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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 52

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Wanted - 2008 - 5/10

Stale actioner based on comic book.
James McAvoy, with support from bit players like Terence Stamp, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie, plays office drone sucked into shadowy group called The Fraternity.
Group of assassins who have been operating for a thousand years, selecting kill targets based on the thread pattern from a weaving loom.
If elements sounds vaguely like The Matrix, brace yourself for an overload of “bullet time.”
Main character scuttles and whines throughout, many sequences were preposterous ( rats & wristwatches ), plot about as original as a stale taco.
Director Bekmambetov helmed Russian Night Watch, Day Watch, and Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Cheese over excellence, though creative at points, when not derivative.

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Anhedonia - 2019 - 7/10

Violinist Kino is asked to deliver a cassette to his mentor, a composer.
He sets off, on foot, across the empty landscape.
The cassette had been meant for a film score, except the music was shattering.
Listeners are reduced to despair, to suicide, to incompetence. Varies per individual.
And yes, deadly rivals seek the tape.
Bleak film proves a heady experience.
Spare dialogue, mirroring the scenery, ranges from profound to pompous to cryptic.
The film, something of a surreal, existential mystery, will intoxicate or irritate.
γνῶθι σεαυτόν

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The Garden Murder Case - 1935 - 6/10

Philo Vance mystery finds our sleuth sniffing amongst the well heeled set.
(Well, how much money is to be made helping poor folks?)
Steeplechase jockey murmurs repeatedly that he will die in his next race.
And so he does!
More deaths follow, with a gold-digging niece the obvious suspect.
Luckily, she’s been making damsel eyes at old Philo, a known thorn to police types.
Breezy, a bit boring, dulled by indifferent chemistry between our leads.

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The Gay Bride - 1934 - 6/10

Carole Lombard plays a gold-digger showgirl who targets loaded racketeers.
She is so focused on the prize she fails to see “business” is failing.
Chester Morris plays the Boss’s go-to guy, detail keeper, etc …
He has the best lines and is cynical to the core. His banter with the digger is deadly.
Lombard, however, overacts and is more than annoying with her schtick.
Aspects were likely adjusted after the Production Code was enforced, yet this remains a sour piece of candy.

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Nemuri Kyôshirô: In The Spider’s Lair - 1968 - 7/10
AKA - Sleepy Eyes Of Death: In The Spider’s Lair (The Human Tarantula)
AKA - Nemuri Kyōshirō 11: Hito hada kumo

In this next to the last installment, Nemuri returns to his childhood village, ever seeking his origins.
Nemuri was the bastard offspring of a raped Japanese female and Satanic / Christian missionary.
Most of the village has been emptied by the nearby castle, home to two disgraced offspring of the Shogun.
As is so often in these films, nobility is corrupt, lecherous, and monstrously evil.
Numerous sword fights and beddings of willing and unwilling females lead to a terrific battle finale.
Film has a great Spaghetti Western score, and the shot composition is impeccable.
Sword fights in this series are always something to behold.
Ichikawa amazing to watch. This was shot months before he died from cancer.

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The Look Of Love - 2013 - 5/10

Sweeping bio of Soho smut peddler, Paul Raymond, played by Steve Coogan.
Fun to watch as Raymond grows from nudie revues to glossy mens mags to acquiring huge real estate holdings.
Not much depth, however, as years roll from 1958 to 1992 in 101 minutes.
Needless to say, the story was a touch of this, a dash of that, sifted in a shallow bowl.

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Deadline At Dawn - 1946 - 6/10

Cockeyed murder mystery set in sleepless Gotham.
Sailor on shore leave wakes up with limited memory and a pocket stuffed with money.
Back tracing his steps, he discovers the corpse of the female who had earlier taken his payday.
Wait! He also meets a dime-a-dance girl who reluctantly tries to help him.
He is greener than Kansas corn, she is big city bitter. Will they hit it off? C’mon.
Script by playwright Clifford Odets is peculiar is numerous ways.
Dialogue is arch and stilted throughout. Characters employ erudite words and oddly constructed sentences.
The dance girl (a glowing Susan Hayward) is soon joined by a cabbie, then a slew of riders.
Characters who ought to disappear, squeeze tighter in the cab’s back seat. Numerous red herrings.
Fast paced mystery held my interest throughout, mostly for those odd details.

