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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 99

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The Shallows - 2016 - 7/10

Darned good shark chomper. (I live with shark fans so I get force-fed shark films a lot.)
Surfer girl makes her way to very obscure beach in Mexico. Friends bailed, so she is alone.
Even though she meets a pair of other surfers, she watches them depart as she desires one last ride.
Then the shark arrives, and hers becomes a battle for survival.
And don’t assume ole sharky will let her catch a wave to shore. No way.
Slow buildup leads to a nail biter the rest of the way.
The ending seems to have one scene too many.
Atmospheric, lingering photography.

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Midnight - 1939 - 7/10

Crackling screwball comedy finds showgirl being used by a rich man.
The older man’s wife is cheating, so he decides “what’s good for the goose …”
Meanwhile, there is a cabbie who had befriended the showgirl, who starts searching.
Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, lead a large casts of names.
The plot I gave is bare bones, as it is packed with comic twists and turns.
Pacing in this is terrific, along with the jokes, visual gags, one-liners.
One of the best screwball comedies, and sadly, pretty much overlooked.

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Richard III - 1995 - 8/10

Thrilling adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
Here, England is transformed into a fascist monarchy.
As if Oswald Mosley had led a successful coup.
Richard is low on the ladder to claim the throne.
One by one, those ahead of him began departing this world.
Ian McKellen spellbinding as the smiling, gracious, treacherous usurper.
For those who think they are allergic to the bard, give this blood soaked film a look.

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Twenty-One - 1991 - 5/10

Wild child Katie shares her world with us, in a series of “face time” monologues.
Relationships, men, mostly unsuitable.
Katie is self-centered, promiscuous, and young.
She makes poor choices (join the club), and she over-shares.
The narrative and its turns probably read well on the script, but falls flat onscreen.
What is meant to shock, instead bores, in this unfunny stumble.
Patsy Kensit is sexy, the film is not. Not remotely.
Seven years later, Sex And The City would mine the formula.

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Fatale Station - 2016 - 6/10

Sarah arrives in Fatale Station, pop 1404, after a botched murder attempt.
The town is small, although this series follows the more colorful citizens.
Butcher, bartender, hooker, nutjobs and protesters from Indian Nation.
Ruling the town is Mrs. O’Gallagher, who senses Sarah brings trouble and wants her evicted.

And, eventually, the blight does find Sarah and approaches.
The secondary characters are the main import here.
We pick up stories midstream, then shuffle away.
Forbidding atmosphere throughout, fine acting, inadequate script.

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The Nazis: A Warning From History - 1997 - 8/10

Superior eight part series, focusing less on WWII, more on internal party politics.
Early on, the party benefited from luck, and being in the right time, while opponents underestimated them.
Successes (economic and political) fed indoctrination.
Numerous interviewees, many still-proud party members, talk fairly directly.
Of course, viewers ought to be skeptical when individuals - any individuals - recount history.
Footage is uniformly crisp, with subtitles throughout - not always a given with WWII documentaries.
Most of the interviewees were in their 60’s or older, and most are likely gone now.
Timely of BBC to capture living memory before the voices slipped away.

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End Of The Tour - 2015 - 7/10

Compelling, if historically suspicious, road trip of two writers.
Rolling Stone columnist takes assignment to interview David Foster Wallace, author of “Infinite Jest.”
Jesse Eisenberg takes the rather sour role of reporter Lipsky, resentful, envious, awe-struck ,and he is terrific.
Jason Segel memorable as the author, uncomfortable under the sun of fame.
He’s incredibly layered as an individual who, on one hand, exposes himself and his flaws, and yet, on the other hand, keeps supportive friends at arm’s length.
Film gracefully contrasts the loneliness and isolation most writers struggle with, alongside the near-delusional self confidence they must maintain to sustain themselves.

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Invaders From Mars - 1953 - 6/10

Only young David sees the flying saucer land in nearby sand dunes.
Later, no one believes him when he tries to warn adults that people going to the site, come back strange.
Altered – or possessed. Even his own parents!
I watched this as a child (the perfect audience) and it gave me nightmares.
Kids are never believed, we knew that. And angered parents are sheer menace.
15 years later, I rewatched as part of a 1950’s SciFi marathon. The movie theater was packed, amidst a fog of marijuana smoke. We watched in rapt anxiety.
Even last night, while analyzing and dissecting techniques and effects, the childhood unease was there.

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Best Sellers - 2021 - 6/10

The legendary publishing house has fizzled with its last three releases.
Rumors spread that the daughter, new editor, is unable to carry on her father’s legacy.
Then her assistant an outstanding obligation, forty years overdue.
A famous author, assumed dead, owes the firm a book.
And the female sets out to visit the difficult curmudgeon.
Feel-good dramedy that one watches to see Michael Caine.
His Harris Shaw, burned out, alcoholic, reclusive, mixes Bukowski - Salinger - Hemingway
Enjoyable if you in the mood, and can buy into the fantasy that masses still read in 2021.

