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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 77

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Three Swings On A Pendulum - 1967 - 6/10

Listed as a documentary, this is a peculiar artifact from Swinging London.
Three outsiders, an Aussie, a Frenchman, an African, row up the Thames into the capital.
They explore several shops (this screams for color), chat with the locals.
The reserved English open up and are surprisingly forthright.
Older folks enjoy the 60’s moment, London as Zeitgeist.
Younger, more thoughtful interviewees, regard the time as passing.
Mass adoption of hairstyles, fashions, merely another method of conformity.
Again, this is a curio, and not an in-depth overview of the heady era.

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The Rewrite - 2014 - 6/10

Being a tad generous here, scoring a 6 for stale goods.
Hugh Grant plays washed up Hollywood screenwriter who accepts teaching position in upstate New York.
He is supposed to select his class by reading over 100 thirty page screenplays.
Instead he checks social profiles and chooses a room full of hotties and two male geeks.
No competition then, for him in his role of Lord Of The Thighs.
A series of glaring social faux pas alienates fellow instructors and students. (All that rang false and forced.)
Though technically in the rom com genre, this is lightweight in romance and comedy.

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Operation Valkyrie: Stauffenberg’s Plot To Kill Hitler - 2008 - 6/10

Documentary on botched 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler.
Sections on Stauffenberg”s childhood, personal life, military career are fine.
Background on the conspirators, failed attempts, and the historical perspective during the latter years of the war are clear and well presented.
Some reenactments, but not too much. Likewise for the CGI, primitive, limited, yet not excessive.
“Talking heads,” by and large, are poorly miked throughout.
At 76 minutes, this feels a bit long, and the first third is too slow.

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Skinhead - 2016 - 6/10

Oi! Oi! Oi!
Well before the Oi culture, Neo-Nazis, and yob association, London skinheads were kicking boots with Jamaican mates, swaying to reggae and ska, shouting at football matches.
At the matches, however, Northern firms spied and appropriated the cuts, boots, jackets, but not the tolerance.
Informative documentary shows the 60’s beginnings of shaved heads, the near disappearance, the Punk associations, then catching the eye of the National Front.
For those who think they know Skinhead culture, they probably don’t.
Thanks to Mr Crisp for suggesting this.

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Goltzius And Pelican Company - 2012 - 6/10

Serious arthouse territory here.
Peter Greenaway film. Those uninitiated to Mr Greenaway, beware.
In look and visual overload, this is much closer to Prospero’s Book rather than Cook, Thief, Wife, Lover.
17th century dramatist, scribe, bookbinder Goltzius approaches the Margrave of Alsace with the aim of illustrated book publication.
The first book will from the Old Testament, focusing on the salacious, the wicked, the steamy parables.
The Margrave asks to see the stories acted out first by Goltzius’ troupe, which they do - sans clothes.
As with other Greenaway films, there is copious nudity, full frontal, male and female.
Saturated colors, overlapping images, dense dialogue, multiple storylines, not to mention Biblical references and reenacting parables as pornography may be a challenging watch for some.

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50M2 - 2021 - 7/10
AKA - (Fifty Square Meters)

Shadow has a falling out with his boss, a businessman / gangster.
While Shadow was his #1 enforcer, no one is indispensable.
After surviving a botched hit job, Shadow hides himself in small shop in a run down quarter.
Where residents soon assume he is the son of the recently deceased tailor.
He has unique abilities to deal with neighborhood blight and small time chiselers.
The larger adversary is the property developer, bullying, badgering, misleading.
Writing is sharp throughout, in this surprisingly funny dark tinged series.
How dark? The final episode goes full Noir, filmed at night, simmering tensions released.
Unfortunately, this is a Netflix show, with a Netflix non-ending.
While I would be inclined to view S02, I would have to wait to read comments to see if inspiration remained.

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Maigret Sets A Trap - 2016 - 6/10

A serial killer stalks brunettes on the streets of Montmartre.
The chief inspector, an analytical cold fish, has a plan.
An English production, filmed in Hungary, this is handsome.
There is limited character development, however. No idea at all who any of the victims are.
For a murder mystery, there is no tension, no suspense, no clue chasing.
Interesting to see Rowen Atkinson as Maigret. He underplays nicely, though I wish he had more fire.

