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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 65


Incendies - 2011 - 7/10

The notary addresses the twins (male and female) during the reading of their mother’s last will and testament.
The girl is given an envelope to give to their father. What father? Mom had always been the lone parent.
The son is given an envelope to give to their brother. Brother? What brother?
The children leave Canada and head toward their mother’s birthplace. Lebanon.
And begin to unravel who their mother truly was.
In the 70’s, Lebanon succumbed to a brutal civil war between Christians and Muslims.
Dual storylines of the orphans following threads, learning of horrors, mixed with their mother’s youthful journey away from fire and death and unfinished promises.
Violence, murders, torture, and dark revelations set the tone.


Belinda And Me - 2014 - 6/10
AKA - Belinda et Moi

Older woman’s partner dies and their piano cafe closes, the lease expires.
She intends to move out, but what to do about the piano?
Oh! Give to Jean, the nephew, promising student, and angelic little boy.
Jean arrives, employment skills limited to after hours park work, poor cosmetic technique.
And he prefers to be called Belinda.

Once unconventional subject has become mainstream. No edge here.
That said, the narrative stays fresh with plot shifts, unexpected characters.
Belinda is not a sympathetic soul, but one roots for her after awhile.
OK French TV film.


30 Coins - 2020 - 7/10
AKA - 30 Monedas

Shepherds assemble in a tiny village, supplicants to the new invocation.
Wait, getting ahead of myself here.
Before this, the village experiences all manner of unexplained doings.
Miracles, resurrections, bloody dismemberment, a wild series of escalating cataclysms.
Hold on, back up even further.
This series launches with a crackling heist, followed by a cow giving birth to a human infant.
We meet the priest, who is an ex-convict, owing to an exorcism turning into death rites.
What else? Possession, the fetish, the insectoid? This is only the FIRST episode!
You know when shows front load the works in E01, then the next installments stagger?
Not here! Writers have a shelf of ideas and the series goes from one outrageous strength to another.
From opening credits to the close, the writers and producers pour it on, visuals, locations, faith and action.
This may resonate more with Catholics, lapsed Catholics, even those who snoozed during Sunday school.


Grabbers - 2012 - 5/10

Irish horror comedy set on remote island facing big storm.
Just in time for an alien invasion!
Giant octopods attack boats, devour pilot whales, then clamber ashore.
Next dinner course, tasty humans, though it spits out those crunchy heads.
Apparently the big squids suffer alcohol allergies, which village inhabitants discover.
Expect serious drinking.
Not as gory as it could have been, and certainly not as funny as it should have been.
Wasted opportunity. That said, should you drink as heavily as the characters, your enjoyment may improve.


Snake Dick - 2020 - 6/10

No, not interspecies porn.
Unfortunately, the girls’ car starts to break down in desert oblivion.
Luckily, they are able to coast into a well-lit diner/gas station/motel parking lot.
Unluckily, two redneck goobers start to heckle and offer lewd suggestions.
Conflict escalates.
One might envision a studio flunky thinking this coulda made a feature.
As a short this is funny, mean-spirited, confrontational, and has a wicked bite.


Architecture Of Doom - 1989 - 8/10

Curious documentary of the Third Reich dominated by artistic and aesthetic components.
How many of the party leaders were unsuccessful writers, poets, painters, etc …
The aim of the Party was to rebuild the nation on a vast scale.
Major exhibitions were shown of idealistic representative art and massive civic improvements.
Second half switches from city layouts to body perfection. Eugenics.
Which leads to the systematic obliteration of “flawed humanity” via extermination camps.
I cannot say I concur with many of the arguments as presented, yet the take is provocative.
No mention, by the way, of Lebensraum.
No talking heads, just dry narration. Arresting visuals.
Difficult to make up my mind about this. Each time I rewatch, I have raised my score.


Wolf Creek: S02 - 2017 - 6/10

As with the theatrical releases, the second season of serial killing is mixed.
This time out, Mick Taylor hijacks a bus full of turistas.
Where does he take them? Where do you think?
A busload equates to more meals, yet also less Mick.
The writing team fails to concoct an ingenious narrative, and promising adversaries are underutilized.
Initial episodes are solid, last two brim with tension and twists.
In-between those, characters muddle along and talk and talk.
Disappointing. Nevertheless, Mick is hard to kill and it appears he shall return.


Underworld U.S.A. - 1961 - 7/10

Murderous Noir that came out at the very end of the Noir cycle.
Early on, a young boy watches his father beaten to death by four thugs.
Twenty years later, the grown boy, now a hardened criminal, targets his father’s killers, bigwigs in the Syndicate.
How this passed the Production Code is beyond me. Crossed a lot of lines, up to and including #14, cruelty to children.

I hunted this down because Samuel Fuller directed and Beatrice Kay played Robertson’s mother figure.
Kay, an acquired taste, did much to keep alive Gay 90’s music and vintage Music Hall, not treating songs as crystal relics, but as naughty, salacious, roisterous turns.


Autumn Tale - 1998 - 8/10
AKA - Conte d’Automne

Possibly my favorite of all Éric Rohmer films.
Well meaning Isabelle decides to matchmake for friend, Magali, a 45 year old widow.
Isabelle places an advert, then interviews respondents.
From there, a series of misinterpretations and miscommunications ensue.
Magali is a wine grower and much of the photography lingers on her lush vineyards or the small village.
Autumn refers to the season and age of the characters.
A multi-layered story of loneliness, diverting trajectories, emotional messiness, and hope.
For those who believe older adults still have the second chance.


Call My Agent: S01 - 2015 - 7/10
AKA - Dix Pour Cent

Brief mini-series about stressed film agents and demanding clients.
Ones liking may depend on tolerance for actors and affinity for French fare.
Story revolves around four agents trying to keep company afloat.
A gallery of French stars fill the guest roles…
Funny, exasperating, infuriating.
Viewers who expect tidy resolutions and explanations, beware.


Predestination - 2014 - 8/10

High concept, Kafkaesque, puzzle plot, brilliantly executed.
Ethan Hawke plays time traveling, Temporal Agent.
His duties are to stop mass murders, terrorist bombings.
For health reasons, agents can only jump in time so often.
Hawke is near retirement and draws out a potential candidate.
Only the candidate has a history of kinks and twists, and therein hangs the tale.
Based on a story by Robert Heinlein.
The script is flawless, the direction taut and lean. Not a single scene is wasted.
Try to watch without reading too much about this one.
Most reviews will be unable to resist spoilers.


Call My Agent: S02 - 2017 - 5/10
AKA - Dix Pour Cent: S02

Second season of theatrical agents suffers from “more-itis.”
A new colleague, who is a caricature of the meddling owner.
More comedy, the farcical sort. More sexual encounters.
More recognizable cameos for potential US viewers (Christoph Lambert, Fabrice Luchini, Isabelle Adjani, Juliette Binoche).
Unfortunately, all this more adds up to less.
The writers and producers lost the thread with this second season, as characters behave stupidly to self destruction.
A pity, as the first season boasted a lot of charm and was a novel concept, smartly carried off.

OK, if you simply must view this season, episode 05 is the best installment.
Guy Marchand suffers a mini stroke early in shooting and the production is in jeopardy.
With a mere trifle of a part, perhaps ten minutes screen time, Marchard infuses his role with confusion, bonhomie, loneliness, regret, hope.
It is spellbinding to watch an extraordinary actor fashion gold from expressions.
The rest of S02 is a letdown, but S02E05 is a gift for those who adore French cinema.

Afterword. Long after I had lost interest, this show became trendy with US binge watchers.


Night Train To Munich - 1940 - 6/10

Brisk paced, cozy, espionage spy thriller.
Czech inventor of new armor plating for steel flees to England once Nazis invade Czechoslovakia.
By clever means, the Nazis hijack him back and Rex Harrison volunteers to return the favor.
Same writers for Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, the same setting - a train, leading lady Margaret Lockwood, as well as old boy toffs, Caldicott and Charters.

