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McCammon, Robert - A Little Amber Book Of Wicked Shots

Fellow intoxicants, line up your shot glasses.
A trio of stories, each prefaced with one of the author’s fave cocktail recipes.
In “Little Green Gown,” a traveling salesman checks into a swank Birmingham hotel.
New line of shirts and a new territory to start making commission.
In the lobby he sees a young girl. That’s how he likes ’em. Young. Real young.
The longest story, probably a novelette, takes place in Gotham.
“Message From The Overmind” trails the retired hockey enforcer, something of a legend.
Style is hard boiled, focusing on men who deal with pain stoically.
I enjoyed this most of the way, until everything went into fantasy island, then it lost me.
The final bit, “DST, Inc.” sells office politics, career revenge.
And hey, payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Amer - 2009 - 5/10

Baffling, experimental arthouse mystery / coming-of-age / murder / whatever.
Young girl wanders the house of her deceased grandfather, while her mother carries on with a male (husband, brother, gardener), and while a mysterious female is locked in an adjoining room.
Minimal dialogue as we explore through the child’s eyes. Perhaps.

In the middle section, she is preteen jailbait for numerous leather clad men.
Finally, she is pursued by an assailant wearing black gloves and mask, carrying a knife.
That has given this a Giallo tag, but this is not remotely part of that genre.
Arresting visuals notwithstanding, this is self-absorbed, almost pretentious.
I watched, indifferent, bored, mildly curious about what the director would hurl on the screen next.
If you have something better lined up, head there first.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon - 2019 - 6/10

A young alien crash lands in the woods adjoining the pasture.
Exploring, the friendly, and hungry, visitor makes friends with Shaun.
Did someone say, “That sounds like E.T.?”
For almost half the film, the story mirrors the original quite a lot.
There are also nods to Close Encounters, 2001, and several more.
Not saying this is dumbed down, but it does seem aimed at children more than earlier works.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Animals - 2019 - 6/10

Laura and Tyler stagger out of the club. Or stagger into another.
We’re talking serious party girls here. Ten unleashed years of delirium.
Now, as they edge into their 30’s, one of them seems to be shifting her outlook; the other raves on.
One wonders if she should “do something” with her life.
A pair of men enter. A pianist and a poet. The encounters further expand the perspectives.
Atypical female-friend drama, does not follow expected routes and is refreshing for that.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Prowler - 1951 - 6/10

Outside the window, the prowler frightens a female wearing only a towel.
Two cops arrive. The junior one eyes the spacious house, expensive furniture, and the soft curves.
The cop, Webb, wants a taste. All of it. Including that sweet cake, left lonely.
And she could be had, too. Her husband neglects her, she simmers underneath, and she’s weak.
“Don’t. Stop. We can’t,” she moans, nights later, as her arm tightens around Webb’s neck, pulling him into the folds.
Nasty, cynical Noir is powered by Van Heflin’s riveting performance.
He’s bitter, manipulative, terrified, resentful, murderous.
His facial expressions dance, instant by instant.
Struggle, scheme, play your hand. For what, eightball? Do you still feel lucky?

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Una Farfalla Con le Ali Insanguinate - 1971 - 6/10
AKA - Bloodstained Butterfly

While two children play hide n seek, the young woman, stabbed repeatedly, tumbles down the hill.
Police arrive and begin gathering clues about her murder.
A suspect was observed, recognized. There is evidence.
In court, the case is all but open and shut.
Except, the accused has a well prepared, calculating attorney.
Though under the Giallo umbrella, this lacks the garish colors, high style, and general overload.
The first half is police procedural and courthouse drama.
Moreover, the narrative makes sense.
Excellent thriller / mystery with, to me, a dash of Giallo.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Salón México - 1949 - 6/10

Mercedes works to exhaustion, denying herself, keeping her young sister in an exclusive school.
Her ambitions for her straight A sister? To be a doctor. For herself, not so much.
Mercedes hustles at the Salon Mexico, a bustling cantina filled with the gamut of turistas and lowlifes.
She competes in dances, is a companion, and - unspoken - a B-girl.
Parts of this are wonderful. There’s a bit of crime business that’s well shot and exciting to watch.
The interior of Salon Mexico hails from when Mexico meant exotic. South Of The Border.
It’s smoky, steamy, sweaty, sexy. The floor pulses with life.
The other side of the story is Mercedes’ guilt, and the innocent purity of her sister.
This aspect is corny melodrama. The suffering, the anguish.
Photography is imaginative and evocative throughout.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Jan de Lichte - 2019 - 6/10
AKA - Thieves Of The Wood // The Flemish Bandits

