Sign In

A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 85


Crimson Rivers - 2000 - 7/10
AKA - Les Rivières Pourpres

Major - major - major disappointment this. True, I scored this a 7, yet I would have notched it an 8 as would have other viewers.
Paris commissioner (Jean Reno) sent to remote site in Alps after a nude body is found.
The victim had suffered ritual torture, hands and eyes removed, then killed slowly.
The trail leads to a posh, extremely exclusive university.
Meanwhile, another cop (Vincent Cassel) investigates a tomb desecration hundreds of kilometers distant.
The trail likewise leads to the university.
The look is Neo-Noir, the plot is creepy and suspenseful, punctuated with intense action.
Location filming is breathtaking. This is a fabulous looking film.
Unfortunately . . . there is no “why.”
A truly enjoyable movie, marred by a rushed, inexplicable conclusion.
According to an interview with a frustrated Cassel, he did not understand the end either.
Note - The director chose to cut all the explanatory sequences because they were “boring."
This could have been a great film.
Recommended - with that warning.


Sleepwalkers - 1992 - 5/10

The new boyfriend is cute, rugged, ideal, but his heart belongs to Mommy.
Mother and son, incestuous drifters, cruise into deadsville, Indiana.
Unnatural predators, hunting food. Meat. Yeah, the other, other white meat.
Except this dish needs to be, mmm, virtuous. Good luck there, as the 90’s sashays into a hedonistic decade.
Promising horror boasts stellar cast amidst more wooden players.
Poor script by Stephen King, worsened by Mick Garris, who is an inept writer, worse director.
Might have been better, shoulda been, though one gathers the producers aimed low.


Collateral - 2004 - 7/10

Almost great film.
Michael Mann Neo-Noir, set in late night Los Angeles.
Cruise and Foxx as tightly scheduled hitman and reluctant, but impoverished cabbie.
Both actors deliver underplayed, yet crackling performances.
Demonstration time for cinematography. Midnight blacks, neons, splashy billboards, sweeping lights.
Wicked dialogue, as well. The narrative is more dialogue driven, with escalating action splattering the night.
Without going too much into the plot, the ending faltered for me.
It delivered a crowd-pleasing, Hollywood studio cop out, that was unrealistic and out of character.
Docked it a point for that.
Perfect for crime oriented insomniacs and somnambulists.


Dr Mabuse, The Gambler - 1922 - 8/10
AKA - Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler

One of cinema’s earliest, and finest criminal masterminds.
Master stock market manipulator, card sharp, swindler.
Mabuse rules a band of weaklings, drug addicts, and thugs through force of will and ruthless discipline.
Lengthy, quite lengthy at 4 hours, it can be enjoyed over several evenings since it is broken regularly into acts.
Interiors are 20’s Deco, while exteriors are an Expressionistic rats maze of narrow back lanes and secret gambling dens.
Tempo, which gallops ahead during the first half, relaxes in the second when Mabuse, the epitome of calculated control, tilts to obsession and megalomania.
The entire mood and tone is steeped in the exuberance and decadence of Weimar Berlin. That, and ennui, sheer boredom of living in an accelerated life.
Metropolis and M enjoy greater acclaim, but this has always been my preferred Lang.
Rudolf Klein-Rogge delivers a bravura, unforgettable performance as the diabolical Mabuse.


Second Best Marigold Hotel - 2015 - 5/10

Was this film really necessary?
Since someone brought it home, and I got to watch it, I guess so.
Second helping of elderly retirees living in Jaipur hotel, picks up where original left off.
That was a surprise smash, reaching beyond the aging arthouse set.
The ensemble interaction is less this go around.
Two new characters are introduced, which likely translates as less lines for everyone.
More critical, the core of the narrative is about the upcoming wedding.
Rehearsals, dance practice, dinners, capped by the wedding which is elaborate and lengthy.
Consequently, most of the returning principals are underwritten sketches.
We see them onscreen, a minute here, a minute there, shadows of what they were in the original release.
Above photo nicely encapsulates characters lost in a crowded script.


Florence Foster Jenkins - 2016 - 6/10

Entertaining, amusing biopic, though I can understand why many turned a deaf ear.
Meryl Streep splendid as daffy, delusional society dame who inflicts her voice onto Carnegie Hall and to wax cylinders for perpetuity.
Mrs Jenkins suffers pitch problems, insecure attack, wobbly control, on and on …
In this telling, audiences were mildly sympathetic, though giggling occurred in film and in reality.
Hugh Grant equally fine as supportive, protective husband.
Her singing numbers, though, are going to kill many of you.

