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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 100


Bite The Bullet - 1975 - 7/10

1908, the Wild West fades into the sunset, but not before a 700 mile race.
Men and horses, cross country through desert and mountains.
The newspaper sponsoring this offers prize money, and loads the field with their own thoroughbred.
Contestants are an assortment: gunfighter, aging Rough Riders, hooker, vaquero, a Brit.
Cast led by Gene Hackman and James Coburn, bolstered with Ben Johnson, Jan Michael Vincent, Candice Bergen (way too pretty to accept as a prostitute).
Admirable filmmaking, sumptuously photographed, excellent late-era Western.


Swordsman II - 1992 - 7/10
AKA - Siu ngo gong woo: Dung Fong Bat Bai // 笑傲江湖II東方不敗

This, and the Wong Fei-Hung films, helped propel Jet Li to stardom.
Jet Li is the pure warrior, ala Sir Galahad, who wants to cease the interminable battles.
He is an idealist in a world that is dark, bitter, brutal.
Romance strikes and he attracted to a village girl, not realizing she is actually an arch enemy.

Nor that she is / was a man, who castrated himself to heighten his magic powers.
A very beguiling Brigitte Lin.
Swordsplay wuxia actioner, with a lot of wire work. Followed by East Is Red.
Get the Hong Kong original, avoid the US dubbed, dumbed down version.


The Zombie Walks - 1968 - 5/10
AKA - Im Banne des Unheimlichen

Movie opens during church funeral as pallbearers hoist the coffin.
Whereupon gales of laughter issue from the oblong box.
Does anyone investigate? Heck no, they’re British, avoid embarrassment at all costs.
They seal the stiff in the crypt and head to the pub.
Krimi based on Edgar Wallace book is a campy spoof the of genre, as well as Gothic potboilers.

Sure enough, soon as folks wonder if the corpse ain’t dead a skull faced fiend starts killin’.
The movie blasts along with murders, chases, blondes, and dozens of suspects.
Even during simple interviews, filmmakers toss in crazy sets and visuals to distract you.

Though “set” in England, with Lords, Rolls Royces, Scotland Yard, this is a German production all the way.
Not the best Krimi. A nutty film for aficionados of odd.


Freeway - 1996 - 7/10

“Look who got hit with the ugly stick!”
Imaginative update of Little Red Riding Hood, finds teenage runaway trying to find safety with grandma.
Chasing her is a pedophile, serial killer, whom she has already fought off once.
Leaving him disfigured, but really p!ssed off.
Reese Witherspoon nails this so hard, and it’s a real shame her later career veered white bread over white trash.
Kiefer Sutherland, as the creepy high school counselor, is perfect as the smiling foil.
Don’t miss those opening Crumb inspired credits!


Paris: The Crazy Years - 2005 - 6/10

After the Great War (WWI) ends, Parisian celebration turned into a decade long, wild bender.
Prostitution was legal, drugs and alcohol were cheap and plentiful.
The City Of Light became a magnet for thousands of American GI’s, who lingered and partied.
For Americans of color, why return to slave mentality US, when France offered freedom?
From Josephine Baker to hot Jazz musicians.

Elsewhere, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and their set. Creative souls freed of social inhibitions.
Good times never last, though. The Depression, followed by the Nazis, snuffed the bright lights.
Part of the “Sin Cities” trilogy.


Love & Mercy - 2015 - 8/10

Resisted this for a very long time.
I am very familiar with the Beach Boys, particularly Brian Wilson’s story.
Glossing or fabricating on the filmmakers part would ruin this for me.

A few quibbles aside, this is highly recommended to Wilson fans, and generally recommended to casuals.
Paul Dano portrays Brian at his creative zenith, while John Cusack’s Wilson is caught, not in the lowest point, but certainly in a career trench.
Dano very good as young Brian, innocent, ebullient, full of uncontrolled ideas.
Cusack has the tougher road as he does not resemble Brian, yet he does not fall into the cheap actor’s trick of impersonation. Hairstyle or Wilson’s sidespeech. Cusack works marvels with mannerisms.
Basic tale of collapse and later resurrection is smartly told, if somewhat disingenuous.
Outstanding use of colors and clothing to evoke time and convey subliminal messages.
The two docs on this are helpful.

