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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 6


The Prodigal Daughter - 2020 - 6/10
AKA - Die Verlorene Tochter

During the last high school dance, the richest girl in town disappears.
Ten years later, memory gone, Isa suddenly returns.
Conveniently, as the family begins to squabble over the inheritances.
Multiple mysteries are explored in this 6 ep series.
Was she kidnapped originally? If so, by whom? And why?
Where has she been? Why did she return? At this precarious moment.
As the narrative unfolds, personalities and backstories surface in an ugly light.
Does not stitch neatly for meticulous viewers, yet this is a fine, if unpleasant, slow boil thriller.


Railroaded! - 1947 - 6/10

The masked goon, cocksure and aggressive, shoves the muzzle into the terrified doll’s face.
She shrieks, a nearby cop on the beat rushes over, and the robbery skids into chaos.
Hot lead spits across the room, leaving one dead policeman and a critically wounded thug.
For what, Junior? Knocking off a beauty salon.
The other robber, the one who gets clean away, is a calculating block of ice.
He sets up a patsy, an innocent schmuck, a rube, because he is wise and cynical about lawmen.
He knows cops will embrace the frame, knows they are under pressure, knows they will railroad an innocent man in a breath.
Then, while police push the stooge towards the gas chamber, he makes a play for the rube’s sister.

Middling Noir starts strong and the finish is a tour de force. In between, it shuffles indecisively.
Mystery, police procedural, romance, thriller. Blame the script, which cannot make up its mind.
Best is John Ireland as the dead eyed villain, more interested in his gun than men or women.
Much of this Anthony Mann film is quite dark (though later work would be darker), so view in a dimly lit room.


One Child Nation - 2019 - 7/10

Difficult to rate this because it omitted an angle I wanted to see explored.
China, circa 1980, saw their population soar past 1 billion. Starvation loomed on the horizon.
Families were ordered / coerced / forced to limit children to one.
Noncompliance led to abortion, then sterilization.
Documentary interviews families, village party leaders, midwives.
Many are surprisingly forthcoming with guilt, or with pride.
The main consequence pursued was the abandonment or adopting out of unwanted infants.
The concept of “little emperors” was not explored, nor the generation of males who can never marry owing to the missing females.


Satan’s Slaves - 2017 - 6/10
AKA - Pengabdi Setan

Mawarni has been ill for three years, exhausting the family’s financial resources.
Finally she dies. Or … does she?
While the father goes to find work, the children realize there was an incredibly dark side to their mother.
And a bargain, a pact if you will, that demands payment.
Decent Indonesian horror outing benefits from several unique perspectives on a genre film.
Conflict of Islamic faith and surviving paganists is another nice wrinkle.
One sequence is laughably over the top, though others are fairly creepy.


Innocente - 2016 - 5/10

Roxane wakes up on the floor, half naked. Near her, is a half naked man, only he’s dead!
Does she phone the police? No. She slaps on some clothes, grabs her things, and runs.
Police come calling, her explanations are absurd, and into the slammer she goes.
After an eight year stretch, she’s out, desperate to find out who framed her and why.
And then she steps in it. Again. And again.

Sad sack Roxane drove me nuts. She is impulsive, heedless, and often downright stupid.
Moreover, she does not learn from mistakes, so she keeps repeating them.
I started rooting for any potential baddie to whack her.
French series grows preposterous, but is mercifully brief.


The Forbidden Room - 2015 - 7/10

Wow, I have seen some truly bizarre films in my time, this one hits my top 2% in out-there!
Collision of arthouse, experimental, Silent cinema, demonstration shorts …
A submarine crew is trapped undersea with a cargo of explosive jelly.
Because they are running out of air, they gobble down hotcakes since those are filled with air pockets.
A sopping wet woodsman (Sapling Jack) enters their midst via a door / duct.
He shares his story of fighting the Red Wolves who had captured the lovely Margot.
Margot in turn, remembers when she had over a hundred broken bones set by the doctor who fell in love with her, only he was kidnapped in the sensuous embrace of skeleton women.

That’s maybe the first twenty minutes of an almost two hour visual kaleidoscope.
Visual dissolves, inter-titles, musique concrète, a powerhouse cast, in a film confusing, funny, and thoughtful.
Oh, one of the woman’s boyfriends turns into a banana. How could I forget that?
Unwary - beware.