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Leaving - 2009 - 5/10
AKA - Partir

Implausible French melodrama.
Married woman develops the hots for the handyman hired to clear out the barn.
All well and good, but then … love? Really?
She is the wife of a doctor, she is also a physical therapist of sorts, and mother to two teens.
Handyman is illegal worker from Spain, with a prison record.
Say again, love?
Give up the posh life to pick veggies or work as grocery check-out girl because of true love?
Balls.
Characters are in their 40’s and 50’s. Females are hard nosed about money at that age.
The leads have negative chemistry.
Farfetched nonsense.

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Insurance Investigator - 1951 - 6/10

When a business man accidentally dies, his partner stands to make a windfall.
Double indemnity clause strikes again.
Suspicious, especially since there have been a string of such deaths, an undercover investigator is dispatched.
B-film quickie rolls breathlessly. We know who did it, why they done it, and who the weak links are.
Richard Denning and Audrey Long have the chemistry of high school flirts.
Watchable, Noirish programmer provides an acceptable way to kill an hour.

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The Masseuse - 2018 - 7/10

Loong is the new temp tech at the Pink Dolphin, brothel in Kuala Lumpur.
He is there to service the TX-59 therapist, an older model android.
Conversations include what it is to be real, genuine, dreams, and a sense of friendship grows.
SciFi short is seen through a humid haze, heightening the theme of what is “real”.
Again, TX-59 is an older model, soon to be retired, but because of the friendship, Loong gives her updates.
Well crafted, thoughtful short, with an ending that packs a punch.

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I I I: Das Ritual - 2015 - 6/10

Russian film set in remote village beset with plague like wasting illness.
When one sister comes down with the sickness, the healthy sister consults a rogue priest.
Most illness is mental, he declares, if one enters the other’s psyche the cure can be found.
Being marketed as Horror, yet this is not genre true. By any standard, though, a beautiful film to watch.
Scene after scene of marvelously composed images.
For cinematography and atmosphere, I’d boost this to 8/10.

Thus noted, for narrative, I’d kick this down to 4/10.
Damn little happens, and the pace is numbing.
Actors seem little better than somnambulists, serious and plodding.
Scenes and characters are introduced, then abandoned.
The nudging suspicion - “was it all a dream” - whispers after a bit.

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Kronos - 1957 - 6/10

Rather imaginative SciFi, a variation on the invasion theme.
An alien machine (robot or manned, we never know) begins marching across the desert.
It seeks out and absorbs energy: nuclear, electrical, power lines, power grids, explosions.
Nothing the military (US and Mexico) hurls against it seems to slow the machine down.
Special effects are pretty good for the 1950’s, but the “science” is gobbledygook.
Not that kids would catch errors, or teens in the drive-in would notice.
I wish Wade Williams (film & rights owner) would restore this.

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Cronos - 1993 - 7/10

The antiques dealer acquires the statue, inside of which lies a mechanical scarab.
And inside that is an “entity” that grants eternal life, and youth.
The price, though, is bloodlust.
Del Toro’s debut feature is a knockout, an inventive rendering of the vampire legend.
More than a horror outing, this deals with obsession, alchemy, gerontophobia.
Those who live in the US Southwest will catch musings on US / Mexico attitudes.
This director has always been spotty for me. For every fantastic film, there are three clunkers.
Cronos is one of the fantastic ones.

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Horrors Of Spider Island - 1960 - 3/10
AKA - Ein Toter hing im Netz

Crap-o-rama alert!
Eight showgirls fly from Manhattan to Shanghai.
Enroute, seas turn choppy and their plane crashes. Don’t even ask.
After days adrift, they spy an isle (that looks exactly like Gilligan’s island) and paddle to safety.
Still wearing dresses, makeup, and pearls, they find a cabin, stocked with food!
And a grizzled prospector, caught in a gigantic spider web. Dead, meaning D-E-D.
So what happens? What do you think happens?
One by one they get killed, yet still find time to go swimming naked.
Legendary bad film. Dubbing is atrocious. Shambles courtesy West Germany.

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The Duke - 2020 - 6/10

Duke, as in Wellington, as in painting of by one Francisco Goya.
And a casual appropriation thereof by Kempton Bunton, working class gadfly.
He is a loud voice and agitator for sticking up for the little people and the oppressed.
Meanwhile, his own circumstances, his family situation, both are meager.
The editing in this does wonders for giving viewers a glimpse into 1951.
Without lingering so to allow visual flaws to creep in.
Excellent cast, led by Jim Broadbent, in story that is funny, satirical, and deft with its “message” without getting overly preachy.
007 fans, stick around for a brief appearance by Mr. Connery.

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Salomy Jane - 1914 - 6/10

Madison Clay, daughter Salomy Jane, along with a pack of horses, travel from Kentucky to Hangtown, California.
1849, makes them original ‘49ers.
No gold in this, but the name Hangtown has an ominous ring to it.
Anyway, Salomy is easy on the eyes, and soon all the love-starved menfolk hover near her.
Meantime, what’s going on? Plenty, partner.
Stagecoach holdup, murder, a stranger bent on revenge, another man looking to finish a feud that began in Kentucky.
What else? Hangings, shootings, horse chases, a posse of vigilantes, sagebrush romance, and the most honorable soul reckons to be Gamblin’ Jack.
Simplistic stories, melodramatic acting, what the hey.
For an early feature, you get your dime’s worth, pilgrim. Lemme tell you.