Movie buffs often have a fondness for bad.
Genuine bad. Not calculated Sharknado rubbish, bur rather Ed Wood working at the zenith of his powers.
Likewise music. Singers like Tiny Tim, Claudine Longet, Karen Dalton will be an acquired taste for most, yet I do spin them up from time to time.
Your own “guilty pleasure” taste in music ought to inform you of how you will react to Mrs Jenkins.


The Chestnut Man - 2021 - 7/10
AKA - Kastanjemanden

It’s an old case, a year gone, almost cold file.
Still, the kidnapped victim was – is! – a politician’s daughter.
Then, after a year, a string of women are murdered, limbs removed, displays mounted.
And always those eerie chestnut men somewhere on the scene.
Six part thriller, well written, diabolically constructed, sure direction, solid acting.
None of the detectives are drooling, weirdo types, an overused crutch from imaginatively bereft writers.
Convoluted, perhaps so much, you may need to rewatch a few episodes.


Jimmy Carr: In Concert - 2008 - 6/10

Popular British standup comedian delivers almost two hours of material seriously funny and seriously offensive.
A lot of viewers may squirm uncomfortably when he jokes about wife beating, pedophilia and paraplegics.
(This is the guy who once commented that the UK Paraplegic Olympic team would be much more competitive owing to the Iraq and Afghan wars.)
In this show, he interacts with children (14 yrs) in the audience.
If you worry this sounds messed up, bear in mind parents brought their children to this very adult show.
Those who quibble at the “In Concert” title, relax. There is a jazzy music interlude.
Laugh out loud funny and tasteless.
Commonwealth types often do better with this than politically inclusive souls.


Dawn French: 30 Million Minutes - 2014 - 5/10

Give the comedian an A for effort in her one-woman show.
Ms French charges about the stage, reacts to huge “BOYS!!” signs, while giving a personal history tour.
Growing up, her family, and her body image - the latter, at length.
Laughs are rare in the first hour.
At times, she seems to pause a second or two, waiting for applause or laughter that never comes.
Females I watched this with giggled during the “mother daughter” section, the last 20 minutes.
More memoir than stand up comedy, though not always memorable.
This ain‘t Vicar Of Dibley, it ain’t French & Saunders, and it sure as hell ain’t Ab Fab.
Live show was wildly popular, nevertheless.


Dara O’Briain: Crowd Tickler - 2016 - 7/10

After watching, with minimal enjoyment, Dawn French’s confessional standup, others suggested Mr O’Briain.
Thank you. Thank you.
O’Briain, who hosts the savagely funny Mock The Week delivers the goods.
Topics range from uncertain fame (“Hey, aren’t you Al Murray? Hey, pub landlord!!”)
to over-sharing, to rampant false empathy, best of all, a running gag leveled at Jedi’s Mon Mothma.
“Many Bothans died … “ Sad sad sad, despair, guilt, la la la.
At one hour, this packs plenty of laughs.


Deep Wounds - 2015 - 6/10
AKA - Tiefe Wunden

The final in a quartet of mysteries based on a Nele Neuhaus novel.
A 90 year old Auschwitz survivor is murdered in Germany.
Police arrive and are soon throttled, and the case is given to federal officials.
Another murder soon follows. Each time, a number is scrawled. 16145.
My viewing partners (mystery buffs) quickly deduce a date. I give historic events for dates given.

Ahead of the cops, we know there is WWII bearing, probably revenge.
The roots to the growing string of murders lie deep in the past.
Passable mystery, more enjoyable if you viewed previous installments with the detective duo.


Victorian Slum - 2016 - 6/10

Not what I anticipated.
I expected a documentary, but this is of modern families reliving Victorian poverty in the slum.
Decade each: 1860 - 1870 - 1880 - 1890 - 1900.
Some are tradesmen, others grocers, bottom rung is unskilled.
Food is what would be available, work is manual, restrictions and limitations.
Apparently participants lived in the accommodations for three weeks, so this may be more “authentic.”
Last episode - 1900 - is the eye-opener, relevant to today.
Increased global competition (from Germany and US) means more goods for the poor, but fewer jobs.
Worrisome if you believe history runs in cycles.


Don’t Look Away - 2017 - 6/10

Mom is expected anytime, Dad is enroute.
Savannah is applying makeup, fixing her hair, ignoring brother Jim’s request to mow the lawn.
Speaking of lawn, out on which is an individual, Head in a burlap sack, bound by chains.
Per title, they soon realize what they ought to do.
As if teens would follow suggestions.
Horror short may leave you unfulfilled.