Miss Fisher & The Crypt Of Tears - 2020 - 5/10

Resistance is futile.
My outlook when I was first told this series was crowd-funding shekels for a film version.
(Yeah, and I’ve seen every episode of the series. I live with females.)
Miss Fisher heads to the Mideast to free an innocent, dispel a curse.
Fisher’s character is now written as Emma Peel doing an Indiana Jones reboot.
Her Steed, Inspector Jack, trails after her like a mopey discarded suitor.
To be blunt, Detective Jack ought to be given the ole heave ho from the “guy club.”
Story is unoriginal, it looks cheap, and the charm (and cast) of the series is absent.
For fashion devotees, Phyrne’s wardrobe is limited.


Agatha And The Curse Of Ishtar - 2019 - 6/10

Soured by that Miss Fisher misfire? Try this.
Miss Christie, newly divorced, dwells on the mystery at hand. Mysteries, actually.
She is in Iraq, visiting archeological sites, and wanders into a murder.
And then another.
Not only is she embroiled in murders, and deepening mysteries, she meets one Max Mallowan.
Fans of Agatha Christie, this is an entertaining homage, cleverly scripted by someone who knows her work.
There are in-jokes, classic setups, and a touch of romance.
On the downside, dialogue has been extensively, and poorly, looped.
Sync is noticeably off, and it sounds as if it had been recorded in a particularly resonant chamber.


The Case Of The Krimi - 2018 - 6/10

Brief documentary, presented by Marcus Stiglegger.
Charts the genesis, heyday, and collapse of Krimi films.
The look originated in Expressionism, the stories from 1920’s crime novels by Edgar Wallace.
Fast paced crime yarns, set in London (Hamburg), often with Klaus Kinski as villain.
As the era progressed, films grew sillier and spawned spoofs.
Breezy overview of the Krimi subgenre, which became an important influence on Giallo.


Yellow Fever: The Rise And Fall Of The Giallo - 2016 - 7/10

From those lurid yellow books and the tropes of Krimi.
Add the high fashion and opulent interiors, along with those deadly, shiny knives.
Nicely done documentary will have people wanting more (read a book, folks), but there is plenty here.
Clips from keys films, analysis of innovations. Key players such a Argento, Fulci, Bava …
Critics predominate among the talking heads, with director Argento and actress Barbara Bouchet recollecting.
Missing many people, but there is a more recent documentary out there, All The Colors Of Giallo.
Those who have several Giallos under their viewing belt will enjoy this more.


Tante Zita - 1968 - 6/10

Aunt Zita is a survivor of the Spanish Civil War, giving piano lessons in Paris.
She collapses from a stroke, and family and nurses soon watch her struggle.
One who is especially anxious is the niece, Annie, earnest college student, with limited Life experience.
This gradually becomes her story, and the wondrous night she has when she leaves to clear her head.
Snapshot of late 60’s Paris nightlife fuels the film from here on.
Nightclubs, music, various men, romance - the promise of romance, a stray goat, police, fashion models.
Her world slides into dream territory, tugging viewers along with her.


The Leisure Seeker - 2018 - 6/10

Aged couple embark on a road trip, probably their final one.
The husband is clearly succumbing to Alzheimer’s while his wife pops meds like candy.
He had been a college professor in Boston, their trip is to Key West, home of his touchstone, Hemingway.
Yes, there are small adventures, encounters, revelations along the way.
The story itself is of how they react to the presence of the final curtain.
Sutherland’s character lingers in a fogged world, Mirren resents that the man she fell in love with has been stolen away by the disease.
Darkness tinges the proceedings, but one recognizes the feel-good tone of the whole.

I had relatives who did this, traveled huge swathes of the globe in their pickup camper.
Time passed, however. They grew old, and destinations remote and nearby, became more challenging.
They stored decades of memories in boxes and boxes of slides.
Gone now. The traveling pair, the slides, their possessions, a lifetime of memory.



Juha - 1999 - 6/10

Black and white, Silent movie from Finland. And yes, this predates The Artist by a good decade.
Married Juha and Marja live quietly and simply on the farm. Social activities include friends, or the club.
Into their life, however, comes a sleek, if ailing, Corvette. Driven by the city soul, Shemeikka.
While Juha repairs the visitor’s sports car, the driver immediately woos Marja.
She’s too nice for this life, she deserves better.
The contest between flash and stable usually has one outcome.
And into the darkness of the city the wayward wife plunges.

