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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Hanzawa Naoki - 2013 - 7/10
AKA - 半沢直樹

Who’d have thought corporate banking shenanigans could be so entertaining?
Hanzawa and his loan section are nudged by higher ups to approve a shady loan totaling millions.
Before you can say something smells fishy, the account goes bankrupt, and execs throw all blame on Hanzawa.
One thing they don’t reckon with is his tenacity, his skills in following the money, and the dark vengeance that drives him.
Traps launch out of nowhere and enemies hateful and cunning circle like jackals.
Foes learn - screw with Hanzawa, and it’s double payback!
No killings - no shootings - no nudity. Ratings smash across Asia.
Highly addicting.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Agatha Raisin: S01 - 2016 - 6/10

Cross between Murder She Wrote and Midsomer Murders.
Blonde bobbed Agatha moves from London to the quiet Cotswolds.
Turns out her hamlet is killing capital of Britain.
While the DCI can break a mean “Word Up,” the police are generally a step behind.
Fortunately for villagers, Ms Raisin is shrewd and obstinate.
Pleasing locations, nice ensemble of repeating support characters.
Predictable as meatloaf, but comfort food or TV is not always unwelcome.

Later: There were more seasons, lesser seasons. The writing was flat, the actors phoned in performances.
If you are pushed to view, stick with the pilot and S01.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Last Night In Soho - 2021 - 6/10

Ellie travels to London to attend fashion college, “wide-eyed innocent” stamped on her forehead.
Not only is the capitol huge, intimidating, callous, but Eloise bears her own baggage.
She seems to have recovered from mental issues. She “sees” things.
This is where writer / director Wright appears to wander astray.
Rather than Elle dealing with second sight, the narrative veers into noisy shocks.
Horror – Slasher – Grand Guignol. Too early, the pace accelerates into frantic.
The finale explanation made little sense to me, and I was asking, “Really? This is the best you can think of?”
Stunning camera work (aside from feeble wraiths), choice casting, nice sense of Swinging London.
Pity. There was a potential classic here, only the director went for cheap thrills.

Bonus: A few years ago, my nephew had to write an essay on the British Invasion.
He requested a sampling of songs to inspire him while writing.
The mix disc I sent him echoes Ellie’s 60’s dream fugue.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Turn Back The Clock - 1933 - 6/10

Lee Tracy as small time drugstore owner, who meets a childhood chum, now quite the swell.
The poorer friend starts imagining, for likely the hundredth time, how his life might have turned out.
If only …
Until a twist of fate hits the reset button, sending him back twenty years.
And oh, the decisions he makes, and the consequences.
MGM film is preachy, especially for a Pre-Code, and would have been better served by Warners or Columbia.
Tracy, an acquired taste, is annoying throughout. Look quick for the “new trio.”

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

That Darn Cat - 1965 - 5/10

Perpetually hungry Siamese cat gets involved with ruthless bank robbers.
Family friendly Disney fare was old-fashioned when it first came out.
Now, perhaps harder to tell.
After robbing the bank, and kidnapping a teller, two criminals (nicely cast with Neville Brand and Frank Gorshin) hide in plain sight - in the middle of town.
When DC (Darn Cat) strolls in, seeking a handout, the teller puts her wristwatch on his neck.
Will owners figure out this clue? Will authorities rescue the hostage?
The “young people” were dated back when, today they appear old.
Gags are more hit than miss, plot is silly, cat acts like a cat.
I wanted to enjoy this, because I think I did at one time.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Mansome - 2012 - 5/10

Sheesh, another Morgan Spurlock documentary.
Male grooming - appearance - how men behold themselves - females point of view.
Shallow work here, that skittered from one topic to another and lingered too long on marginal aspects
(eg: the beard competition).
Beards, mustaches, haircuts, toupees, all discussed for no apparent point.
Men have always grown or worn those - who cares?
Section of the product “Fresh Balls” was funny as anything.
Also the older male comments that the current fad for body shaving is turning men into Barbie dolls.
Film should have followed that path.
Instead this is a time waster with no focus.
Spurlock strikes me as more agreeable than Michael Moore, probably better to have a drink with.
His output, however, causes me to think he is running out of things to say.