Breezy, cat ‘n mouse chase, with Nazis portrayed as easily duped, lightweight villains.
As World War II progressed, their roles would darken considerably.


Blonde Crazy - 1931 - 6/10

Jimmy Cagney hooks up with Joan Blondell, and they move from the small burg to a great midwest city to New York.
Plying the old badger game on rich fools, easily distracted by rolled stockings and perfume.
Cagney plays his usual brash, lecherous male, leering at a bevy of bottled blondes.
Cynical tone undercuts the comedy, and the romance angles are guarded on all sides.
At its heart, a grim journey as stakes and consequences mount with each outing.


Possessor - 2020 - 6/10

Near future SciFi of espionage, mind control, assassination.
After the hack crew implants a teammate’s consciousness into the victim’s brain, the body is now a killing machine.
Apparently there is a “bleed-thru”. Suspected by the crew, but not addressed.
That was one of the problems I had.
Hallucinatory visuals look old school (not CGI) and are enjoyable.
Ruttings and gory violence throughout.
Midway, I felt the story beginning to loop.
I kept waiting for a fresh element. Particularly, defense.
Firewall, poison pill, malware detection, counter implant. No, nothing like that.
Nicely done, but seek out Predestination (2014) afterward.


I Love A Mystery - 1945 - 6/10

Decent Columbia B-flick, based on popular radio show.
Wealthy husband has been told - no, prophesied to - he would die after a year.
Well, times up, big boy!
His wife becomes an invalid, a weird melody haunts him, a mysterious dame hooks up with him at the Russian Samovar club, he is pursued by a pegleg, death attempts, the secret society of Barokan!
This is the opening ten minutes!
I recognized many character actors, but the only real face was George Macready.
Hold on, keep up, and brace for twists.


And Then There Were None - 2017 - 6/10
AKA - Soshite Daremo Inakunatta

Attractive looking adaptation of Christie’s tale of eight invitees and two servants stranded on an island.
Once inside, all are accused of homicide, which each denies most heartily.
This is set in the 2000’s as there are cellphones and delivery drones – which are addressed.
There is also a full police investigation, complete with oddball inspector in the Poirot mold.
More than other versions, this is quite talky. Accusations, confessions, explanations, etc …
It is also repetitive. Scenes are shown, later replayed by police, then later.
Not necessarily boring, this does feel padded.


The Big Combo - 1955 - 6/10

Daring, perverse Noir finds obsessed detective pursuing boss of major syndicate.
Cornell Wilde OK as cop, Richard Conte excellent as cool, controlled organization leader, always two steps ahead of authorities or slippery enough to glide out of snares.
Swanky jazz score along with fine ensemble acting drive this one.
Famous with Noir buffs for the dramatic lighting, every shot is a master study in black n white contrast.

The Production Code was pushed to the limits with this one.
Forgetting the strippers momentarily, the more I watched Conte’s two gun men (Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman), I noted they shared a room, one was bare chested, and they kept touching each other.
Also, Conte’s trophy girl tries to escape, complains how she hates him, but cannot break away.
In a key scene, boss Conte, standing behind her, drops quietly down, and her facial reaction is one of anticipated pleasure.
Conte’s hold on her seems a cunning one.


Adele: Live At Royal Albert Hall - 2011 - 7/10

Before she shredded her vocal cords, before the baby, before the seemingly endless hiatus …
Adele rode the tiger of fame.
Emotional live concert, in front of an adoring, hometown crowd, Adele in possibly a milestone moment.
Going against popular fashion, she keeps her cloths on, has no spectacular sets, and doesn’t bother with choreographed dance.
For golden ears who lament the death of pure singing, there is no auto-tune, no lip-syncing, and a full third of the show are just Adele and her pianist.
Just music, and that voice. At this point, she was fearless, reaching for high notes, pushing the pedal for power.


