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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 41

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The Beautiful Troublemaker - 1991 - 6/10
AKA - La Belle Noiseuse

Overlong arthouse fare that will tax your endurance.
Once famous, now less fashionable, painter returns to an unfinished project.
A fresh model awakens inspiration, though he cannot find the line.
This is four hours of the creative process, and will certainly not appeal to all.
I recall feeling cheated by the end (I first viewed during the original run).
One artist friend deemed it a masterpiece, another said it was like watching paint dry.
Revisiting this did not improve my opinion, though this is like watching a master at work.

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Neon Demon - 2016 - 5/10

Listed as Horror / Thriller. Say what?
I got this hoping for fashion arthouse Horror. What a fool believes.
Dewy eyed miss wanders Los Angeles hoping to make it as high fashion model.
Success is overnight, everything else is glacial. Pace is mind numbing slow.
On the couture end, clothes look off the J C Penney’s rack.
Inventive composition, angles, colors? No, just colored light filters.
Nick Knight, Annie Leibowitz, Grace Coddington, et al have nothing to fear from this twaddle.

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Six Minutes To Midnight - 2020 - 6/10

Lightweight espionage thriller suffers from insufficient plot.
On the eve of WWII, daughters of influential Reich commanders are in an elite English finishing school.
What if war breaks out? What will happen to those Aryan beauties?
Overly padded story (including an extended, lackadaisical chase) is dull.
Actor / writer / co-producer Eddie Izzard gave himself the lion’s share of scenes in fluff history.

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Sense And Sensibility - 2008 - 7/10

Excellent three part series of the Jane Austen costume drama.
More than holds its own with the Ang Lee / Emma Thompson version, but marred by a fatal casting choice.
Being longer, more characters and incidents entered the narrative. Some useful (Lucy Steele’s sister, an opening erotic moment), some useless (a pointless duel).
Story follows a family of females after their father dies and they are displaced from the manor.
Their mother was wife #2, and English estates always pass into male hands.
The family struggles to survive in “good society,” the daughters on, perhaps, finding romance.
Cast is uniformly fine, though Dominic Cooper seems miscast as Willoughby.
His character lacks panache, and comes across a rather oily on the screen. I could not buy him as a heartbreaker.

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Sense And Sensibility - 1995 - 6/10

I have probably viewed this twenty times.
Over the years, I have grown more and more disenchanted with it, due to two headliners.
Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon is portrayed as rather weak and incompetent, not to mention he was way too old to be a proper suitor for Kate Winslet’s Marianne Dashwood (Rickman was 30 years older than Winslet).
A much bigger problem is with writer / star Emma Thompson who cast herself as 19 year old Elinor Dashwood. Thompson was 36 when the film released, and matronly at that.
There is still a lot to appreciate in this version. Scenery, outstanding support (though Hugh Grant sleepwalks his role), great score, costume design, even the direction - and I do not like Ang Lee.
This used to be such a favorite, I wish it were still so.
The 2008 adaptation has a lot more going for it, though the role of the dashing Willoughby was somewhat miscast.

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The Colossus Of New York - 1958- 5/10

Father is a brain surgeon, the eldest is an automation engineer, but he youngest is hailed as the brilliant genius, because he endeavors to solve world hunger!
Alas, after he returns from receiving his Nobel prize, he is killed in a traffic accident.
Or is he? Dad is a brain surgeon, after all, and the brother can create a huge robot.
Not as bad as some decry, yet this is ploddingly slow, crawling from one listless scene to another.
Energetic final three minutes not enough compensation.
Actually, what I did enjoy was the Van Cleave score. Largely Impressionistic piano.

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The Maltese Falcon - 1931 - 5/10

First filmed version of Hammett’s novel remains faithful to the plot.
Riccardo Cortez’s Spade is a breezy, cheery private eye, though.
Maybe because client Ruth Wonderly (the very steamy Bebe Daniels) runs short of hard currency, but offers soft assets in exchange. Note the date, this was PreCode.
No wonder Sam is so happy.
Next morning, while she sleeps one off, detective Spade rummages through her belongings, digging for clues.
Film not bad, not good either. Drags at times.
Cortez either miscast or misdirected.
In or out of clothes, Bebe remains easy on the eyes.

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35 Days: S01 - 2014 - 6/10
AKA - 35 Diwrnod

Slow burn, par excellence.
Pocket community lives in an affluent close (dead-end circle).
Residents are a checkered lineup of sinners and stone throwers.
New arrival, an attractive air hostess, upsets a precarious balance.
Men start sniffing, women pull out tally sheets.
No spoiler - the opening scene, viewers see a female sprawled on the floor, possibly dead.
Next, we are immediately propelled back 35 days and the story plays out.
Artfully written as motives surface and suspects grow.
Enjoyable, sour series from Wales (get subs!) will delight Scandinavian Noir buffs.

