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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Ipcress File - 2022 - 7/10

“He’s not Michael Caine,” said my wife.
“That was over 50 years ago,” I said, “and most won’t watch that nowadays because they won’t watch black n white.”
Six episode miniseries reboots Harry Palmer into the thick of Cold War espionage.
Here, Palmer is recruited out of prison.
Extremely intelligent, cheeky, yet not of the right class, so Palmer’s horizon is truncated.
After a scientist (nuclear weapons sort) is kidnapped the Ministry of Defence turns the matter over to a shadowy government agency, who offers Palmer a prison release and a possible future.
Dialogue is barbed wire sharp as adversaries UK, Soviet, USA, kidnappers circle and undermine each other.
Fans of spy thrillers, no it ain’t Michael Caine, but this is very good.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Prima Facia - 2022 - 7/10

Tessa is on top of the world, top of her game.
A defence barrister, she is young and accepts what is offered.
In most instances, the scummy, sleazy, unpleasant ones.
High among those, sexual abusers.
As with all lawyers, winning is paramount.
Guilt vs innocence? Please. Work the fabric of the law.
And Tessa is good. Her predators walk free.
Midway, tables turned, she finds herself on the other side of winner-take-all jurisprudence.
Jodie Comer is tour de force in this provocative, if weakly thought out drama.
The artifice of the “turn” in the play is evident and sloppy.
The average law school graduate takes the bar at 27. Tessa has been with the firm a few years.
Her errors, judgment and physical, are those of an 18 year old.
Exceptional acting, careless thought-out rationale.
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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Impact - 1949 - 6/10

Tycoon plans business trip with his wife, whom he adores.
She catches a headache, gets hubby to take her “cousin” (spelled l-o-v-e-r) instead.
Wife and boyfriend intend sending hubby to the Reaper, except when the plan goes wrong it goes terribly wrong.
From that point, until the last couple minutes, the narrative curves and haripins in often unusual directions.
Sometimes it is predictable, other turns come straight outta nowhere.
Solid Noir-ish mystery with good San Francisco locations and period creampuff cars.

Charles Coburn steals every scene he’s in as sharp Irish detective.
For old school buffs, Silent actress Mae Marsh has a key role during the idyllic sequence.
Anna May Wong, in one of her final roles, is likewise given a pivotal character.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Enola Holmes 2 - 2022 - 7/10

No, this is not canon, but a sequel to the 2020 film.
This outing, Enola launches her own detective agency, landing a client searching for a lost sister.
The trail leads to the match factory and the music hall.
Meanwhile, her famous older brother investigates a massive money fraud.
As before, handsome production values and a fine score.
The plot is clever, well written and a solid mystery.
Familiarity with the first film unnecessary, though it will help.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Viva Erotica - 1996 - 6/10
AKA - Sik ching nam lui // 色情男女

Writer / director Sing is weathering a couple of film duds.
His latest script is … well … a little arty.
Nevertheless, he gets a financial backer in a Triad boss, who promises the lead role to his porn actress girlfriend who no longer wants to bare her assets but wants to be an actress.
The shoot, the walkouts, the compromises, artistic integrity. Kiss ’em goodbye, sunshine.
Sly comedy will hit the mark with a select audience: Hong Kong cineastes.
Cameo by Anthony Wong, in-jokes about Kar-Wai Wong, the missed free kick, and chaos swirling around poor Leslie Cheung in this How-to-make-a-Cat III flick and not commit suicide (yeah, that happens, too in an unexpected scene).

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

And Then There Were None - 2016 - 7/10

Three part adaptation of the Agatha Christie chestnut.
Ten souls, hired or invited, soon find themselves stranded on an isolated island.
One by one, they succumb to the Grim Reaper.
Just when you think you know who’s tugging the strings, they’re dead.
Top notch production values, choice casting, and a spectacular setting.
Most will already have seen one version of this or “Ten Little Indians,” but this is quite handsome and faithful.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Flame - 1947 - 6/10

The rich man is given a few months to live.
He’s built a financial empire, never married, plays gloomy organ music in his Gothic manor.
And yet, late in the game, love touches him. He proposes to his attractive blonde nurse.
Not knowing she is running a scam with his ne’er do well brother.

Well shot film is loaded with twists and double crosses.
Good Republic cast (even Vera Ralston is OK).
“… If your love means all the world to you, and you lose her, then you have lost the whole world.”
Slithering, duplicitous, blackmail potboiler.
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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Murders In Marie-Galante - 2021 - 5/10
AKA - Meurtres à Marie-Galante

The corpse is found near Punch Pond, drowned.
A freshwater pond, the body is filled with seawater.
Our local inspector grudging accepts unasked for help from a visiting cop.
While the setting is now Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean, the formula abides.
Our female lead suffers terrible, outdated fashion sense.

That sort of cap lasted about 2 weeks in the early 1970’s.
Females swiftly burned it after seeing how horsey it made their face appear.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

She Does Not Drink, Smoke Or Flirt But … She Talks! - 1970 - 6/10
AKA - Elle Boit Pas, Elle Fume Pas, Elle Drague Pas, Nais … Elle Cause!

Early 70’s French comedy of sex, murder and blackmail.
Part time maid works three separate households.
From each, she unearths dodgy scandals.
Bitter secrets each would pay huge to keep concealed.
Human nature being what it is, fools will always leave themselves open to treachery.

The maid’s hand is terrific, yet she avoids the obvious ploy.
There is copious nudity (one of the characters constantly undresses women mentally).
Dated, but in a good way. Fashion, hairstyles, attitudes’. Frothy fun.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Black Wedding - 2021 - 7/10
AKA - Crna Svadba

Supernatural mystery starts off with a bang.
Mass murder in a small village that draws in the police, both official and secret.
The story downshifts into slow boil, delving into Vlach curses, spells, beliefs.
On the fringe, keeping a wary eye, the Orthodox Church hierarchy.
And yes, priests have a role, as an ancient foe is gathering strength.
When society becomes cynical, when faith is lost, the community lies exposed for evil.
Such is the underlaying theme,
Serbian series may be too slow for the impatient, yet this is rich in details and atmosphere.
This ends on an unresolved peak and S02 is currently filming.
There feels like there is enough narrative for a decent second season.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Play What I Wrote - 2021 - 7/10

Comedian duo Sean and Hamish are in a dry patch.
Sean has written a serious play, which he wants produced.
Hamish wants to accept the lucrative gig of doing a Morecambe and Wise tribute.
Hamish eventually persuades Sean that Ian McKellen will be in this show, as will Scarlett Johansson.
Fever paced farce gallops from the onset and seldom slows the pace.
A hectic blend of low brow, puns and music hall (vaudeville).
Performances always have a surprise guest star in the second act.
This one features Tom Hiddleston. The Broadway play I saw years ago had Alan Alda.
The play is very English, and most of the Morecambe and Wise references may elude outsiders.
Rather, enjoy this for what it is; hold tight and laugh along.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Shelter - 2014 - 6/10

Homeless man from Nigeria forms fragile relationship with heroin addict.
He recognizes a soul in crisis. She says she doesn’t need anyone.
Predictable, despite the bonus Q&A session with director Paul Bettany saying this is based on real life observations of a homeless pair outside his window.
Really? One far-fetched sequence had the couple encamp in a posh Manhattan apartment after the vacationing owners left a door unlocked (apparently no security system). Trusting New Yorkers.
The street living couple are rather clean, too. Clothes - hair.
Gradually, they share their backstories and that telegraphs how their ends will play out.
Gritty downer, yet their misfortunes are more in keeping with Lemony Snicket rather than Ken Loach.

What are you reading?

