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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 23


The Beast Must Die - 1969 - 7/10
AKA - Que la Bete Meure

French revenge film.
Single dad’s lone child is struck and killed by a hit and run driver.
Police explore the usual leads, find nothing, extend apologies, return to their lattes.
The father is far more determined, however. Finds an overlooked clue, stumbles across a witness (who did not see the accident, but saw something related), then hones in on the quarry.
Older film, not overly moralistic, though there is collateral emotional damage.
Also, to me refreshing, this is not revenge-porn which is today’s norm.
My bride always argues, “Revenge doesn’t bring the dead back. You only wound yourself.”
I generally reply, “True, but you remove one more bad guy from the world.”


Battle Los Angeles - 2011 - 4/10

I delayed watching this after all the negative reviews across forums.
All the elements for a top action flick were there, except for way too many family clichés.
There are kids in the film. Utter waste of time. In western films, kids never get killed or eaten.
I don’t care if they are related to the director or producer. No more Newts!
Leftover civilians. Listen, the mayor, governor, prime minister orders, “Get outta Dodge!” you don’t say, “Ooh, maybe there is a sale at Piggly Wiggly.”
Marines who have to protect deadbeats ought to jab their thumbs with, “Exit’s that way, Pilgrim.”
Don’t try to make action films for kids and mommies.
In the featurette, one of the honchos said they were trying to outdo Alien or Aliens.
As if. Is that why their template was Independence Day, another family friendly suckfest?
Vasquez and Drake coulda kicked their ass … even saddled with Hudson!


The Dark Charisma Of Adolf Hitler - 2012 - 5/10

Why? Because there is always room for one more Hitler doc, no matter how shabby.
Three parter starts from World War I service, then attempts to support the hypothesis that it was dark charisma that led Germans astray.
Roughly 10% of the doc has speeches from rallies and conventions. None are subtitled.
Period footage is used and reused, often within 30 minutes.
No names or identification are given to faces belonging to Hess, Speer, Rohm …
Third rate effort geared for someone wondering, “Who is this Hitler fellow?” not wanting to scrape past the surface.


Good Morning, Mister Hitler - 1993 - 6/10

Cobbled documentary around “then-recent” found color footage of 1939 Munich Festival of Art.
The images, filmed by amateur photographers, vary in quality but most are quite good, considering their age.
Talking heads include sons of original photographers, and a professor providing historical details.
AND - get this - a number of elderly ladies, watching in a theater, who had been participants in the festival.
They commented on what preparations were like, gasped when they viewed their young selves in the parade, talked about the giddy period of the Reich in 1939. One surmised they had mixed emotions.
By now, most of that generation are gone. While first hand comments are always useful, they are best received with a grain of salt.
A useful companion to 1989’s Architecture Of Doom.


Brighton Rock - 2010 - 5/10

Updated retelling of Graham Greene’s Noir, set during the clashes between Mods and Rockers in Brighton.
Small time gang, getting buried by the big boys, implodes.
Swank looking film, fab clothes, gear sets, luxe tune mix.
Completely marred by grotty script, a daff couple with NO chemistry, and over the top sound design.
Sam Riley good as smart dressed punk who oversteps one too many times.
Coulda, shoulda been a hell of a lot better.



Luther: S01 - 2010 - 7/10

Vaughan Rice was my favorite character in the brief Ultraviolet (BBC) series from the late 90’s.
Ten years later, Idris Elba fuses Vaughan with Dirty Harry into a driven, obsessed criminal profiler.
Smart writing, more twists than a monkey puzzle tree, top notch supporting characters add up to an irresistible, darker than night, six part crime series.

Luther S02 - 2011 - 6/10

Season One was rapid fire paced, constantly inventive, with tour de force performances.
Season Two, while far above routine TV fare, was slower and felt like leftovers.
Missing was the dazzling dialogue that peppered the first season.
Not to mention the omission of a very key character who barely appeared this time out.

