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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 5

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Beats - 2019 - 7/10

Mom’s new boyfriend is a copper, and he wants to move her family to a nicer borough.
Away from “scum” elements, meaning Johnno’s mate, Spanner.
Scotland, 1994, the government has banned gatherings around music consisting of repetitive beats.
Techno, industrial, dubstep. "The only good system is a sound system.”
Illegal raves are shuttered by police with brute force. “Know your role, shut your hole.”

Johnno and Spanner catch wind of an upcoming event, and they are mad to attend.
“Don’t be a slave, come to the rave!”
This view of Scotland consists of deserted backstreets and empty wastes.
Use of black n white heightens the emptiness of their daily world.
Adults repressing teens must be ingrained in all mammals. This story is old, but it is edgy and manages to shake off the ancient dust. (Quotes above are from the film, which is peppered with gems.)

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Macabro - 1980 - 6/10
AKA - Macabre

Jane is supposed to take her children to a movie.
Instead, she leaves them so she can kick the sheets with rough ‘n ready Fred.

Fred, who rhymes with dead! Which, 13’ in, is what he is, along with one of Jane’s children.
Drama, set in New Orleans, oozes sleaze and obsession.
Interiors are faded antebellum. Wrought iron, lace, armoires, amid cheap mod-cons.
Throughout, characters spy on each other, even one who is blind.
Storywise, there is a lock and a secret behind (which I suspect most will guess).
Word of advice, try not to imagine what Jane is doing with “the secret.”
Twisted Lanberto Bava film is not Horror, not Giallo, but seedy trash and perfect for those who have a taste for such.
The girl who played daughter Lisa (Veronica Zinny) had an expressive face. This was her only film.

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 (Edited)

Natural City - 2003 - 6/10
AKA - 내츄럴 시티

Fabulous looking Korean SciFi, based on Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep.”
Not a Blade Runner remake or clone, though the story is set in a glossy, high tech dystopia.
Viewers will also recognize elements from Ghost In The Shell and Matrix, especially the stunt work.
The plot deals with renegade cyborgs breaking into a medical security facility to get data on human DNA.
Going against them are paramilitary combat troops, the MPs.
Brilliant marrying of live action and CGI, the latter not overdone.
Some of the action wire work struck me as repetitive, but that seems a minor quibble.
The real breakdown and flaw in the story occurs in the three quarters point, focusing on the love story between trooper R and his soon to expire cyborg girlfriend, Ria.
The love story has no depth, no resonance. The cyborg, referred to as dolls, has the personality of a goldfish.
What does he see in her? Not to spoil, but why does he betray fellow soldiers again and again for her?
The pointless love story undermines sympathy for the main character, and has generated countless bad ratings.

When I first watched this fifteen years ago, that failing was the main reason I disliked the film.
Recently, I thought of a solution and rewatched the movie.
This time, any shared scenes with R and Ria, I switched off the subs and their infantile dialogue, and imagined they at the very least conversed like adults or lovers. Not a knuckle-dragger and his fembot.
For all this, an amazing looking film and decent actioner.

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 (Edited)

Toten Augen von London - 1961 - 6/10
AKA - Dead Eyes Of London

Atmospheric mystery / creeper with a dark Noir look.
Scotland Yard has its hands full as a serial killer targets elderly rich men.
The main suspect is one “Blind Jack,” a massive bear of a man with a satisfied smile.

And yes, Jack is blind! The film, by the way, is a German production as is the language.
The story plods occasionally, and there are budget constraints, but this is a good Krimi film.
Police procedural. The inspector works through blackmailers, prostitutes, crooks, liars, killers.
A lot of inventive camera work and visual surprises maintain interest throughout.
Watch for young Klaus Kinski as shady operator.

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Valerie - 2006 - 6/10

Valerie laughs with the other girls at the end of the fashion shoot.
She declines the after-party invite, however, because she wants to look fresh for a casting tomorrow.
Next day, she receives the silent smile. “Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”
No they won’t. Valerie, in her early twenties, is over the hill. Past it. Old.
Despite the career, her youth, an agent, potential offers, she is sliding into homelessness.
On one hand, the film is about a character you never considered becoming destitute.
On the other hand, Valerie is aware of her situation, and you watch her scramble and claw to escape.

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Scotland Yard Investigator - 1945 - 6/10

During WWII, the British Museum holds the Mona Lisa for the Louvre.
A greedy collector has his eye on it, however.
Early on, the museum director and collector square off.
Well played by crusty C. Aubrey Smith and Erich von Stroheim.

