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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Lawman - 1971 - 6/10

Predating Robocop by decades, Burt Lancaster plays a zealously by-the-book marshal.
After a shoot ‘em up leaves an old man dead, a lawman arrives to arrest the whole ranch gang and bring to trial.
The usual “bargaining” is applied to no effect. Lancaster’s sheriff is righteous to the point of being insufferable.
Some exchanges are akin to negotiating with a computer.
Revisionist Western filled with hotheads, weaklings, cowards, grafters.
Robert Ryan as aging sheriff, glory days well behind him, makes a compassionate conscience.
Slow boil throughout with violent finale, without heroism.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Diva - 1981 - 7/10

Jules, passionate about opera, makes an HQ copy of his favorite singer, one who has refused any live recordings.
Round about this time, a hooker drops an expose cassette into his mail pouch, before she is killed.

Police want Jules, hired killers plan to murder him, music bootleggers want his tape.
Visually arresting film, packed with memorable characters and high energy.
Terrific chase in the subway are one of many highlights.
Dominique Pinon, in his second role, is unforgettable as the lethal “priest”.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Slumdog Millionaire - 2008 - 5/10

Low caste Jamal is a contestant on popular quiz show (version “Who Wants Be Millionaire?).
Defying the odds (ha!) he performs well. Really well.
So much so, authorities suspect cheating.
Extensive flashbacks narrate his life and expertise.
Overtly manipulative aims for feel-good, but this is highly calculated.
Every twist, every reveal, felt contrived and obvious, and I began disliking this film intensely.
This was the movie that had me reevaluate director Danny Boyle.
I truly enjoyed this earlier films. From this point on, not so much.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Bend It Like Beckham - 2002 - 6/10

When this came out, I knew there was no escape.
My wife, fan of World Cup, Premiere League, Man U.
Resistance is futile.
Friends Jesminder and Jules want to be professional footballers.
Parents of the girls feel otherwise, for different reasons.
Cultural and social. Obstacles are emotional, physical, schedules.
Nevertheless, this is feel-good so there will be important moments.
Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley would go on to big careers.
Entertaining, even if you know jack diddly-doo about football (soccer).

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Payback - 1999 - 7/10

Porter is left for dead by his partner, Val, who pockets the $70,000.
Left for dead ain’t the same as dead, however, and after an ugly recovery, Porter comes after the money.
Val, it turns out, used the funds to join a crime family.
Where Porter starts killing his way through the ranks.
Powerful Mel Gibson film, far darker than his popular persona of this period.
Exceptional male cast includes Kristofferson, James Coburn, William Devane, Bill Duke.
Director’s cut is more hard-nosed, less audience friendly, and superior in numerous ways.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Stay Tuned - 1992 - 5/10

Lazy salesman spends his home life watching TV.
To the fury of his wife smashes the set – whereupon – a visitor arrives with a satellite dish.
Capable of viewing 666 stations. 666. Does the couple pick up on that? Please.
Soon enough they are sucked into the set, into bizarro, deadly programs.
Parodies of TV shows aren’t vicious enough. Horror elements, silly.
“Stars” John Ritter and Pam Dauber lack oomph, chemistry, charisma.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Anatomy Of A Fall - 2023 - 6/10
AKA - Anatomie d’une Chute

Author Sandra is being interviewed at her Alpine home.
Not for long, however, as her husband begins blaring music at ear rending level.
Jealousy, spite, wounded male ego? In any event, the interview ends abruptly.
And, within an hour, the husband falls to his death from an attic opening.
Did he fall by accident? Was it suicide? Was he pushed?
Suspect number one? You got it, the wife, the famous writer.
The police and coroner are inconclusive, leaving the verdict to the French judicial system.
Owing to insufficient evidence, the prosecutor’s strategy is to besmirch.
Courtroom drama compels, but is overlong to the point of tedium.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Believers - 1987 - 6/10

Recently widowed psychologist relocates from the Midwest to Gotham.
Where, he being working with the NYPD as they investigate a voodoo cult, sacrificing children.
Oh, yeah, our psychologist has a child of just about the right age.
The Santerai elements are skirted over, although blood embellishment is heavy.
An undercurrent of Yuppie scum predominates, much as resentment of that group heightened during the 1980’s.
Frightening moments seem at war with the moralizing.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Devil’s Stairway - 1964 - 6/10
AKA - Maeui Gyedan // 마의 계단

The affair between the head surgeon and an attractive nurse has frayed.
His attitude is, “This is all fun, but not permanent.” Her reply is a terse, “I’m pregnant.”
Meanwhile, the director of the small hospital wants to make the surgeon his successor.
Contingent on him marrying his attractive (and younger than the nurse) daughter.
So, nurse Jin-suk has become a major inconvenience, and needs to be sorted.
Solid psychological thriller looks like a Noir, with supernatural overtones.
Since solving the “nurse problem” leaves surgeon Hyeon in a worsening state.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Case Of The Frightened Lady - 1940 - 6/10