What are you reading?

Marsh, Richard - The Beetle

How could I have lived this long without having heard of, let alone read, this Victorian crackerjack?
And this is a superb page-turner! Part thriller, part shocker, in its day a massive bestseller, outselling Stoker’s Dracula at one point, this novel is riddled with Victorian anxieties.
Fear of immigrants, of new cults, fear of the New Woman, of rising class strife. Darker still, the fear of the “other”, in this case a relation to the scarab.
Four narratives, one following the other, tell the horror of the sinister visitor from the East, single mindedly pursuing an influential politician while threatening an upper class maiden.
Each section overlaps and adds narrative, yet clouds the mystery. In addition, with each section the pace ratchets higher. The last part is a galloping, exciting chase.
The edition I read, Broadview Press, contains a wealth of extras about the New Woman, the Victorian fascination with Egypt, and the unease that was so pervasive throughout the fin de siècle.
A thumping good read! This makes me curious about other Marsh titles.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Sense Of An Ending - 2017 - 6/10

Aging man receives official notice of an inheritance.
A ghost from his past bequeaths a diary from an even older ghost, a childhood friend.
Flashbacks unroll memories, some accurate, others filtered.
Story is much the unraveling of the riddle.
Perceived betrayal worms through the man’s assumptions and impulses.
Despite twists and surprises, despite a strong cast, the ending left me flat.
It was like the director opened up the “aha” door, then kicked it closed abruptly.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Beating Of Butterfly Wings - 2000 - 5/10
AKA - Le Battement d’ailes du Papillon // Happenstance

French fluff about the so-called butterfly effect. Myriad souls connect, intersect, disconnect.
Well worn myth of how a chance act or word can impact others.
Yes, we think our words or deeds are so important.
This film flits from one loser to another, eventually going nowhere.

I didn’t buy the reactions and interactions, though those watching with me were female, and they did.
In fact, there was a protracted discussion afterward.
For me, Life is random, our choices limited at best.
Everyone else, held that Fate overrules Choice.
If you are in the latter category, you may rate this higher.
Unforgettable scene involving a cockroach.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Johnny Stool Pigeon - 1949 - 5/10

Vintage cars, big fedoras, and black ‘n white film stock do not a classic Noir make.
Generic tale of Feds trying to take down a narcotics racket.
Helmed by Dan Duryea, rather subdued in this one, and Howard Duff, sharp as a bar of soap.
One the plus side, this predicts the later Nafta trade era, with locations in Canada, the States and Mexico.
Also, a great deal of this is set at a Tucson dude ranch, rather than rain soaked alleys.
Tony Curtis memorable as mute torpedo.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Testament Of Dr Mabuse - 1933 - 7/10
AKA - Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse

A disgraced ex-policeman infiltrates the nest of thieves.
Discovered, he barely escapes in time to phone his old inspector.
Nevertheless, the ex-cop is driven insane by something unseen.
He only had moments to scrawl one word on a windowpane - Mabuse.
Yet, criminal mastermind Dr Mabuse was committed to the lunatic asylum eleven years earlier.
Fritz Lang resurrects one of his greatest characters, though this story follows the Inspector.
Fast paced mystery, not as ground breaking as the 1922 original, but an excellent sequel.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Friends Until Death - 2014 - 6/10
AKA - Mordsfreunde

Adaptation of another Nele Neuhaus overly convoluted novel.
Body parts are found in a local zoo.
Blame falls on militant animal rights activists.
Until more dying happens.
There are numerous characters and narratives, most are diversions.
Someone is clearly trying to make the police team interesting, but they are dullards.
If you stay with this there is a who and why, akin to a casual shrug.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Man You Loved To Hate - 1979 - 6/10

