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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 104

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Blue Sky Maiden - 1957 - 6/10
AKA - Aozora Musume // 青 空 娘

Sweet story of girl, recently graduated from high school, going to live in Tokyo with her father.
She had been living with grandma, since ma had borne her out of wedlock and there was that shame factor.
Oh, and dad had been married back when, is still married, and the family is not at all keen about her moving in.
With a big smile and almost boundless cheer, she tries to win them over.
Immaculate compositions, as always with Japanese productions, nice period look at Post War Tokyo.
Partially predictable, but with a couple of unguessed plot turns.

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Harold And Maude - 1971 - 7/10

Surprise underground cult favorite through the 70’s and 80’s. Perhaps less so now.
Harold, born into wealth and privilege, is a gloomy son.
Attempting suicide, arranging mock suicides, frequenting graveyard funerals.
Much of this is late teen rebellion against dominating mother.
At one funeral, however, he encounters 70 something Maude.
Maude has a zest for life, embracing each moment, cherishing the past.
And her past is rich, a time of emperors and camp horrors.
The two bond in this wonderfully quirky love story, satire on the times.

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Shanghai: Paradise for Adventurers - 2005 - 6/10

In the 1920’s this was the “Paris Of The East.”
Gambling, drugs, prostitution of all sorts, anything goes and more.
Divided into international quarters, visitors could frolic in dangerous sections, sleep safely in Western ones.
Depending on how large your gambling debts, and to whom you owed.
One of the more infamous bosses had a habit of cutting all tendons of non-payers, leaving them human slugs.
Authors and descendants talk about big names.
Activities grew frantic as the rising sun rose in Japan.
Part of the “Sin Cities” trilogy.

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Berlin: Metropolis of Vice - 2005 - 7/10

Free-for-all tour of 1920’s Berlin, widely considered one of the most decadent time/place cities ever.
Film takes its cues from Mel Gordon’s “Voluptuous Panic” and is packed with images, most which cannot be shown here.
Much had to do with the defeat of Germany at the end of World War I, the annihilation of so many men, runaway inflation, as well as the sense of devil take the hindmost.
Tourists flocked to Berlin, mostly because German runaway inflation meant that everything - and everyone - was inexpensive.

On parade are cabarets, gay clubs, lesbian clubs, transvestite societies, nudist associations, the sex museum, drugs, alcohol, S&M and prostitutes, legions of prostitutes - male, female, mother & daughter combos, pregnant females, obese types, deformed or paraplegic, sugar lickers, racehorses, grasshoppers, half-beavers, gravelstones, kontroll girls, boot girls, half silks . . .
Of course, the inevitable backlash arrived with the rise of the National Socialist Party.
Part of the “Sin Cities” trilogy.

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 (Edited)

High Road To China - 1983 - 5/10

“Hey, J. J., that Raiders Of The Lost Ark made buckets of money!”
“And your point?”
“We’ll make a version sorta like Raiders. Spoiled, feisty female, surly male guide.”
“Sounds like Romancing The Stone.”
“No, ours will be set in China! China’s been trendy since Nixon visited.”
“How much is the budget?”
“Oh, we’re not spending much. Television actors, three cameras, no stunts, no effects.”
“And you’re sure we’ll recoup our investment?”
“Trust me, people will watch anything, even this knockoff.”

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London Assurance - 2010 - 7/10

59 year old Sir Henry decides he must remarry in order to secure a source of capital.
The prospective bride is the 18 year old daughter of his boon friend.
A 40 year old age discrepancy is lessened owing to Sir Henry telling a disbelieving world he is but 39.
Enter young Blister, henry’s reprobate son, heavy intoxicant and grasping philanderer.
And thus, by separate journeys, do the men arrive at the bride’s rat-infested farm.
Regency set comedy is a lattice of situations, boasts, impersonations, turnabouts.
From outright buffoons to droll observers. Wicked ladies to the sly Dazzle.
When you have viewed every Jane Austen adaptation and crave a farce, view this!
Subs = https://subscene.com/subtitles/national-theatre-live-london-assurance/english/2861798

