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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 53

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Monster - 2017 - 7/10

Another teenage girl disappears in remote north of Norway.
Local authorities receive unasked for help from Oslo.
Big city cops, with heavy handed technique.
Eventually, they find a body - the first of many - in an open field.
Soon a dozen corpses are unearthed in the same expanse, revealing a large maze-like pattern filled with bodies and bones going back hundreds of years.
Multiple threads quilt this series: A religious sect, with roots in early Christian, a smuggling gang, a town history of incinerations and infidelities. Secrets cling to almost every character.
This being a TV show, secrets shall be exposed.
Not all, however, as many elements remain baffling, at least to this outsider.
I imagine Scandinavians would shrug and say, “Oh, polar night, sure,” along with other curiosities.
At seven episodes (that conclude!) this is easy to watch without a major time commitment.

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Happiness - 1965 - 6/10
AKA - Le Bonheur

Subversive film with a fairytale feel.
François and Thérèse share an idyllic, blissful marriage.
Indeed, François is so pleased with this arrangement, he decides an extra female will increase his happiness.
He is handsome, and the blonde at the post office is agreeable.
Agnes Varda directs dispassionately, without judgment or the expected emotional outbursts.
A quiet probe into the open marriage concept.
Comment: So-called open marriages were something I witnessed in the 70’s.
Most were similar in that husbands were free to taste the extra slice. Wives, not so much.
AIDS seemed to puncture the fun out of such openness.

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Pandora’s Box - 1928 - 9/10
AKA - Die Büchse der Pandora

Silent masterpiece directed by Pabst.
Louise Brooks mesmerizing as Lulu, the destroying angel.
Frank carnality, quite explicit for its time.
Men succumb to her charms, exploit her, blackmail her, ransom her.
Every encounter leaves the males worse.

First section, set in the hectic theatre world, brilliantly captures the frantic Weimar Republic era.
Narrative shifts from Berlin to the gambling boat to fog cloaked London.
Shocking in its day, film barely seen in the States.
Willful, self-destructive Brooks slipped into decades of oblivion soon afterward.

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Last Love - 2013 - 6/10

Michael Caine as recent widower adrift in Paris.
A female passenger on bus sees him, sees that he is lost, terribly bereaved, but not dead.
Their relationship reawakens his interest in life. New hobbies, new classes, new cafes.
Plot felt refried, and Caine couldn’t hold his American (New York) accent for more than a couple beats.
Interesting curio, nevertheless, which held my attention throughout.

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Hotel America - 1981 - 6/10
AKA - Hotel des Ameriques

Middling drama of grieving woman and man who perpetually spins his wheels.
They meet after she speeds though narrow town lanes and damn near runs him down.
There is mutual interest - attraction even - but not mutually reciprocated.
One of those horrible relationships of the mismatched wavelength.
When he’s passionate, she’s cold. When she trusts, he’s jealous. They seem never together.
All of us have been locked in this trap where you tear each other apart.
Here, they are insecure, and reside in a small beachfront, casino town where everyone knows everyone.
Nice one for Deneuve fans.

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Russian Roulette - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - Une Chance Sur Six

The well heeled, crafty antique dealer being confronted by a low tier thug.
As is often the case, the affluent keep nasty secrets which leave them open to extortion.
“Victim” Hubert, however, is a genial block of calculation. A gambler, a heavy one.
Our blackmailer, ignorant of the fiddled odds, wades deeper into the bog.
This mystery is well shot, bears a lush musical score, and displays kinked characters.
The tone seems a little too blasé and removed, so one is never really involved.
Characters are sharply drawn, though, making this a step higher than most video mysteries.

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Roe - 2010 - 5/10

Promising indie short follows “Earl” as he delivers sandwiches to the local bar.
Also fishes the nearby lake for any salvage. Where he spies a curious ring.

Sure, you urge him to leave it alone, but greed and desperation are powerful inducements.
From then on, Earl is drawn into something weird.
Visions, encounters, and his flesh begins to rot, perhaps mirroring his soul.
Photography and music is fine, “acting” is dismal.
Thespians repeat their memorized lines without feeling or interacting with each other.

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The Kiss Of Her Flesh - 1968 - 5/10

Grindhouse crap of serial killer who targets voluptuous females to get even with his faithless, if dead, wife.
The opening sequence tracks a woman wandering around a snowy lake.
She fails to see the guy wearing a ski mask, waving a tire iron, as he approaches.
Next thing, she’s naked while he tortures her with a lobster claw.
Safe sex sequences (everyone wears panties or briefs) break up unbelievably bad kills.
Audio is totally looped, no sync with mouths whatsoever. The editing is choppier than an infant in the bathtub.
The intrusive score is a mix of lounge, bongos, and classical.
Compensations - topless womenfolk abound.
Those who prefer full figured lovelies will feel they have entered Double D heaven.
Best-worst aspect about this garbage is that this is part of a trilogy!
I will probably watch the other two because the loser gene runs strong in me.

