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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 67

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Joan Rivers: By Her Friends - 2018 - 6/10

Lukewarm pairing to Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work - 2010.
This is a remembrance of the savage tongue by friends, peers and daughter Melissa.
Numerous old clips and routines, though her bio material is better covered elsewhere.
Decent introduction and tribute to Ms Rivers.
Folks either love Joan or detest her, this doc is for the former.
Feels like a fan letter to admirers.

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Mods, Rockers And Bank Holiday Mayhem - 2014 - 5/10

Somewhat illuminating.
Mods = sharp suits, scooters, and style. / / Rockers = leather, motorcycles, and speed.
Mostly, though, this is a shabby BBC doc about the overblown clashes between British youth in the early 60’s.
Early squabbles were exaggerated by the English press, fueling future rumbles.
Before they knew it, Swinging London swept their moment into history’s dustbin.

Editing complaints: This was padded, including repeated interview bites.
Worse, attempts to “damage” the look were blatant and amateurish.
Any time there was a 60’s photo, sprocket holes raced across the middle, or debris, or blobs of color.
Scratches and added grain seemed mandatory.
By the end, one of the editors must have snoozed because the vintage overlay bled onto surviving interviewees.

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Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool - 2017 - 7/10

Gloria Grahame biopic, sure to attract Film Noir fans.
Annette Bening plays the faded femme fatale in her final two years.
This covers her relationship with Peter Turner (from whose book this is based) and his family.
AFTER she had undergone cancer therapy and thought herself clear, and into the final relapse.
Heyday films (The Bad And The Beautiful, In A Lonely Place, Crossfire, The Big Heat, Human Desire, among many) are barely referenced.
The infamous scandal of marriage number four is a mere breath.

Hollywood generally loves filmed versions of their glittering selves.
Chaplin, Ed Wood, Frances, The Aviator, Too Much, Too Soon, receive acclaim, and if not awards, at least nominations.
Other films, The Cat’s Meow, Valentino, The Last Of Robin Hood, Auto Focus, not so much love, even when acting is outstanding.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool seems to be in the latter group.

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The Maiden - 2016 - 6/10

Near perfect distillation of the haunted house story.
Relator Lucy is saddled with a white elephant, the battered mansion.
Worse, it could be haunted, cursed, possessed.
Well, commission is commission. Amidst a few trifling problems she scrubs the interior to be presentable.
Limited dialogue, some jump scares, foreboding atmosphere, acceptable acting.

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In The House - 2012 - 7/10
AKA - Dans Le Maison

François Ozon offers another film (his third) about writers.
Young student worms his way into his best friend’s house and family, observing and probing their bourgeois, middle class home.
Sharing his voyeuristic streak, he writes stories about them and submits them to his composition teacher.
Always ending, “To be continued …”
The teacher soon becomes absorbed, as does his wife, with whom he shares the stories.
Maddening difficult to tell if the student’s observations were accurate or partial. Were the stories clichéd, balanced, stereotyped? Was the teacher layering his own filters and fantasies?
The house of cards narrative steadily teeters higher.
Not exactly a thriller, but an unpleasant ride.

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The Internship - 2013 - 6/10

Light comedy of two middle aged stumblers who apply for jobs with Google, going the intern route.
Applicants break off into teams and competition begins.
Enjoyed this more than I thought as the two older males do not condescend to younger members,
nor do they try to take advantage of them.
They walk a narrow line between ignorance and earnestness, but carry that off.
Overlong at 2.00+ hours, yet never seemed to lose momentum.
Vaughn and Wilson struck me as being too old for these roles.

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Some Velvet Morning - 2013 - 7/10

Two characters, 80 minute film, shot almost exclusively indoors, all but screams theatre.
Written and directed by Neil LaBute, another tipoff.
Ex-john shows up at doorstep of high priced call girl after a four year hiatus.
Left his job as attorney, dumped his wife, ready to move in and pick up where they left off.
Confrontations, accusations, recriminations.
Uncomfortable territory here, with an in-your-face attitude throughout.
Great for serious drama fans, with superb performances.

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Transfer - 2017 - 7/10
AKA - Transferts

SciFi set in the near future. Within a decade, perhaps?
Medical breakthroughs have made it possible to transfer one’s soul into another body.
In an ideal situation, shift the consciousness of a cancer patient into a car crash victim.
Of course, the aged rich and powerful might want to jump into a young shell.
Or criminals might want to – or terrorists – or . . .
The government outlaws the procedure, the black market explodes, and an elite police unit is formed.
While the series has budget limitations, the writing is diabolically cunning.
Each episode (06) has fresh developments or a barbed twist.
Pili Groyne is memorably bewitching as the angelic Liza.

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Dom Hemingway - 2013 - 7/10

Jude Law reboots his career, playing hardened con released after 12 years.
He took the fall for someone else and expects to be well paid for his silence.
Unfortunately, Lady Luck doesn’t always see it that way.
Definitely not the usual gangster film as Law and mate, Richard Grant, are both glib and eloquent.
Bitter funny throughout, also a touch poignant as the once-king of the block is … well … twelve years older.

