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A few reviews . . (film or TV) — Page 68

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Stax-Volt Revue - 1967 - 8/10

Video quality is soft, audio is sufficient.
Nevertheless, this captures one of the greatest live shows ever!
Artists include Booker T & The MG’s, Eddie Floyd, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding.
Each act pours on passion and intensity, as each act must follow and top the preceding.
Leaving Otis, the headliner, and at the peak of his career, to bring the audience to their knees.
An absolute must for classic Soul fans.

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Britain’s Great War - 2014 - NA (not finished)

Documentary on World War I that I had been looking forward to viewing.
Jeremy Paxman, who wrote the acclaimed book on which this is based, is the presenter.
Alas, he is too much of a good thing, at least for me.
Maybe I am getting tired of the presenter / tour guide format.
Mr Paxman is seems to be in almost every single scene.
His dead serious expression and over earnest delivery usurp maps, newsreels, archived interviews.
It’s not like I have not seen WWI docs before, I have watched plenty. A few I have recommended.
Not this one, however. The omnipresent tour guide wore me out.

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Gimme The Loot - 2012 - 6/10

Graffiti artists Malcolm and Sophia labor all night on a new mural, only to see it completely tagged and defaced the next day by rival gangs.
Their newest “exhibition” is to sneak into Mets ballpark and tag the home run sign.
Oh, and they need $500. Easier said than done.
Bleak comedy trails the rather amoral pair as they steal cans of spray paint, only to get robbed and hustled themselves.
For those who think New York is Sex And The City, this is a refreshing dose of reality.
Quite a fun show. (Best get subtitles. Hood slang is hard to follow sometimes.)

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The Swallow And Titmouse - 1924 - 7/10
AKA - L’Hirondelle et la Mésange

The two men seem to get along fine, Captain Pierre and new hand Michel.
Pierre has two barges, the afore mentioned Swallow and Titmouse.
They ply the canals between Antwerp and northern France.
Moving construction goods – and perhaps a bit of smuggling.
Of which the smiling, obliging Michel is determinedly curious.

Film may be too slow for some, enthralling for others.
The restoration is superb. The music, evoking a liquid current, marries well.
Most of all are the images of lost habits, parades, exteriors.
Postcard views of the world between wars, which WWII would erase.

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Throwback - 2013 - 4/10

Noticed this dubious winner on the shelf, read terrible reviews.
Grabbed it anyway. Marshmallow for brains here.
Of particular note was writer / director / producer = same name.
Likewise producer / star. Small cast alert.
Australian bush prospectors are hunting for lost treasure of legendary Thunderclap Newman.
They find treasure relatively easily, but then they get found by the Yowie.
Think Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Yeti. Huge furry creature who must be miserable under the Australia sun.
Beautiful photography cannot overcome dreadful editing.
Almost every single scene goes on two - three beats too long. Whole film is padded.
Minimal verbal exchanges, which is OK, but also minimal action and no twists or decent story telling.

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The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death - 2014 - 4/10

The cursed house out on the moors returns.
Timeline has moved to 1941. London children are being relocated to escape the height of the Blitz.
Two women are in charge of about eight kids, one of whom was orphaned in a bomb raid the night before.
The younger woman senses something is the house is not quite right, and investigates noises in the middle of the night. The nearby village offers hints, but that gets ignored in the story.
Children squabble, children perish.
Sadly, that pretty much describes the entire plot.
Scares are all gotcha stings, as you couldn’t care less about a single character.
Cheap, pathetic Horror film, that follows the laziest, sleaziest route - placing children in danger.
Writers, producers, director - all ought to be shunned for two years for that.
Clever photography masks shoddy sets and budget production values.
Ostensibly a Hammer film, it is dark and murky throughout. None of the legendary Hammer color here.

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Heartless - 2009 - 5/10

Gloomy horror.
Photographer with disfiguring heart-shaped birthmark on his face roams London’s midnight streets.
Sees murderers under hoodies in action.
Hold on. Are those lizards under the hoodies?
Next, he is summoned by a demon. A proposal is extended, in exchange for services.
This really ought to be fun times, but the protagonist is a downer.
Even when he scores, he screws up.
Needs more lizards, less thinking.

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 (Edited)

You’ll Find Out - 1940 - 5/10

Wasted opportunity in this musical / comedy / horror / mystery mishmash.
Old dark mansion, perched on a cliff over a pounding surf, under thunder and lightning skies, provide the setting for young girl’s 21st birthday party.
Kay Kyser and his Kollege Of Musical Knowledge provide the entertainment, and is also, sadly, the chief focus of the film.
Kyser and bandmates seem too old for their slapstick and silly antics. Musical numbers are unmemorable.
Plot creeps along, the humor is flat out corny.
Rather young and earnest Dennis O’Keefe (future Noir stalwart) is underused.
The three main villains, though, really shine. They steal every single scene, and effortlessly ooze the sinister, the conniving, the scheming.

