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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 63

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The Battle Of The Rails - 1946 - 6/10
AKA - La Bataille du Rail

Above, in all likelihood, the face of the French Resistance.
Ordinary railroad workers.
From sabotage to passive aggressive delays.
Eventually, tasked to stall the Wehrmacht from speeding reinforcements to Normandy.
Frustrated German reactions are often funny in this how-to derail trains manual.
Perhaps because this came out immediately after the war, this has an immediacy, a freshness, a vibrancy, lacking in later war films, especially as time lengthened.

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Aquarius - 2016 - 5/10

Sônia Braga plays Clara, last tenant at the Aquarius, an old two story apartment in Recife, Brazil.
Her neighbors sold off to a property developer who intends to demolish and erect a high rise.
Clara won’t budge, however. Mind you, the Aquarius sits on the beach!
Conflict escalates between the 65 year old woman and the developer and his tactics.
Ostensibly a character study, I found Clara unsympathetic and inconsiderate.
Flaws don’t mean she is in the wrong, though.
While I do not understand Brazilian property laws, I have tilted against developers a time or two.
Film itself is overlong, with many scenes extending three or four beats past their limit.
Blame the writer-director for self indulgence and leaving pointless sequences in the final cut.

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Goodbye Dragon Inn - 2003 - 6/10
AKA - Bú sàn // 不散

Deliberately misleading / baffling last night inside a vintage Taipei movie house.
Few customers fill the rows for a final showing of 1967’s Dragon Inn.
Men wander back halls and storage rooms, smoking cigarettes throughout.
Are they are ghosts - or lost souls?
The ticket taker limps from one empty area to another, performing nightly duties.
Little transpires in this haunted environment, allowing viewers - this one, at least - to reflect on the passing of movie palaces.
I recall entertainment shrines being filled with SOLD OUT audiences.
In recent times, however, attendance plummeted.
The cast of this is intriguing, containing members of the 1967 Dragon Inn, influential Taiwanese martial arts classic that I somehow have not caught.
Goodbye Dragon Inn is pretentious twaddle or quietly insightful. Mix of both.

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Kontroll - 2003 - 6/10

Loose narrative of shady ticket inspectors working Budapest subways.
They hunt an aerosol punk named Bootsie, as well as a hooded figure (resembles Banksy) who pushes passengers into oncoming trains.
Filled with dark humor and seedy nightlife, no office folks at all, let alone tourists. Street people, pimps, alcoholics, bullies, lost souls.
Fairly accurate feel for the Hungarian underground, which is rightfully infamous among seasoned turistas. *
Inspectors cluster at main exits and generally target visitors. There are always fines.
Worthwhile film, whether you’ve been busted in Keleti or not.

  • Note: My bride was once busted in Keleti by ticket cops, I can vouch for the accuracy of this part of the story.

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Dream Home - 2010 - 6/10
AKA - Wai Dor Lei ah Yut Ho // 維多利亞壹號

Is it so much to want a home of your own? A place to call your own?
Since childhood, since real estate goons pushed everyone out of her Hong Kong hutong, that is all Sheung dreamed of.
Unfortunately, Hong Kong property prices are in the stratosphere.
Part of this is a historical drama. The real estate, the Takeover, the gig economy.
The other half, however, is pure slasher. Inventive at that, too.
Narrative bounces. Just pay attention to “dates” and “times.”
This may be darkly funny, or a sour reminder, depending on ones housing plight.

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Loft - 2008 - 6/10

Belgium original film, not the 2014 remake.
Five married guys share a pricey loft where they bring twinkies and bang-bunnies.
Wives, what little we see of them, are weak, clueless, insecure.
Then one of the guys strolls in with his bag of vino and sees naked hottie in the blood soaked bed.
Narrative bounces from police interrogations to flashbacks to alibis and false trails.
Easy enough to follow, though premise remains far fetched.

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Iris - 2016 - 6/10
AKA - In The Shadow Of Iris

Banker husband pays for expensive lunch while wife waits outside.
Long enough for his wife to be kidnapped!
Police are summoned, try to devise a trap, but the quarry is slippery.
Glossy thriller comes packed with twists and confusing characters.
(Other reviewers note males all sport beards - the females are long haired brunettes.)
Engrossing French mystery, though the characters are too clever by half.

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Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story - 2007 - 7/10

Good documentary of the rise and demise of the premier soul label of the 60’s, 70’s.
Survivors reminisce, packed with performance footage.
Simmering in the background, is the ugly reality of racist Memphis.
While Stax’s late era financial woes cannot be carpeted over, other issues get a light tread.
Mention is made of Booker T. and the MG’s departing, reasons are like soft sighs.
Deeper history can be found online, yet for what this is, it is highly enjoyable.

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Beyond Terror - 1980 - 6/10
AKA - Más Allá del Terror

The gang buys drugs, holds up a cafe, goes on a spree killing, flees into the countryside.
They find refuge in a crumbling monastery, which they soon desecrate.
As sins mount, so do consequences.