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The Key To The Fields - 2014 - 6/10
AKA - La Clef des Champs

Mild French comedy of local who became Paris bigwig, returning to boyhood village and assorted mishaps.
His car is seized, his dog runs off, his mother and friends ridicule him.
Everyone muses on what a stiff, pompous, pain in the ass he was and remains.
In other countries, his character would soften toward sympathy.
This is French cinema, however, and sentimentality is over-rated.
Agreeable, and yet at the end, the village problem is left unresolved and likely unsolved.

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Silent Action - 1975 - 6/10
AKA - La Polizia Accusa: il Servizio Segreto Uccide

Opening the film, one by one, high level military brass are assassinated.
Headlines scream, “Murder or Suicide!”
The lead inspector, on the trail of a potential witness, knows not to trust anyone outside or within the police ranks.
Very good Euro-Crime thriller.
This is not Giallo. No hyper colors, no trendy fashion, few hyper-sexualized victims.
Here, plotting, intricate and coherent, is paramount. Focus always stays with the investigators.
Silent Action would be a solid introduction to this genre for the curious…
If you can find it, get the version with audio commentary by Mike Malloy.

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Invisible Woman - 2013 - 06/10

Subdued drama of the affair between 45 year old Charles Dickens and 18 year old Nelly Ternan.
Low key acting, complemented by subdued color palette (grays, blacks, browns) and moody music (piano or quartet).
In the open-mic, audience Q & A Director / producer Fiennes was defensive when asked, what’s the point?
Questions about social norms are dodged, as are reflections on women, marriage, celebrity.
Fiennes, who is a believable Dickens, aims for the passing snapshots of life.
Richly done, yet seemed superficial.

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Venom - 1981 - 6/10

Decent thriller (NOT a Horror film) with a powerhouse cast.
London kidnappers set sights on a young boy while his wealthy parents are traveling.
The boy is a pet enthusiast, and the day of the snatch, he brings home a new snake.
Unfortunately, the shoppe mixes his order and he brings home a Mamba, which escapes.
At which point, the caper begins to sour.
During filming, Klaus Kinski and Oliver Reed supposedly hated each other on sight.
Plot itself = bad guys, hostages, determined copper, and one pissed off snake (no CGI, it was an actual mamba, borrowed from the London zoo!).

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Our Ladies - 2019 - 7/10

The singing competition will be in Edinburgh, sin city.
Sister Condron hopes her girls to do well enough to move on to the finals in Greece.
“Screw Sister Condom,” mutter the ladies. They are hoping for a good shagging.
Raunchy, laugh out loud comedy, bristling with foul dialogue.
Set in 1996, before social networks and the erosion of relationships.

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The Same Sky - 2017 - 7/10
AKA - Der Gleiche Himmel

East Germany, mid 70’s, Lars is training in elite spy craft to be a skilled Lothario.
Targets. Females working for NATO. Seduction followed by exploitation.
Tight series that gets the period right (music, fashions, hairstyles), also Cold War attitudes.
Secondary stories that follow an Olympic hopeful and a gay teacher are compelling.
Even tertiary stories have merit, but the meat of the series is Lars, working to make women fall for him, trying to keep his anecdotes straight, calming fears and countering feminine intuition.
Sordid, cynical, and one be forgiven rooting for the cad, although with the ending I was going, “Is that it?”

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Orphan Black: S01 - 2013 - 4/10

Unfortunately, I started this directly after finishing True Detective: S01.
A quality gap separates fare aimed for adults and fare targeting the YA group.
Several female clones learn of doppelgangers.
Their personalities are as different as individuals in the writing room.
Conspiracies surface, and the females display utter lack of common sense.
Leaving this viewer to wonder - who cares? Fembots.
Confession: I succumbed to hype, and thought gushing articles were on to something edgy.
Wildly popular, aired for several seasons. S01 was as far as I got.

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Alone Time - 2013 - 6/10

Or time to unwind, return to Nature, recharge.
Overwhelmed with noisy, hectic New York, an office girl heads into the Adirondacks.

Soon, she is alone by the lake, with only her backpack, supplies and tent.
The contrast between the two worlds is pronounced.

For oppressed city dwellers, the landscape is ravishing.
Though the ending reveals an uncomfortable bleed-thru.

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Muscle Shoals - 2013 - 6/10

Elusive documentary about famed Alabama studios, mother lode of Southern swamp ‘n Delta blues.
Lots of music clips, as well as recollections / thoughts from Jagger, Richards, Bono, Aretha, Pickett, Sledge, Wexler.
Also the original Swampers and FAME studio chief, Rick Hall.
After awhile, every time Hall started talking, we braced for the next tragedy: Ma, brother, wife, Pa, one by one the Reaper picked ‘em off. Kept waiting for Old Shep to buy it.
FAME began to dry up in the 70’s, not mentioned in doc. The Swampers’ Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was sold in ‘85, likewise not mentioned.
Incredible amount of hits referenced - “When A Man Loves A Woman” “Land Of 1000 Dances” “Brown Sugar” “Main Street” “Kodachrome” “Respect” “Patches” “Tell Mama” “Mustang Sally” and “Sweet Home Alabama”
Highly entertaining, perhaps depending on your age and memories.