First problem - Dr Landy. Yes, a despicable, self-serving cad, and yet, he did get Brian out of bed, got him to exercise, eat better, lose weight. He also pushed him into the studio to craft a great album.
(Rolling Stone published an insightful article in their August 11, 1988 issue.)
No reference whatsoever to the “drainers” as Marilyn (wife #1) called them.
The spongers and hangers on who were human parasites.
No reference to Diane Rovell, Marilyn’s sister. Both were in Wilson produced groups, The Honeys and Spring.

Another problem - The band’s discomfort with “Pet Sounds”. As if they did not understand it. Fact is, Brian used crack musicians and the band knew the songs would be difficult to perform live. (Note - they later learned.)
This dovetails into the “Smile” sessions where Mike Love lobbied hard to return to the old cars, girls and surf formula, which was already passé.
In 1967 music was exploding. Filmmakers, instead of playing a Dusty Springfield song, should have selected The Doors, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Hendrix, to name a few, to show just how out of touch Mike Love was, and how Brian, following his own muse, was more cued in.

Another quibble. Although the movie flashbacks on the early Beach Boy ascent, the subsequent years are not shown. The band continued, with and without Brian, to release well received albums for another decade.

As noted, these are nitpicks, and the casual Beach Boys fan couldn’t care less. Moreover, hardcore fans - of any musician, poet, writer, actor, artist, chef - are often obsessive and strange.


Villain - 1971 - 6/10

Richard Burton, in shrewd casting, is gangland boss Vic Dakin.
Most of the illegalities run along lines of loan sharking, protection, blackmail.
The latter, rife with sexual proclivities or infidelities.
Along those line, too, is the overt homosexual behavior of Vic and chum, Wolfie.
I suspect much of this stemmed from the Krays downfall in 1969.
Sneering, belligerent tone, and Burton is a nasty piece of work.
Many “English” references flew past me (I gathered the Parliament connection equated with Profumo).
Underrated, half-forgotten gangster film should be sought out by crime fans.


The Dig - 2021 - 5/10

Obscure history that must have sounded great during the pitch.
1939, eve of Germany invading Poland, Britain poised for another war.
In Suffolk, gentry Mrs. Pretty hires Basil Brown to excavate mounds that she feels are burial sites.
He is working class, though self-educated, while her days are numbered and she knows it.
Anyone can predict how events will proceed.
There isn’t much plot here, and what there is, is utterly predictable.
Filmmakers shoehorn in a romance, spice it with the hint of homosexuality, add meddling by degreed toffs.
There are fine actors involved, given little to do in this thin broth of a story, riddled with inaccuracies.


Cop Hater - 1958 - 6/10

Late entry in Noir genre is a grimy, sweaty hunt for a cop killer.
Dialogue stilted initially, though one grows accustomed to it. Based on an Ed McBain novel. (For ripe pulp prose, track down episodes of “Broadway Is My Beat,” OTR from the 50’s.)
From the look of the barely clad females, air conditioning had not been invented yet.
Hot summer, lingerie cheesecake cooling in front of open blade fans.
Many picture compositions appear yanked off detective paperbacks.

The precinct knuckles down, slaps suspects, cuts deals. Sensitive, good-guy cops, no.
Robert Loggia is the main star. Look for a young Jerry Orbach (Law & Order) as delinquent gang leader.

Film simmers and boils into a bruising finish with twist ending.
Sleazy, enjoyable film.


Clones - 2015 - 6/10

Mr. Freeman, physicist in an orbiting station, has a tumor the size of an apple in his brain.
Surgery is required, though standard procedure is to make a backup of his brain first.
All the memories of his 442 IQ.
Dark, futuristic short suggests a disquieting horizon for those too valuable to die.
In delicious casting, Replicant N6MAA10816 (Roy Batty) plays Dr. Richards, cloning specialist.

Subs =


Outland - 1981 - 6/10

Space marshal is sent to Io to investigate mysterious deaths.
There are illegal drugs, normally tolerated, except are causing fatalities.
Powerful forces behind the drugs, official whitewashing, and none of the residents want to snitch.
What’s a law man to do? Aside from waiting for the hired mercenaries to kill him.
OK SciFi, bears a passing resemblance to High Noon.
A few “space” externals in this, though better if you watch as a crime thriller. (Bad guys are below dumb.)
Sean Connery is the best thing in this as stubborn, no nonsense cop.