Various (Editor: Staley, Shane) - DarkFuse #1

First collection of the DF press’s novella series makes a good representation.
“She Sleeps In The Depths” by William Meikle is the most traditional story, harking back to the pre-gore era. A maddening song, an insistent earworm, drives Fallon north. Towards an answer? Or worse.
Michael Penka’s “Better Heard And Not Seen” is a late night riff on the ‘monster under the bed’ phobia. In this case, the monster in the closet.
“Jaws Of Life” by E. G. Smith should delight fans of rural depravities, those who felt that somehow the film Deliverance omitted too much.
Day-trippers, beware those Open To View showcase houses. Especially if they are in the middle of nowhere, and if there are no other fellow prospective buyers about. Even more so if the site is surrounded by ten foot razor wire fencing.
Gary McMahon’s “Netherview” sets up a solid horror thriller, only to quit mid-stride. Quit, full stop. I’m rolling my eyes at him and the editor for allowing this unfinished splop.
Winter, Montana, late night, deep snow, that’s where Clay saw it. That thing, the beast that carried away his wife from the wreckage. Not to be seen again.
Christopher Fulbright’s “Children Of The Horned God” is a rarity, a horror western. Fine sense of place, deft strokes to draw a handful of characters. And friend, the Western code abides – a lone man with a gun, thirsting for revenge. The ending is a mite fuzzy, yet it is an ending proper like.
Like I said, this is a solid introduction to DarkFuse, and a book that is ALWAYS findable at a fair price.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

God’s Angry Man - 1981 - 6/10
AKA - Glaube und Währung - Dr. Gene Scott, Fernsehprediger

How angry? Pretty darn mad if those donations start to dwindle.
Early Werner Herzog documentary profiles Dr. Gene Scott.
One feels Herzog filmed this for European audiences, trying to explain US televangelists.
Chances are, Scott gave him access, whereas contemporaries such as Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, the Bakkers, or Jerry Falwell would not.
This makes an interesting curio, catching Scott before his larger reach in the 1990’s.
His show was a constant stop during late night channel surfing.
An extremely intelligent man, if he was preaching or giving lessons, I would invariably listen for a bit.
If he was asking for money, I would continue changing channels until I found an old movie.
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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

House Of Terrors - 1965 - 6/10
AKA - Kaidan Semushi Otoko / 怪談せむし男

After Yoshi’s husband dies – insane – in her father-in-law’s medical clinic, Yoshi learns he had a rural mansion.
Complete with taciturn hunchbacked servant, and a creepy aura.
The grieving widow arrives, followed by her father-in-law who puts the moves on her, a doctor, a niece, and still more visitors. Why so many? Because this is a one way house. Hungry.
Stunningly shot in a high Gothic style. Deep shadows, odd angles, amidst a swirling, chilling sound mix.
Acting borders on melodrama, which mars this, and the directing is ofttimes over the top.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Thick Of It: S01 - 2005 - 6/10

Political satire, probably copied numerous times.
Career bureaucrats and politicians, witless about their duties spend 30 minutes shirking responsibility, finger pointing, switching positions, pushing others under the bus.
Venom laced in every line.
Savagely funny, though not for all tastes (not mine, I confess) and probably uncomfortably close to real situations.
First season has only three episodes.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Kleo - 2022 - 6/10

Mid 1980’s, Stasi assassin Kleo glides from East Berlin to West, snuffing enemies.
With her last one, a mishap occurs and she is sentenced to prison.
Jump a few years, the Berlin Wall collapses and Kleo is released.
Why was she sentenced? Who set her up?
She starts murdering her way up the ladder.
For an espionage thriller, this Is laced with black comedy.
Unlike so many series, the mid-section is strong.
The “conclusion” is a Netflix ending. The show was clearly tying loose ends, when gorks chose to milk for S02.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Jennifer’s Body - 2009 - 6/10

Best high school friends Jennifer and Needy attend the bar concert which goes up in flames.
Jennifer hops the van with band, Low Shoulder, and returns later with ravenous appetites.
Teen horror flick is well cast (despite leads appearing too old), witty dialogue, crackling pace.
For all that, it misses the mark. There is no sizzle.
Adult situations and gore are dialed back, and the result resembles a bland television episode.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Effie Gray - 2014 - 6/10

Period biography of Euphemia Chalmers Ruskin (and later, Millais)
Follows her marriage to critic/writer John Ruskin, their marital “problems,” Venice sojourn, Scottish trip.
An understanding of the Victorian era, perhaps the Pre-Raphaelite movement, or Ruskin’s works may be necessary.
The film highlights Ruskin’s oppressive home - rather his parents’ home (first cousins, not mentioned) and how over-protective parents still were of their 29 year old little boy.
Film looks quite good for what was a modest budget, and boasts a fine cast.
color palette less restrained here, as opposed to many Victorian period films.
Pacing is a problem, though, as the story paddles sluggishly. Characters are unsympathetic and humorless, which also hurts.
Essentially a “woman’s film,” and Ruskin here remains somewhat of a cipher, especially his “actions.”
Script, as with real story, does not speculate, titillate, cast blame, or toss theories for the final arc.
I suspect casual viewers unfamiliar with PRB or Ruskin might fall asleep or switch off.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Vodník - 2019 - 7/10

