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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 18

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IRIS - 2009 - 7/10
AKA - Airiseu // 아이리스

Convoluted K-drama actioner.
20 interlocking episodes with a cliffhanger or surprise ending each one.
Begins as espionage, gradually the existence of I R I S is revealed.
Conspiracies and plots spread like weeds.
Backstory and relationships are established in the first couple of episodes. By #04, the pedal goes down.

Gunfights galore. Lavish production values, filming sprawled across several global locations.
Unbearable romance elements. (the bane of K-dramas)

I thought this ended at Ep 17, but no, there were still plot twists and fresh narrative.
Wildly popular in Asia, spawned two sequels (mixed reviews there).

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Retreat From Kiska - 1965 - 6/10
AKA - Taiheiyô Kiseki No Sakusen: Kisuka

Kiska, small isle in the Aleutian chain is the furthest outpost of Imperial Japan.
American forces encircle the small garrison of 5000 men.
Japanese fleet command decide to try and rescue their men!
This is more of a tactical film than an action one, as the far smaller Japanese group rely on inclimate weather and uncharted waters to out maneuver their adversary.
Bare bones retelling, although what struck me was how often subordinates openly second-guessed their superior or kept urging him to do this or do that.
Other military films (US, British, Russian, German), the XO may voice disagreements behind doors, but on open deck the commanding officer is never challenged.

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Killer-K - 2011 - 7/10
AKA - Little Girl K // 소 녀 K

Echoes of grindhouse. High voltage Korean actioner.
Young girl is in the wrong place, wrong time with friends. All are slain.
Except her. She’s given the “join us or die” offer.
Next, she is trained as a corporate assassin.
Story plays out over three episodes, each more violent than the last.
This aired late night in Korea, and had nudity and rivers of blood.
Episode three has the highest bullets - body count, but to my thinking, the highlight was episode two.
“K” had discovered who had killed her friends and exacted revenge.
No firearms for that one. Her favored weapons, long knives.
Blood drenched action with machetes, knives, swords.
At three episodes, this is an easy entry into K-dramas. The violent ones.
This is always the series I suggest when friends / coworkers ask for sampling Korean dramas.

Fan-trailer
www.youtube.com/embed/EhjHRbnqfds

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Dorian Gray - 2009 - 7/10

Stylish retelling of the Oscar Wilde classic.
Young man who never ages no matter how many sins he commits.
Dark, sexy, perfumed with decadence.
Stunning set design, a high point being Dorian’s house which has a palpable presence.
Insightful audio commentary, as well.
Stars Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, and the Witanhurst House in Highgate.
Yes, the house is very much a character.
Decadent rather than Horror, cynicism over splatter.

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Thieves - 1977 - 5/10

Not as awful as other reviews make out, but this is not for the casual.
In fact, this is for dedicated fans of theatre boards.
Based on a then-trendy Broadway play, this catches a married couple during a few sketchy days.
She (Marlo Thomas) longs for them to be like they were in their 20’s.
He (Charles Grodin) reminds her, frequently, they are in their mid 30’s.
The story opens up to showcase New York exteriors, but the dialogue is, as expected, verbose.
Interesting as a time capsule, though Kojak is, in many ways, a wiser choice to view seedy NYC.
The native New Yorker, active theatre type, next to me, would score this higher.

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Athena: Goddess Of War - 2010 - 5/10
AKA - 아테나: 전쟁의 여신

Disappointing spinoff of the ground breaking IRIS.
South Korean security branch, NTS, squares off against international energy terrorist cabal.
Poorly acted, wrong headed direction, and a script with more holes than a rat infested wheel of Swiss cheese.
The main lead is too young, and early on grins and mugs as if auditioning for teen boy band.
A team captain is inept and foolish, as is a North Korean ex-elite agent.
Don’t get me started on the bane of K-dramas. The tears. Weeping, crying, sobbing like six year olds.
Yet these blubbering basket cases safeguard the nation.
There are exceptions, the chief being the rogue baddie who excels.

The director obviously knows action sequences, which are showcases. With actors, he seems clueless.
As much as I blame the series director for foolish comic relief and histrionics, however, the main culprit is the ridiculous script.
Long, gorgeous episodes in Italy - for no purpose.
Two episodes in Japan, guarding a pop star - for no purpose.
Double agents exposed, and then the duped side shrugs and says, “Well, they’re sorry, so back to work.”
Initially, the main villains are USA agencies, which is a wonderful twist, only that thread is abandoned.
Stupid.
Mmmmm . . . wasted 20 of my life hours on this goo.

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The Shadow Of The Cat - 1961 - 6/10

Gothic Hammer! Feline fans, yeah, baby!
The elderly (wealthy) female is murdered. Culprits, the greedy husband and two conniving servants.
The lone witness? Tabitha. The cat who saw it, and who decides wickedness ought to be punished.

