Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

I binge watched the 10-episode, 10-hour series The Haunting of Hill House in a day on Netflix—and I wanted more.

So, yeah, it’s good.

Based, very loosely, on the Shirley Jackson novel, it tells the story of a family living in a creepy house while the parents (Carla Gugino and Henry Thomas) renovate it for the purpose of flipping it for profit. Things begin to go badly in a haunting kind of way, and events occur that have ramifications throughout the years.

The show covers two time periods, one in which Thomas (who is beyond excellent) plays the young dad, and Timothy Hutton (also excellent) plays him two decades later. The cast is stellar across the board, with the likes of Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Elizabeth Reaser playing the adult versions of the siblings, and Paxton Singleton, Lulu Wilson and Violet McGraw playing them as children.

There are lots of ghosts in the show, and some of them are truly terrifying, including a tall, levitating ghost that guides himself by tapping a cane on the floor. The show is as much a family drama as a horror show, pulling off both genres efficiently.

The Haunting of Hill House is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Now Netflix is chipping in on the effort to make us all forget that filmed adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower with this adaptation of King’s Gerald’s Game, a powerhouse acting job for both Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood.

They play Jessie and Gerald, a married couple who have hit tough times. They attempt to rekindle their relationship on a holiday excursion which includes her getting handcuffed to the bed. Things go bad—like, really bad—and Jessie winds up in a truly precarious situation that involves starving, dehydrating and hallucinating.

The original King novel, of course, finds a way for Gerald to stick around for the whole movie, even after a fatal heart attack, while flashbacks show us additional traumas involving Jessie’s dad (Henry Thomas).

The movie is, appropriately, hard to watch at times, as a hungry dog comes by for a visit, and Jessie searches for ways to get her hands out of those cuffs. (Hint: Things get bloody.)

This is a career-best performance from Gugino, who carries most of the movie on her back. Greenwood is allowed to get deranged in the role, and he does just that. Visits from a ghostly giant give the movie a supernatural twist, and it gets legitimately scary.

This wasn’t one of King’s best novels (he basically ripped himself off with elements of Dolores Claiborne and Misery), but Gerald’s Game does wind up being one of the better filmed King adaptations.

Gerald’s Game is currently streaming on Netflix. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

If you love Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and you think L.A. sucks balls, you are going to love San Andreas.

In this movie, you not only get two hours of The Rock’s winning smile; you get to see Los Angeles and San Francisco smacked down with a fury matched only by The Rock in the ring during his fake-wrestling heyday.

Seriously, if you hate the San Francisco Giants, the Hollywood sign and that triangle skyscraper thingy in San Francisco, this movie is total porn for you. The film contains plenty of glorious visual mayhem involving earthquakes, tsunamis and Johnson’s totally out-of-control upper body art.

Sadly, it also contains dialogue so vapid, and so shitty, that it crushes you like The Rock’s enormous, meaty hand squishing a beer can.

Johnson plays rescue-pilot Ray, a gutsy and virtuous man on the job who can’t keep things together on the home front. He gets divorce papers from his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), on the day he’s supposed to take his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), on a trip. Before he can pout and dwell on things much, the earth starts shaking.

The first quake hits the Hoover Dam—and we soon learn that director Brad Peyton has no sentimentality for treasured landmarks: The dam is history. World-renowned scientist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) just happens to be standing next to it when it goes, and he heads back to his lab, where he sets out to warn the world of impending, bigger quakes via the worst dialogue of Giamatti’s career—and this guy was in Lady in the Water.

These quakes are The Big Ones, with catastrophic temblors starting in Los Angeles and leading up to San Francisco. Johnson commandeers a helicopter and sets out to rescue the wife in L.A. and then his daughter in the Bay Area, because, you know, millions of people are dying, but he has this little inkling that he can still work things out with the wife and kid.

Now, I don’t go to a movie like this expecting dialogue equivalent to the latest Paul Thomas Anderson movie. Films like this are meant to kill a few brain cells, and I’m willing to sacrifice a few cells to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson race a boat straight up a tsunami’s ass. However, when the dialogue becomes so bad that it makes the dialogue from a Michael Bay film comparatively sound like dialogue from the latest Paul Thomas Anderson movie, I cry uncle. Or, I just cry in general. Lost film opportunities hurt me so.

The special effects in San Andreas are good enough to keep you fighting through the movie, even when it devolves into the worst of soap operas. Personally, I was on the fence until the final scene, when Ray and his family are surveying a completely annihilated San Francisco. They are rather happy and smiley for people who have just witnessed the death of millions. Then, a huge flag unfurls on the wreckage of the Golden Gate Bridge. Let me make this clear: Given that the worst earthquake in recorded history just ended mere minutes ago, procuring a flag of this magnitude, securing it on a very unstable structure, and getting it to unfurl just so would be virtually impossible. Then The Rock’s final line of dialogue did me in.

As disaster movies go, San Andreas provides plenty of visual carnage. Unfortunately, one usually has to listen to a movie while one is watching it, and when the words sneak past the ears and up to the brain, bad faces and disgruntled throat sounds ensue.

San Andreas is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

In Match, Tobi (Patrick Stewart), a dance professor at Julliard, agrees to do an interview with a married couple (Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard) about 1960s dance culture. After a few questions and answers, it becomes apparent that the two are up to something beyond a simple Q&A.

It only takes a few minutes to figure out where the film is going; writer-director Stephen Belber’s play-turned-movie offers few surprises. The film suffers from that staginess that often plagues plays being adapted for the big screen, and at first, Stewart seems like he is acting for an audience rather than a camera; he overdoes it at times.

Despite these flaws, the movie progresses into something that is mildly entertaining. Stewart’s character calms down a bit as the film plays out, and Lillard provides some truly moving work in the film’s final act. Gugino is decent in what is essentially a three-person film.

This isn’t a complete failure, but it doesn’t work very well as a movie. Match may have been better had they just staged a play, gotten an audience and filmed the proceedings with a few cameras.

Match is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and; it is also now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565).

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing