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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Burning Man - 2011 - 6/10

Hotshot Australian chef comes to terms with grief via alcohol and hookers.
His son needs attention, the restaurant is struggling, and his driving proves a menace to pedestrians.
Lots of flashbacks of his happy marriage, and the golden moment he had.
Viewer Beware: Burning Man, was deliberately chopped, edited and rearranged in random sequence. Especially at the beginning, the narrative can be challenging.
An abundance of nudity may distract you.
Not without rewards, but the total experience can be a messy one.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

White Of The Eye - 1987 - 6/10

In Phoenix and Tucson, a serial killer targets beautiful, classy women.

He wrecks their homes, yet artfully arranges objects into … what? Message or madness?
So why are homicide detectives in small town Globe? Chasing tire tracks, friend.
While far from a masterpiece, this is an arresting film.
There are touches of Giallo throughout, but the desert predominates.
This appears to be high desert in winter, which might explain the jackets and coats.
The story wanders around, capturing the boredom of cozy communities, where the main outlets are drinking and screwing around.
Odd directorial choices, narrative turns, and several flashbacks kept me watching, though the finale stumbles.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Last Night - 2010 - 7/10

At the New York office shindig, a young wife’s (Keira Knightley) radar is triggered by her husband’s new coworker.
Her husband has been working late with the woman, and going on several out-of-town trips.
Nevertheless, he swears he has zero interest in his steamy colleague (Eva Mendes).
That’s just before he takes off for another trip to Los Angeles … with his coworker.
Just after he departs, an old flame of the wife knocks at her door.
From there on, the narrative weaves between the spouses.
Temptations, infidelity, and possible regret fill the storylines, and dialogue is peppered with innuendo.
A very adult, and cityscape drama.
As a long time urbanite, I could identify all the characters, though I could not identify with them. Difference.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Woman In The Fifth - 2011 - 5/10
AKA - La Femme du Vème

A throwback to the incomprehensible arthouse fare of the 70’s.
Writer Ethan Hawke moves to Paris to be closer to his daughter.
Had he been in prison? A mental institute?
He is penniless, yet lands a job watching monitors for a gangster? Drug peddler? Accountant?
Meets a potential literary muse in Kristin Scott Thomas. Is she … or maybe … but then … say wha … ?
The old phrase, “That’s why they call 'em furreign films,” definitely applies here.
A confused jumble.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Holocaust Concentration Camp - 2006 - 5/10

Middling four part documentary series suffers from subpar production values.
Episodes have no music, relying on photos, film clips, testimonies, and narration.
Auschwitz has been better covered in Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution.
I had been looking forward to Majdanek as this camp was still functioning when the Soviets liberated it.
Mostly testimony, dry as dust.
Dachau and Sachsenhausen had color footage and offered background - but - parts were lazy.
Example: The narrator describes the SS starting the camp, yet newsreels are of the SA.
Himmler is referenced and shown, then in the next frame, still mentioning Himmler, Ernst Röhm is shown.
For the curious, I would recommend the chapter on Ravensbruck And Buchenwald.
The latter was a woman’s camp, and this episode translates what various badges meant, hierarchies, and reasons for incarceration.

So-called democracies would be well advised to study history.
Marginalization generally leads to persecution. Walls can easily become camps.

“Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people” - Heinrich Heine (1821)

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Woman In Black - 2012 - 5/10

Hammer film starring Daniel Radcliffe, based on the West End shocker that has been playing since … when … the Gladstone administration?
Twisted tale set in haunted house where our young clerk must shift several lots of papers.
He gets distracted constantly. Noises overhead, creaking down the hall, movement outside. So he stops working to start chasing. I hate working with people like that.
Every five minutes, the film had a gotcha surprise punctuated with REALLY LOUD music.
Film-makers have opened up the play considerably with brooding exteriors and wonderfully appointed interiors.
Fellow members of the room audience thought the sets too perfect.
Good for some jolts, but an overall disappointment for me.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Reeds - 2010 - 5/10

Three girls, three guys, rent a boat to celebrate an engagement and go drinking at an obscure pub somewhere in a reedy marsh.
Sounds like a plan.
Maybe next time they will head to the moors where the RAF practices strafing runs and bombing.
Points given for crafting a professional looking film on a rat’s lunch allowance.
Still, even though our crew hands were all in their late 20’s, this was another variant on the dead teenager plot.
Don’t expect originality with this one.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Danger Pays - 1962 - 6/10
AKA - Yabai Koto Nara Zeni ni Naru // 危いことなら銭になる

