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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 113

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Sex In Strange Places - 2015 - 5/10

Misleading title. Sorry, no sex on the trampoline, hanging from the trapeze, or in hamster wheel.
Instead, our travelog takes us to Turkey, Brazil, and Russia.
Sex is the paid sort (prostitution), and we get the low end (refugees), transgenders, and the upper tier.
Presenter is over-eager, bright young thing. By turns vacuous and idealistic.

Part of me wonders if Miss Stacey’s clueless behavior is a facade, a role she plays.
She whines throughout, and feels really, really bad for the way prostitutes are treated.
And yet, would she be so sympathetic if they set up shop in her same apartment?
(As someone who lived next to a drug dealer for two years, I would predict she would tire of midnight visitors pounding doors, gunfire, police raids, screaming, etc …)
Many of her questions are refreshingly direct: How much do you charge? Do you pitch? Receive?
Other times, ignores the obvious - such as clients who choose transgenders yet still declare they are 100% hetero.
E01 - Turkey, is a downer with refugees having to resort to sex to live.
E02 - Brazil, is Carnival and mostly trannies, broad jokes and more fun.
E03 - Russia, the high end. Paradoxically, she is less sympathetic to successful call girls.

This hardly is a documentary in the usual sense of the word. More like home travel movies.
Just like the presenter is not exactly a professional.
There is a great exchange where she confronts a club owner, telling, “You know, some of your girls are unhappy."
“Are all your fellow journalists happy?” he retorts. “Is every doctor happy? Every mailman?”

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Emergency Squad - 1974 - 6/10
AKA - Squadra Volante

The heist goes off. Disguising themselves as a film crew fools pedestrians and onlookers into assuming they are watching a crime movie.
Unfortunately, there was one death, reminding one detective of a similar robbery five years earlier, where another innocent was similarly slain. The detective’s wife.
Acting on his own, Interpol agent Ravelli goes unorthodox to track the crew.
Meanwhile, the crew, holed up, excitable, volatile, begin to feud.
Acceptable Euro-Crime outing hurtles along, without giving viewers a chance to second guess or consider the unlikely probabilities.
Fans of this sub-genre should enjoy.

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Agatha - 2022 - 6/10

While this bears the look and feel of a short, the hour run time indicates a nominal feature.
An unnamed man (we find out in the credits, he is The Professor) wanders a junkyard.
A bum warns him to get out now. Now! Before it –– it’s too late.
The junkyard is a borderland between a city, or memory of a city, and a ruined landscape.
Our character attempts to bargain for his health.
That’s about as far as I’m willing to guess.
This mixes live action with animation with image jiggering, leaving the narrative vague.
For a three-person creative team, this is impressive and worth a watch if you have an hour.
English subs = https://subscene.com/subtitles/agatha-2022/english/2920259

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Hounded - 2022 - 5/10
AKA - Hunted

Four thieves target country manor estates.
Security alarms, guard dogs, no problem. Sure.
One manor has better security. The thieves are caught, lectured …
“…I’m sure you are aware our criminal justice system is at best ineffective,
and at worst a total embarrassment …”
The crooks are freed in open country, given a head start, and then “release the hounds!”

Well worn plot, from The Most Dangerous Game to Naked Prey to Hard Target.
Filmmakers misstep fatally by castigating the gentry as villains and the criminals as innocents.
Both sides are unsavory predators and ought to have been shown as such.
A coward’s effort.

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Ae Fond Kiss - 2004 - 6/10

Picking up his 17 year old sister at school, Casim catches sight of Roisin.
Casim is a Glasgow DJ, hoping to launch his own club. Roisin is the school music teacher.
He is Muslim, with an arranged fiancé in Pakistan. She is a divorced Catholic.
The relationship sparks, heats up, leading to family and “official” interference.
A fair amount of loopholes in this. Age gap, Casim’s naiveté, the school makeup.
Ken Loach film, sunnier than most of his work, though I found the ending forced.

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Third Reich: Rise & Fall - 2010 - 4/10

Embarrassing, amateurish, so-called World War II documentary. Two parts: “Rise" - “Fall"
Purported to be told from the German point of view using letters, journals, and never before seen film footage.
The letters were from footsoldiers, citizens, ordinary souls. After almost every passage, however, the omniscient, voice of doom narrator rebukes or reinterprets. Editorializes.
Half of the found footage is compelling, though one grows suspicious of its authenticity.
The other half is of picnics, birthday parties, beach outings. Nothing related to the Third Reich or WWII.