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Enola Holmes - 2020 - 6/10

Sherlock and Enola share a moment, before the narrative throttles up.
Better than anticipated new thread of the family Holmes.
Youngest child Enola (alonE) wakes to discover mother has disappeared.
Summoned brother Mycroft takes charge. Telling Sherlock to find mother, while he opts to send highly independent Enola to a repressive finishing school.
Sure enough, Enola takes off for London to locate Mom on her own.
Fast moving narrative is hardly canon (Sherlock is faithful enough, Mycroft is badly rewritten).
Shows a degree of political correctness, but not irritatingly so.
Seems aimed a younger viewers. Adults can watch without cringing.

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Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts Of Georgia - 2012 - 5/10

Family (Ma, Pa and female young un) move to banged up ranch house out in the swamp.
There is an empty trailer nearby, so when wife’s sister (Katee Sackoff) rolls up she has a place.
From the get-go, there are ghosts, weird animal traps, visions, coupled with the slow revelation. The females all share the “gift” for seeing beyond this world.
The plot really doesn’t amount to much, though the effects team went hog wild with noises, shaky camera, juttering images, to make you think something was happening.
OK time waster if nothing else is on.
I yanked out the atlas. Connecticut is 1000 miles from Georgia, the film’s title is meaningless.

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Genocide - 1982 - 6/10

Overview of the Holocaust, cloaked during World War II conflict.
Well intentioned documentary suffers a couple of problems.
Narrators. Orson Welles is fine. Years of radio work (Mercury Theatre, Suspense, Harry Lime), his voice is well honed. Elizabeth Taylor sometimes murmurs or whispers, unless she goes over-the-top melodramatic.
Visuals. Split screen usage is well done. Too many times, however, an image fills a small area of the screen.
Despite flaws, worth a watch, especially since our future seems poised for an ugly repeat.

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The Spiral Staircase - 1946 - 6/10

Gothic thriller from RKO, if a bit stodgy at times.
Robert Siodmak, who helmed a clutch of excellent Noirs, gives this turn of the century gem a nicely creepy feel.
A mysterious, serial killer targets handicapped females.
Next on his list, apparently, is the mute servant girl working in the mansion on the town outskirts.
A thunderstorm howls outside, the family within are not what they seem.
In short, any of them could be the murderer.
Superb lighting, evocative score, a pervasive sense of doom, satisfying for traditionalists.

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The Imposter - 2012 - 7/10

Maddening docudrama based on true life disappearance of 13 year old Texas boy.
Who shows up three years later in Spain.
Family hurries to fetch their blonde haired, blue eyed relative, who now has brown eyes, dark hair, a French accent, and a five o’clock shadow.
The family, classic example of no child left behind, shrugs and says, “Welcome home!”
That’s about midway. Film then takes bizarre, unbelievable turns, which you had to believe because they were true.
Great stuff which will have you going WTH throughout.

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Jonah Who Will Be 25 In The Year 2000 - 1976 - 6/10
AKA - Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l’an 2000

Coming to terms with ones idealistic youth upon reaching middle age.
A group of individuals, loosely related, now “work for the man” rather than “stick it to him.”
Most were active in the heady 60’s, but now toil in a factory, teach, work the checkout lane.
They still get excited about what needs to be done, yet they are not in the spearhead and understand that.
Dialogue driven. You get an idea of who characters are, less so who they were.
More than most films I have watched (including 1930’s) this has dated.

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Una - 2016 - 7/10

If you missed “Blackbird” on Broadway or the West End, here’s a fine alternative.
28 year old female tracks down the man with whom she once had an affair.
Fifteen years earlier. At the time, he was her neighbor, her father’s best friend, and 35 years old.
Uncomfortable material, in-your-face delivery, filled with accusations and excuses.
To say she was permanently damaged by the encounter would be an understatement.
Throughout, both characters shift from sympathetic to repugnant.
Viewers who stick with this unsavory story will be kept on their toes the whole time.

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My Afternoons With Margueritte - 2010 - 6/10
AKA - La Tête en Friche

Nice, feel-good, French film.
Village laborer (Depardieu) begins spending lunch on park bench with elderly woman (Casadesus).
She begins reading aloud to him, gradually reawakening his own lapsed reading habits.
Nice relationship between the two, as well as with friends at the tavern.
Love interest between burly laborer and fetching bus driver completely implausible.
Casadesus (born 1914) is exceptional at any age.
Depardieu solid as ever, yet I found his sheer bulk distracting. His gradual metamorphosis into Jabba The Hut is grotesque.

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Made On Broadway - 1933 - 5/10

Messy PreCode vehicle straddles blasé sophistication and screwball.
Jeff Bidwell is a publicity agent / fixer, and his fees ain’t cheap.
There is an endless stream of clients who flutter to his nightclub / office after they land in another swamp.
He takes an impoverished suicidal type under his wing (why?), determined to remake her.

