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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Barrier - 2020 - 6/10
AKA La Valla

After World War III, a new virus emerges. Contagious and deadly.
There is no cure, and as scientists hurry to find a cure, society begins to break down.
In an unprecedented move, Spain turns to fascism.

After three episodes, this became a series I watched to hate.
Who are the scientists using as guinea pigs? Innocent, wide-eyed children.
Our heroic core are stupid beyond belief. Yelling at authority figures, disdaining rules.
While I hated the medical types, I started rooting for the military.
They seemed to be the lone civil authority in a city sliding into dystopia.
Series is one-dimensional, acting (from our heroes) is over the top.
For all that, this does conclude, with an ending I am comfortable with.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

We Are The Night - 2010 - 7/10
AKA - Wir Sind Die Nacht

Vampire tale, set in modern, neo-Weimar Berlin.
Throbbing nightclubs and blood cocktails. Opulent production design worsens with the narrative.
The V word is never mentioned, by the way, and in this world, there are no male vampires.
The leader of the trio recruits a new member, who has trouble transitioning.
Story flows on a rockin’ pace, though characters don’t really “do” much aside from partying.
Boredom, ennui, debauchery punctuated by kills. Sex implied, rather than graphic.
Very well cast - but - the English dub is godawful! Shrill voice actors mar the tone.
So …
If possible, find the FanEdit version by INH5, (We Are The Night: Revamped).
German language (with English dub and editor commentary).
Deleted or unfinished scenes finished, enhanced and reinserted. Also some new special effects.
Disclosure: I was a key previewer for this edit, and often shared my thoughts with the faneditor.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

No, My Darling Daughter - 1961 - 6/10

Fairy tale of bubbly daughter to super rich investor father.
He wants to send her to Paris for finishing, she wants to remain in school.
Instead, she meets a visiting Yank and starts “living.” Sight-seeing, picnics, enjoying life.
You’d think that would suffice, yet everyone meddles and assumes.
Brisk light comedy chirps merrily along, and it is interesting to see pre Swinging London (though everyone involved in privileged beyond belief).
Although the conclusion was “all’s well that ends well,” I found it rather sad myself.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Star Trek: Prelude To Axanar - 2014 - 7/10

For the old guard, longing for Star Trek of yore, this was red meat.
Paramount had tolerated, even signed off on independent fan series for decades.
Star Trek Continues, Starship Farragut, Star Trek: Phase II, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, etc …
Amateur productions in quality and talent.
Axanar, however, utilized actors and production members who had worked on legitimate Star Trek projects, as well as Battlestar Galactica.
The actual film would detail the Four Years War, the conflict between Federation and Klingon, set before the Kirk - Spock era.
This preliminary short floored the fanbase, and crowdfunding money poured in for the feature.
Paramount sued. Were they terrified by real competition to their juvenile formula?
The short, despite budget constraints, is reverent, faithful to the series, and leaves one eager for more.
After a few years, Axanar, losing in litigation, was shut down.
What remains is the original “prelude,” a tantalizing remnant of what might have been.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Double Life Of Véronique - 1991 - 7/10
AKA - La Double Vie de Véronique

Weronika has a gift. A voice so radiant, ethereal, its purity leaves listeners breathless.
There is a price, though. At times, near the peak of delirium, it hurts.
One afternoon, watching passengers board the bus, she sees her double.
Weronika stand there, spellbound, while the doppelganger on the bus does not see her.
In any other film, the narratives would begin to dovetail between Weronika and Véronique.
Not so here
At one point, one story ebbs and the other surges to prominence.
Véronique, a music teacher, appears to lead a less compelling life than Weronika.
Nonetheless, during a theatre performance, a side door opens.
The film is then an exploration of self-identity, awareness, what it is like to exist.
A haunting film, but not an easy film. Director Kieślowski leaves some questions unanswered, others are opaque.
Different audiences will likely have different interpretations.
The mystery of Life, the ecstasy of the moment.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Ring Of Curse - 2011 - 6/10
AKA - Gomennasai // ごめんなさい

Another riff on the “grudge” theme, popular in J-films.
Setting is high school, and the usual tropes apply.
Popular girls bully the misfit. Boys are props, standing around silently. Adults = where?
Girls decide to produce the school play and coerce the brainy weirdo to write the script.
Unluckily for them, she knows select words to write, in precise order, to launch a death curse.
Not a bad film. Better haunted schoolgirl movies are out there, but this is enjoyable enough and I watched this to the end bits past the credits.