No ifs - ands - or buts - the film ought to have been about this trio of old pros.

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Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb - 1971 - 5/10

Large cast of familiar Hammer players wasted in Egyptian reincarnation theme.
Professor’s beautiful daughter keeps having dreams about Egyptian princess, with whom she bears an uncanny resemblance.
The mummy, in the care of the professor, is stunningly preserved.
No moldy, rotting strips of cloth. No, sir.
The dead princess wears a few radiant silks and gold jewelry covering strategic areas.
Otherwise, she is all flawless skin and most of that exposed.
The plot is stale formula, pace is lethargic, the sets quite cheap looking, camera work static.
Definitely not up the usual Hammer standards.
Watchable if alternatives are shopping channel or Ask The Celebrity.

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Santo And Vengeance Of The Mummy - 1970 - 5/10
AKA - Santo en la Venganza de la Momia

An ancient tomb is discovered deep in the Mexican jungle and a expedition team is assembled.
Professors, overseers, chef, porters, camera girl, secretary, and a masked wrestler.
You never know when you might need those luche libra skills, and need them bad.
Warning outside the crypt: Do not enter lest the curse — Of course they enter.
Then on the Olmec mummy: Do not touch the sacred necklace or — They remove the necklace.
Deaths follow soon and often, as the mummy proves adept with bow and arrow.
Plot races by, and the mummy back story has stock footage of an uncredited Aztec movie.
Wrestling matches in Mexico City Arena bookend the film.

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It! The Terror From Beyond Space - 1958 - 5/10

No, from Mars, dammit. Not beyond space, Mars.
Sheesh, talk about misleading titles.
Supposedly the template for Alien which was why I picked this howler.
Not that I need any help, I select bad films all the time.
So … our spacecraft gets stuck on Mars and waits six months (!!) for rescue ship.
Only the captain survives and he is to be taken back to Earth for court martial.
Ship carries a stowaway, however. It!
Creature begins to hunt and kill crew one by one. Especially in the ducts.
For an interplanetary vessel, the ship is well stocked with pistols, rifles, grenades, even a bazooka!
During battles, I was yelling about explosions and oxygen. What do I know?
OK enough late night time waster, but for fans wanting an Alien fix, this ain’t it.

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Possessed - 2009 - 6/10
AKA - Bulsinjiok // 불신지옥

Korean horror / thriller / mystery.
Young woman starts investigating disappearance of sister from skanky apartment complex.
Residents are alcoholics, religious nuts, nervous sorts.
Doesn’t help that since the girl went missing, they have started dying, one by one.
First half of film packed with symbolism, which yields to conflicts between faith and superstition.
Went from mystery to obsession. The transition is weak and my interest wavered in the second half.
Gray and cold looking film casts an air of melancholy throughout.
Film also known as Living Death, Disbelief Hell, Hell Of The Non Believers, the latter makes more sense.

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Warm Bodies - 2014 - 6/10

To paraphrase the oft moaned female lament,
“He couldn’t keep it up.”
Zombie film as told from a detached, wry, dryly humorous soul.
Hmm, do zombies even possess souls?
Pointedly funny, satirical contrast of those disconnected vs. those dead.
Thirty minutes on, love enters the narrative and the edge wilts.
Movie turns romantic, then preachy, ultimately sappy.
For zombie gourmands, very few unhappy meals in this one.

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The Devil Rides Out - 1968 - 6/10

Hammer adaptation of the Wheatley shocker.
Satanist Charles Gray wants to initiate two young acolytes.
Opposing him is one of the young man’s friends, Christopher Lee.
Gorgeous production values, the film bolts fast from the onset, turns talky two thirds through.
Gray is a powerful villain, neat trick against Lee who was at an early peak.
When this originally aired, the book, from the 30’s, was still a heavy seller.
Thus, original viewers understood the ending, while later audiences might well go, “Say what?”
Great rainy night Gothic horror.