English subtitles =


The Spectacular - 2021 - 7/10
AKA - Die Spectacular

Four part thriller of the IRA terror campaign in Belgium and The Netherlands.
IRA targets off-duty British soldiers, but if civilians are killed … collateral damage.
Timeline = 1988 - 1994.
Narratives follow Irish tactics, and efforts of combined government intelligence agencies to thwart.
Well done, although the subtitles leave much to be desired.
Subs I viewed were English (for Dutch speakers), and Dutch (for Irish speakers)…
Chapter titles not subbed, nor were the “aftermath” comments during closing credits.


Clouds Of Sils Marie - 2014 - 7/10

Difficult, challenging film, propelled by Juliette Binoche and a surprising good Kristen Stewart.
Top tier actress is offered a role in an update / remake of edgy work that launched her career decades earlier.
There is a misunderstanding initially about whether the script is about her character, thirty years later whom she could play, or a remake and she would portray “the older woman.”
Actually the film (which gave me trouble) seems deliberately filled with uncertainty, misdirection and ambiguity.
Distractions from social media are also constant. Ringing cellphones, individuals dropping out of conversations to check messages, numerous Google and YouTube searches (reliable barometers of info, those last two).
This is a character study of old school Binoche gradually ramping her character up to speed with more modern, less nuanced audience tastes.
Stewart is her PA and de facto sounding board. Maybe . . .
Despite breathtaking Swiss Alps exteriors, the film is quite stagy - theatrical.
Theatre buffs will enjoy this. Those expecting scheming cat fights will be disappointed.


American Experience: Mary Pickford - 2004 - 7/10

Fine documentary on America’s sweetheart, from the Silent Era.
Good collection of stills, clips from her films (including Griffith shorts), newsreels. home movies.
One gets a good feel for Pickford the actress, professional, and business woman.
What is unseen, is Pickford’s private life, the person under the role.
Especially after she quit acting and became a recluse.

I have to be in the right mood to watch Pickford.
She excelled at radiating purity and innocence, which I am seldom in the mood for.
An influential actress, her audiences insisted she portray young girls (even into her 30’s).
Tastes can change overnight. She was abandoned when 20’s theater goers opted for sleeker models.
Most movie stars seem to end up badly, personal opinion.


Bedelia - 1946 - 6/10

Based on Vera Caspary novel of honeymoon couple in Monte Carlo.
She is rich, he is not. 1st marriage for him, 2nd for her.
A wandering painter wants to do her portrait, she refuses.
Just as she adamantly stops any photographs being taken of her.
Sluggish tale of the past trailing after the shady soul.
Caspary also wrote Laura and was always angry that Preminger reduced the title heroine to an empty nothing.
Bedelia is more conniving and multi-layered, but the pace lollygags.


Three Bad Sisters - 1956 - 5/10

Wealthy father dies in a plane crash (while the pilot miraculously survives).
Three daughters stand to inherit a three-way split.
Or … if one dies, a two-way. Or … if another, mine all mine!
One sister is goody-two-shoes, meaning Dullsville.
The other flirts, goes shopping, runs around. Yeah, lively and rambunctious, the fun date.
Sister number three, though, Valerie, whoo boy. Poster child for devious psychopath.

Would that the other two, Vicki and Lorna, were in her league.
Then, this might be a must-see exploitation gem. As is, Valerie is the flame to watch.


Galileo: S01 - 2008 - 6/10
AKA - ガリレオ

When faced with baffling, unsolvable murders, female cop consults physics professor.
One case follows another until - Hey! - Apologies to Mr Berra, but is this deja vu all over again?

Hold on. Another reboot of the Eleventh Hour franchise?
Not exactly, there are too many flaws.
For a serious drama, there is comic silliness.
Several music cues are goofy and slapstick, their noisy intrusion wrecks the mood.
The story arc suffers implausible romantic leanings. Detective and professor are acid n oil opposites, the attraction phony.
Complaints out of the way, the 10 part series is entertaining throughout.

Most of the crimes are “unsolvable.” - Spontaneous combustion - Poltergeist - Fireballs - Ghosts - Premonitions
That is, until the prof and students set up testing apparatus.
Big, Goldberg devices.
Fun to watch, though uncertain how valid the scientific accuracy is.
Easy science for non-demanding C grade students.