To be honest, I have been on the lookout for this one for decades.
Primarily because it has Matt Synder, as Salomy’s Pa.

Synder was a few months shy of 80 when this was released, and he can still mount a horse and throw a mean right fist.
With due respect to Pop Taylor, Synder was the earliest born, “steady” film actor.
Meaning, he has several credits, roles with lines, supporting roles, lead roles.
Synder was born in 1835! The imagination goes wild.
Andrew Jackson was in the White House, William IV sat on the English throne, Ncholas I was Czar.
I had wanted to see this film, see Synder, an actual living link to that distant time.
Nor does the film disappoint. The print is in good shape, a few tints, with a fine piano score.

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Incident - 1948 - 5/10

Often categorized as Noir, this low-rent effort is not.
Cheap budget, poor sets, women with bad perms, men with empty heads.
Poverty Row, B-mystery all the way.
Man misses late bus and decides to walk home.
In a case of mistaken identity, he is mugged and beaten, but not robbed.
Later that week, he decides to find out who beat him up, who hired that guy, and who the intended victim was.
Yes, IQ of a cheese sandwich.
Along the way he meets an intriguing female who keeps a few secrets.
Time waster. There are easily 643 better Noirs out there.

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Constellations - 2021 - 7/10

Marianne and Roland meet at a party, and hit it off … or not.
In time, they form a relationship … or not.
Marianne is a physicist, Roland a beekeeper.
She attempts to differentiate between quantum physics and relativity.
Then she mentions the potentiality of multiverse, which informs this play.
Reality may simply be a series of choices and decisions, and every different choice means a different reality.
No Fate here, only infinite, random realities. The multiverse.

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Constellations - 2021 - 7/10

Phase two, a different couple, physicist Marianne and beekeeper Roland.
Whereas Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker were older, perhaps warier, Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah are younger and seem to slip into intimacy easier.
Again, the audience must keep up with “realities” including those that double back.
Although the older actors work well together, there is a physical, emotional distance between them.
With the younger pair, there is less personal space, although Atim is on fire, and Jeremiah lags in comparison.
There are two OTHER versions of this play, all exploring choice and outcome.
Choose your own adventure.

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Building Jerusalem - 2015 - 6/10

Static documentary about the lead up to the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Rugby - not Football (Soccer for Americans) - but the more rough ‘n tumble Rugby.
2003 was the year England fielded a strong, albeit aging, lineup and it was their best chance to advance in the tournament against the dominant clubs from the Southern hemisphere.
The film seems for knowledgeable viewers. The game is not explained, scoring is a mystery, and one sees training though not strategy.
Enjoyable as a curiosity, true fans may appreciate more.

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The Purple Rose Of Cairo - 1985 - 7/10

Cecilia, unhappy with her lot in the 1930’s, finds escape in the movie house.
Where characters live the glamorous life she longs for.
Then one of the characters, the manly Tom Baxter, steps out of the screen and starts dating her.
Talk about breaking the fourth wall!
One of Allen’s bittersweet comedies displays a keen eye for the 30’s.
From costumes and dialogue, to Depression expectations and Hollywood mythologizing.
Part of the streak of top films he made during a productive twenty year stretch.

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Lord Of Illusions - 1995 - 6/10

Dorothea consults Harry D’Amour, private eye drawn to the supernatural.
Her husband, the great Swann, master illusionist, is afraid of a resurrected evil.
D’Amour investigates, delving into a sleeping cult, murders, sacrifice.
Clive Barker film fuses Horror with Noir, illusion with magic.
Mystery is solid, horror angle well developed. Illusions are beautifully staged, and the Magic Castle makes for an inside joke.
The finale feels rushed and, to be honest, looks cheap.
A one-off (which I wonder about). There ought to have been one or two more D’Amour movies.

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To Paint Or Make Love - 2005 - 5/10
AKA - Peindre ou Faire l’amour

Guy retires, lives in the city, worries about getting bored.
His girlfriend, out one afternoon painting in rural oblivion, is approached by the blind mayor and given a tour of a house for sale.
Next beat, the guy and his girlfriend buy deserted pastures manor and move to the woodlands.
In other films, this would be slasher setup. If only.
The pair befriend the mayor, his girlfriend, and, for reasons unexplained to viewers, lose their moral compass.
As in, they become “swingers,” mostly one gathers, because they suffer ennui.
Sorta like the energy they put into their performances.
Anyway, attractive visitors soon appear and disrobe.
More jaded souls would think rural sex romps and imagine natives of the Ozarks, or Everglades, or Outback, or Yorkshire in winter, and cringe.
Move yourself to Provence for more appetizing bareback riders.
Well photographed, pretentious fantasy.