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Maigret’s Dead Man - 2016 - 6/10

Man, what a pleasant surprise.
Paris, circa 1930’s. Rowan Atkinson returns as the dour Inspector Maigret.
A serial killer terrorizes the French countryside.
Maigret loans most of his crew to assist, yet withholds two assistants and himself for an unrelated underworld killing.
This show is more assured than Maigret Sets A Trap as actors grow into roles.
In many ways, this is a darker story with a more intricate plot.
If you liked the first installment, you should like this.

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Death Laid An Egg - 1968 - 7/10
AKA - La Morte ha Fatto l’uovo // Plucked

Marco is hiding a secret. If we work together, we can find out what it is.
So muses wife Anna to her cousin Gabrielle.
And Marco does have a nasty secret, shown early on as he commits a murder.
One is yanked off trail immediately, though, as the settings unroll.
Anna (a sultry Gina Lollobrigida) owns a chicken plant, which she has modernized and fired all the men.
Marco (Jean-Louis Trintignant, really?) works for the chicken consortium, trying to encourage people to eat more poultry.
There are endless shots of chickens, chicken reactions, chicken protestations. And eggs.
Some give this a Giallo tag, but this is a bizarre arthouse mystery / thriller.
I enjoyed this immensely, but will warn that others might find this way too weird.

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Their Finest - 2017 - 6/10

Britain during the Blitz. Political powers request a morale boosting film.
“Find a good story, maybe add an angle the Yanks will be drawn to.”
A Dunkirk news item is investigated, writers start fleshing out the story, studio honchos try to compromise with various Ministries.
Actors, fans, obstacles, and throughout, a rain of bombs.
Nostalgia territory, with nods towards Day For Night, as well as Foreign Correspondent.

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I Can’t Sleep - 1994 - 6/10
AKA - J’ai Pas Sommeil

Story tracks a young Lithuanian girl just arriving in Paris to visit great aunt.
Also, it transpires, to meet a playwright or producer who apparently offered her work (?).
Camera trails her around, as well as another immigrant working the transgender entertainment sphere.
Without spoiling the plot, there is sporadic police activity and surveillance throughout.
In the background, there is the third thread of a shadowy “granny killer.”
Absorbing study of the Parisian underbelly.
Not an especially “fun” film, yet it held my interest.
Betty Blue fans, Béatrice Dalle has supporting role.

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Blow The Man Down - 2019 - 7/10

Townfolk began to grow uneasy with the sportin’ house by the sea.
Where young girls of horizontal position earn their pay.
Oh, back in the day, the bad days, the hard days, it paid its way.
Only now, the bodies sundered the shackles of the peace of the key.
After their mother’s funeral, sisters Priscilla and Mary Beth get entangled in murder.
Both are out of their depth, especially after dark intelligence moves their way.
Brooding winter Noir boasts keen eyed sense of place in a Maine fishing village.
Hardened temperaments throughout; this is not J. B. Fletcher’s New England.

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The Victorians: Their Story In Pictures - 2009 - 7/10

Four part documentary series on the Victorians as seen through the cinema of the day - paintings.
Pictures that not only reflected times and conditions of the era, but how the people wanted to view themselves.
Entertaining, informative, never dusty. Plenty of details for genre fans yet accessible for casual trippers, as well.
Host Jeremy Paxman seems curious, skeptical, almost wistful at times.
Fairly chronological, going from early moralistic scenes to the Empire at its height to the melancholy themes of the Pre Raphaelites, the Aesthetic Movement, and beyond.

This series aired a few years ago, yet is readily available.
As always with Victorians, so much of their world echoes our own.