The Humbling - 2014 - 5/10

Pretentious, self-indulgent muddle.
Al Pacino as aging actor suffering peculiar breakdown.
He talks to himself, he talks with others. Or are they figments of his imagination?
A young girl, forty years his junior, confesses a lifelong crush and moves in.
Maybe … Or maybe she is another phantom.
At one point, Pacino’s character confesses roles and reality are blurring.
For viewers, the experience is one fake out scene after another.
Devotees of Birdman might enjoy this better.


Somm: Into The Bottle - 2015 - 6/10

Winesnobs, score higher. Everyone else, prepare to stroll.

Checklist to see if you qualify. (The correct answer is “A” every time.)

  1. Preferred evening drink: A - alcohol, B - soft drinks, C - dairy, D - water, E - nothing.
  2. What sort of alcohol: A - wine, B - beer, C - cocktail.
  3. Wine with: A - dinner, B - crackers n cheese.
  4. Favorite place to dine: A - away from home, B - home.
  5. Restaurant wine list is: A - at least 10 pages long, B - house red or house white.
  6. How much will you spend on bottle: A - $100 or more, B - $99 or less, C - are you crazy?

Wine documentary divided fairly equally between vintners (growers, bottlers) and sommeliers.
Vinters matter-of-fact about what they grow, challenges, how the wine ought to taste.
The sommeliers are selling a story, though. They want you to spend for that $350 bottle.
“Because it is so special - - just like you.” Sure …
Mention given to Mondavi and Parker, both of whom I regard as bad influences -

I enjoyed, albeit bemused. My bride and I, while hardly connoisseurs, are “steady” drinkers, meaning 4-5 bottles per week.
But triple digit bottles? C - are you crazy? I could, and do, buy cases for that price.


Murder On D Street - 1997 - 7/10
AKA - D-Zaka no Satsujin Jiken // D坂の殺人事件

Edogawa Rampo murder mystery starts slowly, and confusing.
A used book dealer, ex geisha, hires a forger to recreate paintings.
Pornographic art of bondage and cruelty by Shundei Ohe.
Forbidden, suppressed, so of course there are eager collectors who will pay dearly.
Creative film goes into detail on the forgery techniques.
Also the use of ropes, knots, model positioning.
The first hour features lusty action by neighbors, who initially seem to have no bearing on the story.
Murder, as well as Detective Akechi, comes late in the film.
Dark, highly charged erotica, demands full attention.


Tell Me A Story: S01 - 2018 - 7/10

Had I more appetite for US fare, I might have stumbled upon this earlier.
Three fairy tales, updated and relocated to New York City.
Hansel and Gretel, Three Little Pigs. Little Red Riding Hood.
Common to all, the wolf. Yeah, a bad one. Make that wolves.
I found myself engrossed in one thread, irritated with another.
An episode later, my allegiances would shift.
In addition, several times I second-guessed. “Aw, man, is going to happen? This is so predictable.”
Except that seldom happened. The writing is high, they always took unexpected directions.
Sharp little series, at least S01. I might try another season.
Based on the Spanish series, Cuéntame un Cuento, about which I am now very curious.


Cilla - 2014 - 7/10

Well done, if not altogether completely accurate, mini series of young Cilla Black.
Cilla was the girl singer in Brian Epstein’s stable.
She never succeeded in the States, yet became an institution in Britain.
Series covers the early days when she was a Cavern Club devotee and often sang onstage with the lads, through her hit making years.
One of her friends is Rory Storm’s drummer, Ringo. Then there’s those other three guys.
Numerous songs throughout, and several groups listed, including some that never made it out of Liverpool.
Sheridan Smith does her own belting and is astoundingly good.
Story ends around the same time as the end of the British Invasion, but before the dissolution of Swinging London.


Under The Shadow - 2016 - 6/10
AKA - Zir-e Saye

Offbeat, and off the beaten track ghost story from Iran.
Near 1988, the end of the Iran - Iraq War, a bombed out roof allows a djinn to enter an apartment.
Or is does it ride in with the haunted orphan boy from Abadan?
Unclear, in a good way. Items go missing and an unease descends.
Soon enough, inhabitants divide between believers and scoffers.
As bombings intensify, those who believe in spirits do the proper thing - they run.
Leaving behind, a mother and daughter.
Usually I would never watch any US film with the “kid in peril” device as they are 98% predictable.
This, being an Iranian production, will upset predictions.
Good spook story.

Note - I downed several subs and was happy with none. Typos, odd timestamps, no caps for names.
I tweaked a set and uploaded if you need -