Retelling of 18th century highwayman and his gang of desperadoes.
Jan deserts from the War of the Austrian Succession, returns to find a blighted home.
The mayor and cronies are banning as many lower orders as they can,
Outside the city walls, the only jobs are brutal toil for a pittance or petty thievery.
Jan helps them take their thievery to a higher level.
Actually, though, there are few capers. There are settings in officialdom, in brothels, in gambling dens, in the gypsy camp, and the outlaw camps.
Talking, maneuvering here and there, but damn little action.
Overlong by about four episodes.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors - 2013 - 6/10

(More accurate title might be “Eastern Europe’s…)
Three part documentary gives a skimming survey of 600 years of rule, and 100 years afterward.
Ambitions, strategies, implementation of power are detailed, as well as dealing with problems.
Some problems, caused by the Turks, caused by the West, would fester for centuries, boiling over in our era.
The major historical players are checked, but really, 20 minutes is not enough for Atatürk, and certainly not for Suleiman The Magnificent.
Rageh Omaar is a quiet, self-effacing presenter (unlike other hosts who feel their face is the essential ingredient and want it onscreen continuously).
At three hours, this makes a lightly informative series.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Faneditors, take note

Women Without Men - 1956 - 5/10

British “women in prison” film. Slow, snooze inducing, with the slimmest of plots.
In this Hammer Noir, female agrees to reunite with her new boyfriend New Years Eve.
Unfortunately, when she tries to break up with her current “handler” he smacks her around.
She bashes him with a hand mirror and gets tossed in the slammer.
The warden is stern but fair, the guards no-nonsense but approachable, the inmates a happy family.
You got it - fantasy prison.
For various reasons, three convicts escape (including our heroine, who just has to keep that New Years Eve rendezvous).
Brief movie plods along. I watched it because it was Beverly Michaels last movie.

Except …

Blonde Bait - 1956 - 5/10

… Except the American distributor shot additional scenes, edited the plot, and fashioned a new storyline.
US nightclub singer performing in London is dating a man who is a traitor, smuggler, and killer.
She doesn’t know and agrees to marry him on New Years Eve after he takes care of “business."
When she tries to break the news to her manager, he roughs her up, she grabs that hand mirror, and -
She’s in the big house.
US State Dept want her out so they can nab her no-good, villainous man (Jim Davis, scion of TV’s Dallas).
The new scenes are edited in rather awkwardly, but this succeeds as a new film and, to my mind, slightly better.
Bev Michael’s hair is mousy in the Brit version, back to glossy blonde in the US release.
Neither film is all that hot.

Nevertheless, this was Beverly Michaels’ (great hard blonde) last film appearance. Damn.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Kfulim: S01 - 2015 - 7/10
AKA - False Flag // כפולים

When an important Iranian diplomat is kidnapped, five ordinary Israeli citizens are accused.
Security cameras capture them, disguised, but they were unearthed because of passport activity.
They claim innocence, but soon even friends and family cast a suspicious eye.
Who could forge your passport? What agency has the capabilities? And why?
Wicked series of intrigue, espionage and murder, with constant dark turns and reveals.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Taxi - 2015 - 7/10
AKA - Taxi Tehran / تاکس

Director Jafar Panahi, still officially banned by Iranian censors, wheels the taxicab.
He also installs several cameras which catch what passengers have to say.
One hears confessions, odd beliefs in death, concerns about retribution.
Then there are those who recognize the director and ask for film recommendations.
When niece Hana shows, it’s like a whirlwind.
Proceedings are eye opening, often laugh out loud funny.
Difficult to tell what is impromptu, and what might be staged. He is on probation remember.
Films cannot depict “sordid realism.”
Wonderful guerrilla cinema!

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Last Breath - 2019 - 6/10

Doc about deep sea diver, Chris Lemons, working in the North Sea.
He inspects and maintains undersea oil wells, attached to a diving bell via lengthy umbilical.
Events go disastrous (of course, otherwise there would be no doc).
The umbilical is severed, Chris is stuck on the freezing cold, black bottom, his air dwindling.
Interviews and a lot of amazing footage.
Not a monumental documentary, though worthwhile, and hopeful for those who believe in luck or Grace.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

A.I. Rising - 2018 - 6/10

SciFi from Serbia opens in 2148, and reveals the entire Earth is now exploited by Capitalists!
As Socialism tries to rebalance society, mega corporations expand space colonization.
Cosmonaut Milutin, assigned to a mission to Alpha Centauri, is ordered to take a crew mate.
Female. Actually, a female android. Curvacious machine with a processor.

