Shadow In The Cloud (2020) a (mildly) Belated Review

I saw the trailer to this film when it was originally released and, I must say, I was intrigued…

Not bad, right?

As with far too many films, I missed it upon its initial release (shortly, I believe, before COVID blew up) but the movie was on sale through VUDU and I picked it up and, a couple of days ago, the wife and I gave it a watch.

Afterwards, I asked her what she thought of it.

Not all that much, it turns out.

In fact, she thought it was beyond stupid, a film worthy of being presented on MST3K. A film that was dumb, dumb, dumb.

I could see where she was coming from.

But, I didn’t hate it quite as much.

Don’t get me wrong: The film was far from “great” and, if I were pressed to put it on a 4 star scale I’d likely give it two stars, perhaps 2 and 1/2 if I’m feeling charitable.

Even so, that’s for the entirety of the product. There were moments in this film that I thought were quite great… I just wish the film had been like that at all moments rather than at some.

Chloë Grace Moretz stars in the film as Maude Garrett, a mystery woman who appears with a strange case in arm at a foggy airfield. The eerie mood is already set in those opening minutes with odd 1980’s synth music (which I really enjoyed, being a fan of such music, but which some might find out of place in a film set in World War II).

She enters an aircraft with its all male personnel and presents papers which suggest she’s on a secret mission carrying a top secret cargo (in her case) which needs to reach its destination.

The all male crew isn’t too fond of bringing a woman on board. Reading here and there about the film afterwards, it seems some felt it was “insulting” to feature the all male crew as mostly hormonal savages in the presence of a woman. Given the epoch, I didn’t find it all that problematic, but there sure does seem to be some major sensitivity these days about how men are portrayed in film (see the recent, all female starring remake of Ghostbusters).

They force their unexpected passenger into the “bubble”, the lower machine gun turret under the aircraft and, because its such a tight fit, she is forced to give up her case, which she does to one of the crewmen who promises to watch it and not look inside, which she claims would be a court martial worthy offense.

This, I must say, is where the film really surprised and delighted me and I’m going to SPOIL things a little so, if you’re interested in seeing the film, I suggest you do so and come back afterwards to read the rest of the review.

In case you’re doing that, I’ll offer my bottom line about the film: I can’t necessarily offer an unqualified recommendation for Shadow in the Cloud. Though its a well done film with pretty good effects (some, alas, aren’t quite as good), it features an engaging hero in Moretz’s Garrett and some genuinely eerie and thrilling moments… which are unfortunately upended by a script that I suspect was being reworked considerably as the film was being made.

Still, if you want to see something really far outside the beaten path, you could do much worse.

All right then…


So Garrett is sent into the bubble and, for the whole first half of the film, we as viewers are stuck there with her, isolated and alone, with only the radio communication with the other officers -which at first is incredibly crude on their part- as her only “company”.

Garrett spots a plane pacing them and, worse, a creature -a gremlin- that is on the plane itself, slowly ripping it apart.

These moments are the film’s most effective, where she tries to convince the rest of the crew that a) they may be followed by enemy Japanese aircraft and b) that this creature is ripping their ship apart.

Before Garrett finally leaves the bubble, the crew realizes what she’s carrying, which turns out to be her baby, and it further turns out that she’s running away from an abusive husband who may want to kill her as the baby isn’t his… but is the baby of one of the crewmen on this flight.

Now, I’m going to stop right there and say: That was a HUGE mistake, storywise, in my humble opinion.

Worse, it felt like it was something added to the script after the fact.

The Gremlin attacking the aircraft seemed to keep honing in on the case and baby, trying to take it for itself, which truly didn’t make a lot of sense. Did it know there was a baby within? Never made clear. But even if it did, why would it be so interested in it?

It felt like, to me anyway, that there was some other story element which was discarded regarding the case and its contents which linked the Gremlin more closely with wanting it and choosing to attack that particular aircraft, and I strongly suspect it had nothing to do with Garrett having a child and fleeing from an abusive husband.