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She Stoops To Conquer - 2003 - 7/10

Theatre junkies, gather round!
During the Covid lockdown, the National Theatre began limited airing of stage classics.
Fathers arrange for their offspring to marry.
Daughter Kate, being appraised, appreciates some qualities of her prospective partner, dislikes others.
Respectful milquetoast or preening reprobate?
Arriving late, suitor Marlow is falsely advised his potential father-in-law is actually the innkeeper.
Misassumptions mount. Situations are exploited. Characters find gracious manners tested.
Oliver Goldsmith’s play from 1773 remains a funny, insightful hoot.

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Ramen Heads - 2017 - 6/10
AKA - 映画「ラーメンヘッズ」公式サイト

Documentary of Osamu Tomita, Japan’s king of ramen.
Shows what goes into his thick broth, as well as noodle techniques.
Outside are lengthy queues for his affordable $8.00 bowls.
A few other shops and chefs are shown briefly, though not enough as far as I was concerned.
Like many, ramen noodles were a staple of my impoverished college youth.
Moreover, I still eat ramen (with far more vegetables than shown here) and was hoping to steal some ideas.
Most of the chefs are male, all of the interviewed diners were male.

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Mystery Woman - 2005-07 - 6/10

You win!! One month at a luxurious, if tiny, island paradise!
Although the isle is fully stocked, you pack viewing essentials.
Your prize collections of Thor, Aquaman, Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man.
One glance back and you see your date clutching shows of her own.
“What do you have?” you ask.
“I loves me some Hallmark Mysteries!”
(Comment: If the “love me some” phrase is uttered, you should dump them on the spot. It’ll never work out. This person is either stupid or shallow or pretentious or D, all of the above.)
By and large, Hallmark means a plucky crime solving heroine, and her useless male companion, nicknamed Nubbin.
If your date is carrying Mystery Woman, consider yourself unbelievably lucky.
In these mini-movies, Samantha owns a bookstore and seems too busy to date.
Her right hand man, Philby (Clarence Williams III) is an retired intelligence operative, who retains skills and contacts.
The mysteries are rather routine, but this early series is pleasing enough, is not cloying, and does not pander to pre-pubescent fantasies, as does most of the later Hallmark production line.

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At The Mountains Of Madness - 2011 - 6/10

Still wondering if Guillermo is ever going to get motivated and rock HPL?
You’d sooner get your girlfriend a tentacle outfit, Cthulhu boys, to distract your woes.
Meantime, forget Del Toro and get the 33 minute Italian animated version of ATMOM!
Doomed Miskatonic expedition searches for lost civilization in the frozen wastes.
They discover the labyrinthine city of non Euclidian angles.
And remains of Elder Things! And Shoggoths!!
Deaths. First the dogs, then the men.
Entertaining quickie. Available free in HD with English subtitles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvpBDopIMxw

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The Conjuring - 2013 - 6/10

Family of seven moves into possessed house deep in the woods.
Quickly discovers the boarded up cellar, followed by bumps in the night.
Oh, and the family dog refuses to enter the house.
As always, they have never seen a Horror film or read a ghost story.
Renowned demonologists arrive and paranormal activity soars.
Not a bad film, I was lucky to watch it while a crashing thunderstorm howled outside.
Despite the children, five girls, the director does not succumb to child exploitation.

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The Devil Inside Her - 1977 - 5/10

Barnyard stud Joseph is desired by two farmer’s daughters.
Faith seems to have the inside track, since he loves her.
Hope, more lustful, begs God to help her. If not the Almighty, then the devil.

And the devil responds, though it appears he has been to a KISS or Insane Clown Posse convention.
In no time flat, he proceeds to impersonate the farm residents so he can sow some seed.
Being XXX, expect an array of lascivious couplings.
Set in 1823, schtuppings and rompings mostly occur outdoors, but grow repetitive.
The big Satanic orgy finale, however, resembles Mardi Gras, bathed in a flood of technicolor lights.

