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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 45

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 (Edited)

Puzzle: Murder In Saint Omer - 2019 - 6/10

A mass emailing warns of buried criminality and future reprisals.
Followed by disappearances … then corpses.
One of the recipients is a magistrate whose fashion consultant seems to be Wick & Neo.
Anyway, police and judge soon do typical investigation stuff.
Acceptable pot boiler, with enough pacing to distract from plot holes.
Still baffled by parts of this, but I won’t dwell on this film much longer.

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Rabid - 2019 - 6/10

Rose, nicknamed Scarface after a childhood accident, toils in the fashion world.
Head designer Gunter belittles her, treats her as a go-fer, yet you sense he is trying to mold her.
Hers is a life stuck in a rut, not getting better, not getting worse.
Until she suffers a horrific traffic accident.

Fortunately, there is an institute specializing in experimental reconstructive surgery.
Transhumanism.
Side effects, as always are pooh-poohed, though observant viewers will note the film title.
Outrageous, over the top horror by the Soska Sisters ranks with American Mary for me.
Fashion horror, better than Neon Demon, not as fine as In Fabric.

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Web Of The Spider - 1971 - 5/10
AKA - Nella Stretta Morsa Del Ragno

Another reworking of “I bet you can’t spend a night in that haunted house.”
Moreover, this is a remake of the director’s own Castle Of Blood (1964).
Anyway, Klaus Kinski (as Edgar Allan Poe!) tells a reporter about the cursed manor.
Without even packing bags, the reporter climbs the next carriage to the dwelling and enters.
Curvacious females nestle in the cobwebs, there are bygone murders, and restless spirits.
Photography is excellent, acting is OK (though Kinski is barely on). This ought to be better.
The narrative is a sluggish stream, however, and the film is an unfortunate yawn.
Two commentaries: The one with George Reis and Keith Crocker is fun.
Stephen Romano, less informed, seems to mock the film and I quit listening.

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Haunts - 1976 - 4/10

Frisky goings on at California farm / ranch community.
As at many small towns, chief recreations involve drinking and screwing around.
The local bar (Dew Drop In?) is a nexus of flirting, assignations and confrontations.
Business as usual - until - the masked stranger begins raping and killing.
Slow going, poorly shot, downright boring crapola that, despite being in my El Cheapo Box Of Horrors doesn’t remotely qualify as horror. Nor a thriller. This is bull.
And the “young innocent" who keeps getting targeted looks like she hit forty awhile back.

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His House - 2020 - 7/10

The Mediterranean crossing was perilous, and their daughter did not survive it.
Nor did other passengers.
Nonetheless, Bol and Rial apply for refugee asylum in England and are assigned a council flat while they wait.
Only then, do they realize something has followed them.
Slow burn horror, as the couple try to adjust, realizing the house hides malevolence.
Terrific characters, adult plotting and themes, though will not provide the gore some fans insist on.

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La Lectrice - 1988 - 6/10
AKA - The Reader

After Constance reads aloud to her husband, she realizes she has a talent and advertises.
Soon, she has regular customers, wanting her to read aloud to them.
The injured, the blind, others with mental or emotional peculiarities.
As she reads from Maupassant, de Sade, Baudelaire, her imagination begins to mix worlds.
Characters in the book blend with her listeners, and with herself.
One can get quickly lost, unless you simply “go with it.”
Some nudity, sex-lite, but not much. Not soft-core (nowadays) as others have said.
Book readers, especially French Lit, seek this out.

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Al Murray: The Only Way Is Epic - 2012 - 5/10

Al Murray as pub landlord, live in Brighton.
Bit over an hour of hit n miss standup.
There simply were not enough good jokes.
The funny ones, he pounded like a dead horse.
Many times he seemed to be grinding gears.
Opening schtick of querying/baiting front row grew tedious.
Better if you are British, possibly.
I’ll never understand the English weakness for sing-alongs.

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Shinobi No Mono 2: Vengeance - 1963 - 6/10
AKA - Zoku Shinobi No Mono

Rousing, action overload sequel to the first film.
Warlords continue to harry and crush ninja strongholds.
The embattled, secretive members assassinate and bide their time.
Meanwhile, rivalries are encouraged, lies dissembled.
The historical background seems loosely accurate, yet the pace is full bore.
Confusing at times (especially if you did not see Part 1).
Hold tight for a wild ride.

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Murder On Belle Island - 2020 - 6/10
AKA - Meurtres à Belle-Île

A real estate agent, with a reputation for wife-stealing, is found tied to a menhir, dead.
Mainland detective is sent to assist, just as another murder occurs.
The first half of this is (unintentionally) funny, as the mainlander has no check switch and the damnedest things fly out of his mouth. Such as, he starts flirting with suspect #1, and even makes a romantic date.
Gradually, the nonsense ebbs away, leaving a routine ho-hum procedural.
Compensation, fantastic island scenery.