While this Spanish horror has its moments, it drags, looks cheap, suffers static camera work.
Nude sequences here and there, along with panting and thrusting, spark little interest.
Most of the confrontations are verbal, the gang are low watt losers.

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Nightcap - 2000 - 7/10
AKA - Merci Pour le Chocolat

Film opens with second marriage between classical pianist and owner of major chocolate firm.
Scene shifts to two women at a cafe, greeting their engaged offspring.
Table talk, one mother slips the buried secret of a hospital mixup of two infants.
The engaged daughter, an aspiring pianist herself, wonders if the classical pianist is actually …
Once she decides to visit, the unsettled narrative skims into thriller territory.
The men may be blissfully unaware, but the women have secrets and agendas.
Alert viewers, and this is an adult film, can sense the knives they grip behind their backs.

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Triangle - 2009 - 6/10

Three couples climb aboard the sailboat for a day of gentle waves and sea breezes.
Sooner than you can say, “Hey, look at them dark clouds,” a squall smashes the ship to hell.
Fortunately, out of nowhere, an ocean liner appears. Rescue! Everyone climbs aboard.
Only the liner appears deserted.
Then the dying starts.
I despised the lead female character. Whining, worrying, a mopey downer.
As the plot turns in odd directions, reasons for her behavior emerge.
Defying the dead teenager plot, this is a decent thriller with memorable scenes.

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Supernova - 2020 - 6/10

Road trip, character study, relationship crisis.
Sam and Tusker journey though rural England, visiting friends, family, and romantic haunts.
Trying to spark Tusker’s memories. He suffers dementia, however, and cells slip away.
A long goodbye, with the unspoken anxiety about “what to do” before cognitive time expires.
An understated film, perhaps too much so. Though going the over-emotional route seems worse.
There are numerous films on memory decline. I have viewed most and I suspect all have similarities.

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Step - 2017 - 7/10

Documentary about the step dance team from the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.
The squad, the Lethal Ladies, have never won the city competition, but they have a new coach.
Seniors struggle to get into college, deal with bad grades, difficult mothers, boys.
Feel good material is darkened by inner-city realities, as well as the understanding that the dream of college, for many, is just that. A dream.
Camera zeroes in on a handful in the squad, leaving this viewer, at least, wondering about other faces.
Doc does not shy away from a few unpleasantries, but it does not dig deeper, either.
Perhaps because the subjects are minors. As mentioned, feel good.

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The Uninvited - 1944 - 6/10

Cozy, old dark house mystery.
Look is part Gothic, part Noir.
House perches on cliff’s edge over pounding Cornish coast.
Critic and his sister buy on impulse, delighted the price was so reasonable!
First the dog, then cat, refuse to go upstairs.
Next, odd things occur after midnight.
Finally, and too late, the siblings ask the previous owner why the low price.
Enjoyable, if predictable, rainy night movie.
(For you fixer-upper types, the house had no phone, no electricity.)

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It’s Slade - 1999 - 6/10

Roaring documentary of the premier Glam rockers of the 70’s.
All band members appear (manager Chas Chandler, sadly RIP), along with guest heads Ozzy Osbourne, Suzi Quatro, Noel Gallagher.
Most of the story follows the rise of the group and one powerhouse hit after another.
Like Mr. Plant (another key singer from the 70’s), Noddy has been the one resisting reunions.
Glory days for Brit fans. For Yanks, maybe not so much, as Slade never caught on in the States.
Echo of the mindless, hedonistic decade fading into the graveyard.

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The Sins Of Madame Bovary - 1969 - 6/10
AKA - I Peccati di Madame Bovary

Florid adaptation dispenses with Charles’ first marriage, courtship and marriage to Emma, and opens as Emma is already bored to tears with her unassuming provincial doctor husband.
And with poor country patients who pay with vegetable and chickens.
Those will not buy the gorgeous gowns and jewelry she eagerly desires.
Narrative is fairly faithful to Flaubert’s masterpiece, and the film boasts stunning costumes, lavish interiors, lush outdoors. In fact, I wondered if this was Technicolor (it was Eastmancolor).
Then there is Edwige Fenech, who plays Emma.

No dewy eyed ingenue here, the voluptuous Fenech exudes sensuality and experience.
Her wardrobe is sheer, or cascades to the floor easily, or is designed to highlight her twins.
To be honest, much as I enjoyed this version, she is a potent distraction.
And yet … I can imagine many males asking, “And your point?”

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The Witnesses - 2021 - 6/10
AKA - 8 Zeugen

A 10 year old child is kidnapped in a busy museum, in front of eight witnesses.
Trouble is, each remembers events, and more importantly, descriptions, differently.
A “memory specialist” is brought in. Whereupon, conflicting versions unspool.
Blend in individuals who conceal, data important or damning to themselves.
Promising concept relies on the crutch of the flawed investigator.
A manic depressive, one with Tourette syndrome, or Alzheimers, or divorcing, or dead!
The list goes to infinity, and I wish writers could discard this overused cliché.
Eight, half-hour episodes trot along, each layering a new clue or revelation.
The finale telegraphed the ending, at least for me, and I am not good at guessing.