Similar to the family Usher, the Lebanon family bloodline has run thin.
Consequently, Lady Lebanon orders her son to marry his cousin.
Before the murders begin.
Creaky whodunit, based on an Edgar Wallace novel, boasts an absolutely gorgeous, gloomy manor.
Stone in and out, vast ceilings, rooms lit by candlelight or fireplace.
Let’s not forget surly servants, and the toffy son who would rather pound the piano than woo his cute cousin.
This plays out like an early talkie, although fans of Wallace should enjoy, as will cozy fans.
If you are lucky enough, this still reps as a popular theatre play.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Running Man - 1987 - 6/10

In the near future, one of the cops in the US police state is framed and imprisoned.
Only to be given a “chance” if he participates in life and death game show.
Contestants square off against the television heroes, and generally all lose.
Yes, Barney, the fix is in!
Action adventure film based on novel by Richard Bachman (who quickly started hollering, hey I’m really Stephen King, so buy this here book!).
Empty headed fun, part of a string of Schwarzenegger hits.
Richard Dawson as smarmy host, genius casting.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Gilded Age - 2018 - 8/10

By the 1880’s, the wealthiest dominate the US landscape.
Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, Vanderbilt, etc …
The notion of “democracy” one man, one vote, is usurped by capitalism, where the richest hold vast sway.
Politicians bought, laws bent to benefit the powerful.
While the rest of the nation, those looked down on as maggots, starve.

Matters come to a head in 1896 when, as will so often happen, the Electoral College gives the Presidency to the candidate with fewer votes.
One question lingers: Does government represent the people? Or does it represent wealth?
Exceptional documentary, sadly, still resonates to this day.
Voters endlessly reelect candidates who promise to work for then, only to enrich themselves.
The democratic alternative is what, mob rule?
Who bears ultimate responsibility? Turn to the looking glass.
Subtitles = https://subscene.com/subtitles/the-gilded-age/english/3214067

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Cat People - 1982 - 6/10

Stylish, steamy, sexy remake of the Val Lewton film.
Troubled Irena begins relationship with zoo curator, flirtatious, but not sex.
Not so with her brother, Paul, who seems eager engage in incestuous procreation.
Meanwhile, escaped panthers have been killing, leaving mutilated corpses.
As remakes go, this is far more imaginative than the norm.
Malcolm McDowell especially memorable as Paul, lithe, graceful, deadly.
Terrific erotic thriller, doused with horror.

What are you reading?

Saki - Little Red Book Wit And Shudders

Please, certainly you have a book by Saki on your shelves already.
This group has been selected by Stuart David Schiff and includes only a few of the more popular tales.
All of these are droll, if not outright sardonic humor.
Best enjoyed in small doses, like small poison or recreational drugs.
The book, from Borderlands Press, is a perfect size for dipping in and out.
Endpapers have a touch of glitter to catch the eye, a thoughtful detail that more expensive presses usually forego.
Schiff, for those who do not remember him, kept the flame of indie Horror flickering in the US during the 1970’s through 1990’s along with Harry O Morris and W Paul Ganley.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Footlight Parade - 1933 - 7/10

Director of Broadway musicals, which aren’t doing so well, changes gears and puts on Broadway preludes.
Yes, another variation of, “Kids, let’s put on a show!”
Except this one is spectacular.
James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler headline the cast.
Cagney’s performance is on-fire ferocious, while Blondell is sexy and wisecracking as ever.
One watches, however, for the outrageous Busby Berkeley dance numbers.
“The Honeymoon Hotel” is beyond risqué, while “Shanghai Lil” is set in a bordello and opium den.
Fantastic musical and brilliant gem from the Pre-Code era.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Great Escaper - 2023 - 7/10

He’s 90, he’s forgetful, plus he worries about his wife, who seems to have less remaining time.
Anyway, that explains why he forgot to reserve a place on the Normandy ferry to commemorate D-Day.
Instead, as always, he wings it, leaves the nursing home early, buys a ticket, and recalls memories.
Memories of his wife of 70 years, back when they were dating.
Memories of the soldier whose fears he tried to ease during the choppy beach landing.
A quiet film. Remembering others, paying tribute, holding onto love in the twilight of time.

What are you reading?

Marvick, Louis - The Second Mask

This is a wicked book.
The sort of book Lord Henry would present to young Dorian to further his education, to deepen his corruption.
And this is a tale of corruption: of values, of morals, of pledges.
Corruption, betrayal, deception, with a knowing eye toward self-deception.

Circa 1890, Sir Archibald Hacker is the acknowledged preeminent artist of his time. Whether paintings or sculpture, his compositions all but breathe life.
Just before his death, however, he entrusts a commission, a task, to a young lawyer. A man who already knew Hacker cloaked darker activities behind a genteel façade.
What remains is a sketchbook of unspeakable studies. Of recognizable depravity, which, like so many lurid obscenities, is potently addictive.