The infant cries, and cries, and cries. Morning, afternoon, night. It will not shut up.
Family, relatives, neighbors, workmen, everyone has simply endured enough.
After the baby is murdered, grandma keels over with a heart attack, the accused baby’s mother is arrested and she hangs herself in jail that night. Case closed.
Until, 30 years later, an inspector reopens the case, saying, “A mother, any woman, would never kill an infant by cutting its head off with a circular saw. Only a man would do this.”
Three part Czech series delves into petty village squabbles, resentments, adulteries, lies, cover-ups.
Much is shot in a washed out, sultry summer haze. Handheld camera work adds to disorientation.
Horrid story, not for all tastes, though it will sink its hooks into you.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Murder In Biot - 2021 - 5/10
AKA - Crime à Biot

Pre-Christmas dinner at the popular bistro, friends gather and listen to Marie’s plans.
That is before one of her “friends” poisons her meal.
Afterward, the deputy prosecutor and inspector begin the rounds.
Adultery, indebtedness, rivalry, treachery. Behind smiling faces.
Covid mentioned once, then forgotten.
Scattered gender Woke speech muddles an already murky plot.
During one exchange with “they said” and “they disagreed” and “not them but they” I was completely lost and I imagine the actors were, as well.
Below par, close to Hallmark level.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

S.V.D.: Soyuz Velikogo Dela - 1927 - 6/10
AKA - The Club Of The Big Deed / СВД: Союз Bеликого Дела

The Decembrist Revolt of 1825, occurred in Russia after the Napoleonic Wars.
After Czar Alexander I died, eldest son Constantine declined the crown and his brother Nicholas accepted it.
There was brief fighting between regiments, the revolution was crushed, most survivors shipped to Siberia.
Oversimplified background.

This movie is a miniaturized version of the rebellion in one regiment.
The main character, however, is a cardsharp, seller of information and betrayer.
Rebels plan in back rooms, but the cad hears enough valuable information to sell.
One sequence takes place in a circus, which has little bearing, though it is interesting to see the strong-woman hoist an artillery cannon.
As Soviet films go, this is mild on the propaganda.
S V D is also a marvelous example of “flicker” as light dances throughout.
Howling midnight gales, hard shadows, cigarette smoke are expertly used for atmosphere.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Third Reich: Rise & Fall - 2010 - 4/10

Embarrassing, amateurish, so-called World War II documentary. Two parts: “Rise" - “Fall"
Purported to be told from the German point of view using letters, journals, and never before seen film footage.
The letters were from footsoldiers, citizens, ordinary souls. After almost every passage, however, the omniscient, voice of doom narrator rebukes or reinterprets. Editorializes.
Half of the found footage is compelling, though one grows suspicious of its authenticity.
The other half is of picnics, birthday parties, beach outings. Nothing related to the Third Reich or WWII.

There is a memorable howler in “Fall” at the onset of Operation Barbarossa.
(Barbarossa was not mentioned, by the way. Nor were any battles, operations, generals, politicians, Krupps, the SA, Gestapo … Next to zero pesky historical details are in this program).
Anyway, the Wehrmacht prepares to invade.
Footage cross-cuts between cannon fire, growling Panzers, dive-bombing Stukas … and …
an adorable kitten playing on a ladder. That’s correct, a genuine WWII kitty.
What the F?

Throughout, the video work of this “documentary” is inept.
The editor could not resist inserting old timey and damaged effects.
Sprocket holes, scratches, surface debris. Transitions are jam-packed with those.
Editor seems like a 6th grade kid with an effects kit.
Makes one wonder how much of the actual footage was tampered with.
Like colorized? Or using stock from another era and aging it?
Once tampering begins, doubts about authenticity, accuracy and integrity creep in.
Very disappointing. Think “Third Reich For Dummies” only shallower and less focused.