Mobsters hijack the truck carrying special paper for banknotes.
Next, they plan to kidnap the nation’s finest counterfeiter, returning from Hong Kong.
They are not alone, however, as three small time hustlers anticipate and interfere.
Violent crime drama quickly pivots into spoof territory, satirizing heists, Yakuza, master planners.
The kidnapped engraver, an elderly man, sets his workplace under the glass floor of a strip parlor, for example.
Much of this resembles guerilla cinema, filmed inside clubs, on busy streets, or empty industrial sites.
Comedy is more silly than smart, most of the characters border on stupid.
Jô Shishido fans will still feel compelled to watch this rather obscure and hard to find film.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Fleabag - 2019 - 7/10

Theatre junkies, queue up!
During the Covid lockdown, the National Theatre began limited airing of stage classics.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s acclaimed one-woman show of acerbic, self-punishing Fleabag.
By turns laugh out loud funny and stomach curdling.
A toxic soul, Fleabag leaves collateral damage everywhere.
Family, friends, neighbors, animals.
That last category was a breaking point for those I watched this with.
Malice, buffered with half hearted self recrimination. γνῶθι σεαυτόν

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Hysteria - 2011 - 6/10

Victorian costumer and inventor tale.
Some names are synonymous with their inventions.
The Earl Of Sandwich, Sir Thomas Crapper, Hans Geiger, Candido Jacuzzi, …
Not Mortimer Granville, however, who invented a device for treating female hysteria.
An electrical, vibrating device that relieved tension, and remains a wildly popular gadget to this day.
The gift that keeps on giving, and when given, will make you a whispered topic of discussion.
Not as over-the-top funny as it could have been, featuring secondary stories about suffragette rights, and the plight of the poor.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The House Of Shame - 1928 - 6/10

Over breakfast, the husband starts going over his wife’s clothing bills.
She pouts, he storms off to work.
At the office, hubby cooks the ledgers, pockets the cash. Embezzler!
Gets on the phone to sweet stuff and sets up a rendezvous. Only she’s not his wife. Cheater!
That night at the party, menfolk start shooting billiards to see who slips off with whose wife. Wife swapping!
When a uniformed cop appeared, hubster thinks he’s been caught, confesses his light fingered office antics to wifey, begs her to fix things with the boss.
“How dear?” - - “I know! How about, you let him lube your chassis?” Now, daddy is hosting pimp my ride!
At the office, the lecherous boss states, “I’m sure we can come to an arrangement, Mrs Baremore.”
Baremore! Really? Ha ha ha. I kid you not. Awesome!
End of Part 1.

El cheapo, trashy Silent boasts 6 Parts of melodrama, comedy, moralizing and sleaze.
Dirt track studio aspires with decent sets and lurid story that chugs along.
Later, one of my favorite scenes occurs where a gentleman hands his ladyfriend a bouquet.
She pulls out a rosebud, brushes it next to her cheek, then on her lips where she proceeds to kiss it, lick it, nibble it, then wrap her lips lightly around it. All the while, smiling innocently at her date.
Is she offering what I think she’s offering? How’d this get past the censor? Maybe they were clueless.
Tempted to score this 87/10 for sheer outrageousness, and being PreCode before the Code existed.
Nevertheless, this is an overcooked turkey, with no sound (no music) and the print is battered.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Dreams Of A Life - 2011 - 7/10

Documentary about a woman’s corpse, found in her London bedsit.
She had died three years earlier, Christmas presents around her, telly still running.
Three years. How could anyone be so forgotten?
Interviews with old friends and coworkers served to remind us by what slender threads we hang onto each other.

I had written dozens of stories about a previous workplace.
Almost everyone gave me permission to continue using their first names. Many were now successful, a few famous.
I couldn’t find one person, though. None of us could. It was as if she had vanished.
At a recent party, R said, “Some people don’t want to be found.”
While watching Dreams Of A Life, I remembered my old colleague, the one who slipped away.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Lucky Jo - 1964 - 6/10

Jo and his cohorts seem to be the worst criminals in France.
At the very least, they have the worst luck.
Following several incarcerations, three men do the unthinkable. Go straight.
Leaving Jo (Lemmy Constantine) a bit out of place, and not as young as he once was.
Then there’s the bank job, which the gendarmes assume must involve Mister Jo.
Fast moving, often amusing, film is hardly Noir. It’s too playful.
There are at least three lengthy fistfight, with each punch sounding like a someone striking a box.
Constantine appears too old to be an irresistible swain, as well.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Alphaville - 1965 - 7/10
AKA - Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution

Secret agent Lemmy Caution, from the Outland, arrives in the center of the galaxy, Alphaville.
His mission involves a previous agent, an Outland scientist, and the calculating Alpha 60.
Though science fiction, and using phrases like inter-galactic, the style is full Noir.
Agent Caution drives up in a Mustang, lights cigarettes with his Zippo, packs a gun, carries a pocket camera.
Men wear trench coats or lab coats. Females have numbers tattooed on their neck and most are classified as seductress third class.