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Coin Locker Girl - 2015 - 6/10
AKA - Cha-i-na-ta-un // 차이나타운

So named because she was abandoned as an infant in locker #10, Incheon subway.
Rescued and cared for by homeless squatters until taken to a crime boss.
Ma Wuhee, later known as Mom, specialist in short term loans.
Meaning, high expense loan shark. The deeper the debt, the better.
Since her profitable sideline is organ harvesting.
Ma Wuhee is a real force, a dark, heartless presence throughout.
Sadly, the story is of the foundling, Il Young, who becomes one of her enforcers.
That character is unbelievable. Anyone who has viewed enough K-dramas or other S Korean fare would view her bullying and scowling leaving her shot full of lead.
An inept romance is attempted. For who? The teen demographic?
Derivative and predictable. Watch this for Kim Hye-Soo’s portrayal of the female crime boss.

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World War One - 1964 - 7/10

One hundred years ago, the United States entered the “war to end all wars.”
This documentary highlights the American reaction to, and subsequent involvement in World War I.
Robert Ryan narrates and this has a wealth of newsreels and images, many seldom seen before.
Episodes also highlight the less traveled: the occupation of Belgium, the Lusitania, the Jutland naval campaign, Germany’s meddling in Mexico to distract America, home front disorder, and an early word - slackers.
Also detailed look at the aftermath. Reparations against Germany, along with Allied interference with the new nation, Soviet Union, aiding the “Whites” and sowing the seeds of distrust that grow to this day.

There are several outstanding documentaries on World War I.
The finest in The Great War (1964), 26 episodes with interviews of still surviving veterans.
This documentary, World War One, covers slightly different ground and should appeal to Yanks.
A third, The First World War (2003), is excellent at covering the “world” aspects of the conflict, displaying battles outside of Europe.

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Murder In Mount Saint-Michel - 2022 - 6/10
AKA - Meurtres au Mont Saint-Michel

The man is troubled. Aside from a half dozen cats, he walks the late night alleys alone.
Until he reaches the church. Enters, and has another session with the exorcist.
Next morning, the sufferer is found dead, leading to the arrival of the gendarmes.

French murder mystery with a good sense of place – though the fog seems perpetual in this.
The mystery takes second place in this, however, as the two cops have the hots for each other.
And we, lucky / hapless viewers get to see their lust play out.
She is married, he is divorced (one wonders why). Both appear to have been cast for looks, not presence.
The female officer, the senior partner, captain, looks underage for the role.
Weak time waster. You won’t care about the deaths, motives, revelations.

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100 Streets - 2016 - 6/10

Ensemble cast of three couples play out a few days of their lives.
Two pairs navigate difficulties in their marriages.
The third is an unlikely relationship between an aging actor and a younger man with poetic gifts.
Light interweaving of stories, but this is not, say, Love Actually.
Because most struggle throughout, the film can be a sour pill.
I disliked some of the plot contrivances near the end, felt like the writers ran out of gas.
Hour and a half of varying drama.

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Helpless - 2012 - 7/10
AKA - Hwa-cha // 화차

Well paced Korean mystery.
Enroute to introduce his fiancée to his family, the boyfriend stops at a gas station for coffee and snacks.
Inside the car, the girlfriend answers her cellphone.
The boyfriend returns to an empty car.
He cannot find her. The police are uninterested, dismissing it as bridal jitters.
The boyfriend hunts harder, discovers she was not who she claimed. His fiancée was an imposter.
Eventually he hires a friend / relative (?), ex-police to track her down.
All that occurs early on in dark, downward spiral of a tale.
Solid mystery / thriller. Absorbing date flick, especially if your partner keeps secrets.

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Home - 2008 - 6/10

For ten years, the family of five has been living in a beat up, pre-fab wreck of a house less than twenty meters from an abandoned highway. Funding for the road dried up ten years ago and they have enjoyed rural bliss.
Without warning, road crews arrive, shift all their belongings next to the house, install guardrails.
Next day, traffic arrives. First a trickle - then a steady stream - finally bumper to bumper.
Endless honking and exhaust fumes.
Film follows how they cope … and how they don’t cope.
Acting, led by Isabel Huppert, fine across the board in downbeat movie.

Big problem with the plot is few countries would permit them to remain. Certainly not France, where this is set.
Governments would seize the land by eminent domain (compulsory purchase, resumption, acquisition, expropriation, etc …) to protect themselves from potential liability or legal conflicts.