From here on, and yes I watched all seasons, the series gets progressively weaker and recycled.
Idris looks tired, or bored. The overcooked stories lack snap.
A major reason why I shun USA soap opera fare is generally because after S01, the tempo chugs down and plot points advance incrementally.
Happens, as well, with Brit TV, K-dramas, movie sequels.
Watching Luther over the years was my error, like trying to milk a lizard.


99 River Street - 1953 - 7/10

Ernie lands a devastating right hook and the champ slumps to the canvas.
Like the resurrected, the champ survives the ten count, and in the next two minutes, the prize fight sours for Ernie.
Two years later, he’s a washed up pug, a hack driver, married to a bitter scold with a roving eye.
A slick haired sugar daddy stirs the wife’s honey pot, slowly, persuasively, until she’s sopping wet and helps him yank a bag of ice from a pair of clutching dead hands.
Then the setup, the dimwitted husband, driving his taxi, chasing fool pipedreams and hopes.
Well shot Noir is outstanding example of how to create wonders with a minimal budget.
The script is packed with crosses and double-crosses, unexpected treachery, hard fists.
No matter how hard the ex-boxer fights, there is always the corpse stuffed in the back seat of his taxi.
A seething John Payne is perfect casting, whether resigned or about to detonate.


Sarah’s Key - 2010 - 7/10

Twin narratives of modern day journalist (Kristen Scott Thomas) digging out story of imprisoned Jews in WWII occupied France, and young girl’s escape and desperate journey to reach her brother.
Stories dovetail, then tighten uncomfortably.
Great looking film, well acted all around.
Lived up to my expectations of being depressing.


The Secret Life Of Mrs Beeton - 2006 - 7/10

During Victoria’s reign, Isabella Beeton created “The Book of Household Management,” cookbook and overall go-to Bible for generations.
Her life was not all plummy, however. She suffered several miscarriages, was in debt most of her married life, and died at age 28.
In fact, the film opens with her cheekily observing her own funeral.
Anna Madeley makes a very beguiling and saucy Mrs Beeton, though one of the film’s major revelations is perhaps speculation.
Breezy bio, do not expect focused social criticism.

The Beeton book, by the way, is available at amzn-co-uk and currently darned cheap … 50p USED! Or .00 if Kindle!


Sløborn - 2020 - 7/10

Apocalypse fans!
A deadly contagion hits an isolated island in the North Sea.
Actually, the virus (which is incurable) is rampaging planetwide.
When a drifting boat is sighted, locals hurry to investigate.
Teens, a burnt out writer (my fave!), young offenders, several clandestine affairs, investors, conspiracy types.
Seriously, there must be a dozen stories, yet one should be able to keep track of them.
Remember: more characters = more meals!
The ending suffers logical loopholes, and character arcs are given short shrift.
Who cares! It’s the end of the world!


Singin’ in the Rain (1952) This film is an essential masterpiece of cinema. The acting, singing and dancing is phenomenal. This film is the single best jukebox musical ever made.


One Missed Call 2 - 2005 - 4/10
AKA - Chakushin Ari 2 // 着信アリ2

I bought One Missed Call 1 when it first came out. It was OK, at best.
This was during the peak of dead wet girl films.
Part 2 offered less meals (victims), and the deaths lacked creativity.
There were a couple of rambling threads regarding the villain that went nowhere.
Predictable - formula - waste of time.

Warning - There is yet another sequel - 03, which is just as bad.
Even worse is the US remake which makes these look like masterpieces.
Avoid. More for fools who have a taste for crap. Guilty.


Made In Dagenham - 2010 - 7/10

The ladies of the Machinists Union go one strike against Ford in 1968.
Simple enough reason - pay inequality.
Lively goings on across the picket line and within several cash strapped households.
Strong cast (although most were young and attractive, even Barbara Castle), with sharp dialogue.
Worth remembering that women were perceived as second tier a scant 40 years ago.
Fortunately that has been rectified across the globe.