Note: The lone available English subs had timing errors and malformed spelling.
I corrected those, and uploaded –

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Wooden Overcoats: S01 - 2015 - 6/10

Goings on at the small isle of Piffling Vale.
Rudyard Funn owns the island’s lone funeral home.
Contemptuous, short tempered, scornful, he gets away with shoddy people skills because there is no competition.
Until Chapman appears, starts his own funeral business with the slogan, “Let’s put the fun in funerals!”
Cocktails, gaiety, singalongs. Business soars, at the expense of Funn Funerals.
Rudyard, who could be Basil Fawlty’s long lost nephew, concocts schemes to undermine or destroy Chapman.
With about as much success as the Torquay proprietor would have.
Season One of this radio comedy is eight parts, with high production values.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Death On The Tyne - 2018 - 5/10

The ladies enjoy duty-free shopping before the luxury liner sets sail.
From Newcastle to Amsterdam!
Unknown to all, a murderer is aboard.
Soon enough, crying time begins.
Oh, about a third of this is funny. The bits with the three old birds, as well as the underutilized bridal party.
Tour operators Gemma and Terry drag the film with soggy chemistry, and inept dialogue (not their fault).
What could have been a sharp, funny satire on cruise ships is a tub of forced farce.
If silly is your comedy, heave ho.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - 2014 - 6/10

Sleepy, local radio station gets bought out by major broadcast chain.
Changes announced, staff “reassigned.” One soul reacts poorly, however.
Hit and miss comedy, but misfires are rare.
Wicked satire of media culture in all its fake forms.
Steve Coogan effective as self-centered sleazebag who hurls everyone under the bus.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Bridesmaid - 2004 - 6/10
AKA - La Demoiselle d’honneur

Manipulative Claude Chabrol film, based on dark Ruth Rendell novel.
At the wedding of his oldest sister, Philippe meets bridesmaid Senta.
Sparks ignite, and she soon engulfs Philippe, emotionally and physically.
Their time together is spent primarily in the basement of a dilapidated manor.
Senta is an actress, who worked with John Malkovich. Woody Allen, was a dancer, bummed around overseas.
Philippe’s warning radar seldom goes off. Even when he manages to question Senta, she disrobes or coaxes him back into her sheets again, distracting his tiny brain.
Viewers know something is wrong, and the movie is queasy road of deception and delusion.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Queen Of Black Magic - 2019 - 6/10
AKA - Ratu Ilmu Hitam

Not a remake, but inspired by the 1981 film.
At once busier, more modern (cellphones and followers), and less fun.
Three adult men return to the orphanage where they grew up, bringing their families.
Current orphans are on an outing, so the building is deserted save for caretakers and the dying founder.
One room is locked, has been for decades.
There is the story of Mirah, the woman who lost her bearings after earlier girls disappeared.
Terrors involve bugs, kids and the grudge.
Bugs, because onlookers scream at them, and lo, those open, inviting mouths.
Kids, I detest in Western films as they are only in feigned danger. In Asian films, however …
Grudge, holding onto past wrongs instead of moving on, sheesh.
Cheap scares, a cobbled plot, yet this should be OK for late night insomniacs.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Like Someone In Love - 2012 - 6/10
AKA - ライク・サムワン・イン・ラブ

Another film by Abbas Kiarostami, though not as maddeningly provocative as Copie Conforme (Certified Copy).
Struggling female student, pretty (they are always pretty), earns needed income by visiting elder men. *
Her procurer pushes her toward a particular client, while urging her to drop her possessive, suspicious boyfriend.
Film almost exclusively talk (Japanese), broken with quiet moments as characters do mundane tasks.
Restless viewers will rush for the volleyball channel after twenty minutes.
Everyone else will recognize the slow trainwreck, and still be unprepared for the ending.

  • I thought the casual co-ed hooker urban legend was an overused cliché.
    Seen this plotline in way too many movies and TV shows.
    Lo and behold, the local rag runs a story on a flock of pretty, neighborhood girls busted for solicitation.
    All students at the most prestigious college in town, and a Christian one, at that.
    They needed money for tuition, among other essentials.
A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Sound From The Deep - 2017 - 6/10
AKA - Ett Läte ur Djupet

Time is running out for a geo-expedition hunting for gas in the Arctic Ocean.
Winter approaches, and the sea ice is thickening.
Then sonar picks up some sounds, so they steam deeper north.

One of the better Lovecraftian shorts out there.
The photography, sound, and direction are first class.
Despite naysayers, the actors seem to be professionals – not relatives of investors.