Sets are crappy fleabags or sleek, “futuristic” 60’s offices. It is forever night.
Alpha 60, a computer that controls and rules Alphaville, would be HAL 9000‘s wet dream. (Surely Kubrick saw this film.)
If you enjoy poetry readings, boy, are you in for a treat!
Assassinations by swimming pool with synchronized swimmers - check.
If you appreciate extensive talky passages dealing with identity, conformity, ideas, conscience, this is for you!
Noir swerves headlong into Experimental Theatre. SciFi on a mouse allowance.
Biting satire of films detective - spy - thriller - scifi - romance. Surreal mix from Godard.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Apocalypse: Never-Ending War 1918-1926 - 2018 - 7/10

Rather hodgepodge documentary, though not without merit.
This follows the aftermath of World War I. How victors badly bungled the peace.
Countries and empires were portioned, laying the groundwork for future global conflicts.
The rise of fascism in nations is chronicled in the second installment, as well as the world’s scourge, nationalism.

After effects of the slaughter of a generation of men include millions of orphan children, and eligible females emigrating to Australia to try their chances there.
The Jazz Age seems a diversion, yet that was how isolationist America partied itself until collapse.

Two part doc is well colored throughout, and offers a wealth of additional side stories.
Excellent afterword to 1964’s The Great War.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Partners In Crime - 2015 - 5/10

Noisy, busy pooh-baloo follows feckless married couple as they tangle with conspirators.
A pair of three-part episodes, the first with kidnapping, the second espionage.
Agatha Christie’s duo, Tommy and Tuppence, bicker, whine, blunder throughout.
In short, I began to thoroughly dislike the characters as written, as directed.
They went from annoying to irritating to downright insufferable.
One wonders why the government employs such a pair of dunces.
Nice production values, 1950’s period clothes, this may appeal to fans of parlor mysteries.

Better, though with more limited set design, is the like named Partners In Crime from 1983.
Set in the breezy 20’s, the couple have chemistry, they are more nimble socially, and the scripts superior.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Air Doll - 2009 - 7/10
AKA - Kûki Ningyô // 空気人形

An inflatable toy (think unwanted male’s action toy) wakes up one morning and realizes she has developed consciousness.
She wanders the neighborhood, makes friends, finds a job at a video store.
Emotions begin to flower and she has trouble with those.
Moody, melancholy film about loneliness and emptiness.
Yet also about opening your heart to others, despite the inevitable pain.
Haunting, minimalist score.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Great War - 1964 - 9/10

Grandfather of war documentaries and one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
At a whopping 26 episodes, this is thorough, well researched, and fair minded.
In 1964 many veterans of World War I still survived and they spoke throughout.
Officer aides, footsoldiers, villagers. English, French, Germans, Austrians, Australians, Turks . . .
Minor shortcoming is that few of the interviewees are identified.
Mountains of newsreel footage, campaign maps and strategies. Surprise victories, bitter defeats.
Initial episodes are not even battle related, but background history and events leading up to conflict.

We are still in the 100 year anniversary of WWI; this documentary shows how easy it is to slip into wars, all flag waving and shouting, and how difficult it becomes to get out of them.
Resentments, alliances, race hatred. Realities true during Caesar’s and Napoleon’s era, resonate today.
Several years in, World War I becomes one of attrition, deprivation and endurance.
On both sides, on-leave soldiers grasp how civilians, far removed behind the lines, no longer care about the war nor the soldiers bleeding and dying in miserable trenches, who stand forgotten. Much as today.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Full Circle - 1977 - 6/10
AKA - The Haunting Of Julia

Ten years after Rosemary, Mia Farrow reprises another haunted mother.
After her daughter dies, she separates from her husband, moves into a large, fully furnished flat that may or may not be haunted, and starts “seeing” her daughter.
Based on the Peter Staub book, before he struck gold with “Ghost Story.”
In the movie, you don’t know why she separates from her husband, though in the book he is clearly overbearing, and perhaps more interested in her trust fund than her.
Implausible common Horror violations include:

  1. When the door is locked, then audibly unlocks - you DO NOT go inside.
  2. Never EVER descend into the basement when you are alone in an empty house.
    Farrow fine as grieving mother, everyone else appears bored.
A few reviews . . (film or TV)