Dated, faded looking documentary on Erich Von Stroheim.
Fleshes out the legendary silent director - turned villainous movie actor - eventual emigree to France.
Usual clips from Foolish Wives, Greed, Grand Illusion, Sunset Blvd.
Also unexpected clippings from his childhood and apprenticeship to D W Griffith.
Youthful details are murky as Stroheim more or less reinvented his past once he came to America.
Feuds with studio execs, spiraling production costs, impossible film lengths, risqué material, all elaborated on.
Surprising, to me, how many French films he acted in before Sunset and after.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Deep Water - 1981 - 6/10
AKA - Eaux Profondus

Classic French arthouse mystery thriller.
Young trophy bride (Isabelle Huppert) flirts and attracts numerous young swains.
Husband (a menacing Jean-Louis Trintignant) warns each of possible consequences.
Those who heed, flee. Those who abide, however …
Challenging in that the viewer never knows the relationship between husband and wife, or how much friends and neighbors (island of Jersey) turn a blind eye to.
Measured pace that delivers unexpected jolts.
Based on Patricia Highsmith novel.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Chronicle Of The Third Reich - 2006 - 6/10

At four installments, this only skims the history of the Third Reich.
World War II doers not commence until E03. And E04 sees Russia and the Allies turn the tide.
The obvious target might be history beginners, though buffs will find interesting aspects.
Much of the footage is rarely seen, and several subjects differ from the usual.
Instead of the 1936 Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics (Bavaria) is shown.

A lot of commentary is given to funding. How did Nazi’s pay for the Wehrmacht?
Reich Minister Albert Speer is shown frequently.
Only three talking heads (historians), and the course is a dispassionate, middle one.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Belle - 2013 - 7/10

In the 1700‘s, naval officer / father drops off his half black daughter to high echelon parents.
The small girl is to be raised as proper English lady.
Straight off, I asked the person who loaded this one if it was based on story, script or true life.
Apparently, this was based on real life.
Plot ticks off British involvement in slave trade, as well as varying suitors for the grown lady’s well funded hand.
Rich production values and good cast. Film also underplays most character reactions, a refreshing change from the Americanizing of emotional behavior.
Couple of nice - if redundant - featurettes with the disc.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Another Heaven - 2000 - 6/10
AKA - Anazahevun // アナザヘヴン

Police arrive at a grisly murder scene.
Top of the victim’s skull is removed, gray matter simmers on the stove.
Other slayings follow, all reek of sexual congress.
The plot roars out of the gate with mounting horrors and kinky characters.
Alas, at the mid point of this Japanese cop show, the director eases off the accelerator.
The momentum never returns, the hectic energy dissipates.
The first half reminds me of a HK Cat III film, the second half methodically resolves.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Hit & Run - 2021 - 6/10
AKA - Pegaa Ubrach // פגע וברח‎

Enroute to the airport, Danielle is killed by a hit n run driver.
Grieving husband Segev soon travels from Tel Aviv to Manhattan, seeking answers.
Fast moving thriller soon gets far-fetched, then worsens.
Lead characters Danielle and Segev had negative chemistry.
For instance, an artistic dancer and tour guide with a thuggish past?
Who happens to have contacts anytime the plot twist requires?
Our guy playing Segev only has one expression, a puzzled frown.
Like a child missing his applesauce, or the confused drunk the police officer asks to “spell conundrum.”
One is tempted to blame poor acting, but the culprits are likely the director(s).
Beware the “Netflix ending,” as the series nears conclusion, the writers and producers flat out quit.
Hoping, I suppose, for a S02. Don’t bother, boys.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Screaming Mimi - 1958 - 4/10

Bad movie alert >>> “Starring Anita Ekberg.”
Despite awful reviews, what the hey, I loaded this up.
Early on, voluptuous Ekberg emerges from the surf and hurries to take a shower outside the shack.
Nearby is a mental institution, along with a handy escapee clutching a big ole knife.
Two screams later, she’s in the nuthouse herself, traumatized outta her unnecessary mind.
Inside, she falls under the analytical spell of a possessive psychiatrist.
Next thing, they’re both gone, and she’s gyrating her assets, along with chains and ropes, as an exotic dancer.