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Girl Model - 2011 - 7/10

Documentary about the modeling meat market.
The girls in this film come from Siberia and are 13 - 14 years old. Most are rejected for being too old (say 15) or overweight (not starved enough).
Those “fortunate” enough to get signed will travel to Japan for work.
Narrative tracks two stories. Young girl who optimistically chases the dream, only to spiral down.
The other is of the “talent agent” who used to be a girl model, totally hated it, but is now an active exploiter.
Models struggle in squalid rooms, agents live posh. Surprise, surprise.
Disturbing, may leave a rotten taste in your mouth.

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Ménilmontant - 1926 - 6/10

Densely packed Silent short opens with a brutal axe murder of two adults.
Parents of two girls, now orphaned. Who, in no time, have grown and struggle in Paris.
Enter the smooth man, with his gentle hands, coaxing insistence, and fleeting promises.
Film dazzles with then-cutting edge techniques of double exposures, rapid pans, and quick cutting.
Risqué material probably meant this was never shown in America.
This ought to run 30+ minutes. Beware of shorter run times which were likely from the wrong speed,

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist - 2012 - 6/10

You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.
Financial whiz, Changez, fresh outta college, nabs a highly lucrative job in a Wall Street capitalization firm.
He is mentored by Keef Sutherland, and starts banging the boss’s niece. On the jet express to the corner suite.
After 9/11, everything changes. As a Pakistani, he is perceived as a potential terrorist.
Great character study of the pawn in a no-win situation, who reinvents himself, and attracts the beady eye of government ops.
Great acting all around, with gray area plot (as in, you find your sympathies shifting around).

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Promising Young Woman - 2020 - 7/10

Cassie is on a mission, perhaps vendetta would be more accurate.
She is out to intimidate and hopefully correct males who prey on intoxicated, vulnerable females.
The background and reasons play out in slow burn, “correct” film.
To its credit, the film does not strike for the jugular of revenge, which would be exploitation.
Powerful acting throughout, still the premise rang false for me.
By and large, misbehavior from influential figures (usually male) is unchecked in most societies.
Cassie’s decade long trajectory may sadden those who recognize a wasted life, blighted by revenge.

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 (Edited)

The Devil Below - 2021 - 5/10

Horror outing has its moments, but those are outweighed by monumental plotting errors.
A cataclysmic mining disaster wipes out a community of 1000.
Decades later, geologists and history hunters arrive in remote Appalachia, seeking the lost hamlet of Shookum.
Warnings are ignored, obstacles surmounted, then deep into the depths.

I can tolerate whining male characters led by a plucky Woke female. And the murky photography.
Even the main premise, which is stale goods at best.
But – the whole rural community – who seem to have neither jobs nor income – who have been combating their adversaries for decades – alone … Think on this, and you will grasp how dull witted and lame are the writers.
This ain’t The Descent (2005), or even As Above, So Below (2014).
Watchable, but written by someone who assumes viewers are dumb.

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The Reef - 2010 - 5/10

Watery adventure off Australia!
Handful of friends sail out for a couple days swimming and snorkeling.
Without giving too much away, boat strikes reef and capsizes.
Most then decide to swim toward unseen, yet hoped for, land, eleven miles away.
After several hours one asks, “Hey, what’s that fin poking through the waves?”
What? Not the shark! Sure hope he doesn’t like tasty humans.
Supposedly based on a true story, yet within ten minutes I predicted who would get eaten, in what order, and who survived.
Had its moments, offset by boring paddling. Worse, I kept rooting for Marc The Shark.

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Cleo From 5 To 7 - 1962 - 7/10

Pop songstress visits the tarot reader, and the cards are dire. Twice.
She quickly dashes into her career, distracting herself.
Shopping, dining, listening to her tunesmiths (pianist Michel Legrand), complaining.
Fame is fleeting, and the cards only confirm her fears after an earlier visit to the doctor.
Corinne Marchand is beguiling as Cleo, nervous, high strung, flighty, and yet, in the second half of the film, her character relaxes and you see a different person beneath the celebrity facade.
Throughout, wonderful street scenes of early 60’s Paris.

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Baba Yaga - 1972 - 6/10

Fashion photographer Valentina draws interest of an older woman, perhaps an ageless woman.
Soon, photo shoots turn into accidental death sites, and casual faces caught in the lens drop.
Exuberant Giallo, based on then-trendy Guido Crepax cartoon.
Splash of colors, happening 60’s decor, costumes and hairstyles.
Oh, and a doll in bondage gear! Must not forget that.
Valentina has visions of Nazi officers, as well as Italian police.
Many sequences move fluidly between wild visuals and Crepax’s panels.
For all this, there is little story, and the pacing lumbers like the stoned guest.