Although cover art resembles a knockoff sequel to 2014’s Ex Machina, not so fast.
Our pilot very quickly programs his attractive second into “intimate” mode, not grasping that she / it records everything to her hard drive and reports to Corporate. This undercurrent of constant surveillance darkens the vibe.
Porn star Stoya plays the android.
Devotees of Lifeforce should brace for even more gratuitous nudity, also considerable bouts of soft core rompings. Sadly, none of the co-minglings occur in zero gravity. Missed opportunity for us amateurs to behold the fiendishly difficult flying wheelbarrow position.
Low budget film, but hides that well. More plot than one might expect, as well as anti-capitalistic stance.

Many scenes seem to loop, or progress slowly. Has a stylish 50’s SciFi look and soundscape.
Better than I expected, closer to 2013’s The Machine. Not for kids or prudes, however.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Catching Milat - 2015 - 7/10

Engrossing two-part series on Ivan Milat, considered the worst serial-killer in Australia’s history.
Milat preyed on young hitch-hikers, particularly foreign visitors.
Series is more about police dragnet trying to find and arrest the Balanglo Forest killer.
Tense nail-biter with several grisly scenes.
Malcolm Kennard gives nightmares with razor keen performance.
Definitely worth seeing if you have ever hitch-hiked or if thumbing a ride is in your vacation plans.
Parents of hitch-hikers - no no no.

Mick (Wolf Creek) Taylor fans, here is the template.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Gumshoe - 1971 - 6/10

Nightclub emcee, comedian, also fancies himself a private detective.
At least that’s what his classified advert proclaims.
And that nets a client, a healthy retainer fee, .38 Smith & Wesson, and a photograph of the target.
Followed by a dizzying assortment of operators, sharp dolls, side stories, and lurching mystery.
Tone is part satire, part dead serious. Dialogue, especially banter, is brisk, peppered with zingers.
Maddening Lloyd Webber soundtrack, where each cue sounds – almost – like random classic Noirs.
The mystery itself is very confusing, likely by design, and one of the rival gumshoes is a ringer for Dashiell Hammett.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Frantz - 2016 - 7/10

Post World War I story of French veteran tracking down the family of killed German soldier.
Though his reasons are unclear to the grieving family, viewers will recognize this familiar tale.
His guilt is unbearable, leaving parents and fiancée to assume the men were pre-War friends.
François Ozon film is about deception and false assumptions, however.
Acting is tightrope throughout, with several emotionally taut performances.
Viewers who know their history will appreciate this more, as well as the secondary stories.
One tip: Carnage was profound, a generation of males were slaughtered, leaving a man shortage.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

L’empire des Loups - 2005 - 6/10
AKA - Empire Of The Wolves

Forget the plot, dismiss the young stud, overlook the amnesia hottie.
This is Jean Reno’s film and he kicks ass throughout!

Three young girls have been murdered and mutilated in the Turkish quarter of Paris.
The young inspector is stymied, and is advised to reach out to a disgraced ex-cop.
Schiffer, known in the force as Mr Shifty.
To the illegal Turk underworld, he is The Shaft. Interrogation of terrified contacts is brutal.
Meanwhile, there is a girl with amnesia, pursued by cops, doctors, and the Gray Wolves (Turkish assassins).
Loud music foreshadows action, galloping mindless plot, characters with the personalities of biscuits.
French film, apparently influenced by Michael Bay.
Wowza on a big scale, if you can follow along.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Don’t Drink The Water - 1994 - 6/10

Fairly obscure Woody Allen film, based on his Broadway hit of 1966.
The first film version, in 1969, starred Jackie Gleason and was a commercial and critical flop.
Allen remade this after ABC approached him to make a TV movie.
So …
American tourists accidentally take photo of official / secret Eastern bloc building.
Declaring them spies, police and officials pursue the family who take refuge in the US embassy.
What ensues is almost nonstop, forced comedy. Situations, one-liners, farce.
90% of the film seems to take place on one or two sets, very stagebound.
The Cold War premise is mummified, rendered moot following Glasnost in 1986.
Only recommended to hardcore Allen fans.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Scotty And The Secret History Of Hollywood - 2017 - 6/10