Soon, to their mutual consternation, they discover a third rival has secretly outflanked them.
OK Republic programmer benefits from mostly British cast and attention to details (license plates for example).
A chance to watch character actors carry a film.

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Gogol - 2018 - 7/10
AKA - Гоголь

Government clerk and part time writer, Nikolai Gogol, while taking notes at a murder scene, suffers another fit.
During such seizures, he often has visions, premonitions, and exhibits automatic writing.
Mr. Guro, of the secret police, realizes Gogol might be quite useful and takes him as his assistant.
They depart St. Petersburg and head into remote Ukraine, where a series of brutal, baffling murders are ongoing.
Circa 1840, the look is period costume and dark Gothic.
The narrative is loosely based on “Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka” and “A Terrible Vengeance.”
That said, this is Gogol on acid, with nudity, serious bloodletting, and a surreal vibe.
People will probably either love or hate this – but – if you are remotely tempted, this is a must.

Note: Subs for the film trilogy, which I attempted to watch two years ago, were atrocious computer generated.
The eight-part television adaptation subs were much better.

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Resurrection - 2005 - 5/10
AKA - Revenge // 부 활

Poky K-drama of twin brothers and revenge.
Without giving much away plotwise, one brother is murdered and the other takes his place.
Their personalities differ, as do their taste in clothes, food allergies, outlooks …
Does anyone around them notice? Aside from puzzled expressions, no.
So we have a drama packed with dense heads you want to yell at.
Moreover, at 24 padded episodes, this series went on way too long.
Seriously, you could skip the first four episodes altogether, since E05 gives a full recap.
Every episode has a couple of five minute music montages as a character moons about unhappily.
The tempo perks up in the last four episodes - - if one has not quit viewing - - although the plot loses steam.
Koreans offer more vengeance driven shows than others, and they always incorporate the consequences.
Little of the gloating merriment easily witnessed elsewhere. Here, even villains have innocent families.

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Sorry We Missed You - 2019 - 6/10

During the interview, Ricky starts listing his work experience.
A lot of job skills. Can he not hold a job any length? Or does he have crap luck?
Ricky lands the driver position for a delivery outfit.
This is a franchise, though. Independent contractor. He has to buy his own delivery truck. Then work like hell because the debt is crushing.
I kept yelling at the film, “Don’t do this.” “Dude, think!” “Don’t get into debt.”
Yet, the hand is dealt, and you play as best you can.
Ken Loach film is a blistering look at the gig economy.

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Vagabond - 1985 - 7/10
AKA - Sans Toit Ni Loi

The freedom of the road.
Midwinter. The young female drifts into the country region, unwashed, clearly broke.
She sets up her tent wherever, one time in a graveyard, or sneaks into abandoned houses.
Men, she’ll tag along with, until the reefer is gone, or she tires of them.
From time to time, someone will help her out.
Also from time to time, villagers talk directly, voicing their opinion of the girl.
The camera is indifferent, giving neither backstory nor explanations.
18 year old Sandrine Bonnaire is brilliant as Mona or Simone. Her character is not an empty soul, she is simply uncompromising, unflinching in her avoidance of ordinary life, or the bourgeois.

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Blue Eyes Of The Broken Doll - 1974 - 6/10
AKA - Los Ojos Azules de la Muñeca Rota

The drifter walks a deserted road, tying to hitch a ride.
He finally gets lucky, though the tractor driver warns there is no work in the area.
Nevertheless, he does find work, as handyman for three sisters, each deeply troubled.
One is wheelchair bound, one wears a prosthetic, the third seems a nymphomaniac.
Add a secretive nurse who makes phone calls and who drugs one of the sisters.
Anything else? You mean the mysterious homicidal maniac who is killing blue eyed blondes?
Wonderfully entertaining film! The look is Italian Giallo, the tone is Noir.
Our hero, the drifter, finds himself trapped in a sticky tangle of perfumed sex and his own sour luck.

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Deep End - 1970 - 6/10

Recent high school graduate Michael gets first job at local bathhouse / pool.
The place is a sexual minefield and he is immediately out of his depth.
Canoodling is rampant, and some of the older females have expectations.
A sequence with Diana Dors seems forever etched in my mind.
Shy or inexperience notwithstanding, Michael is soon riveted on the older Susan (Jane Asher).
Interest swells into stalking, then obsession.
Despite bright colors and fashion, the film captures the tired end of the 60’s.

