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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Black Sea - 2014 - 6/10

Pay attention to those opening credits - that’s the back story.

Submarine skipper (Jude Law) is laid off.
Actually, the mega maritime salvage organization no longer needs subs.
Then he gets approached for a shady job.
Deep in the Black Sea, a sunken Nazi sub filled with gold.
All he has to do is assemble a crew, half Russian, half West, and retrieve the loot using a derelict Soviet sub.
Communication problems, augmented by greed, transform the crew into factions.
As with all sub flicks, claustrophobic, damp, and gloomy dark.
Decent twists midway, then again late.
Sturdy male cast led by Mr Law, no longer the slick pretty boy, who delivers another gritty performance.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Devil’s Honey - 1986 - 5/10
AKA - Il Miele del Diavolo

Cecilia is in love with saxophonist Gaetano.
Though he is domineering and demanding, his instrument purrs her fancy.
Then an accident, surgical errors, and Cecilia is left lonely.
Where most would be steeped with regret, she is aflame with vengeance.

I’m unsure how to categorize this Fulci flick.
It is so over the top with sexual misbehavior, layers of domination, trashiness.
Nudity throughout. A saxophone solo is unforgettable, as is bright red nail polish.
Let’s not forget collars and leashes!
Although steeped in sleaze, a series of flashbacks add depth to Cecilia’s character.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Don Wilson Of The Navy - 1942 - 6/10

Twelve part serial does double duty as recruiting tool.
Don and his sidekick Red fight a band of saboteurs, kidnappers, and all around traitors.
Led by the ever dastardly Scorpion who seems to have acquired Emperor Ming’s video communicator.
Underground bases, secret submarines, car chases, loads of fisticuffs.
Don and Red wear their Navy whites throughout and those seldom stain or get dirty.
Most of the cliffs are cheats, and, dastardly as Scorpion is, there is no reason for his activities.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Die Muse Des Mörders - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - The Murderer’s Muse

Blue smoke curls from the crushed cigarette, drifting away like memories best forgotten.
The glass of wine Is now lukewarm, sour, like the restless audience that came to see a has-been.
Madeleine, the matriarch of crime fiction, has outlived her era.
Her books sell poorly. Younger generations want flashier, if lesser, writers.

Out of the blue, an unknown killer leaves a victim, and stages the scene from an episode in her book.
Even better for her comatose career, he / she proves to be a serial killer, copying from more of her novels!
Murder, ain’t that a kick?
Decent mystery / thriller is predictable, but has sharp dialogue.

What are you reading?

Copper, Basil - The Black Death

Young architect departs London and buys a partnership with a Dartmoor firm.
Repeatedly he is warned by various residents to keep off the moors.
Mind well, gentle reader, the moors soon draws him.
Copper could write yarns like this in his sleep, and yet this was the last Gothic novel he wrote, similar to Necropolis and The House Of The Wolf.
An old fashioned, atmospheric page turner set, to my mind, in the Edwardian age. (One of the residents notes the fad of the motor car in the city, declaring it will never succeed in Dartmoor.)
Perhaps more suitable in cooler months, but needs must …

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Babylon Berlin: S03 - 2020 - 6/10

When will I ever learn? After one or two seasons, inspiration and creative fire for most shows ebb away.
So too here, the third installment of a series which dazzled over the course of two back-to-back seasons.
Where the narrative once took bold leaps within a dynamic Weimar Berlin, now the plot inches incrementally.
The threads seem smaller. Murders on a film set. (The troubled film, “Dämonen der Leidenschaft,” may remind decadent buffs of Sebastian Droste’s work in “Tragödie der Macht”.)
Gereon’s personal problems, Charlotte’s family and career problems, Greta’s incarceration.
The minutes creep doggedly by. Bits of an arc advance here, piece of action there.
The Hollywood writing room crutch of “milking” a series, of dragging the pace in order to stretch an eight episode series into twelve, is sadly and shamefully evident.
Babylon Berlin becomes another dull soap opera (thanks, Netflix), which is regrettable because this had been, for me, a thrilling show.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Babylon Berlin - 2017 - 8/10

Exceptional series set in Weimar Berlin.
A train, streaking from the Soviet Union, is hijacked into Germany amidst bloodshed and conspiracy.
Police, city and state, chase thin trails into nightclubs, embassies, bordellos, pornography studios.
Cops vs the Red Front, Soviet spies vs Whites, gangsters and embezzlers.
Berlin in the late 20’s, early 30’s was an anything goes place and this series captures that.