There is a memorable howler in “Fall” at the onset of Operation Barbarossa.
(Barbarossa was not mentioned, by the way. Nor were any battles, operations, generals, politicians, Krupps, the SA, Gestapo … Next to zero pesky historical details are in this program).
Anyway, the Wehrmacht prepares to invade.
Footage cross-cuts between cannon fire, growling Panzers, dive-bombing Stukas … and …
an adorable kitten playing on a ladder. That’s correct, a genuine WWII kitty.
What the F?

Throughout, the video work of this “documentary” is inept.
The editor could not resist inserting old timey and damaged effects.
Sprocket holes, scratches, surface debris. Transitions are jam-packed with those.
Editor seems like a 6th grade kid with an effects kit.
Makes one wonder how much of the actual footage was tampered with.
Like colorized? Or using stock from another era and aging it?
Once tampering begins, doubts about authenticity, accuracy and integrity creep in.
Very disappointing. Think “Third Reich For Dummies” only shallower and less focused.

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S.V.D.: Soyuz Velikogo Dela - 1927 - 6/10
AKA - The Club Of The Big Deed / СВД: Союз Bеликого Дела

The Decembrist Revolt of 1825, occurred in Russia after the Napoleonic Wars.
After Czar Alexander I died, eldest son Constantine declined the crown and his brother Nicholas accepted it.
There was brief fighting between regiments, the revolution was crushed, most survivors shipped to Siberia.
Oversimplified background.

This movie is a miniaturized version of the rebellion in one regiment.
The main character, however, is a cardsharp, seller of information and betrayer.
Rebels plan in back rooms, but the cad hears enough valuable information to sell.
One sequence takes place in a circus, which has little bearing, though it is interesting to see the strong-woman hoist an artillery cannon.
As Soviet films go, this is mild on the propaganda.
S V D is also a marvelous example of “flicker” as light dances throughout.
Howling midnight gales, hard shadows, cigarette smoke are expertly used for atmosphere.

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Murder In Biot - 2021 - 5/10
AKA - Crime à Biot

Pre-Christmas dinner at the popular bistro, friends gather and listen to Marie’s plans.
That is before one of her “friends” poisons her meal.
Afterward, the deputy prosecutor and inspector begin the rounds.
Adultery, indebtedness, rivalry, treachery. Behind smiling faces.
Covid mentioned once, then forgotten.
Scattered gender Woke speech muddles an already murky plot.
During one exchange with “they said” and “they disagreed” and “not them but they” I was completely lost and I imagine the actors were, as well.
Below par, close to Hallmark level.

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Vodník - 2019 - 7/10

The infant cries, and cries, and cries. Morning, afternoon, night. It will not shut up.
Family, relatives, neighbors, workmen, everyone has simply endured enough.
After the baby is murdered, grandma keels over with a heart attack, the accused baby’s mother is arrested and she hangs herself in jail that night. Case closed.
Until, 30 years later, an inspector reopens the case, saying, “A mother, any woman, would never kill an infant by cutting its head off with a circular saw. Only a man would do this.”
Three part Czech series delves into petty village squabbles, resentments, adulteries, lies, cover-ups.
Much is shot in a washed out, sultry summer haze. Handheld camera work adds to disorientation.
Horrid story, not for all tastes, though it will sink its hooks into you.

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Effie Gray - 2014 - 6/10

Period biography of Euphemia Chalmers Ruskin (and later, Millais)
Follows her marriage to critic/writer John Ruskin, their marital “problems,” Venice sojourn, Scottish trip.
An understanding of the Victorian era, perhaps the Pre-Raphaelite movement, or Ruskin’s works may be necessary.
The film highlights Ruskin’s oppressive home - rather his parents’ home (first cousins, not mentioned) and how over-protective parents still were of their 29 year old little boy.
Film looks quite good for what was a modest budget, and boasts a fine cast.
color palette less restrained here, as opposed to many Victorian period films.
Pacing is a problem, though, as the story paddles sluggishly. Characters are unsympathetic and humorless, which also hurts.
Essentially a “woman’s film,” and Ruskin here remains somewhat of a cipher, especially his “actions.”
Script, as with real story, does not speculate, titillate, cast blame, or toss theories for the final arc.
I suspect casual viewers unfamiliar with PRB or Ruskin might fall asleep or switch off.