Revealing Anne Lister - 2010 - 6/10

Documentary about the scandalous Ms Lister, landowner and womanizer during the Regency era.
Womaniz - huh? Say what?
Apparently this Sappho tale was an open secret during her time, though she did live in seclusion and was rich.
Money always helps cloak taboos.
She left journals containing 4 millions words. Juicy bits, seductions and graphic depictions, are written in code.
The code was cracked in the 1890’s, yet a descendant suppressed it.
The journals were deciphered again in the 1930’s, again in the 60’s, both times suppressed.
Finally, in 1988 the diaries were published. It is astonishing they survived, instead of being burned.
Most of the “talking heads” in this are excellent, commenting with wry humour.
The presenter, on the other hand, is an insecure soul who brings up her own life experiences throughout, and cracks sarcastic.
Anne Lister’s story is interesting, the narrator’s life is not.


Sex For Sale - 1974 - 5/10
AKA - Mian Ju // 面具

Wide-eyed Lin arrives in Hong Kong and immediately swells the ranks of the unemployed.
Fortunately, he catches the eye of a talent scout, who opens doors for him, as well as her thighs.
Yeah, one of “those“ films, in this instance a steamy Category III.
Females soon flock and flutter around him, only he ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
Rather than press his advantage, Lin remains broke, despite servicing women of wealth and influence.
The style is pure disco in dayglow colors in this trashy melodrama, played straight instead of sleazy.


The City Of Lost Children - 1995 - 7/10
AKA - La Cité des Enfants Perdus

Mesmerizing, if confusing, story of kidnapped children and the mad scientist trying to steal their dreams.
In a sentence, that is the premise in a film wildly imaginative in visuals and ideas.

Of course, why does the scientist kidnap children?
Meanwhile, a cult of one-eyed cyborgs prowl the fog-laden seaport and carnival.

There is nothing remotely predictable in this work, which ought to be viewed with as little info as possible.
Funny, profound at times, and a mysterious adventure.


The Riot Club - 2014 - 6/10

Privileged toffs behaving very badly, indeed.
Not only are they rich, entitled, and destined for the best of everything,
but they get to urinate all over the lower orders.
At least they do in this film.
Supposedly based on the Burlington Club, the Riot Club originated after the death of Lord Ryot.
Film rings false as they would not book an evenings revelry in a bourgeois pub.
Nor would they hire a call girl who would balk.
Also, paparazzi and phone cams are ubiquitous nowadays.
Nevertheless, a curious choice for conspiracy and Illuminati buffs.


When Eight Bells Toll - 1971 - 6/10

Ships are sinking, people are disappearing, and gold bullion is being hijacked.
Don’t look for Auric Goldfinger, he went flying awhile ago.
Agent Phillip Calvert is dispatched to investigate, along with Intelligence mate, Hunslett.
As they start sniffing around the Scottish harbors, near-sighted foes attack.
Bits and bobs of Bondworld flit past, but the budget for this pales next to the 007 opulence.
Fights are poorly choreographed, Robert Morley plays his role as a blustering buffoon.
The film annoyed me at first, but after awhile I shrugged and accepted it for what it was.
Anthony Hopkins seems of similar disposition, stiff initially, gradually enjoying the silliness of it.


The Pace That Kills! - 1928 - 6/10

Ma sends Eddie off to the wicked big city to hunt for his older sister, gone a year now.
He lands a job at the department store and catches the eye of co-worker Fannie.
When Eddie complains of a headache, she has just the thing. Headache powder.
One sniff and, Wowza, I’ve got lots of energy!
Fannie takes him to a high class nightclub, stiffens his drink with a splash from her thigh flask.
Later at the private party, she lights up a king sized smoke and gives him a big old drag.
By now, Eddie’s head is swirling so fast, he doesn’t realize Fannie is pulling the pickle into the petals.
My God, this creaky Silent is a lot of fun!
Of course, it’s a stern warning to all “country boys” about the sinful city, easy women, and drugs.
I’d be on the next bus in a heartbeat.
Remade as Cocaine Fiends (1935), this earlier version has better actors, higher production values, superior editing.


Mr. Holmes - 2015 - 6/10

Character study of the consulting detective played by the peerless Ian McKellen.
Holmes has survived friends and family, as well as WWI and WWII, which I find hard to swallow.
The brilliant mind, now into its 90’s, struggles with dementia and confused memories.
Companions include housekeeper and her son, and a doctor who looks in on him.
Otherwise, he is a man who has outlived his time and lingers in an era that sweeps past.
I appreciated this movie more than I enjoyed it.
I am at the age where select neighbors and relatives collapse into confined rooms.
Not the most pleasant of reminders that this future will be mine sooner than later.
Film echoes earlier Robin And Marion (1976) which was rather depressing also.


