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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 36

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The History Of Christianity - 2009 - 6/10

Six part series on the early years, spread, and diversity of one of the planet’s youngest religions.
For me, the first three episodes were the most enjoyable:
The earliest beginnings, pagan Rome going Catholic, Eastern Orthodoxy.
After that, the Protestant schism, missionary work in the New World, Pentecostal in Korea.
Conquistadors? Inca, Aztec, Maya? Massacre, what are you talking about?
None of that mentioned.
Oxford history don, Diarmaid McCullough, is an engaging host, but he is more guarded and careful in his thoughts and presentations as the series progresses.
The energy steamed away.

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The Words - 2012 - 6/10

Oft visited premise of struggling young writer discovering an unpublished manuscript by accident.
Then, submitting the pages as his own, he receives acclaim and awards.
Film guises plot with device of story within another story.
Nice looking - predictable.

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Sputnik - 2020 - 6/10

Two weeks in orbit, and two cosmonauts are returning to earth.
During the descent, however, some “thing” climbs onto their capsule … then inside.
Back on earth, the now-lone surviving cosmonaut is placed under military quarantine / detention.
Dark SciFi thriller borrows from other movies, but it does proceed in unexpected directions.
The Hollywood formula is avoided, thus much of the narrative is unpredictable.
That said, security at the isolated base is terribly lax at times, to the point where I’m asking “where are the guards?”
Owing to references to Yuri Andropov, I’d guess this was set in the early 1980’s.

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The Beauty’s Evil Roses - 1992 - 5/10
AKA - Se Jiang II Zhi Xie Mei Gui // 色降II之血玫瑰

Wildly insane Hong Kong Cat III film of kidnapped girls, magic spells, lesbian action, penis snakes, machine guns, motorcycle gangs, kung fu, nudity, spawning, handcuff lovin’, sleazy music …
Girls are indoctrinated into an evil queen’s entourage.
Disobedience or failure is punished by whippings, spanking and spell magic.
Hard to tell what the motivations are of anyone, aside from police and a brother searching for his sister.
The editing is jarring and haphazard. Music is not even faded between scenes. Chop chop chop.
Conflicts (gunfire - incantations - slappings) are intercut with long stretches of nudity and mattress action.
Legendary film that I somehow never saw in the 90’s when I was so obsessive over HK films.
I think was expecting more, or at least better cutting.

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Magic Mike - 2012 - 6/10

Energetic remake of 1981’s Ladies Man, with a dose of Tony Manero and The Village People.
One does not expect plot here, and there was little. Little sleaze as well.
The gents were very buff, the dance routines little more than M Jackson’s crotch grab.
Not much effort there, I’m afraid.
For a better, more fun, film about male strippers, track down the guys calling themselves Hot Metal.
The Full Monty.

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Martin’s Close - 2019 - 5/10

Idle gentry wastrel, George Martin, stands accused of murdering a simpleton, Ann Clark.
The story plays out in courtroom testimony and flashback.
Written and directed with a slight camp style, which I don’t think works.
Brief, slight, and I had heard enough mutterings to assume it would disappoint.
At 30 minutes, this goes down like a half empty packet of stale crisps, and is unsatisfying.

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My Hot Property - 2016 - 5/10

Sleek, sexy corporate spy quaffs drugs by the crate and plays squitzy with fried brain boyfriend.
Then she falls behind in the rent in uber pricey London and buyers circle.
Movie follows her combative campaigns to hold onto her accommodations.
Meant to be a comedy, perhaps an edgy satire, this is low on laughs, high on stupid.
Asinine situations, moronic characters, as enticing as soggy pizza with mushy noodles.

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After The Wedding - 2006 - 6/10
AKA - Efter Brylluppet

Social worker Jacob, seeking more funding to keep the orphanage going, goes to Denmark.
Indeed, that is part of the potential donation, so this is a summons to ask in person.
Once there, he is invited to a wedding, and he spies an old flame.
From then on, revelations surface at a steady pace.
The story is heavy on character development, motivations, and well meaning intentions.
Camerawork includes many extreme closeups, capturing expressions and gestures.
Note: Hollywood offered an attempt in 2019, casting attractive actors.