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Regrets - 2009 - 7/10
AKA - Les Regrets

Architect goes to hometown to see Ma in her deathbed.
On the streets, however, he sees his old flame. Their eyes lock.
For a few hours, they resist, citing marriage vows.
Fate prevails, and they are soon inside each other.
As the old sad song laments, “… that old flame might not be stronger, but it’s been burnin’ longer …”
Of course there were reasons why they failed years earlier.
He is possessive, obsessive. She is indecisive, changing her mind every quarter hour.
Mismatched couple, common with late teens and early twenties dating.
Some grow out of this stage, meet more suitable partners. Others never get over the old torch.
Impeccable acting in an infuriating watch.

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Bell From Hell - 1973 - 5/10
AKA - La Campana del Infierno

Moody, Spanish film I have tried to like a couple of times without success.
Young male, released from asylum (criminal? mental?) roars off to the family estate.
Now presided over by a surviving aunt and her three daughters.
Did she loot his inheritance? Was she responsible for his mother’s death?
Was his mother crazy? Did he inherit her instability?
A lot goes on, to be sure. and hard to fathom for this observer.
Every copy I have watched is horribly dubbed, dialogue muffled beyond belief.
The visuals are dark and blurry, indicating an nth generation copy.
Imaginative touches help, but not enough, and the film becomes a bore.

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Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool - 2019 - 7/10

Excellent overview of one of the premier innovators in Jazz.
Historians are kept to a minimum, leaving those who actually knew Miles, or worked with him, speak.
Childhood, apprenticeship, relationships, drugs.
The recording career focuses on pivotal albums. “Kind Of Blue” rather than “Jack Johnson.”
This packs in a lot, and is one of the more comprehensive Jazz biographies I have seen.

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Ultraviolet - 1998 - 8/10

Outstanding six part series of secret government alliance of church and state ops.
Tight, clandestine battle against vampires engaged in finance manipulation, AIDS research, abortion clinics, biological warfare.
Especially dark series, matched with an intricate, intelligent script.
Creators admitted Ultraviolet was a one-off and they packed every idea they had into it.
With Jack Davenport and Susannah Harker (great-great-great granddaughter of actor Joseph Cunningham Harker, whose friend, Bram Stoker, used for Jonathan Harker). Also a young Idris Elba as the hard-assed Vaughan.
Definitely worth tracking down.

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The Scar Of Shame - 1929 - 6/10

Drama, bordering on melodrama, studies the class system.
Sharing the boarding house, Alvin is a promising composer. Eddie is a hustler and runs a club.
Enter the alluring Louise, beaten and almost molested by her father.
Alvin wants to protect her, Eddie sees a chance to dress her fine and make money.
The first half of this Silent pokes along, with Alvin coming across as a fussy prig.
After a major turn of events, however, the second half is seedier and sexier.
Class, whether our set, our kind, or caste, tis ever the privileged barring the lower orders.

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Vienna: Empire, Dynasty And Dream - 2016 - 5/10

Caveat emptor.
I wanted a documentary on the late Hapsburg Dynasty.
Instead, I found this. 2000 years of Vienna, from Roman times to today, in three episodes.
History on speed dial. Movers and shakers given one or two anecdotes. Next!
Worse, our presenter, is in damn near every scene.
Walking, driving his car (why? do car makers offer a consideration?), or simply closeups.
Many closeups.
Our man gabs about the Ottoman siege while buses huff past, and sidewalks teem with cargo shorts and sunglasses.
Great way to establish the proper imaginative mood, producers.

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The Silence - 2010 - 7/10
AKA - Das Letzte Schweigen

Grim business in small town Germany.
Young girl on bicycle followed onto lonely dirt road, raped, killed.
Community shocked, police tear themselves apart trying to find murderer. Nothing.
Twenty years later, an identical crime of young girl on exact same stretch of road.
A new generation of cops investigate, realize it is not a copycat, but the killer has returned.
Engrossing, absorbing thriller, though not necessarily entertaining.
Perhaps not for over-protective parents.