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Dog Soldiers - 2002 - 6/10

Cowabunga!
Claustrophobic actioner finds military squad trapped in seemingly deserted country house.
Besieged by a pack of werewolves!
Howlingly funny at times, this does not take itself too seriously. (Monsters are stuffed puppets or cardboard standups.)
Government plots offset by dark humor.
Good macho cast anchored by Liam Cunningham, Kevin McKidd, and Sean Pertwee (Why, by the way, is Pertwee not considered for Dr. Who? He is a ringer of his pa.).
Director Neil Marshall would go on to bigger budgeted movies, but none had the heart and humor of this one.

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Forbidden Films - 2014 - 7/10
AKA - Verbotene Filme

Over 1000 films were made under the Nazis. Historicals, musicals, thrillers, and propaganda.
After World War II, 300 were officially banned. Today that number is around 40.
This documentary shows where they are stored, and how they are screened.
Viewing within Germany is still tightly controlled, although the resourceful can find ways.
A sampling are screened to audiences in France, Germany, Israel, and neo-Nazis.
(The latter discuss how banned films are still useful for indoctrinating the young.)
Propaganda ranges from anti-Communist, anti-British, antisemitic, rallying the troops.
The prints that the Murnau Foundation has are sharper than other Reichsfilme I have seen.
Apparently with subtitles, too. Half of those I have watched have none.
Is this worth watching? Yes.
The Santayana quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” strikes me as only half true.
History does repeat - again and again.
Those who grasp the cycle, however, may better prepare for the inevitable.

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She Creature - 2001 - 6/10

Dublin carnies fleece the rubes with fake zombie and fake mermaid in 1904.

They encounter the seemingly “real deal” and kidnap it, then book passage for America.
PT Barnum, Ringling Bros, and limitless wealth beckons.
They fail to realize as the ship sails the Atlantic, the creature’s influence and power grows.
Modest production values (Stan Winston involved), capable set of actors, intelligent script.
Decent late night yarn.
Beware mermaid nudity and erotic situations.
^

^

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Roh - 2019 - 7/10
AKA - Soul

“Have you seen a girl? A small girl, so high?”
“No,” the family answers, while quietly thinking, ‘You mean the girl who cursed us?’
And the man, some sort of hunter, is the latest in a series of strangers and strange events to befall them.
They live in the Malaysian forest, cut off from the nearest village, their sole neighbor, a peculiar woman who lives alone on the hill.
This is drenched in humidity, stifling atmosphere and oppressive mood.
Throughout, almost nothing is explained, leaving viewers in the same situation as the mother…
An unsettling experience, that will exhaust the patience of those seeking visceral thrills.

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The Beautiful Prisoner - 1983 - 7/10
AKA - La Belle Captive

Walter finds a woman laying on the highway, bleeding. The same girl he noticed at the club earlier.
Should he render aid, or carry on with his assignment?
Walter, you see, is an operative in a shadowy, criminal organization.
He drives her to stately mansion, lights blazing against the night.
And in entering, he is soon lost in a labyrinth of locked doors, déjà vu, double identities, illusions.
The belle captive may well have vampiric tendencies, in the best Jean Rollin manner.
Bewitching Robbe-Grillet film will keep his fans mesmerized, newcomers may depart in confusion.

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Footsteps In The Dark - 1941 - 6/10

Comedy - mystery starring Errol Flynn proves a fun change of pace for Warners’ action hero.
Investment broker pens best selling mystery novel under pseudonym.
Next he sets off solving real crimes, on the sly, with suspicious wife on his heels.
Breezy, lightweight, brisk paced fluff with solid Warners’ regulars in support.
Flynn and Brenda Marshall show genuine chemistry, and this might have made a good series.

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Adrift - 2018 - 7/10

Redford covered similar ground in 2014 with All Is Lost, but this has different perspectives.
Couple taking schooner across the Pacific to the States enter hurricane Raymond.

Once the masts go, the ship is driven by currents.
As with similar films, the boat is far removed from shipping lanes. The pair are on their own.
The story enters survival territory, and is filled with flashbacks of how the couple met, how they connected.
Photography is impressive throughout, the plot logical, and one is immersed.
I have viewed a few films by director Baltasar Kormákur, his location shooting is stupendous.

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The Aviator’s Wife - 1980 - 6/10
AKA - La Femme de l’aviateur

François, a young postal employee catches an old flame departing his girlfriend’s apartment.
The girlfriend denies everything. Actually, she believes François is a creep.
Her opinion is confirmed when her swain he begins to stalk the other man.
During the course of an afternoon, he shares time with a high school student and they converse about women, choice, relationships, trust.
You know, the usual. At least of you are a character in a French drama.
François is five years older than the young student, five years younger than his girlfriend.
With that in mind, one sees youthful optimism, growing awareness, cynicism.
No one is downright unpleasant, though tics, obsessions and overall flightiness could drain your patience.