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The Gorgon - 1964 - 6/10

Atmospheric Horror film with Cushing and Lee.
Teutonic village plagued during full moon when hapless victims are turned to stone.
Why was the Gorgon in that village to begin with?
One of several unanswered questions in handsome, albeit lethargic, Hammer production.
Well thought out set design with grays and slate exteriors to match the stone and rock motif.
Interiors awash in intense colors, hallmark of the Technicolpr process.
Reason I noted all that was because the pace was slow - slow - slow.
Minutes pass as characters methodically walk about those crafted sets.
Cushing mostly seen in first half of film, Lee in second.
For Dr. Who fans, head of police was Patrick Troughton.
Fine for classic film buffs, though this might put modern fans to sleep.

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To The Devil A Daughter - 1978 - 6/10

Good adaptation of the Dennis Wheatley novel, and apparently a labor of love for Christopher Lee.
A young nun is sent from Bavaria to England to await instructions.
She has been raised in near-isolation and does not know her role will be that of vessel.
Unfortunately for the scheming demon worshipers, the girl is intercepted and hidden by an American horror novelist.
The story then becomes a high stakes, cat n mouse contest between good and evil.
A power cast leads a fast moving story across a well shot London landscape.
The pace moves, hiding plot holes huge enough for an ocean liner. Otherwise, fun.
Final Hammer horror outing for the next thirty years.

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Body Jumper - 2001 - 4/10
AKA - Pop Weed Sayong // ปอบ หวีด สยอง

Thai masterpiece.
Busload of students teach impoverished natives exercise to improve their wretched lives.
Malcontent wino heckles them that their village beyond help, it is cursed.
Late night, the hottest girl from the bus bathes in the haunted lake and is swiftly possessed by liver eating ghost.
Two heartbeats later, students back in Bangkok, and the once-shy girl now has an appetite for boyfriends.
Guys who soon turn jaundice yellow and die of liver failure.
More comedy than horror, comedy also silly and juvenile, though plot points are inventive.
Of course she is harvesting livers. Their backs is to her, briefs down, shortest route = the back entrance.
Add a gushy transgender, an out of place dance party, chases through ventilator ducts, a flying shaman with umbrella and magic condoms, and you have non-demanding craziness.

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Troll Hunter - 2010 - 6/10

Someone is killing bears in Norway. Only specific hunters are granted a license, and they suspect illegal poaching.
One van in particular which is battered all to hell and reeks of stench, draws their gaze.
College students, filming a documentary, pick up on the whispers and begin to trail the van and its bearded, unfriendly occupant.
The deeper into forests they drive, the more secrets and legends they uncover.

Generally, I dislike “found footage” films. Lazy filmmaking. Boring pace, ignorant (read stupid) characters, less than amateurish photography.
None of those flaws apply here.
The narrative moves along, lingering to explain as needed. Student filmmakers seem normal, not stereotyped templates. Moreover, main character Hans, the hunter, is focused and decisive. He always knows where he is going and why. Finally, the cinematography is well done. Troll Hunter resembles an actual documentary, rather than spit and paste slapdash.

I can’t quite label this a Horror film, those seeking frights and chills will be disappointed.
Good popcorn movie, nonetheless.

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You’re Next - 2013 - 6/10

Justly praised slasher flick, for many reasons.
Family gathered at remote, grand home, for parents’ anniversary, gets attacked by killers wearing masks.
For the baddies, events go amiss owing to one of the visiting girlfriends, a survivalist.
Gore is there, but not as much as gorehounds expect. Not gratuitous, either.
Off kilter mix of savagery, suspense, and humor. Story glides between darkness and black comedy.
Example would be the “lamb mask”.
Few lulls and fewer heroes. Turns predictable after the major reveals.
Great nod to Dwight Twilley, too.

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Welp - 2014 - 6/10
AKA - Cub

Inventive, gruesome, intense, all kinds of wrong horror, clearly in the slasher genre.
A pack of cub scouts head into the woods for camping fun.
Two of their den masters know locals shun the area.
Suicides and disappearances have left a dark legacy.
Almost forgot, one of the den leaders brings his dog.
Although the boys are ages 9-12, this Belgium horror ride is not for kids.
Children … a dog … understand - no one is safe. Parents and dog lovers, this is not Disney.
Musical score is a synthesizer throwback.
Woods are packed with Rube Goldberg traps.
Hollywood remake highly unlikely. Red meat for slash fans.

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Penny Dreadful - 2014 - 6/10

Season one of esoteric Horror, set in Victorian London.
Vampires, the Frankenstein creature, even Dorian Gray, all promenade through gas lit alleys, rat infested wharves, or hothouse atriums.
A good series for language buffs, as conversations are rich, arch, almost stilted.
Precise words, layered meanings, from drawing rooms to theatre boards.
The core of the narrative, the arc, is the classic quest. A guilt ridden father searching for a stolen daughter.
He has money enough to create a team, who in turn, provide their own shadowed backstories.
For those concerned, the S01 ending will not leave you hanging.