The Touchables - 1968 - 5/10

Four females kidnap Michael Caine from Madame Tussaud’s.
OK, Mr Caine’s wax effigy.
Next step, they kidnap a cute pop star (think Davy Jones) and take him to their woodland bubble.
Once inside, they take turns romping on either the cushy round bed or plush stack of cushions.
Free love in Swinging London.
Side plot follows wrestlers, one of whom is infatuated with the pop singer, and gangsters.
“Plot” is an overstatement. This is a series of situations and vignettes. Perks along, though.
Not a particularly good film, nor fun-bad, just an odd relic from the 60’s.
Song “All Of Us” by Nirvana.


Three Wise Girls - 1932 - 6/10

Single girls in New York. One struggling, one cruising, one conflicted.
Jean Harlow in an early role is the conflicted girl.
Attracted to a man, a married man, whose wife “won’t give me a divorce.”
An oft used excuse.
For all the romance and swinging, this is stuffy, though Harlow fans will relish.
Me? I watched because I wanted to see the “struggling” girl, Marie Prevost.
A faded Silent vixen, Prevost gives her character humor and humanity.
Prevost would be gone in four years, Harlow in five.


The Post - 2017 - 6/10

Beleaguered Washington Post receives leftovers of classified Pentagon Papers after the powerful New York Times is stifled.
Will the Post publish? Will they risk indictments? Will the presses stop?
Scoring this old-fashioned yarn generously.
One gets the feeling Spielberg tried to create his version of All The President’s Men.
That film was of its time and relevant. This feels dated, the story and the telling.
This history lesson is over earnest, sentimental and corny.
Hanks is given a long leash and he overacts his blustery heart out.
Steep is fine, though her character seems mousy and mannered.
Newspapers once meant something.
Watch Five Star Final (1933) instead, or Deadline USA (1952).


Breath Of Life - 2021 - 7/10

Theatre junkies, your attendance, please!
Best-selling novelist Frances travels to the Isle Of Wight to visit Madeleine, retired curator.
Neither had truly met before, but they shared an interest, Frances’s ex, Martin.
Much of the play is taken up with discussion of fidelity, history, choices, and the absent Martin.
Dialogue ranges from wistful to comic to acerbic. Guilt, not from these two.
Some of the lines are memorable, and I’m paraphrasing a few.
“Why did I move to Wight? It’s what humanity does when we age. We crawl south to die.”
“It’s as the most powerful nation on the planet is now the most worried.”
Inventive camera work in filming a socially distant play.


Life Itself - 2014 - 6/10

Recent documentary, bordering on feel-good, about America’s favorite film critic.
Covers the bases from childhood, newspaper years, partnership with Siskel, demise.
Much is made of influence Ebert had, but the impact for me was from Sneak Previews on.
Back in the early 80’s, Siskel and Ebert were one of the first to feature extended clips.
That was invaluable when deciding what film to spend my cash on.
Also, unlike more so-called literary critics, the Chicago pair never spoiled a plot twist, nor did the reader have to wade through pages of text - seldom necessary for fresh releases.
At the end of it all, however, Ebert was a film critic.
His influence waned, as has the influence of all critics. The films omits that aspect.

The critical process, circa 1980 -
Sneak Previews: “Take 2: Going to the Movies"


Tell No One - 2006 - 7/10
AKA - Ne le dis à Personne

After skinny dipping with her husband in the family lake, Margot trots off to get the dog.
There are screams, a scuffle, and husband Alex hurries to rescue, only to get pummeled.
Eight years later, widower Alex learns bodies have been found by the lake.
Perhaps the assailants. Either way, gendarmes who still suspect him of his wife’s death, now eye him for these.
That is the opening five minutes of a tight thriller, packed with twists, lies, back-stories.
Well executed, although a few points are predictable. (Early on, a character appeared, and I said he would loom larger later in the film. Sure enough.)