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Strictly Ballroom - 1992 - 7/10

Dance and romance.
“New steps! New steps! New steps!”
“No, there will be no new steps.”
Enter the ferociously competitive sport of ballroom dancing.
Tights and sequins, bouffant hair and glitter, AND approved footwork.
Paul is tired of the same dance moves, as well as tired of his fearful partner.
He meets mousy Fran who introduces him to her world of Spanish immigrants and Flamenco.
Stifled dreams clash with modernity on the dance floor.
Baz Luhrmann’s first film is a comic gem.

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Heroes - 1977 - 6/10

Vietnam vet escapes the hospital and makes the roadtrip to start a farm he and other vets had pledged to do.
Henry Winkler pretty good as the highly strung veteran.
Difficult to tell if he is delusional, unbalanced, nuts, or eccentric.
Those he meets along the way (including “overnight” star Harrison Ford) are definitely damaged.
Sally Field is the girl he picks up.
Numerous “vet films” came out around this time. This is middling, with tense moments sapped with cliché.
Winkler had trouble shaking his TV persona at this time, but he and Field have a sweet chemistry.

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How To Be Sherlock Holmes - 2014 - 6/10

Glossy overview of the actors who have played Holmes.
From William Gillette to Mr Cumberbatch.
Of particular interest are what each has added to the canon.
Gillette, for example, switched from a straight pipe to the iconic curved pipe (so audiences could see his face).
He also uttered the phrase - on silent intertitle - “Elementary.”
Rathbone updated Holmes to the 40’s, Cumberbatch to the present day.
Jeremy Brett given left-handed praise, with apologists whining how tired he looked at the end (for those unaware, Mr Brett had been fighting cancer for several years, eventually succumbing to a heart attack).
Rathbone quit Holmes, worrying he would become typecast (which occurred). No mention was uttered of the sheer times he portrayed the detective. 13 major film roles, and a whopping 220 radio episodes!
The narrative also reminded viewers how fortunate they were to have two new actors (Cumberbatch & R Downey) playing the consulting detective. No mention of the Miller / Liu series.
Purists decry the omission of Vasily Livanov, considered by many to be the finest Holmes.
( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079902/ )

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Women Of 69: Unboxed - 7/10 - 2014

Offbeat documentary catches up with Skidmore’s Class of ‘69.
Instead of creating a yearbook, the women had crafted a “yearbox” in 1969.
Now, at age 65, they recall their college years and how that affected adult choices.

Freedom is an important concept, as well as independence. Breaking free resonates.

A life affirming doc, though unlikely to tempt younger audiences (in delicious irony, independent Boomers have raised dependent offspring).
The backward glance can be a trap. To my thinking, one should be careful when gazing at your younger self.

In 1969, Skidmore College was still a women’s college, before going coed in 1971.
Recently it has been awarded 1st place in the annual Reefer Madness poll.
Top school for marijuana users.

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An Officer And A Gentleman - 1982 - 7/10

Cocksure recruit Mayo enters Naval boot camp, training to be a fighter pilot.
(In many ways, this could be the precursor to Top Gun.)
With an ethos of all for me, and me for me, Mayo is hardly the team spirit.
While fellow cadets keep their guard up, local girls are quick to flutter.
Marriage to an officer is the traditional ticket out of Deadsville.
Steamy romance balanced with boot camp and the sadistic sergeant.
Lou Gossett won an Oscar who culls the weak, builds the esprit de corps.
High wattage date film still packs numerous emotional jolts.

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Crash - 1996 - 6/10

Following a harrowing car wreck, a TV personality discovers and then delves into a bizarre car subculture.
Accident victims, disfigured, mangled, crippled, obsessed with vehicular mishaps and sex.
A twisted take of the love affair between semen and gasoline, flesh and chrome.
James Spader leads a brilliant cast in this spellbinding Cronenberg film.
Participants numb, self-destructive, suicidal. And highly aroused.