Bleak tale, though surprisingly funny at times.
Broad acting at points, subtle nuance during other moments.
A very modern soundtrack - added immensely and jarred inappropriately.
Well cast with interesting faces.


Three Identical Strangers - 2018 - 8/10

First day at new college, fellow students smile at the new guy, hug him, say, “Glad you’re back, Eddy!”
Only thing, his name is Bobby, not Eddy.
By the end of the day, he meets the twin he never knew he had.
“Newsweek” covers the story, and, incredibly enough, a third missing brother surfaces!

All three had been separated at birth, to different families. Who knew?
The boys become a national phenomenon, they are feted, they appear on national television, even cameo in a Madonna movie!
They bond, the nation loves them, a bounty of luck showers down.

Yet, ever so gradually, the story grows unimaginably dark.
Their story is a sinister one, almost painful, akin to a diabolical X-Files episode.
If remotely curious, then I heavily recommend this, and recommend you see this cold.
Especially if you know nothing about this story. Almost every review I read afterward is filthy with spoilers.


The Song Of Names - 2019 - 7/10

The young violinist, unknown yet already heralded as a genius, disappears even as the audience fills the theatre.
Then there is nothing. Decades pass, he seems erased from the planet.
Via flashbacks, he arrives from Poland to England in 1939. September arrives, Germany invades Poland, Europe is engulfed in World War II. Blitz ravaged England becomes home to the prodigy.
Decades after the mysterious disappearance, the violinist’s childhood friend finds a loose thread.
From there, the reclusive history and fallout.
Time and again, when souls vanish, ofttimes they have their reasons. Private reasons.


Le Dos Au Mur - 1958 - 7/10
AKA - Back To The Wall

Jacques thought Gloria loved him. Their three year marriage is passionate, strong.
Until he realizes he is a fool, a sap, the classic cuckold.
There is a younger man. A struggling actor, with a two seat sport car.
A feckless man who had discarded Gloria years before, yet her flame for him burned.
Jacques, rich, powerful, sets out to destroy the relationship.
Dark mystery, filled with shadows, positions the infatuated couple against a calculating, faceless foe.
Cruelty runs hand in hand with despair in bleak gamesmanship.
Everyone earns a mix of sympathy and disdain.


American Factory - 2019 - 7/10

Six years after GM shut a truck factory in Dayton, Chinese investors reopen it as an auto glass manufacturer.
Told from both Chinese and American perspectives, this doc shows the uneasy progress.
The Chinese are accustomed to hard work and long hours. Environmental concerns, not so much.
The American crew are ex-UAW members. Benefits and pay offered are slim.
Unlike the Japanese, a generation earlier, Chinese ownership is wide-eyed to the cultural differences.
Growing pains are rocky, and provocative politicians and union organizers stir discontent.
Watching the overweight and slow-walking Americans in this film had me shaking my head.
Their movements were sluggish, their minds less nimble, and I just knew how this would flow.
The Chinese think long term, which you grasp by the end of the film.

Confession: I was once a dues paying member of the United Mine Workers.
The era of unions seems very distant now.


Memoirs Of A Murderer - 2017 - 7/10
AKA - 22-Nenme no Kokuhaku: Watashi Ga Satsujinhan Desu

Modus operandi: strangulation, with a bound and gagged onlooker nearby.
A close relative, permitted to survive, bear witness, live with despair and guilt.
Spree killing of 5 murders, before the murderer mysteriously disappears.
Police departments and news agencies fail to unearth the killer.
Months elapse, then years, until the statute of limitations passes by.
And then, the killer surfaces, peddling his tell-all book.

An instant best-seller! Society goes berserk, the killer is “really cool.”
Police are infuriated, yet stymied. A lone senior news anchor decides to challenge the killer.
Gripping thriller manages to be a brilliant twist n turn tale, as well as a rotten exposé of the shallowness of society and their fascination with celebrity, even the celebrity of monsters.


The Antique: Secret Of The Old Books - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - Biblia Koshodô no Jiken Techô // ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖

Condensation of several novels by En Mikami limits its focus to shopkeeper Shioriko, and her part time assistant, Daisuke.
Possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of books, Shioriko struggles to keep her shop afloat, while fending off threats from an obsessive / psychopathic book collector.

Daisuke’s story is more the mystery of his recently deceased grandmother, and her forbidden love affair.
Shioriko, unfortunately, is underwritten. Replace the constant book in her hands with a cellphone, and she would be any naval gazing soul of today, more interested in elsewhere than people in front of her.
The grandmother’s story is set in 1964 during the Tokyo Olympics.
Played by Kaho (Tokyo Vampire Hotel), she is a ramen cook. Full of life, and curiosity.