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La Revolution - 2020 - 6/10

Blood soaked reworking of the French Revolution.
Beware, this ain’t French History 101.
Aristocrats in the uppermost level are granted immortality.
The change does cause their blood to turn blue, and they develop a ravening hunger.
For fresh human, flesh and organs.
Pros: Unlike other series that promise mayhem, this delivers blood, gore, fights and fires.
Plus, a superb villain, Count Donatien, whom you will dislike intensely.
Cons (POSSIBLE SPOILER): Unresolved ending. Did writers have no conclusion? Or did Netflix urge them to hold back, hinting their may be a S02? Whatever the reason, this is irritating.

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Daguerreotypes - 1975 - 7/10

Artists, especially writers, are encouraged to describe what they know best.
In this case, Agnes Varda offers a documentary on the small shops on her street.
The butcher, the baker, the clock repairman, barber, hairstylist, driving instructor, perfumer.
This has a marvelous sense of place, caught in the mid-1970’s.
Looking ahead, one can predict what shops will wash away with time, although all the proprietors are older.
For the curious, a poignant reminder of the community, before shopping complexes, before Internet.

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The Wannsee Conference -1984 - 8/10
AKA - Die Wannseekonferenz

German docu-drama based on official transcripts of the 1942 meeting of high ranking Reich officials in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee.
Main topic was the establishment of concentration camps in the east, followed by deportation and extermination of European Jews.
Chaired by Reinhard Heydrich, the main purpose was to get everyone committed to the Final Solution.
All would bear responsibility, all would bear liability.
Low key performances offset by chilling dialogue.
Must see film, since we constantly forget the past, and continue to scapegoat margins of society.
Easily found on YouTube.

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Spring Breakers - 2012 - 6/10

Diverting trash.
Four hotties roll down to St Pete for sun, sand, booze, drugs, parties, adventure.
They hook up with a low level gangsta (James Franco effective as sleaze) and strut into dark territory.
First half of film binge drinking, bare breasts, layered disjointed dialogue. Daylight.
Second half much gloomier.
Overall, not a fun ride, but a bad acid trip.
Pink ski masks glow great under blacklight.
Confession, I was the only one in the room who liked this one.

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Hausen - 2020 - 6/10

Father and son, still grieving after the death of wife/mother, arrive at a run down tower block.
Dad, the new building superintendent, is a tireless worker, a hardy soldier, but he is soon out of his depth.

Time and time again, the building resists. Mold swells into sticky pustules, opens into festering tunnels.
Black ooze clogs pipes, the electricity is sporadic, and cleaning crews are nonexistent.
Residents are a mix of addicts, prostitutes, dealers, thugs, decaying elders.
Corruption and despair predominate. One might view the building as a coffin.
Relentlessly grim throughout, and highly enjoyable if one is comfortable with that ride.
I imagine this will appeal to the cult of Ligotti, and one can read cultural allegories, if one is so inclined.

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War Of The Planets - 1966 - 5/10
AKA - I Diafanoidi Vengono da Marte

A bodiless power, the Gasinoids, launch New Years Eve attack on space station Delta 2!
Quickly followed by an attack on Alpha 2! Gamma 2 dispatches a ship to investigate.

Of course, shrewd viewers will suspect a prelude to invasion.
Amidst swinging spaceship cocktail parties, heroic men suit up.
And what suits! Zippers galore. Add great miniatures, cheesy special effects (aliens = green smoke).

Italian SciFi is plenty of fun, even more amusing since everyone is dead-faced throughout.
A gleaming entertaining future, to be sure. Oh, if only ours were such.

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Rockfield: The Studio On The Farm - 2020 - 6/10

From Black Sabbath to Stone Roses to Oasis to Coldplay, band members share memories.
The isolated recording studio on a farm in rural Wales.
Owners and founders, Charles and Kingsley Ward, offer chronology and share anecdotes.
Mostly feel-good documentary, with a cough now and then.
While I enjoyed this, something about it didn’t wash for me.
Midway, my radar went up and I wondered how careful were the commenters (Liam Gallagher aside).

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Dillinger - 1945 - 6/10

Reckless retelling of John Dillinger’s furious years.
Hardly accurate, but this version is smokin’ good.
Lawrence Tierney, in his film debut, is riveting as the hot tempered, quick to shoot bank robber.
For such a “violent” film, there is little onscreen violence. Everything is implied.
The script is brilliant, no fat whatsoever, no wasted scenes. Even quiet moments serve to heighten tension or lay the foundation for the following sequence.
Not to be missed, especially for film students wanting to study pacing and lean narrative.