The movie’s story, which takes elements from what is perhaps the most famous Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (the one directed by Richard Donner and starring William Shatner, who sees a Gremlin on the airplane wing and freaks out trying to prove to the others in the aircraft they’re in danger) as well as the very first episode of Amazing Stories (which featured a crewman stuck in the bubble of an aircraft not unlike Garrett is and featured Kevin Costner and Keifer Sutherland in the cast) is credited to Max Landis who, shortly before the film’s release was accused of sexual and emotional abuse by eight women, has his name all but erased from the film’s actual credits (I honestly don’t recall seeing his name posted there, but I might have simply missed it).

What I do recall is that when the film was released the studio and stars made a point of noting that beyond the sale of the initial story, Max Landis wasn’t involved in the project at all, and the screenplay on IMDb is listed as being by Landis and director Roseanne Liang.

I have little doubt once the accusations against Landis were made public those in Hollywood made a great effort to distance themselves from him and I also strongly suspect Ms. Liang reworked the story/script quite a bit.

Unfortunately, and as I said above, we’re left with things that simply don’t connect well. The Gremlin which attacks is just there, without any real explanation or reason. He goes for the case carrying Garrett’s child “just because” and this too is presented without any real clear reason.

These things wind up hurting the film, which otherwise is not all that bad and is quite suspenseful at times.

In the end, I’m once again forced to say that a film that could have been quite good, which had plenty of ingredients, including generally good effects, a great lead/performance, and an intriguing initial premise, was undone by a script that needed a little more work, especially with regard to its reveals.

Which is just too bad.

The New 2021 Novel Update #10

Last week Thursday, the 21st of October, I finished the 3rd Draft of my new 2021 novel and…

…we’re getting close.

There were issues regarding the motivations of certain characters within the book and, as I was banging out the newest draft, that stuff sorted itself fairly well, I think.

After getting that done, I spent Friday the 22nd working on another story, this one a fairly short one, and got the first draft done. By the end of Friday I was feeling pretty burnt out with all this writing and work I’ve been up to and resolved to take it easy during the weekend.

For the most part I managed to do just that, though I did slip in a quick second draft of the short story. Today, Monday, I managed to get a 3rd draft of that story done and sent off to my collaborator.

Now, I’m purposely not giving out too many details about this particular story. It’s off the beaten path of the other stuff I’ve done to date and I’m hopeful it bears fruition and finds itself published, though that remains to be seen. Regardless, even if nothing comes from it, I’m happy with what I wrote and may eventually post it here if nothing does come of it.

Regardless, I’m feeling a little recharged now. Perhaps not fully so, but enough to feel like its time to print up the latest draft of my novel and get to work on its 4th Draft.

The bad news: I doubt the novel will be good enough to publish when I’m done with this 4th draft, but it wouldn’t shock me if it winds up being one of the last drafts needed. At this point, I’m guesstimating the novel will require at least two, if not three, more drafts and before its done.

That may seem like a lot, but it feels like the worst of this is over and my focus is turning toward revisions involving the process of story telling versus actually creating the story. The later is always much harder than the former!

Here’s hoping!

Runaway Brain…

Does the above title, for a Disney animated short, seem familiar to you?

Don’t feel bad if it isn’t… Until today I certainly hadn’t heard of it.

Runaway Brain was a short created way back in 1995 which featured, for the first time in decades a “new” story involving Disney’s principle character creation: Mickey Mouse. I could get into the details of the making and subsequent release of the short and its legacy (which seems to be none), but rather than do so, let me point out this article by Drew Taylor and presented on which goes in depth into…

Why Disney buried Runaway Brain, the monstrous Mickey Mouse short

Again, the article does a very good job explaining why this short, which began as an attempt to triumphantly bring back Mickey Mouse, is now essentially buried, and the bottom line is one which has occurred in plenty of different occasions:

One “boss” green lights a project, they go over it and agree with what will be done, and when said project nears its end/conclusion, a new “boss” comes in an decides what was ok for the previous regimen isn’t good for them.

Changes were made, professionals involved were angered and frustrated, and ultimately a watered down version of the product is released and subsequently -because Disney is big enough to do so- the final product is purposely buried.