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The Tribulations Of Balthazar Kober - 1988 - 7/10
AKA - Niezwykla Podróz Baltazara Kobera

Balthazar, not so much a simpleton as an uncomplicated soul, is already marked.
He talks with dead family members, and at times is guided by the angel Gabriel.

Excuse me, archangel Gabriel. And the Devil, genial, perhaps helpful, lingers nearby.
Balthazar’s role involves a path. Naturally, this betokes a mission, which he barely grasps.
He is soon caught between the Holy Inquisition, an underground resistance, and a circus troupe.
Various guides include a puppet master, a gentleman merchant, a harp strumming lovely.
Throughout, I kept wondering how much was an oblique commentary on current Polish events.
(Poland was then breaking Soviet shackles, replacing one onerous ism with another.)

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Royal Cousins At War - 2014 - 8/10

Excellent documentary of the rivalries, jealousies, and petty bickering between cousins George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm.
The future king, czar, and kaiser. Actions and reactions that would gather into World War I.
Much stems from childhood, from dismissive fathers, to a pair of Danish mothers who nursed a grudge.
Numerous what-ifs are here, such as what if ministers had allowed the alliance between Germany and Russia?
The Great War is barely touched upon, there are other docs for that.
This excels in highlighting the key royals who might have been able to avert the bloody conflict.

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The Past - 2013 - 7/10
AKA - Le Passé

Estranged husband arrives from Tehran to give wife her Paris divorce.
There, he meets her current - younger - boyfriend de jour.
Also the man’s son, as well as his wife’s daughters by previous marriages.
Ma’s bounced around a bit.
Gradually, secrets emerge about the older daughter’s fury, and the boyfriend’s comatose wife.
Not a fun film, but well acted from an intelligent, adult script.
Shot in suburbs far from touristy Paris.
Nice to see Iranians not cast as terrorists or zealots.

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Fast Workers - 1933 - 5/10

Muddled Pre-Code drama of high-steel buddies, Gunner and Bucker.
Both crisscross the Depression landscape and dally with women, one for kicks, one for love.
Bucker falls for a gold-digging sharpie, not knowing she is one of Gunner’s casuals.
Vitaphone (Warners) might have done something with this; MGM seems clueless.
Robert Armstrong shines as the gullible romantic, Mae Clarke the opportunistic tart.
I watched this poorly received movie for a couple reasons.
One, John Gilbert, Silent star, has-been in the Talkies because of a high, effeminate voice.
Not so, it sounded totally fine.
Two, Tod Browning, this was the film he was assigned after Freaks.
Both men were on a career plunge.

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Ingrid Goes West - 2017 - 6/10

Whiny song of the modern era wannabee.
Ingrid craves “Likes,” wants “Followers,” needs acceptance, demands recognition of her … of her what?
Of her specialness.
She travels west, begins to stalk an online celebrity who cannot number all her followers.
Ingrid ingratiates herself and tries, so desperately hard, to be part, to be accepted, to be valued.
Marketed as a black comedy, this is more a cringe inducing portrayal of an undernourished soul.
Cannot say I enjoyed, but this is oddly compelling. Like observing the slow trainwreck in all its agony.

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Paddington - 2014 - 6/10

Fun children’s movie, though not necessarily for children of all ages.
Paddington the bear, stows away on a cargo ship from darkest Peru to visit the London explorer who met his aunt and uncle decades earlier.
In London, he meets the Brown family and has adventures.
Highly enjoyable for those in the room who had never read any of Michael Bond’s stories, or for those who had never seen any of the shorts narrated by Michael Hordern.
Seasoned fans thought this a dumbed down version.
One viewer even took issue with Paddington’s hat. Red, which seems to have originated with the cartoon series.
Therein is the short answer - This movie has its roots in the cartoons.
Paddington is foolish, almost ridiculous in this version, but the storyline was approved by author Bond (cameo - man waving at bear).

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Paddington 2 - 2017 - 7/10

I certainly never thought a Paddington film would ever grace my screen again.
Especially after I roundly disparaged the first outing, which seemed modeled on the cartoon series.
This has the heart and charm of Bond’s books and stories, though.
Paddington works jobs and saves money to buy a book for his Aunt Lucy, still in the Home For Retired Bears.
The book, a pop-up affair, is stolen, and Paddington and the Brown family get involved.
A gallery of guest stars and cameos add to the fast moving enjoyment.
Listen hard enough, and you can almost hear Michael Hordern narrating.