This is probably not for the uninitiated nor faint-hearted.
Packed with emotionless sex that may kill your mood for the night.
Based on J. G. Ballard’s novel, an author who often alienates more than he entices.

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Life In Squares - 2016 - 6/10

Compact, three part series of Vanessa and Virginia Stephen (Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf).
Begins in 1904 after their father dies, until 1941, Virginia’s death.
The Bloomsbury group is on display, as well as painters, lovers, relatives.
The two sisters, painter and writer, are portrayed by different actors for earlier and later versions of the characters. As are several other characters.
That can be confusing. The plot is a bit of a muddle, as well, more of observing relationships.
Perhaps this would be better for those knowledgeable about the Bloomsbury inner-workings.
I was adrift half the time.

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Time And Tide - 2000 - 6/10
AKA - Shun Liu ni Liu // 順流逆流

Jeez Louise, what an unstoppable film.
Petty criminals, Tyler and Jack (Nicholas Tse and Wu Bai), the former an illegal bodyguard, the latter a mercenary.
Both are young fathers, trying to earn cash in a violent Hong Kong.
One owes a debt to the Triads and when collection time comes, hell breaks loose.
Such is one fragment of a messy plot.
This amazing film is one to see for the stunts, and to be blunt, astounding camerawork.
There’s a nod to The Matrix in this, yet this remains Hong Kong cinema at its peak.
A must see and, I think, Tsui Hark’s last gangster film to date.

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Mae West: Dirty Blonde - 2020 - 6/10

Solid overview of the saucy actress, remembered for a handful of films and her unforgettable attitude.
After an opening flourish of her Paramount beginnings, the doc returns to her roots.
Childhood, vaudeville, then the scandalous plays.
Chief among them, “Sex”, which was pilloried and berated by critics and poobahs.
So, of course, audiences flocked to see it and laugh.
Numerous clips from her films, as well as period Silents to shine the Roaring Twenties.
Most controversies touched on, some lighter than others.
West was a casualty of Breen’s Production Code, though one or two of her later movies are worth seeking out.
Subs = https://subscene.com/subtitles/mae-west-dirty-blonde-2020/english/2864452

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5 X 2 - 2004 - 6/10

Inverted love story from François Ozon follows a couple “2“ through “5“ episodes of their relationship.
Story opens at the divorce attorney and a humiliating separation.
Then it flashes back to when the marriage turned sour -
back to the ecstasy of the nuptials -
to the desperate joy when you encounter one who could be “the one.”
The film is more the details, though, rather than the history.
Fate, coldly cruel here, twists each scene - from the beginning, or in this case, from the end.

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The Mirror Crack’d - 1980 - 6/10

Glossy Hollywood production of Christie’s yarn.
A large film crew arrives in St. Mary Mead, including glamour queen Marina and director / husband Jason (Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson).
Rivalries are aplenty, along with death threats, then a poisoning.
Constables are stymied, but fortunately one has a local aunt, Jane Marple.
Angela Lansbury excellent as Miss Marple, if more crusty than scattered.
Kim Novak delicious as the voluptuous schemer.
Otherwise, this has an old-fashioned feel to it, the old guard crafting what feels like 1950’s cinema.
Wet afternoon film for those who can go along with the unhurried pace.

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Eldritch Code - 2017 - 6/10

Another fool coworker opens an exe file at work.
The IT guy swings into action, trying to remove the R’lyeh file.
Turns out the bug is nasty and tenacious, infecting the server, then worse.
Programming meets HPL in professional looking short from Sweden.
Subs = https://subscene.com/subtitles/eldritch-code/english/2864454

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 (Edited)

Irrational Man - 2015 - 6/10

Psychological mystery from Woody Allen.
Initially, I thought this a rehash of a recent Hugh Grant, The Rewrite, a droll rom com.
Yet, no, this is one of Allen’s darker films.
Joaquin Phoenix plays a philosophy professor who overhears a conversation of moral misdoing.
Next he contemplates the ethics and consequences of random murder.
The story is neither compelling nor arresting. Most of the parts seem curiously underwritten.
The professor and female student contribute dual voiceovers to further the plot.
Allen is telling, rather than showing. Violation of the old adage, show, don’t tell.
Better than 2014’s, Magic In The Moonlight, but pales beside Match Point.