Knowledge of the Weimar era is not essential, but would certainly help.
Production values are excellent, this is a gritty, well designed thriller.
Several of the set pieces, nightclub sequences in particular, are spectacular.
S01 builds, S02 follows immediately and is the payoff.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Last Tree - 2019 - 6/10

Femi lives in the countryside with his foster mother.
He has friends, does well in school, is accepted and liked.
His mother arrives, however, asserts her custody rights, and drives him to her London council flat.
Household chores and duties are assigned. Non compliance earns physical punishment.
Essentially a character study of Femi, an arc from innocent child to gang leader’s lieutenant.
Narrative is less than fluid, viewers will have to pay attention, fill in gaps, make assumptions.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Yakuza Goddess: Erotic Code Of Honor - 1973 - 6/10
AKA - Yakuza Kannon: Iro Jingi // やくざ観音 情女仁義

A monk rescues a young woman from a group of mob enforcers.
Soon afterward, they succumb to fevered passions and share fluids beside a raging waterfall.
She is the daughter of a Yakuza boss – and – as it turns out, half sister to the monk.
Shame, guilt, mortification? Nope. Instead, “Oh, that explains why we are attracted to each other!”
Their couplings rollick along, amidst chases and intergang shootouts.
The artistry in this pinku leaves a lot to be desired.
Any sequence with bush brushing is obscured by a big black square.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

French Sex Murders - 1972 - 5/10
AKA - Casa d’appuntamento

Watchable Italian Giallo revolving around, surprise, a serial killer!
After an opening leap from the Eiffel Tower, flashbacks swirl.
The villain is especially despicable as he is swiping jewels from the church. Stealing from God!
Then, in a very wise move, he decides to hide in a sporting house packed with juicy hotties.

Five minutes later, he is on the run again. This time for murder!
He better flee quick because Humphrey Bogart is on his tail.

Bogie lookalike Roberto Sacchi plays the police inspector and is the main reason to watch this confused mess.
Oh, yes, Anita Ekberg is the brothel madam, and the professor’s assistant resembles Carl Sagan.
There is a decent amount of nudity, coupling, chases, stabbings, beheadings.
The pace percolates briskly. Even when flaws and plot gaps a mile wide, we could not nitpick them because another crazy scene crashed and we were lured back in.
One sorry movie that will appeal to - - you know who you are.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Faneditors, take note

Eden And After - 1970 - 7/10
AKA - L’éden et Après

Audacious, challenging, at times perplexing story will baffle many, put others to sleep.
For people who do not like foreign cinema, French films, this is a poster child for every element you hate.
There is next to no plot. College students chill in a museum construct cafe, attend classes, engage in sexual politics (meaning a load of nudity and talking).
At its core, this is a mystery. One coed owns a valuable painting from her uncle, a deceased artist.
They steal it, or try to steal it, transport her to Algeria, there is a doppelganger, murders, vague resolutions.
A flood of images, difficult ambiant score, this can be a hypnotic ride if you immerse yourself.
I quite enjoyed this - but - everyone else watching with me walked. Beware.

… stay with me …

N. a Pris les Dés… - 1971 - 5/10
AKA - N. Took The Dice

So … director Robbe-Grillet took his previous film, Eden And After, recut it, inserted outtakes and additional footage, then recombined it into … a … an almost incomprehensible muddle.
Nevertheless, for those who enjoy experimental cinema, there is quite a bit to appreciate.
This moves differently, and is like a fable being told by our narrator, “N”
It is more hallucinatory. Ofttimes, the doings in the desert mirror cafe sequences.
Concepts of doppelgangers and parallel realities
Unlike the previous version, there is no nudity.
I would recommend viewing this one after the earlier film.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Aquarela - 2018 - 6/10

Visual presentation of water. Icebound, sheets of rain, rising floodwaters.
Message film showing the influence of global warming on water.
The first 49 minutes reveal autos crashing through once solid ice short-cuts, and glaciers calving icebergs.
Followed by rain swept seas. Finally, submerged towns and residences.
Politicians are doubtless working round the clock to reverse potential catastrophe.
Waterworld came out in 1995, in case someone argues we never saw this coming.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The City And The City - 2018 - 7/10

Inspired, tech-noir adaptation of China Miéville’s novel.
A murder is committed in Ul Qoma, the body is dumped in Besźel.
Very tricky situation this, as both cities occupy the same geographical space, though in different dimensions / realities / planes.
Inhabitants of Besźel are forbidden to view Ul Qoma, and vice versa.
Anyone caught “seeing” will be dealt with brutally. Both cities are police states, maintaining rocky order.
A Besźel inspector is assigned the murder case, and he must navigate around politicians, extremist groups, archaeologists, capitalists, and the secretive, ever-present Control agency, Breach.
This recalls divided cities such as Berlin or Jerusalem, as well as nebulous worlds of Kafka and PK Dick.
Challenging and intellectually superior to countless copper programs.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu - 2019 - 7/10
AKA - Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

A female painter takes a commission to paint an unwilling subject.
The subject, Héloïse, is intended in marriage to a Milanese noble, per review of the portrait of her.