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Jennifer’s Body - 2009 - 6/10

Best high school friends Jennifer and Needy attend the bar concert which goes up in flames.
Jennifer hops the van with band, Low Shoulder, and returns later with ravenous appetites.
Teen horror flick is well cast (despite leads appearing too old), witty dialogue, crackling pace.
For all that, it misses the mark. There is no sizzle.
Adult situations and gore are dialed back, and the result resembles a bland television episode.

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Kleo - 2022 - 6/10

Mid 1980’s, Stasi assassin Kleo glides from East Berlin to West, snuffing enemies.
With her last one, a mishap occurs and she is sentenced to prison.
Jump a few years, the Berlin Wall collapses and Kleo is released.
Why was she sentenced? Who set her up?
She starts murdering her way up the ladder.
For an espionage thriller, this Is laced with black comedy.
Unlike so many series, the mid-section is strong.
The “conclusion” is a Netflix ending. The show was clearly tying loose ends, when gorks chose to milk for S02.

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The Thick Of It: S01 - 2005 - 6/10

Political satire, probably copied numerous times.
Career bureaucrats and politicians, witless about their duties spend 30 minutes shirking responsibility, finger pointing, switching positions, pushing others under the bus.
Venom laced in every line.
Savagely funny, though not for all tastes (not mine, I confess) and probably uncomfortably close to real situations.
First season has only three episodes.

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House Of Terrors - 1965 - 6/10
AKA - Kaidan Semushi Otoko / 怪談せむし男

After Yoshi’s husband dies – insane – in her father-in-law’s medical clinic, Yoshi learns he had a rural mansion.
Complete with taciturn hunchbacked servant, and a creepy aura.
The grieving widow arrives, followed by her father-in-law who puts the moves on her, a doctor, a niece, and still more visitors. Why so many? Because this is a one way house. Hungry.
Stunningly shot in a high Gothic style. Deep shadows, odd angles, amidst a swirling, chilling sound mix.
Acting borders on melodrama, which mars this, and the directing is ofttimes over the top.

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God’s Angry Man - 1981 - 6/10
AKA - Glaube und Währung - Dr. Gene Scott, Fernsehprediger

How angry? Pretty darn mad if those donations start to dwindle.
Early Werner Herzog documentary profiles Dr. Gene Scott.
One feels Herzog filmed this for European audiences, trying to explain US televangelists.
Chances are, Scott gave him access, whereas contemporaries such as Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, the Bakkers, or Jerry Falwell would not.
This makes an interesting curio, catching Scott before his larger reach in the 1990’s.
His show was a constant stop during late night channel surfing.
An extremely intelligent man, if he was preaching or giving lessons, I would invariably listen for a bit.
If he was asking for money, I would continue changing channels until I found an old movie.
Subs = https://subscene.com/subtitles/gods-angry-man-glaube-und-whrung-dr-gene-scott-fernsehprediger/english/2926942

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Shelter - 2014 - 6/10

Homeless man from Nigeria forms fragile relationship with heroin addict.
He recognizes a soul in crisis. She says she doesn’t need anyone.
Predictable, despite the bonus Q&A session with director Paul Bettany saying this is based on real life observations of a homeless pair outside his window.
Really? One far-fetched sequence had the couple encamp in a posh Manhattan apartment after the vacationing owners left a door unlocked (apparently no security system). Trusting New Yorkers.
The street living couple are rather clean, too. Clothes - hair.
Gradually, they share their backstories and that telegraphs how their ends will play out.
Gritty downer, yet their misfortunes are more in keeping with Lemony Snicket rather than Ken Loach.

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The Play What I Wrote - 2021 - 7/10

Comedian duo Sean and Hamish are in a dry patch.
Sean has written a serious play, which he wants produced.
Hamish wants to accept the lucrative gig of doing a Morecambe and Wise tribute.
Hamish eventually persuades Sean that Ian McKellen will be in this show, as will Scarlett Johansson.
Fever paced farce gallops from the onset and seldom slows the pace.
A hectic blend of low brow, puns and music hall (vaudeville).
Performances always have a surprise guest star in the second act.
This one features Tom Hiddleston. The Broadway play I saw years ago had Alan Alda.
The play is very English, and most of the Morecambe and Wise references may elude outsiders.
Rather, enjoy this for what it is; hold tight and laugh along.