Anyway, murder and attempted murder bolster this trashy Noir.
Swear, I’m not making this up.
Still undecided? The Red Norvo combo is the nightclub band, Gypsy Rose Lee is the owner.
Oh yeah, Miss Ekberg has a vicious Great Dane watchdog, but anyone can get past him if they softly recite the Gettysburg Address.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The House That Dripped Blood - 1971 - 6/10

Fun horror anthology boasts a strong cast.
Along with “the house,” which has proves to have a worrisome history.
Denholm Elliott opens as the blocked writer, seeing shelves with horror books, knowing he has found has ideal place to finish his latest horror mystery.
Next, Peter Cushing, a retired businessman, wanting a cozy home to read and listen to music.
Christopher Lee enters with his young daughter, a retiring child, that he attempts to keep in check.
Finally, Jon Pertwee, film ACTOR, drives up with fellow thespian, Ingrid Pitt.

Easily, the funniest chapter. Pertwee and Pitt seem to be having a blast.
Droll stories penned by Robert Bloch, tongue firmly in cheek.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Play It Again, Sam - 1972 - 7/10

Early Woody Allen film, overflowing with gags.
Allen’s friends arrange dates for him, but he is nervous, overexcited, and the dates fail spectacularly.
Even when he seeks advice from Bogart, he botches that.

Nice of cinematography of San Francisco, and a light directorial hand help make this an early gem.
This remains funny throughout, with many film references that buffs will recognize.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Carrington - 1995 - 7/10

Biopic of Edwardian painter Carrington and her platonic relationship with author Lytton Strachey.
Set mostly in pastoral England, during the Great War and afterward.
Strachey and Carrington entice and embrace various male companions, seemingly to vent their own frustrated passions.
Unlike almost every “creative artist" film I have ever watched, the angst and toil not shown at all.
Emma Thompson, as Dora Carrington, is quite good in this. Also, during the first half of the film, she manages the trick of resembling a twenty year old. Sense And Sensibility was released the same year; while she portrayed another twenty year old, there she looked like a matronly forty year old.
Jonathan Pryce as Strachey is brilliant.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Shinobi no Mono 6: The Last Iga Spy - 1965 - 6/10
AKA - Shinobi no Mono: Iga-Yashiki // 忍びの者 伊賀屋敷

Saizo’s son, after seeing his father killed, grows up following the ninja path.
Their time, however, is passing. As political alliances and maneuvering come to the fore.
Even the ninja, skilled as he is, realizes by the end that knowledge is more important than ability.
The opening conflict is exciting, and there is a spectacular rooftop fight in the rain.
Yet the overall tone is one of change, with the ninja fading from influence.
No matter how three generations have opposed, the Tokugawa clan is entrenched.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - 2011 - 6/10

Watchable, though not particularly illuminating documentary on product placement.
Morgan Spurlock visits image consultants and product representatives, and pitches his notion of having them fund his documentary in exchange for gratuitous advertising throughout.
The consultants and executives are far more interesting than the concept.
At least one of the products I had no idea was still around - so this was a win for them.
Major companies who declined had me scratching my head.
The budget for this film was minuscule. $1.5 million. A major corporation’s investment would have been petty.
One who declined pled that documentary viewers were too few to matter.
Perhaps. Spurlock remains a recognizable name, however, and documentary viewers are supposedly intelligent.
Film was short, humorous, and I did sympathize with company honchos.
Notwithstanding, I do tune out their ads.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

I Am Not Your Negro - 2016 - 8/10

Quasi-documentary of author James Baldwin carries a lot of bite.
Based on his never finished proposed novel incorporating Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.
Traces and analyzes the almost futile misunderstandings of whites who have never come to terms with blacks living in their midst.
Baldwin’s voice ranges from resigned to despairing to righteous anger.
The filmmaker incorporates recent clashes, pointing the obvious: this is an unhealed sore, not remotely on any curative path.
This is a brilliant, insightful work, yet will be blistering for most.
We are, for any who bother to look, segregating society more than ever, physically and socially.