Note: Available subtitles are computer generated. I reworked those.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Possession - 2002 - 7/10

Dovetailing, if unequal, stories of love, mystery, betrayal, and poetry.
One shimmers with intensity, the other is shallow.
A professor’s research assistant finds a fragment of correspondence hidden within a reference book.
In the finest scholarly tradition, he simply takes it.
The fragment hints at a hitherto unknown relationship between a major Victorian poet and a lesser one.
Our learned thief enlists another scholar, and off they sally in quest of Truth.

The Victorian narrative is far more compelling, ravishing even. The understatement is aching at times.
The scenery is wondrous, the wordplay exquisite.
Indeed, watching this leads one to bemoan what passes for conversation or correspondence nowadays.
The latter day story is glossy, vacuous and crude in comparison.

Our amateur sleuths (cast with an eye toward the American market) engage and behave as if they had wandered in off a teenage romantic comedy.
They delve into a richer past, perhaps their way of dealing with personal shortcomings, academic and emotional.
For lovers of language and Victorian costumers, this may be irresistible.
Just brace for the drop in IQ and EQ of the latter counterpart.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Library Wars - 2013 - 4/10
AKA - Toshokan Senso // 図書館戦争

Opening sequence. A bustling library, packed with readers and book lovers, is attacked by a squad of black suited, masked men, toting machine guns and flame throwers.
Library staff massacred, patrons killed, 600,000 books go up in flames.
The government then clamps down on obscenity, hate books, controversial books.
Banned works that give readers unacceptable thoughts: horror, murder, politics, violence …
Who can save the books? The Library Defense Force is created, to stand against media censors!
Silly, far-fetched nonsense, based on popular manga, dawdles at length over fresh scrubbed recruit.
Amidst juvenile lulls, extended gun battles between the LDF and armies in riot gear devastate collections.
Preposterous beyond words. People reading physical books. Ha! Reporters hustling to print EXTRAS!
No mention of cloud storage, filehosts, downloading, digital copies (one ref to ebooks).
Wooden-faced actors play this dead serious, with lots of yawn inducing speechifying, and self sacrifice.
Fireman Montag is missing here.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Rampo - 1994 - 8/10
AKA - The Mystery Of Rampo // 奥山バージョン

Wonderful Japanese arthouse/mystery/detective/erotic/ D: all of the above.
Knowledgeable viewers will note Rampo, as in Edogawa Rampo, and anticipate a wild ride.
Film opens as pre WWII official censors Rampo’s latest story (wife smothers invalid husband) as subversive.
Rampo’s agent, points out actual news article of woman whose husband died in exact manner as story.
The writer investigates, stalks, imagines a new story, merging fantasy with reality in the process.
Eventually his alter-ego, Detective Akechi, takes over and trails the woman to the castle of a mad marquis.
Lush score, gorgeous costumes, fabulous sets. Brilliant film that is constantly inventive and imaginative.

Note: Available on laserdisc and DVD, but both have issues.
Video on LD is soft. Subs on LD, however, were minimal and matched the theatrical release.
The MGM DVD is over-subbed, so one winds up constantly reading, rather than feasting on images.
Hopefully, this gets remastered one day.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Parker - 2013 - 6/10

Two caper heists bookend Parker, who is a professional thief, hitman. career criminal.
After a successful job, events turn murderous and Parker is left for dead.
Donald Westlake’s character is hard to kill, though (see Payback, Point Blank, et al).
Modern version, set in sleek Palm Beach, targets an impossible prize.
Jason Statham alright as the taciturn Parker, absurd as a Texan. J Lo fine as uneasy accomplice.
He is ingenious, resourceful, capable of involving others, yet he is no an invincible machine.
Hollywood product. Well paced, tight, and fairly faithful to the character.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Black Hair - 1964 - 5/10
AKA - Geomeun Meori // 검은 머리

The gang boss’s wife had been raped.
Per rules, the men disfigure her face, force the leader to throw her out.
To survive, she becomes a hooker.
That is early on, in a sordid backstory.
The look is dark and bleak, and could pass for a Nikkatsu yakuza tale.