Her relationship with a struggling writer is the emotional core of the movie.
The modern story with the collector is forced and poorly done.

A better experience might be Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia’s Case Files from 2013.
With 11 episodes, it offers a deeper, richer exploration of Mikami’s novels.


Barneys Books And Bust-Ups: 50 Years Of The Booker Prize - 2018 - 6/10

Lightweight overview of the Booker prize.
Early days (including the sugar cane roots of Booker), growth of importance, controversies.
Most of the interviewees are winning authors and judges.
Prize money seems OK, the real aspect of the award lies in publicity and increased book sales.
Complaints include elitism, veiled lobbying, and surprisingly, from the winners, that owing to scheduled appearances, they usually cannot return to writing for a few years.
Nevertheless, readers (a dying breed) will find this entertaining.


Quiet Please: Murder - 1942 - 6/10

Brisk thriller / mystery, with the main characters very much the villains.
Smoothie George Sanders is a rare book thief.
After well-publicized thefts, he creates quality forgeries which he peddles to unscrupulous collectors.
They can’t well verify if the book is real, and if they find out, who can they complain to?
Great plan, eh?
Except one forgery is sold to a Nazi agent, buying for Hermann Goering.
During a blackout, Sanders and his duplicitous colleague (sensual Gail Patrick) find themselves trapped in a vast public library, along with a private investigator and those pesky Nazis, demanding a refund!
Fun little B-movie, very much of its time.


The Town That Loves Books: Arts At Hay - 2014 - 6/10

Documentary on the biggest book fair in Britain, in small Hay-on-Wye.
Dealers, publishers, authors, celebrities, fan-fiction, fans, rain rain rain.
Doc is hopeful one frame, worrisome the next.
On one hand it is reassuring to see people buying and taking an interest in books.
On the other, publishing houses are dwindling, and it is harder for new writers, save celebrity authors.
Thanks to self publishing, anyone can be an author! Though no one may buy your book.
I watched this with avid book types - they were in a happy place.


Biblia Koshodô no Jiken Techô - 2013 - 7/10
AKA - Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia’s Case Files

Wonderful J-dorama for people in love with reading, addicted to books - real books, especially used books.
Set in a cozy, golden hazed bookshop, Biblia Antiquarian Bookshop Case Files revels in ordinary, seemingly impossible mysteries that proprietress Shinokawa has an uncanny knack for deciphering.
Just as well, too, as the puzzles get harder and ofttimes deadlier with each week.
Many of the problems are affairs of the heart, others plunge into the obsessive realm of book collectors.
Therein might hint why this imaginative, clever series fared so poorly ratings wise.
Non-readers might have felt excluded, believing it was targeting a very limited audience.
Then again, a lot of people don’t like books and actually dislike reader types.
Shinokawa’s tall male assistant, Goura, acts as Watson to her Holmes, asking questions about the books referenced, and jumping to impulsive (invariably wrong) solutions to the mysteries.
Marvelous little series. Perfect for wet nights.

Note: If you need subs, I overhauled. – –


Foto Proibite di Una Signora Per Bene - 1970 - 6/10
AKA - The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion

“Today, I quit smoking, and drinking,” Minou muses while lolling in the bubble bath. “I ought to stop these pills, too.”
All the while, she puffs, pops and swigs.
Nerves, understand? And she is a trifle unstable.
Minou then dresses provocatively, walks the wharf at night, and attracts a stalker.

Too late, she is in deep to blackmail and sexual gamesmanship.
Early “erotic thriller” boasts plenty of skin, hardly any nudity.
The plot layers madness with tension, ending with a satisfying who and why.


Influenza 1918 - 1998 - 6/10

Part of the “American Experience” series.
As such, there are a couple of talking head “experts” along with a host of individuals sharing their memories.
So you have these seniors, who were young children in 1918, airing their experiences.
There are newsreels, vintage photos, yet minimal science, scant history.
In contrast, The Flu That Killed 50 Million from 2018, kept a detailed history and reenacted dialogue using letters, journals and memoirs. That version gets the nod from me because the history is better.
Topical - US politicians in 1918 denied the growing crisis and kept reassuring the public.
One senior gave a good definition of their “age of innocence.”
“… we really didn’t know what was ahead …”