Héloïse lives on an island in Brittany. The household, one gathers, has seen better days.
Reviews have trumpeted the forbidden love angle, but that is only a part of a mix that combines romance, exploration and discovery.
(Male reviewers often jump in breathless exclamations whenever they see females in physical relationships. LGBT likewise shout, “Us! Us! Us!”, though they are under-represented so I understand the reaction more.)

Sets are austere, settings range from bright, windy shoreline to candle lit chambers.
The pace is unhurried, in this story of expressions, observation and self-awareness.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Villainess - 2017 - 5/10

The opening barrage of this S Korean actioner is straight out of a shooter game.
An army of thugs, assailants, scientists, get blasted n sliced. Our p.o.v. charges down hallways, into rooms.
After an 8" adrenaline rush, the scene, and our character, shifts to a laboratory inside an assassin training ground.
Viewers who saw La Femme Nikita or remakes Point Of No Return and Black Cat, or TV knockoffs Nikita or Little Girl K will recognize this heavily used concept.
All that’s needed is a tired middle section with a love interest, maybe a child - - No way! Check both!
The action sequences are impressive, if overlong, and seem more mechanically chop socky than wushu.
Also, Ok-bin Kim lacks the oomph to carry the film.
Nevertheless, for viewers unacquainted with earlier films who hunger for fighting, this’ll be OK.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Russia’s Lost Princesses - 2014 - 6/10

Two part documentary on the overlooked Romanovs.
Not the doomed, dim-witted Nicholas, the hysterical Alexandria, or Alexei, the bleeder.
No, OTMA, or Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.
This gives a decent telling of the fraying Romanov dynasty, the dual cataclysms of World War I and the Russian Revolution, and the cancer that was Rasputin.
Aside from the usual talking heads, narration is supported with diary entries, photos of the girls, and home movies.
Thing is - in two hours presentation, only about 27 minute seems specific to the daughters, and their cloistered upbringing.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Rivers Edge Okawabata Detective Agency - 2014 - 7/10
AKA - Ribasu Ejji Ookawabata Tanteisha // リバースエッジ 大川端探偵社

Late night J-dorama of tiny detective group that seems to specialize in peculiar requests.
A client wants ramen that tastes like it did 40 years ago, another wants to know the voice behind the fun fair announcements, another seeks a long gone, third level pop idol singer.
The boss has unspoken connections with yakuza families, the main investigator has premonitions, the office girl is a hooker by trade.
Generally, they satisfy client requests, though solutions are often unwelcome.
“Be careful what you ask for,” applies.
Note - Being a late night program, there are some sexual scenes that may offend a few.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Miniaturist - 2017 - 6/10

Young bride moves into her wealthy husband’s home in 17th century Amsterdam.
Along with queen of the household, his sister.
The home is a dark cavern of shadows and secrets, and the bride is out of her depth.
For a wedding gift, she receives a large doll house.
As miniature furnishings, dolls, accessories arrive - unordered - mysteries surface.
Stylish costumer that feels unfinished. Revelations lack punch.
Viewers with knowledge of The Eighty Years War (of which I am not) might appreciate the military and politician details that fill the story.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Century That Wrote Itself - 2013 - 6/10

Century, meaning the 17th (1600’s if this is easier), and the writers, the English.
Presented by Adam Nicolson, this does not follow the poets or novelists.
No, for the most part, he selects ordinary people, writing diaries, letters, journals.
As more are able to read and write, and as delivery methods improve, communication explodes.
This propulsive juggernaut of all this knowledge will lead to our modern era.
So … the skeptical may have to suspend a bit with this, and E03 is marred by fluff.
E02, however, “The Rewritten Universe” excels!
The beginning finds diarist Ralph Josselin recording his daily life, piously thanking God for even the most trivial occurrences in a world mysterious and dangerous, only to conclude with Isaac Newton attempting to understand the mechanics behind the Divine design.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Byleth, Il Demone dell’Incesto - 1972 - 5/10
AKA - Byleth, The Demon Of Incest

Dolores, the busy village prostitute, is savagely murdered after another sensual transaction.
Next comes, well, let’s not get premature with the slippery details.
Rather, focus on Barbara, returning from England and continental travels.
To the glistening delight of her brother, Duke Lionello.
The siblings display a very cozy relationship.
Unfortunately, Barbara returns with a new husband, and Lionello becomes curious.