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Wonder Wheel - 2017 - 6/10

Woody Allen recalls Coney Island of the 50’s.
Married couple struggle with the park’s decline. Young son is a pyro, older daughter has fled her Mafia husband.
Lifeguard, an aspiring writer, narrates, and attracts the wife, who once was an “actress.”
Various storylines are solid, if a little threadbare.
Acting is also first rate, and yet, this is highly theatrical. Meaning, smells stagebound.
Dialogue often turns into soliloquy, conversation is like delivering lines.
Wonderful camera work! Saturated colors, sweeping shadows, great eye from Vittorio Storaro.
Unfortunately, the plot is a retread and the whole thing is much too talky.
Extremely disappointing, nonetheless, as this has elements for one of Allen’s “good ones.”

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Audrey - 2020 - 6/10

I half expected this biography of Audrey Hepburn to disappoint.
Her childhood moves quickly. Parents, Nazi supporters, her struggles in WWII Netherlands.
Glimpses of her early theatre work, minor English film roles, are rare gems.
Hollywood years involve 5-6 films, and some major films omitted.
Outside of marriages, her personal life is sketchy.
Her role as Unicef ambassador is well covered.
There are ballet sequences with no purpose.
Talking heads include Swiss neighbors, Richard Avedon’s grandson (?), biographers, people who barely knew her.
Many come across as distant souls trying to touch Hepburn’s stardust.
She deserves a better doc than this.

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Yakuza Deka: Assassin - 1970 - 5/10
AKA - やくざ刑事

Undercover cop (Sonny Chiba) infiltrates drug gangs.
Main thread has something to do with smuggling marijuana from faraway Mexico.
Guess the Yakuza never heard of Thai sticks.
Despite all the explosions, shootings, stabbings, etc … film felt like a spoof.
There must have been thirty-seven plots going on, the narrative was incoherent at times.
No matter. Wild 70’s costumes, garish sets (nude marijuana orgy room a standout), amped out action sequences.
Lots of energy, lots of fun, but daffy.

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Child Eater - 2012 - 6/10

“I’m telling you, there’s a man in my closet!”
Ever was it so, the babysitter ignores the frightened child.
This brief shocker piles it on.
Dark fairy tales, childhood trauma, the horny, dismissive boyfriend.
Dialogue muffled at times, good camerawork, inventive use of meager budget.
Unsettling horror, especially for parents of young children.
Writer / director Erlingur Thoroddsen is now moving into features.

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Behind Green Lights - 1946 - 6/10

B-film quickie from 20th Fox.
Body is dumped outside police station setting off more reactions than a pinball machine.
Three murder suspects, body switcheroo, fistfights, escapee, romance, conspiracy, political chicanery.
All that, in barely an hour flick. Breathless nonsense.
Carole Landis as lead actress was near end of her career here.
A once major star, now relegated to B pictures, she would be a suicide statistic in two years, age 29.
John Ireland made the most of his small part, in this his second film, and he would stay busy for five more decades.

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Raw - 2016 - 6/10
AKA - Grave

Strict vegetarian Justine enrolls in premier veterinarian college.
During freshman hazing, she is forced to eat raw liver.
She acquires a taste for meat, and unsatisfied craving alters her personality.
Shocker from France and Belgium boasts visual style and successfully captures the disorientation experienced by many college arrivals.
Justine’s embrace of darker extra-curricular opportunities may upset the squeamish.
Plot holes are often forgotten as carnivore and more primitive appetites swing to the fore.
Moody excursion may leave an unsavory taste.
Animal lovers - consider the vet college setting.

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Devil - 2007 - 7/10
AKA - Ma-wang // 마 왕

K-drama about revenge.
Not the implacable, unstoppable, self-righteous vengeance of 99% of plots.
No, this factors the wages of revenge, the toll it takes on conscience, karma, and those around you.
Matching tarot cards are sent to police and victim, and the police hustle to identify and protect victim.
Luckily, a girl who works in a fortune parlor can explain what each card means - may not mean - plus, she is psychic!
Meandering puzzle plot that widens considerably midway, then tightens with little room for escape, as well as justifications for murders.
Exteriors appeared shot during spring as colors were often breathtaking.
Interiors more hit and miss, about the third of interiors rivaled cheap soap opera sets.
Romance elements, not too terrible.

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Faces Places - 2017 - 6/10
AKA - Visages Villages

Interesting, fascinating, annoying, irritating documentary of two disparate French photographers.
Director (and photo buff) Agnès Varda teams with photographer JR who pastes large photo murals in public spaces.
They travel to remote, often dying villages, and paste up huge photographs of bygone laborers, aging survivors, or interesting faces from the community.
The sense of unearthing history, and preservation is totally absorbing.
Capturing the moment, even the forgotten moment, and showcasing for time indefinite.
On the other hand, Ms Varda instructs subjects - female subjects - to remove their glasses.
For capturing a slice of truth, this struck me as a bit of artistic dishonesty, though I will be the first to admit creative souls often adopt a laissez-faire attitude towards the real.
The final bit, hunting for Godard turns into a very sour finish.