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Black Wedding - 2021 - 7/10
AKA - Crna Svadba

Supernatural mystery starts off with a bang.
Mass murder in a small village that draws in the police, both official and secret.
The story downshifts into slow boil, delving into Vlach curses, spells, beliefs.
On the fringe, keeping a wary eye, the Orthodox Church hierarchy.
And yes, priests have a role, as an ancient foe is gathering strength.
When society becomes cynical, when faith is lost, the community lies exposed for evil.
Such is the underlaying theme,
Serbian series may be too slow for the impatient, yet this is rich in details and atmosphere.
This ends on an unresolved peak and S02 is currently filming.
There feels like there is enough narrative for a decent second season.

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She Does Not Drink, Smoke Or Flirt But … She Talks! - 1970 - 6/10
AKA - Elle Boit Pas, Elle Fume Pas, Elle Drague Pas, Nais … Elle Cause!

Early 70’s French comedy of sex, murder and blackmail.
Part time maid works three separate households.
From each, she unearths dodgy scandals.
Bitter secrets each would pay huge to keep concealed.
Human nature being what it is, fools will always leave themselves open to treachery.

The maid’s hand is terrific, yet she avoids the obvious ploy.
There is copious nudity (one of the characters constantly undresses women mentally).
Dated, but in a good way. Fashion, hairstyles, attitudes’. Frothy fun.

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Murders In Marie-Galante - 2021 - 5/10
AKA - Meurtres à Marie-Galante

The corpse is found near Punch Pond, drowned.
A freshwater pond, the body is filled with seawater.
Our local inspector grudging accepts unasked for help from a visiting cop.
While the setting is now Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean, the formula abides.
Our female lead suffers terrible, outdated fashion sense.

That sort of cap lasted about 2 weeks in the early 1970’s.
Females swiftly burned it after seeing how horsey it made their face appear.

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The Flame - 1947 - 6/10

The rich man is given a few months to live.
He’s built a financial empire, never married, plays gloomy organ music in his Gothic manor.
And yet, late in the game, love touches him. He proposes to his attractive blonde nurse.
Not knowing she is running a scam with his ne’er do well brother.

Well shot film is loaded with twists and double crosses.
Good Republic cast (even Vera Ralston is OK).
“… If your love means all the world to you, and you lose her, then you have lost the whole world.”
Slithering, duplicitous, blackmail potboiler.
Subs = https://subscene.com/subtitles/the-flame/english/2932567

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And Then There Were None - 2016 - 7/10

Three part adaptation of the Agatha Christie chestnut.
Ten souls, hired or invited, soon find themselves stranded on an isolated island.
One by one, they succumb to the Grim Reaper.
Just when you think you know who’s tugging the strings, they’re dead.
Top notch production values, choice casting, and a spectacular setting.
Most will already have seen one version of this or “Ten Little Indians,” but this is quite handsome and faithful.

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Viva Erotica - 1996 - 6/10
AKA - Sik ching nam lui // 色情男女

Writer / director Sing is weathering a couple of film duds.
His latest script is … well … a little arty.
Nevertheless, he gets a financial backer in a Triad boss, who promises the lead role to his porn actress girlfriend who no longer wants to bare her assets but wants to be an actress.
The shoot, the walkouts, the compromises, artistic integrity. Kiss ’em goodbye, sunshine.
Sly comedy will hit the mark with a select audience: Hong Kong cineastes.
Cameo by Anthony Wong, in-jokes about Kar-Wai Wong, the missed free kick, and chaos swirling around poor Leslie Cheung in this How-to-make-a-Cat III flick and not commit suicide (yeah, that happens, too in an unexpected scene).

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Enola Holmes 2 - 2022 - 7/10

No, this is not canon, but a sequel to the 2020 film.
This outing, Enola launches her own detective agency, landing a client searching for a lost sister.
The trail leads to the match factory and the music hall.
Meanwhile, her famous older brother investigates a massive money fraud.
As before, handsome production values and a fine score.
The plot is clever, well written and a solid mystery.
Familiarity with the first film unnecessary, though it will help.

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Impact - 1949 - 6/10

Tycoon plans business trip with his wife, whom he adores.
She catches a headache, gets hubby to take her “cousin” (spelled l-o-v-e-r) instead.
Wife and boyfriend intend sending hubby to the Reaper, except when the plan goes wrong it goes terribly wrong.
From that point, until the last couple minutes, the narrative curves and haripins in often unusual directions.
Sometimes it is predictable, other turns come straight outta nowhere.
Solid Noir-ish mystery with good San Francisco locations and period creampuff cars.

Charles Coburn steals every scene he’s in as sharp Irish detective.
For old school buffs, Silent actress Mae Marsh has a key role during the idyllic sequence.
Anna May Wong, in one of her final roles, is likewise given a pivotal character.