The fact that the product involves what is arguably Disney’s “biggest” character, Mickey Mouse, makes the story all the more intriguing. That and the fact that, unlike Song of the South, the short doesn’t involve racial stereotypes or outmoded/offensive ways of thinking about races, the main reason Disney refuses to release any formal version of Song of the South to the public.

It’s a fascinating story but, truthfully, if you follow the history of any major studio, you’ll find similar stories just like this, of projects that have gone off the rails and movies/TV shows/what-have-you that eventually limped out into general or limited release, then essentially being forgotten or allowed to be forgotten.

Still, a fascinating story, if you’re interested in reading about it!

Man That’s Brutal…

Back when I was very, very young, I stumbled upon this book…

Written by Harry and Michael Medved (Michael would go on to become yet another –yawn– of those pants-on-fire conservative commentator/extremists), the book was a hilarious look at some of the worst films which, to that date, had been released.

At least according to the Medved brothers.

The book was popular enough to merit a sequel…

…and it too was quite humorous.

I have to admit, though, over the years and as I’ve become a writer, I’ve grown to be… uncomfortable… with books like this, even though I can’t deny the humor of lambasting works which are so bad they deserve the treatment.


Because I’ve been on the proverbial “other side” and know that creating a work, any work, requires considerable effort and time and I know now that nobody sets out to make something truly awful… even if when all is said and done that’s what is indeed created.

Having said that and while I feel bad for those who worked to make something and failed, perhaps miserably so, it’s still undeniably funny to read a post ripping said project to pieces…

Which brings us to the matter at hand, Steven Lloyd Wilson’s review of the Bruce Willis film Survive The Game, another of Mr. Willis’ seemingly endless VOD releases he’s participated in.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

I’ve read here and there that Mr. Willis has gotten to the point in his career where he takes on these types of films because a) they involve no more than one day’s worth of work and he’s quite strict about leaving when his time is up (so the film’s makers often have him in a single room/set saying his lines, often without co-stars present all that much) and b) he’s paid for that one day’s worth of work somewhere in the range of one million dollars.

There are many such films listed on Mr. Willis’ IMDb page (check them out here). Currently he has an astonishing 13 films listed on his resume for 2021 alone and all of them, near as I can tell, are similar low budget VOD features like the one above.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s Mr. Steven Lloyd Wilson’s review of Survive The Game. It’s quite hilarious, in my humble opinion…

Is “Survive The Game” Part of “A Christmas Story” Cinematic Universe?

Give it a click. It’s worth the laughs, if not actually sitting down to watch the film!

The New 2021 Novel Update #9

A few days back (you can read it here) I offered my last update on my latest novel and wrote:

This current draft is a very serious one

It occurs to me this line needs a little explanation.

After all, each time I sit behind my computer and stare into the monitor with whatever current draft of whatever novel I’m currently working on… am I not taking the work seriously?

Yes, yes I am.

But there are times when one is simply fishing around for ideas, where you have a general notion of where you want to go but are searching around for the proper way to get there.

I can’t tell you the number of times I sit in front of that computer and sit there… and sit there…

…and nothing seems to come of it. I may move the proverbial ball a few inches forward -I usually do- but truthfully the end result might be almost negligible and I feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill. Yeah, I’ll eventually get there and the boulder rolls back down the hill and I’m back to the start with that new novel, searching for a new and interesting path to take that boulder up that hill.

The current draft of the book is a serious one because I see the path now to the top of this particular hill, where in earlier drafts that path might not have been so terribly well defined.

Or, to put it another way, the novel’s skeleton is complete and I’m moving on from coming up with the story proper and feel like I’m about to move more solidly into the revision phase, where its not so much what I’m presenting, story-wise, but how I’m presenting it.

It will still take time, of course, and I’m not quite there, but the boulder is getting that much closer to the top of the hill.