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Der Hexer - 1964 - 5/10
AKA - The Ringer // The Magician

Attractive office secretary is strangled then ferried into the Thames in a mini-sub!
Too late, the four perpetrators realize she had been the sister of a shadowy crime lord.
A criminal mastermind with a specialty in assassination.
Meanwhile, Scotland Yard hustles to identify the killers, and apprehend the crime boss!
There is a sideplot of white slavery, suspicious reporters, valets, tantalizing women, an underground labyrinth, and don’t forget about that mini-sub!
Fast paced if confusing Krimi, based on Edgar Wallace, percolates enough to sustain interest.
Inspector Higgins (Joachim Fuchsberger) is less effective in this compared with his other films.
Film rather good at keeping viewers guessing about who the hexer is.

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A Rainy Day In New York - 2019 - 6/10

Middling Woody Allen effort of collegiate couple heading to Manhattan.
In Gotham, they get separated and have different adventures.
The girl meets the wary, cult director and assorted creative types.
The boy deals with family expectations, and individuals from his past.
Great looking film, lensed by Sorano (who also shot Café Society and Wonder Wheel).
The dialogue is too arch and twee for my liking. No one, not even on live theatre, talks like this.
Lead actor Timothée Chalamet seems to be mimicking Woody Allen performances.
Nonetheless, this grew on me. Probably on a par with Irrational Man.

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Thelma - 2017 - 7/10

Freshman student, Thelma, has trouble fitting into campus life.
Trouble making friends, over-protective parents, and her fundamental religious upbringing.
Even among the faithful, however, she had trouble fitting in.

Compounding matters, Thelma begins suffering seizures.
Quick diagnosis of epilepsy would be an error. Rather, psychogenic –––
This is marketed as horror, but is closer to paranormal.
Another pitch is as a “lesbian story,” but is more sexual experimentation.
Well done, although, overlooking the father, the film never caught fire for me.

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Luna Nera - 2020 - 5/10
AKA - Black Moon

Reviews were lackluster, still I went ahead and started watching this.
In rural Italy, probably 17th century, lesser nobles track down, torture and burn witches.
Usual reasons. Bad crops, stillbirths, dire weather. Blame women.
Smart looking series, period costumes, and sets are undermined by poor script and worse acting.
Acting ranges from melodramatic to amateurish.
To a soul, these are Italian stereotypes. Impulsive, loud, emotional, excitable.
Plot wise, we got witches. Striga. Instead of incantations and magic, we get icky grade school romance.
Our male hero, the Roma educated hope of his family, falls for the homely, neo-witch instead of his childhood flame who smolders with passion and wields a sword.

Guys may be shallow, but we are not blind.
Should you load this despite my piddling review, catch the last episode, especially the last half.
Ridiculous and fruity, wildly over the top and not in a good way.

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The Phantom Ship - 1935 - 5/10

“Alright! Which one of you done it? I know it’s one of you!”
The captain questions the remaining crewmen.
Fictional yarn of the Mary Celeste, found adrift and abandoned in 1872.
Slow moving, despite corpses appearing at frequent intervals.
And whoever mustered the crew should have squinted and said,
“You look like Bela Lugosi.”

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The Killer Must Kill Again - 1975 - 6/10
AKA - L’Assassino è Costretto ad Uccidere Ancora // Il Ragno (The Spider)

The murderer shoves the body into a Volkswagen Beetle, then pushes the car into the river.
He is observed.
The onlooker is not exactly the low-abiding type.
Instead, he offers a proposition. He has a wife. He’d like her gone.

Simple yes?
Plans go awry when joyriders steal the assassin’s car.
The first 20” move briskly, as do the final 20”. Good music, wowza interiors, nice location shots.
In between, however, the pace plods and dialogue predominates, along with a long pursuit.
The whole 40” middle felt like padding and provides little to the proceedings.

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Profit - 1996 - 8/10

Influential series, years ahead of its time, canceled after four episodes.
Jim Profit rises to junior VP with Gracen & Gracen Corporation.
Profit is the quintessential corporate shark, with no emotion whatsoever.
By the end of the pilot, viewers grasp that blackmail, betrayal and murder are his casual tools.
(No need to go into the incest angle which was revealed before the first commercial break.)
Jim frequently addresses the camera, and, with a smile, describes targets and methods.
Charm and social graces mask a sociopath.
The look of this is sleek, time capsule dated, but always fabulous.
I LOVED this show when it first aired and lamented when it was canceled, though not surprised.
The US Bible Belt loathed Profit, calling it Satan In A Suit. More reason to watch.
The DVD contains the pilot and series as shot (meaning the three episodes that never aired).
The final episode provides closure somewhat, so you are not left hanging.