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Bauhaus: A New Era - 2019 - 7/10
AKA - Die Neue Zeit

Scoring this for history, and info pertinent to the rise and difficulties of the Weimar artistic house.
Behind the scenes, conservatives and academics struggle to undermine and control “new” visions.
Students, meanwhile, are idealistic and romantic. Expect liaisons.
Name-checked are Walter Gropius, Alma Mahler, Johannes Itten, Joost Schmidt, and the enigmatic Dörte Helm
Although there is a chronological series of events, there is an underlying theme of male / female conflict.
At times, this got soapy and I was unsure of accuracy vs. demographic calculations.
There is supposedly a second season planned, where the movement encounters the National Socialist Party.

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Modern Times: The Vikings Are Coming - 2014 - 6/10

What is wrong with British men?
Don’t ask me, ask British women.
Single women. The ones who want children, but lack a boyfriend or husband.
They’re heading for the sperm bank.
Only they don’t want reliable British steel. They want Danes.
Has to do with anonymous donors, which is the UK method.
Whereas Denmark males offer names, photos, brief stories. English birds make more personal choices that way.
Rather shallow documentary skirts an issue of what happens when donor children appear at daddy’s door when they hit 18?
Also - the cuter Danes are very popular. A couple have potentially sired over 100 offspring.
What happens if those children meet down the line … and breed, or inbreed?

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Dark Water - 2019 - 6/10

Teratoma keepers, check this one!
Gemini is sorting through Mom’s belongings after her recent death.
Things in the house, or her perception of things, baffle and soon unsettle her.
Horror short is imaginative and unexpected.
Fans of Caitlín Kiernan will catch ripples in this.

Subs = https://subscene.com/subtitles/dark-water-2019/english/2670480

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Guilty Bystander - 1950 - 6/10

Georgia tracks down her ex-husband, ex-cop, now working as house dick in a grungy dump.
He fits in just fine – he’s a lush.
Still, Georgia’s brother is missing, along with her and her ex’s toddler son.
Max, after a few belts of whiskey, heads out.
Cheap Noir benefits from creative cinematography and sleazy set design.
The plot, a feeble muffin, is a who’s-got-it mystery.
Max’s stumbling, lurching hunt (yeah, still drinking) staggers from one odd character to another.

Certainly not top Noir, yet this will be fine for hardcore buffs of the genre.

Subs = https://subscene.com/subtitles/guilty-bystander/english/2670747

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The Master Key - 1945 - 6/10

Universal serial set in 1938, before WWII.
Secret Nazis and Nazi sympathizers plan to buy up all the US manufacturing companies and corporations they can.
That way, once war starts, they will own the States.
To accomplish their task, they need money - lots of it.
Fortunately, they have copied the “Orotron,” a device that can extract an endless supply of gold from sea water.
Combating this conspiracy is one FBI agent, one police detective, and a plucky female newspaper reporter.
Luckily for them, there is an empty theater hall nearby, filled with juvenile delinquents who don’t like Nazis, either.
Fast paced cliffhanger with fairly good twists - the usual cheats, nice cast, inventive plot.

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The Love Punch - 2013 - 4/10

Tedious, forced comedy, undermined further with a totally implausible script and broad over-acting.
Felt like rehashed 60’s farce.
Pierce Brosnan (who looks ill here) plays soon-to-retire tycoon who sells business, only to discover he sold to a corporate raider who emptied all accounts, including pensions. His included.
With ex-wife (Emma Thompson) and two friends he decides to crash the raider’s wedding and steal a diamond worth £10 million.
OK, call me jaded. £10 million is the haul? For pensions, his ex’s retirement, kids’ money, etc … £10 million?
Moreover, didn’t his company have lawyers or accountants to protect the finances? Or litigate afterward?
Pensions are usually sacrosanct. Separate from all other elements of negotiations. So I never bought that angle.
Their method of crashing a wedding - which I shall not spoil - is preposterous.
(Trust me, Zelda and I have crashed our share of weddings, domestic and abroad.)
Film is OK enough for undemanding souls in the mood for corn.