Abundant, full figured nudity camouflage a thin, derivative whodunit.
Pace plods along, but the scenery is lush (including the nude sybarites).
Midway, the script offers a macabre suggestion, but it doesn’t really help.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Strange Aeons - 2005 - 4/10

Anthropology professor (at Miskatonic U), watches helplessly as unsettling new student, Asenath Waite, seduces and weds his assistant.
There are gates to be opened, Shuggoths to be unleashed! And she needs a thick headed male helpmate.
Horror film is fairly faithful to HPL’s “The Thing On The Doorstep.”
Script tries to juice proceedings with nudity and coupling, but dawdles throughout.
Directing is indifferent, acting mannered, sets remind one of cheap sheets hotel.

I noted the low IMDB rating beforehand, yet watched nevertheless.
Fools clutch their hopes.
Actually, with that title, I wondered if this might be based on Robert Bloch’s “Strange Eons.”
Not to be, though that novel, its plot stuffed with references to HPL himself and his Mythos, and would make an excellent intro to that world.
This one, however, is another missed Mythos dud.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Citizen Jane: Battle For The City - 2016 - 7/10

Jane Jacobs takes on Robert Moses, staunch believer in urban renewal (ie: negro removal).
In the 50’s and 60’s, Moses was extremely influential and powerful, annihilating neighborhoods, replacing them with overpasses, bypasses, highways. Cars vs people.
Rough, albeit safe, blocks were leveled and high rise tenements erected. Crime exploded.
This occurred not only in Gotham, but across the States.
Moses crushed opposition: business owners, neighborhood groups, politicos.
Jacobs and her supporters took his machine on, over and over.

Note: I have been in numerous battles against the faceless, imperious palisade.
City Hall, highway developers, zoning flunkies, employing different tactics depending.
Sometimes victory, other times defeat. You must contest, however, (not mere petitions, either, get your ass in motion) or they will simply walk over your rights.
Jacobs is inspirational, and essential viewing for anyone taking on "the man”.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Aeronauts - 2019 - 6/10

“Inspired by true events” *
Victorian scientist James Glaisher believes the upper atmosphere holds keys to predicting the weather.
In scientific circles he is scoffed and ridiculed.
Not to fear, he finds a partner in balloonist, crowd performer, Amanda Wren.
Personality clashes notwithstanding, an ascent is guaranteed.
The photography, the cloud photography, is spectacular, begging for a huge screen.
As entertainment, this is OK, unless you cannot bear the opening ten minutes.
Historic accuracy? Well …

  • There was an actual James Glaisher, who actually did cross the 30,000 foot level.
    NOT with Amanda Wren, however, but with Henry Tracey Coxwell, preeminent balloonist of the era.
    If politically correct, gender whitewashing sticks in your craw, you might want to pass this by.
    Should you be hungry for a popcorn film, this fluff will satisfy.
A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Lady Frankenstein - 1971 - 5/10
AKA - La Figlia di Frankenstein

Body snatchers deliver another casket to the spacious castle.
Villagers even know who lives there, one Baron Frankenstein, whose history is known.
What is less known is that he had a daughter, who returns after becoming a surgeon.
Some money was spent on casting, dollops more on costumes and sets.
The plot, which could have been penned by an eight year old, is of the creation of a tall “monster” who swiftly escapes and roams the countryside killing everyone he sees.
Not Universal, let alone Hammer, but the sexual encounters are plentiful and a few over the top.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Black Magic: Part 2 - 1976 - 6/10
AKA - Gōu Hún Jiàng Tóu// 勾魂降頭

In name sequel to the 1975 feature boasts the same cast, though in different roles.
Here, Lieh Lo plays the scowling, evil magician who needs breast milk to remain young.
Using blood magic, the shaman gains control over females, then increases their milk production by mixing their pubic hair into a potion and having them drink.
If one perishes, no biggee, he just turns them into zombies and adds to his cellar collection.
The film has a dozen ideas and plots, and is equal measures manic and zany.
Events bound at a breathneck pace in this laugh out loud and terribly politically incorrect film.
Meaning, even our “heroes” display a profound lack of restraint (midnight graverobbing, anyone?).