly sins of greed, envy, gluttony, lust, sloth, pride, and wrath.”

Here’s the B&S About Movies description: The movie starts with a near-insane looking Richard Grieco screaming at his family about a painting, yelling “No respect for art!” and throwing his suit jacket about the room.

Oh yeah — they kind of made this movie for me.

Rolfe Kanefsky may sound like the name of a Paul Naschy character, but the writer and director is the son of Victor, who edited Ganja & Hess and Bloodsucking Freaks. His first movie was There’s Nothing Out There and he’s continued his career with all manner of movies that speak directly to me, like adaptions of Milo Manara comic books like Click and Butterscotch, as well as an entire series of Emmanuelle films that take her into space and into battle versus Dracula. He’s also found the time to write kids’ movies like Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon and family features such as Puppy Swap Love Unleashed.

Behold! What is that scratchy voice and who does it belong to? It’s Tara Reid! Man, if the Italian horror machine was still in full swing, she’d be getting menaced by leather-gloved maniacs and her legs groped by the undead. Such a shame!

Jessica Morris, who was once on One Life to Live, also shows up. She’s appeared in a bunch of streaming horror films as of late. Hey — don’t knock paying work.

This is a fine slab of complete ridiculousness and reaffirms my faith in the world. All movies should start out with Detective Dennis Booker blowing himself away.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.