The Case of the Curious Bride (1935) a (Ridiculously Belated, Your Honor!) Review

Despite its formulaic episodes, I happen to love the Raymond Burr Perry Mason TV show. Based on the very popular (and also formulaic!) novels by Erie Stanley Gardner, who could pump out a book a week it seemed, there was something grandly entertaining about seeing Raymond Burr’s Perry interact with a usually fascinating all star cast and solve a murder his client seemed to absolutely do and there was simply no way around it.

However, there were a series of Perry Mason films made well before Raymond Burr took to the television role and The Case of the Curious Bride is one of them.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

One day while going over the latest movies offered on TCM, I spotted this film. Now, I haven’t seen a single non-Raymond Burr Perry Mason feature but this one really got my curiosity and for one reason and one reason only: It had a very early appearance of one Errol Flynn.

Don’t recognize the name? Welp, he was a very big action star, featured in such films as The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and Captain Blood. He was primarily known as a very handsome swashbuckler, and his personal ilfe… ho boy, that must have been something (he would die at the very young age of 50 in 1959, his hard living, hard drinking, and sexual adventures/misadventures having sapped the life out of him by that point).

But I was fascinated by the idea of seeing a very young, pre-fame Errol Flynn in a Perry Mason movie. Yeah, I was damned curious to see this!


If you’re interested in seeing this film solely for Errol Flynn, be prepared to see him for a grand total of maybe two minutes (or less) of screen time. In fact, he doesn’t say a single line and shows up in a flashback toward the end of the film where its revealed how exactly he died.

Yep, he’s the film’s murder victim.

Having said that, The Case of the Curious Bride nonetheless proved to be a fun, if ultimately frivolous, mystery film. Warren William plays a decidedly theatrical Perry Mason, a man with food on his mind (!) who gets involved in a case involving an old female friend of his (played by Margaret Lindsay) who is now married but who had previously been married and -she thought- widowed. Only it turns out her previous husband is alive and blackmailing her (the role seemed to fit Errol Flynn to a tee, given his reputation outside the studio!).

Anyway, Perry, Della Street (a delightful Claire Dodd, who inhabits the role almost as well as Barbara Hale would in the Raymond Burr TV show), and personal P. I. “Sudsy” Drake (Allen Jenkins, putting on the ham in a big way… I much prefer William Hooper’s more serious Paul Drake from the TV show) get themselves chin deep in the case and figure out, by the end, whodunnit while their client comes very close to the electric chair.

Another element beyond the cameo by Errol Flynn that makes the movie notable is that it was directed by one Michael Curtiz, a workhorse of a director who, a few years later, directed this one little and almost forgotten film called Casablanca. He also directed several of the best known Errol Flynn films, including the aforementioned The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Yes, The Case of the Curious Bride isn’t a film destined to be remembered or admired but it is a fun little mystery with the added bonus of having two fascinating minutes featuring a pre-famous Errol Flynn directed by what would be one of his bigger collaborators in Michael Curtiz.

For those who find that alone fascinating, the movie is an easy recommendation.

The New 2021 Novel Update #8

It’s 8:30 pm, the first of October 2021 and I’m sitting here before the computer having finished another day’s bit of work entering new revisions into my Word copy of my latest novel.

For those keeping track, this is the 3rd draft of the book and, as of today, I’ve reached the halfway point in this particular revision process. The word count is just shy of 90,000 words, 195 pages single spaced 10 point.

I was hoping the book would be done before the end of this year but I’m coming to the realization this looks unlikely, and that depresses me.

Not that I needed much more to feel that way.

The fact is that after what happened to my parents at Champlain Towers, I’ve been not only overwhelmed -along with my siblings- in getting their affairs in order, but also working extra hard at the family business. This past week I’ve had to run it alone and coming home, I’m fucking exhausted.

Still, I’m determined to get through these very tough times. Whenever I can, I’ll find time to move the revision process forward, just as I’ve done today.

This current draft is a very serious one. I have all the general details of the story set up and I’m making sure that there is a logical flow to the work that makes sense. I do feel once this is done, the novel will be very close to being finished but will still need some polishing, which may take me through the end of the year.

Anyway, I’ll soldier on.

This novel will get done!