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The Bridge - 2006 - 8/10

Documentary about San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Focusing on the pedestrians. Specifically, the ones who climb over the guardrail and step into the next world.
Worldwide, Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular destination for suicides.
Lonely people, forgotten souls, neighbors and coworkers who have lost their self esteem and fallen into despair.
Excellent long range photography. haunting score.
Mostly interviews with friends and family, trying to explain why someone chose to jump.
Many scenes are of the long view of the bridge . . . and the quiet splash.
Several individuals are only seen for seconds, yet they linger in your memory for weeks.
I seem to re-watch this every year, and have gradually raised my original score.

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The Queen Of Versailles - 2012 - 6/10

Billionaire time-share mogul, David Siegel, begins construction on a gargantuan manor house during the height of the financial housing bubble.
In 2008, the bubble burst and banks everywhere looked to fail. No loans for nobody. Work on the dream house stopped.
Now, it’s up for sale. Unfinished. Asking a reasonable $75 mil. 90,000 square feet. Fixxer-upper.
Highly entertaining documentary follows trophy wife Jackie, herding eight kids, navigating their spiraling circumstances.
The American Dream with big cars, big homes, big swank, crumbling to monumental failures.
Despite setbacks, Jackie remains likeable, and stays positive.

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The Iron Crown - 1972 - 6/10
AKA - Kanawa // 鉄の王冠

Offbeat mix of traditional Noh drama with modern retelling.
Unfaithful husband abandons wife for young tramp. Wife refuses divorce, but decides to deliver hell.
The Noh is slower and more stylized, yet has more powerful images.
Highlight being the wife pounding nails into the groin area of straw fetishes.
Nudity and comingling throughout, tasteful compositions, spare music.
At the far end of arthouse, and definitely an acquired taste.

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Guilty Hands - 1931 - 6/10

Wealthy rake summons his lawyer to his Atlantic island.
Money needs to be thrown at ruined female conquests, including a 16 year old who “committed suicide.”
That clears the path so he can marry a young beauty … his attorney’s daughter.
The lawyer vows murder! Also on the island is the daughter’s old flame, and the millionaire’s mistress.
5¢ if you can guess who will die.
A “locked room” mystery with numerous suspects, although viewers know the culprit.
The cynicism of this is pure Pre-Code, as we watch exactly how the guilty escape.
Early talkie is creaky, but not static. Audio is good, too.
Brief film, wait for the nasty surprise ending.

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Queen Of Mystery - 2017 - 5/10
AKA - Chooriui Yeowang // 추리의 여왕

Housewife is drawn to crime solving, much to the annoyance of roughhouse detective.
Odd couple pairing has been used countless times, this is an inferior version.
Straight off, early episodes are 40% comedy, juvenile, bathroom jokes.
Actors mug and make silly faces throughout. Writing is lazy, direction poor.
Aside from an arc (unfinished), there are 4 two part storylines. All are “women at risk.”
This is where my feelings derail. The victims’ paths are often poignant, depressing.
Writers put thought into these, acting and directing is restrained and compassionate.
Police and the lady mull around, sad and thoughtful, then the jaunty music fires up.
Ooh, another mystery to solve! And into “dumb” they go again.

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Albert Nobbs - 2012 - 6/10

Men cross dress as women: Tootsie, Mrs Doubtfire, Some Like It Hot, Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert . . .
Funny. Comedy.
Women cross dress as men: Yentl, Boys Don’t Cry, M Butterfly, not so funny.
Yes, I’m being selective.
So too, Albert Nobbs. Stuffy costumer, where Glenn Close passes for a butler. Probably to earn better wages.
Whole movie was a murky cipher. Nobbs has increasing fantasies about what he/she will spend savings on.
There was no there to the character.
Nice looking, but at the end, I shoulda watched a good Noir.