Two years earlier, I was mildly interested in Scotty Bowers’ book, “Full Service.”
Bit of a kiss n tell of closeted Hollywood, circa 40’s - 50’s.
Bowers was a procurer, primarily of willing young male hustlers for studio gays.
The man makes a lot of claims, and many, if not all, of his subjects are now deceased.
Some of his memories sounds accurate, others misremembered or fabricated.
Personal taste. I found him likeable, then gradually I found him sleazy.
For folks who slow down to gaze at traffic accidents, this ain’t “Hollywood Babylon.”
Oh, and Bowers’ book holds no interest for me now.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Revenge - 2017 - 6/10

Better than expected tale of vengeance, bloodily delivered.
Wealthy alpha male takes his peachy skinned bang bunny to forsaken hunting lodge.
Other hunting males arrive and sexual tensions arrive.
The soon-inconvenient female is slain … or so they thought … great hunters.
Story shifts into “Most Dangerous Game” territory, though viewers MUST suspend disbelief.
One: the girl’s death? 1000 people out of 1000 would have died.
Two: from the blood trails, every human has 50 gallons of serum in their veins.
Still, great - great homage to 80’s revenge / slasher flicks.
The cinematographer is brilliant, far better than expected in films like this.
A few denouements are lame, many more are laugh out loud wonderful. Irresistible synth score.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Seventeen Moments Of Spring - 1973 - 8/10
AKA - Семнадцать Mгновений Bесны

Engrossing espionage par excellence.
No explosions, limited gunplay, no car chases.
Nuts n bolts, nerve wracking intelligence gathering.
Max Otto von Stierlitz, a high operative in the SD, has actually been a Soviet plant since 1933.
Now 1945, the second world war is nearing an end and Moscow has given him an important mission.
Determine if someone in German high command is trying to make a separate peace with Western powers.
Find out who that individual is. Then thwart any separate peace plans.
Candidates include Göering, Goebbels, Bormann, Himmler.
Other Reich agencies, jockeying for power and spying on each other, include the SS, the Gestapo.
In short, Stierlitz maneuvers within a thicket of knives.
The pace is slow, but the intensity seldom flags as Stierlitz must protect sources, recruit allies, liquidate loose ends, and explain himself over and over to operational chiefs.
Based on the actual negotiations, Operation Sunrise Crossword, this series was a favorite of Leonid Brezhnev.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Les Châteaux de Sable - 2015 - 7/10
AKA - Sand Castles

After Eléonore’s father dies, she inherits his home in Brittany, which she decides to sell for the money.
She does not drive, so she asks ex-boyfriend Samuel to take her, and help her over the weekend.
Samuel’s current girlfriend says she is OK with that arrangement, she trusts him.
Seasoned cinema watchers will recognize the plot of unresolved emotions.
And yet, this film is quite interesting.
Voiceover narrative weaves throughout, expressing character’s histories and inner thoughts.
A third character is the real estate agent, more complex than her bubbling energy.
Then there is Eléonore’s father, whom we see in flashbacks and in her own ghostly conversations.
Add a small parade of potential home buyers, good and bad, and the sum of parts add up to a excellent French drama.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Death Of A Scoundrel - 1956 - 7/10

George Sanders memorable as smooth talking con-man, cad, swindler.
Penniless Czech refugee arrives in US (after betraying his brother to authorities).
Using doubletalk and eavesdropping on secrets, he marshals information into modest wealth.
Then he fortune hunts widows and unhappy wives.
Lovely rags to riches fable, marvelously upended by Sanders’ unrepentant heel.
Cynical film also has Sanders’ brother (Tom Conway) and ex-wife #2, Zsa Zsa.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

An Outlaw - 1964 - 6/10
AKA - Narazumono / な ら ず 者

Japanese hitman offs mob boss in Hong Kong streets.
Returns to hotel room for payment, finds a nude girl in his bed. Dead.
The mob boss turns out to be a government official, the dead girl the official’s daughter.
Outside his window, the hitman sees police arrive and realize he’s been set up.
He escapes, but gets mistaken for a player in a drug smuggling operation.
He hides, in what turns out to be a brothel, and gets embroiled with sex traffickers.
This is the first five - ten minutes of a frantic, often confusing, movie.
Vintage postcard as scenes shift from Hong Kong to Yokohama to Macao. Cool bluesy jazz score.
Violent yarn of betrayal and honor, though motives and participants baffling.
Bond fans, look for Tetsurô Tanba as cardsharp.