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Innsmouth - 2019 - 5/10

The writer arrives in the fabled port.
He’s heard things, stories, you understand?
Right quick he encounters strangeness. Creatures and costumes.

This short stretches the HPL connection pretty thin.
Camera work and editing are good, sound is fine.
Dialogue is another matter. The miking is atrocious, with ambient noise masking conversation.
Not that characters say anything particularly important.
Stick for the ending, it’s pretty loopy.

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The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life - 2008 - 6/10
AKA - Le Premier Jour du Reste de ta Vie

French drama following a middle class family for about a decade.
Film hones in on five specific - important - days for the family.
When the oldest moves out, a wedding, death . . .
Most of the actors will be familiar if you view enough French fare.
Nice soundtrack, several funny scenes, bits of drama, but nothing over the top or false.

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The Sins Of Love - 1929 - 6/10
AKA - Hríchy Lásky

The great Kristen leaves the village stage to find fame in the big city.
Where blustering, hammy stage actors are a dozen a kopek.
Accompanying him, however, is his demur wife, of bewitching face.

Of course, she is given a quick tryout and voilà.
Curtain calls, bouquets, stardom, and interest.
The handsome male lead and the theatrical impresario ponder how to move Kristen from the scene.

Kristen may be something of a buffoon, yet he is not blind.
For those who have seen any version of A Star Is Born, you know the template.
The video elements have been wonderfully restored. Audio is another matter.
The new “score” resembles Ussachevsky with electronic blips, static, disembodied voices, etc …

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Night Of The Cobra Woman - 1972 - 4/10

Alert readers will note cobra and woman in title.
I safely predicted snakes, nudity, jungle magic, and budget limitations.
While the headlined star is the delicious Joy Bang, the film belongs to Marlene Clark.
After being bitten by a Fire Brand cobra, WWII nurse acquires immortality though the venom.
For reasons unexplained, she also drains manly wicks to remain youthful.
Decades later, a blonde researcher tries to meet the nurse, only she upsets the equilibrium.
That, and the arrival of her boyfriend, who gets the snake woman’s juices flowing.
Plot makes little sense, editing is jumpy, many breast shots.
For students of Serpentes, they appear in abundance.
Dumb film, fun in parts. I watched to see Miss Bang.

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Red Wedding - 1973 - 6/10
AKA - Les Noces Rouges

The deputy mayor, the wife of the mayor.
Both are married, locked in loveless matches.
Their attraction is immediate, and they soon lash and clutch like animals in heat.
While there are traditional routes of separation, divorce, a fresh connection, they chose a darker route.
Both characters seem poorly developed, surprising for a Chabrol film, and the tone is aloof.
They are not the most sympathetic nor the most rational.
A keen, if corrosive observation of soiled passions.

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Footnote - 2011 - 6/10
AKA - הערת שולים

Israeli story of two scholars. The popular professor and the dour iconoclast.
Both nominated for the top Israel prize for Talmudic studies.
Oh, yeah, they are father and son, with all the rivalry that implies.
Bitter complications arise after the winner is announced.
Film very frustrating on multiple levels. The way characters interact with each other.
Family members are introduced, troubles displayed, then nothing.
Females seem afterthoughts.
Well done, but I did not enjoy this at all. Despite ads, it was not funny, either.

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My Cousin Rachel - 2017 - 6/10

Somber adaptation of Daphne du Maurier novel.
Young orphan is taken in by his older, single, male cousin.
After the youth comes of age, the cousin meets and marries an exotic English / Italian hybrid.
Just before he mysteriously dies.
Opinions and judgments of the widow, as seen through key characters, surge, ebb, and shift.
Despite several dramatic outbursts, film is coldly reserved.
Watchable, especially for costume drama buffs, but not particularly engaging.

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Tehran - 2020 - 6/10

Mossad agent Tamar’s first mission goes wrong, badly wrong.
She is now running through the Iranian capital, intelligence teams in pursuit.
Iranian Intelligence wants her caught, while the Israelis want her rescued. Maybe. If not, perhaps silenced.
Tamar is resourceful enough to use and exploit others.
This series is a good cat and mouse thriller, tautly written, with neat twists.
And, not to be forgotten, that original mission, with or without Tamar, continues to spin.

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Medusa - 1973 - 3/10
AKA - To Kynigi Tis Medousas

My fault for not even glancing at the synopsis.
Dilettante playboy works cheap hustles and capers with strong arm casino owner.
Meanwhile, the playboy’s sister tries to score Greek tycoon for husband.
Police sniff around, but seem more inclined to watch giggling arguments.
This film really blows. The first ten minutes is taken up with dancing!
English spoken in most scenes, Greek in the others. Not subtitled.
The plot feels improvised. George Hamilton admitted he did this for a free vacation with his new wife, Alana.
I only loaded Medusa because it was in my box of 50 Crappy Horror flicks.
This ain’t horror. Only horror is brain cells being destroyed. Rubbish from beginning to end.