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The Babadook - 2014 - 7/10

Disclosure: I don’t like kids, especially undisciplined, over-indulged kids.
I have a problem with single mommies and sons who are way too touchy feelie.
I also dislike any film where children are in danger, a cheap trope of terror.
Chances are, if you are a parent - enjoy rambunctious children - or see nothing wrong with a 7 year old who still sleeps in Mom’s bed, you may adore this.

Outstanding acting from Essie Davis as distracted, still grieving mother whose husband died seven years earlier.
As well as newcomer Noah Wiseman who is extraordinarily annoying with his fears, homemade weapons, creepy acts toward other children, and clinginess. To be fair, who allowed this child to be so? Yes, good ole Ma.
For the bedtime read, he discovers the Babadook (a bad book?) book.
Apparently, merely by reading, the ‘dook is summoned forth.
In no time flat, the dumpy home sounds with late night knocks, groans, deep sighs, ebony shadows.
Real or imagined? The film never lets on the for the longest time.
Meanwhile, mother and son behavior declines noticeably, and others take note.
Much as I appreciated the acting and deft, slight of hand directing, I disliked the characters intensely and wanted them eaten.

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Only Lovers Left Alive - 2013 - 7/10

My bride phoned from the library, vampire movie in hand. John Hurt, Tilda Swinton.
Sure, get it, I said.
I flipped the box when she brought it home and, Jim Jarmusch! Oh, no!
Film not as self-indulgent or pretentious as feared.
Story of two intellectual vampires, enduring the centuries.
Dreamy, drowsy, slow paced, filmed in nighttime Tangier and Detroit.
Film raises several points, one being the dire consequences of tainted blood.
Dark irony of the food supply being so self destructive.
Terrific use of brooding music, conversations delivered in monotone, and the feeblest of lighting to cast an aura of weariness.
Definitely worth chasing down, but it is lethargic and demands patience and concentration.
Note: For anti-Jarmusch types (such as myself) this was a nice one.

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Monsters Wanted - 2013 - 7/10

Entertaining behind the scenes documentary on Asylum Haunted Scream Park.
The site is a sprawling 40 acres outside Louisville, with four dedicated horror areas.

https://www.hauntworld.com/haunted-house-in-louisville-Kentucky-asylum-haunted-scream

Doc follows Rich and Janel, a well adjusted enough couple, and their labors to get everything in place before opening day.

Surprise visits by inspectors, backstabbing rival horror parks, rain and more rain, temperamental actors - including one who seems borderline certifiable, complaining business partners, equipment malfunctions, running out of money, as the opening deadline shrinks from months to weeks to days to hours.
You wonder how they can possibly get it done.
Will hold your interest from start to finish, might even plant the urge to get out Halloween night.
For anyone who is a repeat customer of haunted parks, for anyone who ever worked a Midnight Mansion, for anyone who took a stab creating their own Death House*, this film ought to be in your queue.

Admittance - One Candy Bar
^

Yes, back when I was eight or nine I can up with this brilliant notion of creating our own haunted house.
We would charge one candy bar per admission. No cause for us to rush all over the neighborhood Trick or Treating.
Our victims would do the legwork, then pay to stroll our horrors.
Candy for free! Our bags were going to burst!
Alas, the best laid plans of nine year olds . . .
Few entered. Those that did reported back that our haunted palace - an empty garage - sucked.
(An early lesson how dreary reviews can kill Broadway openings, new record releases, lemonade stands, or haunted houses.)
There were less than ten bars to share between the five of us.
Worse, we had missed Trick or Treat night, and all the other kids blamed me and my stupid idea!
Shunned me for days.
Over the years, there would be more stupid ideas where that came from. Many more.
^

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X-Files S02 - 1995 - 8/10

I enjoyed the first season, but I rarely return to it, save for an episode or two.
For many, the second year was when the series really began to flower.
The leads were no longer shrill or strident, the writing far more original, the narratives more layered.
New characters - adversaries or allies - followed their own agendas, morally indifferent.

At this point, creative elements of the series were on fire.
Stories often played out over several episodes.
By turns harrowing, flat out funny, or achingly poetic.

Planets and stars only stay in perfect alignment for so long.
The show went south for me after the location shifted to Los Angeles (closer to FOX money men perhaps?).
Much altered, not necessarily for the better.
Season 02 of X-Files remains spectacular, though.
I try not to rewatch too often, lest its magic go stale.