Rather slim plot, but well executed. Nice cast, eerie score, and beautiful camerawork.
Of particular note is Tabitha’s perspective, which is low to the ground and flattened.

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When You’re Strange - 2009 - 7/10

Documentary of The Doors, focusing, as usual, on frontman Jim Morrison.
This used footage that was new to me, and I’ve viewed plenty of Doors flicks.
Narrated by Johnny Depp.
Fun slide from Los Angeles to Paris to immortality.

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TiMER - 2009 - 6/10

Indie flick.
A wrist implant allows wearers to know exactly when they will meet their life partner. Their “soul mate.”
Great, if the wait is six months or so. What if it is 30 years?
Do you date around with Mr. Right Now, waiting for Mr. Right to finally appear?
TiMER’s heroine’s band reads 00 - 00 - 00:00. Her true love is either dead or never bothered with the implant.
She meets someone who is fun, who refuses to get the implant. Can she fall in love the old-fashioned way?
With arguments, misunderstandings, and no guarantee of love.
Bittersweet.

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Eternal Beauty - 2019 - 5/10

The family tries to deal with Jane’s mental illness.
Jane tries to deal with Jane’s mental illness.
Overwrought film tries way too hard, and in effect becomes a jumble.
Does Jane really have a car? A phone? On which there are voices?
Does she take her pills? Does she have a boyfriend? A suitor?
By the end, will anyone care?
To be blunt, this is poorly written, incoherent and self-indulgent.

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The Case Of The Scorpion’s Tail - 1971 - 6/10
AKA - La Coda Dello Scorpione

Good Giallo that plays with conventions and expectations.
Older husband dies in airline disaster, and his young, promiscuous wife inherits a cool million.
She soon draws plenty of attention: police, Interpol, insurance investigator.
And a masked killer who wields a nasty knife.
Multiple locations dance across a jagged, deliberately misleading plot.
Audio commentary with the scriptwriter. In it, he tells how he favored thrillers based on money or revenge, which had to obey reasonable lines. He was not a fan of Argento’s maniacs, where anyone could be guilty in the final reel.

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9000 Needles - 2011 - 6/10

My acupuncturist asked me to track this down for her.
I did, then decided to give it a watch.
Documentary about Devin Dearth, businessman and bodybuilder, all but a vegetable after a stroke.
US insurance company stopped medical payments at 100 days of therapy.
He had revived by that point, but his entire right side was paralyzed.
He journeyed to Tianjin, China and began extensive physical therapy, herbal applications, and acupuncture.
The treatment lasted several months, cost $20,000, and used over 9000 needles.
Inspiring story, needed a tighter edit.
Comment – For most westerners, acupuncture is a last resort, often too late to provide beneficial results.

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Duke Of Burgundy - 2014 - 6/10

Maid bicycles up to the manor door. Waits. And waits.
The mistress of the estate finally opens the door with, “You’re late.”
Domination and servitude ensue, climaxing with passionate erotic grappling.
The tone is understated, muted, restrained. The color palette is dark. There are no males.
A group of females attend classes, hairstyles in tight buns, save for the mannequins in chairs.
Film is fraught with symbolism and “meaning” but it is heavy handed and lethargic.
Well crafted study of roles and power games, yet the resolution ebbed away and I ended up scratching my head, already forgetting threads and characters.

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Ladies Should Listen - 1934 - 6/10

Julian spends his last francs acquiring mineral rights in Chile.
If nothing comes from this in the next few weeks, he will be broke.
Not to fear, two lovelies cast their gaze at him.
One is the daughter of a millionaire, the other is poor but honest.
Both admire him because, well, he is a young Cary Grant.
Stuffy drawing room comedy is barely an hour long.
Better gags and jokes in the second half, but mawkish direction and ill pacing hurt this film.

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Rise Of The Nazis - 2019 - 7/10

Three part series focuses on the early years.
The political maneuvering and organizational building.
The corruption of and overthrow of democratic government.
This documentary spotlights players who rarely get mentioned in similar docs.
Kurt von Schleicher, Josef Hartinger, Hans Litten, Fritz von Papen, Ernest Jung.
The first two episodes are enhanced by well preserved newsreels and home movies.
The third and final episode is devoted to the Night Of The Long Knives.

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Out Of The Fog - 1962 - 5/10
AKA - Fog For A Killer

Freshly released from prison (again), embittered George takes a room in a halfway house.
Ex-cons have trouble enough readjusting, finding work, meeting others, but his attitude is poisonous.
And then nearby, young girls start to get murdered.
Police suspect number one? Bingo!
B-movie with fine acting, unimaginative script.
Barely an hour, good enough time waster.

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Mia Madre - 2015 - 6/10

Overwhelmed film director deals with troublesome actor, a pleading ex-lover, teenage daughter.
Oh, and an elderly mother who is hospitalized, her condition deteriorating.
Film consists of confrontations, interrupted by visitations and reflections.
Memories, both fond and uncomfortable, spill into her “normal” world.
Many threads and characters explored, but the script is well organized.
A poignant film, not necessarily a depressing one.