Gaza Surf Club - 2016 - 7/10

Forget the woody, and leave the big gun board in granddad’s garage.
This doc follows the tiny (30 members) surf community in the Gaza Strip.
Between bombing runs, shellings, ceasefires and full on contact, the group tries to make time to hit the waves.
More than average surf porn, this is about the locals, how they live, what their environment looks like.
Shoreline is blown up rubble and shipwrecks. The city is blasted buildings, burnt out cars.
The men are optimistic, though realistic to barriers, restrictions, and a limited future.
Beautiful, sometimes harrowing surfing scenes, and a look at the very, very few females in the waves.
This should pair well with another third world surf doc, On The Wave (2013).


Angel Face - 1952 - 7/10

A near death strikes the posh household.
The wealthy family takes a shine to ambulance driver Frank, hires him as chauffeur, gives him his own room.
And Fortune takes notice of the fool.
Twenty year old daughter, Diane, “sees something” in Frank and flirts shamelessly.
After Diane’s parents perish in a automobile accident, she and Frank quickly marry.
That way, neither can testify against the other.
Top Noir benefits from Mitchum’s charisma, and Jean Simmons is hypnotic as the innocent looking femme fatale.
Crisply photographed, perfectly paced, one of the best.


The Lord Of The Rings - 1978 - 6/10

Frodo, Gandalf, and company set forth on a pony ride in May.
I first saw this, or tried to see it, at the drive-in.
(My date, hoping this was similar to Fritz The Cat, thought Lord a waste of time.)
I found it disappointing at the time, especially following Bakshi’s previous Wizards (1977).
Rewatching reminds me how Disneyish the animation was, especially compared with Japanese anime.
The roto-scoping, which I had not seen before, was eerie and held my attention completely.
The conclusion is abrupt, terribly abrupt. It feels like a cliffhanger, but it also feels like funds ran out.
Worth a watch, despite the pisspoor conclusion, and the heavy condensation.


Swerve - 2011 - 6/10

Man driving through Australian oblivion witnesses a spectacular car smash.
One driver is injured, the other is pieces parts. There is also a briefcase, crammed with money.

Boyscout to the core, our man hands the cash over to authorities in Neverest.
Turns out several parties are interested in those banknotes. The body count begins to rise.
Neo Noir under blinding sun has double crosses, femme fatale, missing characters, slippery histories.
Oh, and a mini-convention of local police marching bands. Twists vie with formula.
SPOILER – During one sequence by midnight pool, I predicted, “Prepare for nude swimming.”
Prediction was correct. - END SPOILER
Acceptable thriller if one does not dwell on a couple unexplained mysteries.


Amélie - 2001 - 8/10
AKA - Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

The happiness fairy, busy trying to repair others’ sorrows, she neglects her own needs.
Amélie waitresses at a small cafe filled with an assortment of characters.
She is an especially astute observer, drawn to small mysteries and things out of the ordinary.
Elements of mystery, romance, comedy combine in a visual feast.
The color palette is extraordinary. Lushly stylish, without being overwhelming.
Beginning to end, you feel like you are wandering in a dream.
The filmmaker’s attention never lapses, either, from major events to insignificant details.
Wonderful film, perfect date movie.


Blind Date - 2015 - 6/10
AKA - Un Peu Beaucoup Aveuglément

Rather old-fashioned French romantic comedy.
Two individuals share an apartment floor, separated by non-insulated, thin wall.
They can easily hear each other, whether in the kitchen or in the shower.
Attraction grows, yet they have established boundaries, such as no physical contact.
Apparently, each has been burned one too many times in real relationships.
Set construction seem stagebound, and the basic plot is gauze thin.
Neither character is a social network slave, and both use their phones sparingly.
That strikes me as old-fashioned.
Second date movie.


Xala - 1975 - 6/10

El Hadji prepares to marry wife number three, which wives number one and two are not thrilled about.
A small time official, as corrupt as any, Hadji steals, embezzles, short-changes.
Wedding night, calamity! His tool refuses to rise to the occasion.
He decides an impotence curse (xala) is the cause. But who cursed him.
Senegal film was problematic for me.
Despite an introduction by the curator (historical background and context), I was still out of my depth, not understanding Senegalese history, the recent independence from France, and rampant official misdeeds.
Also, marked as a comedy, I never got it. Never laughed once.
And the spitting.