Louis Marvick has crafted a decadent journey, quite in keeping with the rotting aftermath of London’s fin de siècle.
Marvick has succeeded where others preen and posture emptily, boasting of their modern decadence, yet incapable of rivaling the celebrity frauds of our era, of matching the venalities that spill from political figures, let alone equaling the twittering car wrecks that everyone slows down to wallow in.

Marvick’s The Second Mask is an elegant atrocity, skillfully written, a crystal mirror against clouds of falsehoods.
Those who would seek the truth, would soon blind their own eyes.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Best Of Enemies - 2023 - 8/10

USA national party conventions of 1968.
Bottom ranking network ABC pulls a stunt, allowing two outsiders to engage in post-days’ debates.
William F Buckley and Gore Vidal.
Two intellectuals, both erudite, using words like rapiers, eviscerating both parties and each other.
Very heady adaptation of the 2015 documentary.
Attempts are made to include historical context and outside figures amidst the trenchant dialogue.
That said, US Boomers may be the last to have real time memories of these events.
For theatre junkies, this is riveting drama, wickedly funny, to boot.
Political obsessives, yeah, you will enjoy too.
For others, appreciate the intelligence expected of viewers in 1968.
English subtitles = https://subscene.com/subtitles/national-theatre-live-best-of-enemies/english/3210584

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Land Girls - 1998 - 6/10

During WWII, three young women are dispatched to work farms while the men are off fighting.
A flirt, a reserved studious sort, a romantic dreamer.
Friendships, emotional entanglements, and work.
Stories are not hackneyed, but somewhat predictable.
Scenery is lush and will be eagerly devoured by armchair pastorale travelers.
Easy rolling film with a lovely feel for time and place.
I saw this when it first came out, and it still offers a nostalgic charm.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Count Dracula - 1977 - 7/10

Criminally overlooked version of the Carpathian count.
Louis Jourdan readily has the elegance and panache of the aristocrat.
The story is faithful, right down to the moonlight snack Vlad offers to his brides.
Darkish throughout, and much of the colors seem drained.
Frank Finlay makes a worthy adversary as Van Helsing, yet Jourdan dominates every scene.
Why has this never had a restoration? This is one of the most faithful versions of the count.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Dracula In Istanbul - 1953 - 5/10
AKA - Drakula İstanbul’da

Young lawyer travels to Romania to help reclusive count buy kiosks in Istanbul.
Gloomy castle, one wife, aroused and thirsty, rooms forbidden entry into.
For thirty minutes, the plot is fairly faithful, until the scene shifts to Istanbul.
The lawyer’s wife, Güzin, is a cabaret dancer, while her sister, Sadan, is a sleepwalker.
Dancing, dancing, more dancing, coupled with declining health, and red-eyed bats.
Final act brings back Count Drakula, as well as his enemies, led by Dr. Nuri.
Curiosity got the better of me – again.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Savage Three - 1975 - 7/10
AKA - Fango Bollente

The three work for a huge computer / data-information company.
Work is monotonous and dehumanizing.
They are cogs in an electronic grid.
Releasing steam, and to feel alive, they engage in escalating criminal behavior.
Provoking riots, car theft, causing traffic accidents, beatings, murders, rapes, brutality.
The theme is 40-50 years ahead of its time.
Excellent German commentary equating this prescient film with ongoing human madness.
Dallesandro leads a forceful cast in what turned out to be a fantastic surprise for me (I was expecting a routine Poliziottesco or Euro-Crime).

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Eyes In The Night - 1942 - 6/10

An old flame reenters Norma’s life, and this time he is seducing her 17 year old step daughter.
For advice, Norma seeks out her blind friend, private eye Duncan Maclaine.
Who soon deduces nefarious activities swirl about Norma’s quiet home.
While blind, Mac’s remaining senses are as razor keen as a Hollywood scribe’s imagination.
As with so many disabled crime fighters, he has a formidable sidekick in his dog, Friday.
MGM programmer could have been a franchise, but faltered after a second installment.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Black Pirate - 1926 - 6/10

After his father is slain by pirates, the young lord secretly joins the ship, biding his time for revenge.
In short order, he out duels the buccaneer captain and becomes leader.
Followed by romance (a princess!), treasure, and ship to ship combat.
The drama, the story, drags a little.
Huge compensation – if you can find it – this was shot in early Technicolor.
Douglas Fairbanks, trim and fit, performs amazing stunts.
Chief among them, the sail shredding, copied in numerous swashbucklers.
Several DVD / BluRay choices (of varying color saturation) are available.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

No Hands On The Clock - 1941 - 6/10

Private eye Humphrey, on his honeymoon in Reno, is tasked with finding a missing man.
Several shady ladies fuel his new bride’s jealousy, while mobsters try to rub him out.
There are also scattered murders, suspicious cops, and FBI agents.
Pre-Boston Blackie Chester Morris glides effortlessly through muddled, percolating script.
I never knew what happened to the son, or why gangsters assumed Humphrey was one of them.
Jean Parker, as the new bride, makes a great foil to Chester.
Typical B-film: fun, forgettable.