Observation: Sound mix - 5.1. Haven’t paid attention to such in Allen’s recent films, but a step beyond 2.0 stereo.
Much of the music was classic Ramsey Lewis, circa mid-60’s, another move forward for the Woodster.

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Kingpin - 1996 - 6/10

No, not your local mob boss, but the king of strikes.
We’re talking bowling, friend, as in strikes, spares and gutter balls.
Rising lane warrior Roy bests top flight Ernie who exacts a vicious revenge.
The loss of Roy’s bowling hand, and end of his promising career.
Decades on, Roy discovers a hayseed marvel, a natural, though Amish.
Howlingly funny film boasts sly comedy and belly laughs.
From satisfying the landlady to flossing to Bill Murray’s headgear.
Hysterical from the get-go.

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The Night Stalker - 1972 - 7/10

One of those rare TV movies from the early 1970’s that became a phenomenon.
It was given a theatrical run, had a sequel, and launched a brief TV series.
Reporter Carl Kolchak is slowly digging into a string of serial killings in Las Vegas.
He starts wondering if perhaps the murderer is a vampire.
Sure, try to pitch that to your editor, let alone the police.
Darren McGavin disappears into the Kolchak role, though the entire case is great.
Doesn’t hurt either that the Jeff Rice novel was adapted into script by Richard Matheson.

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Mission Kashmir - 2000 - 6/10

After his parents are killed, a young boy is adopted by a policeman and his wife.
Were his parents terrorists? And who killed them? Consider the police officer.
Crackling good Hindi film of vengeance and anger.
Explosive action scenes, basic plot (though these are adults, not eternal adolescents).
Romance elements are minimized, and the songs serve the plot. “Bumbro” is a mad highlight.
Newcomer Hrithik Roshan (above) was on the brink of superstardom.
Hardly the stereotyped Bollywood production, this should please action / thriller fans.

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Shattered - 1921 - 5/10
AKA - Scherben

Bahnwärter is a railman, he checks the crossties and rails daily.
He lives an isolated life with his wife and daughter.
Days are dull, the family is poor, yet they seem happy.
An inspector arrives and spends four days with them.
While Bahnwärter walks the tracks, the inspector rapes the daughter.
A distraught mother races outside into freezing winter.
Claustrophobic melodrama suffers from glacial pacing and overwrought acting.

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Son Of Saul - 2015 - 8/10

Hungarian film set inside camp Auschwitz during its gruesome height.
Told from the point of view of the Sonderkommandos, Jewish prisoners forced to assist the Nazis with “shepherding,” cleaning, and coverup.
One of the prisoners, when confronted with the death of a small boy, either has a breakdown or decides to act like a Mensch and give the child a proper Kaddish burial.
All manner of ugly things are ongoing in the background, out of focus or one only sees fragments.
One late night sequence is a harrowing view of living in Hell on borrowed time.
Interesting is the unseen order among prisoners, how they assist and blackmail each other.
Imaginative and fresh, dense with visuals. Arresting sound design.

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3 Beauties - 2014 - 5/10
AKA - 3 Bellezas

Forced, unfunny “comedy” from Venezuela.
Beauty contestant failure, now single mother, drums the path to runway on her small daughters.
The son is nothing. “Forget him. He’ll only grow into a hairy, smelly man.”
She also constantly reminds the girls, “You are not sisters - you are rivals.”
Resentments and grudges build, from childhood to the national competition.
If you can reference JonBenét, you ought to cringe at this.
Females I viewed this with totally recognized the mother character.
Beware DVD subtitles. Most ungrammatical, though entertaining.