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A Dangerous Fortune - 2016 - 5/10
AKA - Die Pfeiler der Macht

German adaptation of Ken Follett’s Victorian / Edwardian twaddle.
Young boy is taken in by relatives after his father commits suicide rather than face financial ruin.
In due time, he is a rising star at the family business, the bank.
Revolutionaries, gambling, drinking, murder, fraud and bodice ripping spice the first half.
Second half is dreary love triangle and general whining. Soap opera.
German take on gaslit England is interesting, but seems too modern in many regards.

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Ghost House - 2017 - 6/10

I’m inclined to indulge this cobbled together horror outing. It has strong points and liabilities.
American couple visit Bangkok, searching for adventure amidst their romance.
The female takes photos of anything and everything.
Being turistas, neither of them ask permission or consider others.
She is particularly drawn to ghost houses, or shrines to the dead.

Plot is a mix of other horror films and themes, from It Follows to “dead wet girls.”
It is not predictable, though, as it changes course throughout.
Thailand visuals are nice, and seem accurate. (most of the rooms I stayed in always had a greenish tint)
Sound mix is moody ambiant. Story itself, while clichéd, rarely drags.

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Monsters - 2010 - 5/10

Earth gets invaded by aliens.
Rather, Mexico gets invaded by walking octopuses (octopi - octopods) about five stories high.
The US erects a mammoth wall to keep aliens in Mexico. Is this symbolism?
Octopi wreck some buildings, yet far more damage is wrought by fighter jets.
Two unlikable US citizens journey through the “Infected Zone” toward the homeland.
Not a Horror film, not SciFi, not a Romance, but an old-fashioned Road movie.
Hardly any budget, sparsely plotted, the only “actors” were the two leads. Solid use of scenery, music, and unease.
A cadre of geeks swooned over this film, trumpeting what the director created with only $15,000.
I still felt like a carnivore inside the vegan cafe. Unsatisfied and hungry.

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The Exploding Girl - 2009 - 6/10

Quiet, chick flick.
Ivy is home on college break. Staying with mom in New York City, hanging with friends, drinking a little.
Phoning her boyfriend. Repeat . . . phoning her boyfriend. Again. And - he - does - not - answer.
When you first hook up, your calls get answered immediately.
Ivy keeps getting his voicemail. The machine.
Either that or, “Sorry, I can’t talk right now.”
The women I watched this with shook their heads, recognizing the dump miles before the character did.

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 (Edited)

Modern Life Is Rubbish - 2017 - 6/10

He wants to be a musician, she studies to be an artist.
Inside the music shop (circa 1999-2000) boy meets girl.
Film is told in flashbacks. How they met, fell in love, moved into a flat.
Some choices are easier when you are younger, though the world is indifferent to dreams.

Flashbacks originate from one soul moving on, the other staying put.
A great musical soundtrack propels the film.
Characters are likeable, if formulaic.
The “Americanized” ending put me off.

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Parfum - 2018 - 7/10
AKA - Perfume

Brief series “inspired” by the Süskind book.
Katherina is discovered floating in the swimming pool, murdered, head shaved, organs surgically removed.
Police quickly hone in on her tight circle of friends, all of whom hide histories and motives.
Somewhat talky, although the language is a key element. Confessions, evasions, misdirections.
One can see how the police were simultaneously fascinated and repelled by a few.
I watched this avidly each week, without a guess regarding who or what.
The denouement, however, was maddeningly opaque.
(Eventually, a Reddit forum offered a satisfactory explanation.)

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The Last Legion - 2007 - 5/10

I saw this on the shelf, and it looked lame, but I grabbed it anyway.
Colin Firth terribly miscast as a Roman commander assigned to protect the last Caesar.
Visigoths overrun Rome, so Firth and companions (Indian warrior maiden, huge guy in dreadlocks, et al) set off for Britain.
Ben Kingsley also participates in this “intimate epic.” Film-makers phrase, meaning not enough budget for cast of thousands. Intimate = cheap.
Firth can’t wield a sword for shjt. How come all those different nationalities speak and understand English?
Where do they dine on this long trek? Caesar’s Chicken?
Mindless nonsense.

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Bluebeard - 2009 - 7/10
AKA - Barbe Bleue

French film by Catherine Breillat.
Two young sisters climb into the attic and begin reading the Perrault fairy tale.
In a secondary narrative, the tale comes to life, and two sisters are kicked from the convent after their father dies.
The sisters return home and watch as creditors reclaim family possessions.
One sister realizes their powerful neighbor, Bluebeard, is rich beyond measure.
The neighbor also has a thing for young - very young - brides.
A beautiful film, but chilly in tone, with a dark undercurrent.
Both narratives plunge into dark territory.