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Vultural said:

One Sings, The Other Doesn’t - 1977 - 6/10
AKA - L’une Chante l’autre Pas

Haven’t been on this thread in a while and am reading some of your reviews which I’ve missed. I’m a big fan of Agnès Varda and this is one of my favourites. It’s one of those films which cover a fairly long stretch of a person’s/people’s lives and is all the more compelling and breathtaking for it. Very relaxing pacing of the story and all, very meditative and the relationship between Pomme and Suzanne is unforgettable for me.

“Remember, the Force will be with you. Always.”

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 (Edited)

FILM REVIEW // Minari (2020)

I’m glad I waited until cinemas reopened to catch up on this year’s Oscar contenders. Minari is a gorgeous film. Director Lee Isaac Chung tells a story, based closely on his own childhood experiences, of a Korean family who have moved to America in hope of prospering - the father (Jacob) is ambitious and wants to start a farm, the mother (Monica) is concerned that he’s neglecting the welfare of his family, in particular their young son David who has a dangerous heart condition. David is perhaps the central character in the film, and its heart; it is mostly told from his perspective. What’s more, the ever-present danger of his heart failing (it is established right off the bat that running is a health risk for him) kept me guessing when something would go wrong, and hugely invested in his safety. When you realise that a film could destroy you inside depending on what it does to the characters, that’s when you know it’s succeeded in creating empathy - which I think should be one of the primary goals of any film.

I particularly enjoyed the great, diverse range of characters that are brought to life on the screen - Soonja, the somewhat irresponsible grandmother; Paul, a religious nut who means well and touchingly starts to become part of the Yi family; Jacob, a proud Korean who becomes overly fixated on career success until it almost destroys him and his family; even minor characters who appear only for one scene are well realised. The film feels extremely authentic, and it’s mostly because of how carefully handled each character is. The actor for Soonja - Youn Yuh-jung - took home the Oscar for best supporting actress this year, and it is fully well-deserved. She played the comedic moments of the character extremely well, then the tragic ones perhaps even better, and it was a gift to watch her rocky relationship with 7-year-old David evolve over time.

Minari’s themes of family and the American Dream shine through its story very clearly. It’s a remarkably touching film which you simply must see. Last but not least, the soundtrack by Emile Mosseri is captivating and is one of those film soundtracks which I’ve immediately wanted to listen to on its own (I’m listening to it as I write this review!) I feel a little betrayed by the director, as he’s slated to direct the upcoming live action remake of Your Name (perhaps the last film which should ever get a remake) but at least he’s proven his abilities to me with this great contribution to cinema. I’ll be rewatching Minari soon.

“Remember, the Force will be with you. Always.”

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Byzantium - 2013 - 6/10

Arched vampire film (sounded like a play to me) set in Hastings and Dublin.
Dual threads of modern girls eeking a living by petty crimes and prostitution, being trailed by two men wearing blue gloves. Secondary thread is of same girls, two hundred years earlier, and how they came to be “turned.”
Slow, low on thrills, yet avoids the usual clichés. Mysterious order and isolated cave involved.
Violates vampire rules such as daylight and mirrors - I am seeing this more often lately.
Top crew led by Neil Jordan.

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Beast - 2017 - 6/10

While celebrating the younger daughter’s birthday, her older sister announces she is pregnant.
Cheers! Break out the bubbly! Back to cinders sits the outshone sister.
Later the next day, she meets a man who shows a bit of interest, and she hopes her fate has changed.
Perhaps.
Set on the isle of Jersey, this is a murder mystery of shifting suspicions.
The new boyfriend has a spotty criminal record, though love conquers all, yes?
Sour prospects, with mostly rotten options, make for an unpleasant journey.

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Suspiria - 2018 - 7/10

Note: Script by Argento, but this is not the 1977 classic.
A young American dancer is accepted into an exclusive Berlin troupe.
Some of her predecessors had been murdered or simply disappeared.
This is a film of atmosphere, mood, and set-design.
Dance sequences are a highlight, along with stunning cinematography
Horror runs as an undercurrent, flowering in the final act.
This “remake” is arthouse, of which prospective viewers should be aware.