That Cold Day In The Park - 1969 - 7/10

From her upstairs window, a woman spies young man on park bench, as rain begins.
She invites him inside to warm, offers a meal, takes his clothes to wash.
That last piece ought to have warned him. Keep an eye on your clothing. He is young, however.
While not a hustler, he knows a good setup when he sees one.
Unfortunately, he fails to grasp her degree of loneliness, the current world she feels trapped in.
Early Robert Altman film came right before the “big titles.”
Moody thriller, although those elements are tame by today’s norms. A dark atmosphere predominates.
Slow, stealthy spider and fly story, focuses on the patient cocooning of the prey.
Sandy Dennis occasionally breaks the fourth wall by staring directly into the camera.
Forcing viewers to look inside her in return, seeing a creepy soul whose tight screws begin to pop free.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Trip - 2010 - 6/10

I had been looking forward to this.
Faux road trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, spending a week driving from one hotel & gourmet restaurant to another.
Some food, of course, yet this was more a character study of a fading, almost-star and a regional player.
Throughout, both acted like prats in a pissing contest.
Depressing in a way, as viewers observe Coogan grasping that his youth, and his “moment” have passed.
Impressive impersonations of Sean Connery and Michael Caine.
Darkly ironic, since Coogan and Brydon are dwarfed by comparison.
Fill your boots, man!

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Enemy At The Gates - 2000 - 5/10

Lord, this shoulda been good! Stupid ass producers.
1942, the Nazis surge across Europe, striking into Russia, and try to capture Stalingrad.
Soviets resistance is furious, though they are no match for the Wehrmacht.
That is, until a sniper emerges who proves deadly to the German officer corps.
Soviet propaganda elevates him to “hero” status, Berlin sends in their best sniper.
Great war scenes, taut cat and mouse sequences between the two shooters.
What went wrong? Some fool decided to shoehorn in a love story.
Worse, turn that into a triangle of jealousy and resentment.
I wish some faneditor would “fix” this.
This could have been great.

What are you reading?

Phillips, Thomas - And The Darkness Back Again

My mistake, I was expecting a continuation of Phillips’ previous, and superb, In This Glass House.
This, however, is a collection of unsettled stories, and witnessing.
“Everything Was Explicable” chronicles a day in the perfect life, the perfect marriage, until an abrupt disappearance causes one partner to confront their self, and their shortcomings.
A home-schooled adolescent begins his first forays into manhood. His father, a religious fundamentalist, keeps the boy on a tight leash. The youth is drawn to two females: a fetching librarian, and an absent mother. “Into Her Darkness I Go” uses journal entries to show the learning of forbidden knowledge.
“God In An Alcove” reflects the full day onboard. Not sailing, not adrift, anchored. Stream of consciousness prevails. Stray thoughts, flash of memory, casual decisions, into the night. Nightfall, oh the night, what the darkness brings.
Phillips often writes in fragmentary sentences. So much so, I wondered at times how firm his grasp on syntax was. (Don’t get me going about his almost complete lack of dialogue.) The fragments often underscore the deconstructed lives, the string of insignificant moments, and ego inflated ruminations.
“Firehouse” offers another smug, self satisfied couple, who congratulate their good fortune, their innate cleverness. Making the most of a cramped, yet coveted living space. An oasis in a neighborhood surrounded by dark.
Several stories dance around the confines of religious dogma. Perhaps the author uses these to resolve internal conflicts. Those readers who wrestle creed with liberty may identify. I read unmoved.
“Individual Thought Patterns” is a nasty creeper. Just when I thought Phillips had tucked in one or two exercises, this poisonous pill was forced into me.
With “She” I must confess I deliberately misinterpreted the flow. Once Annie (she) opens her new vinyl album, “Alive,” I envisioned the glam group fronted by Gene and Paul. As Annie lulls to the hypnotic words, I speculated a hybrid between “Angie Baby” and BÖC’s “Unknown Tongue.” I lost the plot and scampered into my own music world, which I am certain was not the author’s intent.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

63 Up - 2019 - 9/10

Ninth installment of this, at this point, tremendous documentary.
By now, participants are staring at mortality and taking a hard look back at their lives.
Unlike most of us, who enjoy faulty memory or nostalgia to deceive ourselves, they encounter a brutal looking glass every seven years.
For those who have access, the three part TV specials are generally superior to the movie condensations.
Highly influential. There is an ongoing Russian series (I have, but have not watched),
I cannot imagine a similarly honest series launching in this Age Of The Selfie.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

13 Tzameti - 2005 - 7/10

A young, barely employed roofer overhears a fractured discussion from a dying, drugged oldster about making a big score.
The geezer dies, the kid intercepts his mail and decides to follow the steps and take his place.
Easy money.
Black and white French film, stark and dark, turns grim once the kid arrives at the destination.
Once the money men arrive, guns are passed. Then there is no backing out.
Again, this is the 2005 French original, not the 2010 Hollywood rehack.