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Creep - 2004 - 5/10

Leaving the party, Kate tells friends she is going to a more exclusive soiree, where she plans to mount and bounce VIP George Clooney.
When she can’t hail a cab, she heads down the tube, intending to catch the last train.
Instead she falls asleep, and wakes to find the Charing Cross Underground deserted.
Well, not quite.
Aside from homeless, maintenance and security, there are a legion of rats.
And a furtive, murderous soul with inhuman strength and a limited wardrobe.
Pale Slasher entry takes place in tunnels, dank corridors, closed sections, forgotten chambers.
Though the plot springs fresh elements late, this is cheap copycat of better genre films.
LIGHT SPOILER – The denizen has apparently been active for a long time.
By implication, he has never targeted anyone who would be missed, and attract investigators.
Such logical precautions are inexplicably omitted on this night.

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Das Finstere Tal - 2014 - 7/10
AKA - The Dark Valley

Near great Western is flawless, until a self-inflicted error wrecks the ambiance.
After an unsettling, violent parting of two lovers, the tiny timber community returns to normal.
Then, years later, the stranger arrives.

He is a photographer, and pays in gold to overwinter there.
The community is sullen and unhappy, ruled by old man Brenner and his six thuggish sons.
Women are property, men are beaten down, even the photographer is taught an early lesson.
Until the dying begins.
The high lonesome landscape is jaw dropping. Sierra Nevada or the Canadian Rockies?
Nope. German/Austrian Alps. Whole movie is in German.
Fear not, this is a pitch perfect film that would thrill any Eastwood fan -
Until late …
… when the director stupidly, stupidly, stupidly, overdubs crucial action with pop music. Some whiny male wails “How dare you?” over and over and over. At this point, one senses the director has walked away. From that point on, the tight control ends, it gets talky, and there is a closing credits “song,” modern and inappropriate.
To my reckoning, the blundering song choices and last act possibly killed an Academy nod for best foreign film.
Definitely worth hunting for Western fans, or cold paced action fans. Beware the songs, though.

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The Salesman - 2016 - 7/10
AKA - Forushande

Married actors must relocate after their apartment begins to physically collapse.
A fellow actor owns property and has an apartment that seems ideal.
The previous tenant departed earlier, though she has not taken her things.
The couple move in, deposit the woman’s belongings in the street.
Meanwhile, the actors try to mount Death Of A Salesman, deal with Tehran censors.
To further complicate things, the previous woman had many visitors - who are unaware she no longer lives there.
Stress mounts in this layered film, making the experience uncomfortable for characters and viewers.
As in earlier films, such as About Elly, director Farhadi explores how people react to tension.
Hardly fun, but a riveting watch.

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Verónica - 2017 - 7/10

School basement. Ninth grade Verónica and two friends lay out the Ouija board and conjure.
Oh, and there is a solar eclipse occurring at the same time.
Events propitious for a successful contact.
Only thing is, they forget about closing the dimensional door on the spirit.
Horror / thriller from Spain puts Verónica and her three younger siblings in peril.
Verónica is in over her head and only has a creepy, blind nun for advice.
Set in 1991, pre Internet, and based on real events.

The Ouija board, by the way, is generally marketed and sold to children, usually girls.
Opinions regarding the Ouija board range from scoffing to worry to alarm.

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Der Gorilla von Soho - 1968 - 5/10
AKA - Gorilla Gang

Visiting rich foreigners are murdered, then made to appear to be drowning victims.
Inspectors, following clues, soon wonder if an old gang has resurfaced.
Krimi mixes sexual innuendo, authoritarian silliness, and stretches of nudity.
For the latter, there is an underground camera club boasting dozens of unclad models.

The humor is not especially funny, running gags wear thin.
This seems like a color remake of Dead Eyes Of London, an earlier, and better Krimi.

Toten Augen von London (Dead Eyes Of London) - 1961 - W Germany

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Some People - 1962 - 6/10

Bored in Bristol. England, just on the cusp a cultural explosion.
Three lads mill about, toil odd jobs, race motorbikes, pick up birds, yell in the dark.
Late adolescents, venting steam, childhood behind them, the adult world not exactly enticing.
They swagger in leather jackets (pretty much what the Beatles donned in Hamburg at this time).
Adults suffice to discipline or channel their energy.
While not an earthshaker by any means, this is a keen observation of a life, a look, a time, a year before it was utterly swept away.