Story tries to be too many things – daintily – and is neither risqué nor comic.
Warners could have done something lurid or sordid with this, MGM is stodgy.
Babyface came out the same year. See that instead.

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Bait - 2012 - 5/10

Bait as in the menu of the shark menu, with savory humans as appetizers and snackies.
Powerful tsunami drives great whites inland into an Australian shopping mall.
Helpless shoppers splash and shout anytime those jaws snap.
Better than recent, smirking comedies designed for “celebrity” cameos.
Premise of killer in a locked room with victims is OK.
Characters, ranging from sketches to neo-melodrama, behave mostly intelligently.
(Note: I live with two shark obsessed females, for me there is no escaping species Selachii.)

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Departures - 2008 - 7/10
AKA - Okuribito // おくりびと

After the orchestra folds, unemployed cellist returns to his hometown, where he had inherited his mother’s small home / coffee shop.
He answers a Classifieds ad for “Departures” thinking it some sort of travel work.
Wrong.
Departures means the final trip, from this life to the next. His duties involve making the body appear as lifelike as possible so families can say goodbye.
Moody, quiet film, with peerless Japanese set design.
Academy award winner. Worth your time, unless the inevitability of death unnerves you.

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The Brontë Sisters - 1979 - 6/10
AKA - Les Soeurs Brontë

French dramatization of sisters Emily, Anne and Charlotte. Oh yeah, brother Branwell, too.
This is before publication. Home life, Charlotte’s Belgium period, Branwell’s disastrous affair.
Austere film, with bleak countryside and cramped interiors.
Characters Branwell and Emily fleshed out best, though I raised an eyebrow at times.
Possibly a companion with the documentary, The Brilliant Brontë Sisters.
Literary acclaim arrives late in this.
Not an upbeat experience, fans of the Brontës already anticipate this.

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Saint Maud - 2019 - 6/10

Category? Religious horror? I don’t know.
Maud, previously known as Katie, works as a carer for dying patients.
Previously she had been a nurse, though for reasons unexplained she no longer is.
Maud is a recent convert to Catholicism, and intensely devout.
Visions, voices, self-punishment inform her days, as does the need to save souls.
Meaning, her dying patient, whether she wants salvation or not.
Listed as horror, this is a study in fanaticism, and dangerous delusion.
For some, the thought of an ultra-pious soul taking charge of their life will be terrifying.
I am unsure how this resonates with viewers in an age where few attend church and belief seems casual.
Religious souls, truly spiritual types, not the sanctimonious, strike me as nearly extinct.

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Priceless - 2006 - 6/10
AKA - Hors de Prix

At a posh resort, drunken golddigger (Tautou) has a fling with dashing rich young playboy, and dumps her geriatric sugar daddy.
Then realizes the playboy is only the bartender / dog walker!
Bartender quickly emulates her and seeks his own wealth.
Slightly forced French comedy of greedy opportunists and the lonely rich.
Had its moments. Attractive cast.

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Looking For Eric - 2009 - 6/10

Postman Eric’s life is whirling, spinning out of his control – as if he ever possessed any control.
His daughter needs him to babysit her child while she attends college, and that means encountering his first wife, whom he abandoned years earlier.
Sons of wife number two (dead, missing, in prison) have gotten in over their heads with a crime boss.
No one can help Eric, until he channels his idol, Eric Cantona.

The Man U legend offers advice, though typical of King Eric, it can be maddeningly enigmatic.
Ken Loach film mixes despair and optimism with football sequences.
During the latter, I received bonus commentary from my dainty bride, a long time Man U supporter.
This film would serve as an agreeable introduction into Loach’s oeuvre.

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Chinatown Nights - 1929 - 6/10

Creaky drama, loses steam after an opening that resembles Warners films.
Rival Tong gangs battle on the streets and in a Chinese theater.
One gang led by the inscrutable Oriental (stereotyped Warner Oland), the other by an Irish boss (Wallace Beery).
First act rips along, only to stutter into romantic entanglement.
Despite flaws, film has loads of curiosity value.
Begun as a Silent, Paramount converted it to a Talkie mid production.
Dialogue was looped, save for Florence Vidor, hers was dubbed and she subsequently quit movies.
Mild by Pre-Code standards, there are elements that definitely would be censored later.
The silent scenes, even those dubbed later, move quicker and better than the static talkie sections.

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The English Teacher - 2013 - 6/10

Former star pupil returns to the small town, after flaming out as Broadway’s next big playwright.
His family doesn’t understand him, but his old English teacher does! Even better, she helps get his drama produced for the annual school play.
Julianne Moore plays the mid-forties, unmarried high school English teacher. This is very much her story as she steps out of her comfort zone.
Plot dragged a bit past the midway point, but gracefully avoided the predictable.
Nathan Lane as drama teacher would seem a cliché, but he radiates fun and energy.
For English majors everywhere!