Past Malice: Emma Fielding - 2018 - 5/10

Famed archaeologist, Emma Fielding, is persuaded to double check a dig at New England castle.
She finds ongoing robberies, the family curse, nasty murders, and a handsome FBI agent!
In fact, everyone is pleasant looking, in a waxed fruit manner.
Another of those never ending movies, spinoffs, in the “Murder, She Wrote” mode.
Bland, predictable, almost smarmy. Read a book instead. Or send someone a Hallmark card.
Oh wait! If you do that, you’ll help fund another one of these Hallmark movies!


Les Petits Meurtres d’Agatha Christie - 2009 - 6/10

French adaptation of Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s yarns.
No fussy little Belgium in these, however. His character is rewritten as Inspector Larosière.
Larosière is a ladies man, gourmand, elegant dresser, at ease with royals and commoners.
The stories, of course, are nasty pieces of murder, and everyone has motives.
For whatever reason, I never cared for Mr Poirot, finding him overly weird and mannered.
Larosière, for me, was more relatable. There is also a Gallic charm in all of these.
These French versions are a fizzy counterpoint to more faithful, English productions.


Festival! - 1967 - 7/10

Document offers a nice sampler of the Folkie era at Newport from 1962 - 1966.
Almost all the major artists, and many less known, are given a song – or part of a song.
This is not a history of the movement, but performance clips.
No pop music, though Joan Baez gives an impromptu “From Me To You” while signing autographs.
Dylan is acoustic, then electric with The Butterfield Blues Band, foreshadowing Monterey Pop.
Worthwhile, though dated and the lack of historical context is limiting.


Mega Python Vs Gatoroid - 2011 - 3/10

Cautionary tale of interfering with Nature, co-starring and co-produced by those acclaimed thespians
Debbie Gibson and Tiffany.
Quite awful CGI alligators and pythons, both the size of buildings, chomp it out.
Speaking of size, Tiffany put on a couple of pounds, most in the cleavage midfield.
When she appears, the camera seems drawn in by gravity.
Ex Monkee Mickey Dolenz shows up as ex Monkee Mickey Dolenz.
Viewers should also be forewarned of a couple of songs by our leads.

Note - At the counter, I excitedly waved this winner at the staff.
No one had heard of either Debbie or Tiffany.
Another “you’re getting old” moment.


The Mountain Between Us - 2017 - 6/10

All flights are canceled due to bad weather and approaching storm.
Undeterred, two very insistent travelers charter a prop plane because they are in a hurry.
Before one can say, “Hey, look at those black clouds,” there is a malfunction and down they go.
Had the pilot filed a flight plan? Had either passenger phoned home? Ha ha.
Survival story of a man, a woman, and a dog, set amidst breathtaking Rockies.
The strangers are personality opposites, and yet there is a cliché about opposites.
Wait a minute! You mean this is a romance story?
Do characters pluck along? Find burnable wood? Know how to make a fire? Find shelter?
Acceptable premise, marred by ludicrous love story. Unless L-O-V-E is your thing.

^ The Dog

Yeah, how about that canine?
The females I watched this with were distracted during the film.
“What’s going to happen with that dog?” “They better not kill that dog!” “Omigod, the dog ran off!”
Me - “Look, two humans are half dead from starvation and hunger. Not Fido, though, bounding all over the snow like that white stuff is cocaine.”
Mr Dog, obviously not a method actor.


Midnight In Paris - 2011 - 8/10

Quietly dazzling film, where banality glides into fantasy.
Owen Wilson plays man out of step with his time, and of no value to his future in-laws.
When his fiancée’s old flame surfaces, Wilson prowls a bygone lane.
And finds himself stumbling into an inventive slip stream.
Literary in-jokes abound. and the MacGuffin conveyance is a wonderful touch.
Allen has done this before, notably The Purple Rose Of Cairo.
Slightly less accessible, perhaps, if you are weak on literary references.
More accessible, however, if 30’s homages from The Purple Rose Of Cairo perplex you.
Photography of Paris is ravishing.