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Zero Focus - 2009 - 6/10
AKA - Zero no Shôten //ゼロの焦点

After their honeymoon, Kenichi heads off on a business trip and tells his wife he will return on the 8th.
His farewell proves to be the last time wife Teiko will ever see him.
After failed investigations, she boards a train northwards, to where her husband was last seen.
She soon realizes, she knows nothing about her husband, or of his past.
Superb mystery is permeated with atmosphere, and is reminiscent of Rampo (1995).
Gorgeous camera work, and a Romantic score suffused with Wagner and Herrmann help.
Roughly three-quarters in, the film makes a discernible turn from mystery to melodrama.
Like Hitchcock dropped the reins at that point and Douglas Sirk finished.
The change of tone puzzled me and left me somewhat chagrined.

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Cure For Wellness, A - 6/10 - 2017

Tempted to score this higher for escalating preposterous nonsense of this folly.
Corporate masterminds send dodgy underling to exclusive Swiss spa to fetch missing CEO.
Within two ticks, anyone who has ever screened a movie or read a book would go, “Hey, this fenced up, nestled in oblivion castle is strange.” Or - “Are all these white clad patients drugged?”
Anyway, the young man stays longer than planned and keeps drinking the mineral water.
Meanwhile, he wanders all over the place, deep into underground chambers, locked rooms, laboratories.
How come the staff simply does not drug his curious ass?
Beautiful photography! But - it serves to mask the lack of cohesive plot.
I thought the story ended five times. Nope. Director thought of something else cool looking to add.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this.
Afterward, however, we were all going, “What happened with – Why did they – How come --”

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Take Joy! The Magical World Of Tasha Tudor - 1996 - 5/10

Documentary about the acclaimed children’s illustrator.
I recognized her from an article in the old Victoria magazine, and I must confess I recalled many of the illustrations from childhood books.
Some, such as those for Secret Garden, famous and unforgettable.

The film was saccharine sweet, cloying, more perfect than Martha Stewart’s shake and bake fantasies.
Mrs. Tudor not only dressed, but determinedly lived in the 1830’s.
After awhile, I smelled a rat and checked online to see just how perfect her life had been.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/7293954/Children-fight-over-illustrator-Tasha-Tudors-estate.html

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Flower Of Evil - 2020 - 7/10
AKA - Agui Kkot // 악의 꽃

After their father, exposed as a sadistic serial killer, commits suicide, villagers hound the children.
The son, in particular, is beaten as rumors spread that he carries his father’s DNA.
What does he do? Changes his name, marries a female cop, lives quietly for several years.
Until scandal media decide to revisit and unearth the forgotten story.
Gripping thriller is expertly plotted with taut cliffhangers, opening flashbacks, hairpin twists.
Throughout, narrative track is laid out, an impressive amount of new material.
Alas, as with too many K-dramas, the ending stumbles. The furious pace slacks, the fire is quenched.

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Amour - 2012 - 7/10

Long term marriage impacted after the wife suffers small stroke.
Then another. Before you know it, she is almost helpless.
Unflinching movie, best appreciated by those of a certain age:
Meaning, you have more days behind you than in front of you.
Not sentimental, but you could see how vital and important the couple had been, once upon a time.
Everyone gets forgotten, however.
Extremely well done.
An uncomfortable watch, as I know my own support network is ghost webbing.

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Dead Nature - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - Natureza Morta

It’s almost embarrassing, the way females throw themselves at him.
Then again, Tim is a high end fashion photographer.
Too bad those gorgeous specimens don’t know he is a murderous sociopath.
Blame a troubled childhood, deep in the swamps, tangled like rusty barbed wire.
Tim’s camera eye, captures again and again, the juxtaposition of beauty amidst death and decay.
Secondary story follows Pitbull, a scruffy detective with a pitbull’s IQ.
The look of this Brazilian series is flat and cheap, like a telenovela.

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Dark Waters - 1993 - 6/10
AKA - Temnye Vody

After her father dies, a girl journeys to remote convent island, during a violent, midnight storm.
Dad had been funding the sisterhood for years and she wants to know why.
Also, she was originally born on the island, and she wonders why she was warned never to return.
A slow film, though dense with imagery and set design.
The island is riddled with caves, catacombs, candles and streams of trickling waters.
Lovecraft readers will find much to appreciate in this, as will Italian horror aficionados.
Dialogue is minimal. Show, don’t say, definitely applies, though that rule is overruled near the end and the film suffers, I think.