Unfortunately, the narrative is a maudlin affair.
The separated couple live with regret and barely function.
Meanwhile, the thugs want change, but they are indecisive.
Japan filmmakers would have had a field day with this story.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

We Are What We Are - 2013 - 5/10

Marketed as a horror film, though it really isn’t (unless you are a vegan).
Reclusive family, living in a tiny Catskill community, fasts during the weekend.
They are waiting for Lambs Day, a celebration of their own, peculiar religion.
Constant rains and flooding make everything difficult, and early on, the mother, clearly ill, drops dead in a ditch.
Nevertheless, the two daughters have to carry on with tradition.
Dark, dreary mood piece, lacking gushers for gorehounds.
Barely recognizable Kelly McGillis, Cruise’s hot babe in Top Gun, plays trailer park neighbor.
Viewers of a certain age will recognize Michael Parks as suspicious village doctor.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Edo Porn - 1981 - 6/10
AKA - Hokusai Manga // 北斎漫画

Stylized history of woodblock artist Hokusai will interest some, bore more.
He is a failure and wannabe Utamaro copyist until he discovers his muse in a young prostitute.

Even then, he cannot render her and he departs to walk the countryside.
This results in his masterpiece series, 36 views of Mount Fuji.
For hentai enthusiasts, Hokusai’s lascivious shunga of the congress of
human female and octopus is shown in a highly suggestive drawing session.

Despite that, the movie overall is ponderously slow, the final section numbingly so.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

It Was A Wonderful Life - 1992 - 6/10

Documentary profiling six women in Los Angeles, homeless.
How they are living / surviving. Where to find food, showers.
Sleeping at night, most in their cars. Hassles with “the system” that would rather move them along.
Who had they been before, and how did they fall? How did they lose everything?
Doc goes into that, too. The women are painfully honest, a few try to stay optimistic.
After all, this is America. Sunny California, no less.
As someone who lived out of his car for a month, however, I know firsthand how quickly your life can unravel.
Film leaves a sour taste. Not toward the participants, but producers. Those who profited, but did not assist.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Strangers From Hell - 2019 - 7/10
AKA - Hell Is Other People // Taineun Jiokida // 타인은 지옥이다

“At what point did everything go wrong?
“If I hadn’t come to this horrible place …”

Jong Woo moves from Buson to Seoul.
Everything is terribly expensive: meals, repairs, taxis, accommodations.
Especially accommodations.
Eventually he moves far out, to a run-down place called Eden Studio.
Empty, save for a gregarious manager, and a group of disreputable types.
Except … it’s worse, far worse.
Warning!! Subplot involves a serial cat killer.

This will especially resonate with anyone who has / had the ghastly apartment.
Cramped rooms, little to no maintenance, intrusive, creepy neighbors.
The home environment mirrors / bleeds into the workplace.
Yes, this takes a toll. Jong Woo grows angrier, stymied, and resentment simmers.
How much does the environment poison you? How much is innate?

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Eric Clapton: A Life In Twelve Bars - 2015 - 6/10

Hit n miss biography of Slowhand, the first half being the best.
Clapton’s childhood, the stability of life with his grandmother, jeopardized whenever his wayward mother arrives.
The latter seems a particularly poisonous and enduring influence.
In short order, Roosters, Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith.
(Delaney and Bonnie forgotten in the narrative jump to Derek And The Dominoes.)
Alcohol abuse and a string of albums, crap, mediocre, now and then decent.
By and large, chart pop hits of the 70’s and 80’s - and he enjoyed many - went unmentioned.
Also unmentioned were many other, widely covered, abuses. Alcohol is covered.
Again, the first half is enthralling. Once key omissions begin, the sugar coat thickens.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Innkeepers - 2011 - 5/10

Last days of famed New England inn/hotel.
Only a few rooms are rented, and a two person skeleton staff tag-team seven hour shifts.
Employees also spend free time searching for the famous ghost, said to haunt the premises.
I watched the female desk clerk huff her inhaler twice in fifteen minutes. Straight off I figure, “you in trouble, girlfriend.”
Barely recognizable Kelly McGillis (above), Cruise’s hot babe in Top Gun, plays late arriving, ex-actress, now occult dabbler.
Competent low budget production, though predictable and slow paced.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Devil Strikes At Night - 1957 - 7/10
AKA - Nachts, Wenn Der Teufel Kam

1944, German is pressed by the Soviet military on the east, Allied bombers from the skies.
To complicate matters, a serial killer is increasing his murder frequency.
Local police, overwhelmed, receive unasked for assistance. The SS.
Dark, cynical, spoilt film still leaves a rotten taste.
Dwindling survivors work the black market, while corrupt officials shrug, drink, try to maintain the thousand year Reich.
Gallows humor clashes with bureaucratic tape in this bleak doppelganger of the police procedural.