The Phantom - 2009 - 4/10

On the shelf, this film, which I just heard about, looked godawful.
Of course I grabbed it.
Turned out to be a two part mini series. Busted pilot that never got picked up.
Lots of mistakes for an action film. The action being mostly chases. Running, running, more running.
The main character was an irritating clone of Hayden Christensen’s version of Anakin Skywalker.
The new uniform made him look more like a visitor from planet Womble.
Billy Zane tried to reboot this ancient strip back in 1996. His version was 70 minutes shorter than this runfest.
The Phantom, The Shadow, Flash Gordon, icons from the 1930’s, have resisted modern updating.
OK sets. Zzzzzzzz


Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains - 1982 / 2008 - 5/10

Obscure, punk flick that played in a few theaters, then disappeared until 2008.
Young Diane Lane leads the Stains, a punk girl group, with Laura Dern.
The group begins ragged (not exactly the Runaways), improves as they lose credence, wind up glossy MTV icons.
A fading, headlining 60’s group features Fee Waybill (The Tubes).
A rival opening act has Paul Cook & Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), and Paul Simonon (Clash).
Not a bad movie, though the background story of the film itself is far more compelling.


Hermann Goering: Nazi Number One - 2006 - 7/10

In depth biography of Reichsmarschall Goering, head of the Luftwaffe.
Childhood, member of Von Richthofen’s Flying Circus during World War I, eventually the smiling, genial face of the Nazi party, the one the common folk could relate to.
Loaded with details: his first marriage, his foot dragging regarding European war, morphine addiction, his retreat into dreams once the war soured.
A more ordinary soul, dishonest with sympathetic points, in the midst of clinical architects of the new order.
A wealth of his home movies were unearthed for this doc, which should pique the interest of history buffs.


Cloverfield Paradox - 2018 - 4/10

I suspected I would not like this, and fifteen minutes in I was rolling my eyes.
To be blunt, I don’t care for Mr. Abrams. To me, he is the Michael Bay of this generation, pandering to the LCD.
Anyway …
Planet Earth has almost run out of energy. Solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, never panned out, I guess.
Science types construct a big ole generator up in space to power humanity.
Once tests begin, things go haywire.
The crew immediately holler, point and explode emotionally. Sorry, no rational types aboard. (sorta like airline cockpits where pilots point and scream, “What’s that light? We’re gonna die!! Mommy!! Mommy!!”)
Crew members also run all over the station. Hey, ain’t space supposed to be weightless? Reference Gravity or Interstellar or The Expanse. Nonetheless, the producer obviously thinks running is cool.
The plot involves alternate dimensions and the “cloverfield” connection is garbage.
Reviews have been dismal. Believe them. I wanted something spacey … and got space poop.


The Story Of Temple Drake - 1933 - 7/10

Southern belle, Temple, is the gorgeous granddaughter of the local judge
She is pampered, spoiled, and a wild thing. Both her parents are dead.
Temple dates, parties, runs free. To men, she is cocktease. For everyone else, endless gossip.
Dashing from a drunken party, she’s in a car crash out in the boondocks.
Rescue comes from bootleggers and gangsters.
Hard men, who know how to pluck a ripe flower.

Adaptation of Faulkner’s - one might think unfilmable - “Sanctuary,” still packs a jolt.
Audiences in the 30’s must have been floored by this lurid, tawdry affair.
For yes, Temple’s assault is only the beginning of her descent into the ways of the world.
The cinematography by Karl Struss, replete with dark shadows and slashed lighting, is stunning.


The Student - 2016 - 7/10
AKA - (M)uchenik

Russian male student refuses to participate in high school swimming class.
Hauled before school administrators, he declares the bikini clad females are an affront to Biblical teaching.
What teaching? His mother beside him wonders. She works three jobs, they do not attend church.
No matter. He carries the day and is exempt from swim class and girls are ordered to wear one piece suits.
Next, he escalates confrontations with teachers, his mother, priests, any who might buckle.
Unpleasant, uncompromising story of someone claiming moral authority to seize control.
Stage roots show after a bit, but acting is uniformly excellent.
I detested most characters: the disrupter, the obsessed, the weaklings.