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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Truman - 2015 - 7/10
AKA - Una Sonrisa Ala Vida

Tomás flies from Canada to visit his friend Julián in Madrid.
Julián, actor, ex-leading man, heartthrob, is winding up his affairs; Tomás acts as our observer.
Wry observations about preparing for ones final departure.
The film captures how friends and family deal with, or ignore, Julián’s situation.
Despite the subject matter, this is neither maudlin nor depressing.
Nor is it chuckles and giggles, the buffoonish bucket-list preferred by shallow studio moguls.
A soft spoken film, with emotions barely suppressed under the skin.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Kill Your Darlings - 2013 - 7/10

Drama about hitherto unknown chapter of Beat history, focusing on young Allen, Bill and Jack, before the kiss of fame.
Oh, and Lucien Carr, too, the violent bad boy who broke taboos and laws, and seems a guru to Allen.
Period jazz music woven with current sounds. Hit and miss there, though in commentary, director defends the modern choice.
The look of the movie, Noirish throughout, added to the uncertainty and air of menace.
I was distracted, however, wondering, 'I never heard of this story. Is this true? This must be fiction.”
The events were accurate, simply forgotten until rather recently.
Gay press has been trumpeting this flick since its release, but don’t be put off if you are squeamish.
Good story, shuttered view of sordid choices by young turks.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Day Of The Beast - 1995 - 7/10
AKA - El Día de la Bestia

Three wise men (or foolish) realize the anti-Christ is about to be born.
Somewhere in Madrid. They vow to stop this before Hᴉs reign begins.
One of many religious themes that suffuse this riotous black comedy.
Father Ángel, a theoretician priest, works out the precise date of birth.
Two others are drawn into his quest.
This spoofs death metal, black magic, TV hoaxers (Caván appears based on the Stupendous Yappi).
One joke, one gag after another, humor from laugh out loud to mean spirited.
Those who have thumbed the Bible, those who attended Sunday school, may catch subtleties.
Likewise those steeped in Catholicism. Not mandatory, though. This is a blast!

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Her - 2013 - 7/10

Near-future yarn that received plenty of ink a few years ago.
Allegory of how humanity plugs in with everyone on the planet, yet grows more disassociated from each other.
Lead character develops relationship with his new OS (operating system) which is more a personal assistant.
Glossy photography (in sunny, fairy-tale Los Angeles) overlays the loneliness of daily existence.
His seemingly well-paid job (writing personal letters) strikes a false note since (1) People increasingly no longer read, and (2) Less and less pay for content.
Enjoyed this - perhaps appreciated would be a better word.
Superbly done, though I feel the overall fear of dislocation is possibly wrong.
Most people I know seem happier in their virtual world over daily reality.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Herb & Dorothy: 50 X 50 - 2013 - 6/10

Followup documentary to 2008’s acclaimed Herb & Dorothy.
The first doc caught the Vogel’s, minimalist art collectors of modest means, as they were preparing to bequeath their rather priceless collection to the nation.
50 X 50 charts the flowering of the gift, as fifty museums, one in each state, receives fifty pieces of art.
The film travels, with and without the Vogels, to the various museums.
Interviewees include curators, docents, artists. Some enlighten, some pander.
Minimalist art is difficult to appreciate and value, so the doc mentions the importance of art and how everyone is deserving. This is illustrated during a couple of childrens tours.
I can admire and esteem Herb and Dorothy Vogel, and while I shrug off their collection, I’m glad they built it and then shared it.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears - 2013 - 6/10
AKA - L’étrange Couleur des Larmes de Ton Corps

Dan returns home from a trip, discovers wife Edwige missing.
Kidnapped or escaped? Police are doubtful, neighbors elusive.
One views this hallucinatory trip for the visuals. Lurid colors, stop motion photography.
If you attempt to follow any narrative you might end up lost, it is akin to clutching fog.
There is a peculiar chase under the bedsheets – or is it behind the wallpaper – or inside a hatbox?
The apartment building, in which this is set, is a wet dream of art nouveau.
An arthouse homage to Giallo, this is amazing, though often overwhelming.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Sapphire - 1959 - 6/10

Scotland Yard investigates murder of young girl, dumped on Hampstead Heath.
Soon enough, they realize she was not white, but was high yellow, and passing.
While digging for suspects and motives, detectives encounter racism, implied, overt or smiling.
That twist seems mild now, but was undoubtedly controversial in its day.
Well cast, well acted procedural - and yet - we never know who Sapphire was, as an individual.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Europa Report - 2013 - 7/10

Thought provoking SciFi follows two year mission heading to Europa (Jupiter) to see if life exists under frozen ice.
Not a fan of “found footage” but this is cleverly done. Also helps that the science in this seems accurate.
Problems and difficulties stem from accidents or equipment malfunctions.
Normally solvable, yet the crew is so very far away (6 - 9 million miles, depending on orbit).
Believable characters help, as do situations.
Found myself thinking, “I wouldn’t do that.” but, of course, the crew had traveled two years, all that distance, without cryo-sleep or other such fantasy. They simply had to take chances.
Great Bear McCreary score.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Inspector De Luca - 2008 - 7/10
AKA - Il Commissario De Luca

Four part cop series plays out like four movies.
Set in Bologna from 1938-1948, from the apex of Mussolini’s fascism to the troublesome post war period.
De Luca, refusing to choose sides (partisan v fascist) irritates both while sticking with police work.
He is generally out-numbered and outgunned.
Each episode is a one-off, usually something seedy, sloppily covered up, with the influential in the shadows.
Impeccable production values, from uniformed blackshirts to squalor to opulence.
My knowledge of Italian history is sketchy, and several personages and references escaped me.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Belleville-Tokyo - 2010 - 5/10

Ostensibly a marriage in crisis story, do not let the side tale of revival movie house distract you.
The young wife works for two codgers who run the theater, while her marriage crumbles.
Yo yo husband leaves, returns, feeds her excuses a four year old could see through.
The phrase “love is blind” applies, and it is hard to work up sympathy.
The tale wanders around in circles. Husband is immature, wife is needy.
72 minutes of French piffle.
If, however, one perceives the couple and their marriage as artificial, the lopsided reflection of the arthouse cinema, then the story may hold more interest.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Chinese Puzzle - 2014 - 5/10
AKA - Casse-tête Chinois

French fare, filmed and set mostly in New York, that assumes viewer will be familiar with previous installments, L’auberge Espagñole and Russian Dolls.
Wendy leaves Xavier, takes the kids, moves to New York.
Xavier follows, chills with Isabelle, reconnects with Martine.
Small tempests amounting to squat. Third film definitely running low on steam. Characters getting long in the tooth and their compelling personal dramas middle-aged tedious.
Hardcore arthouse types will queue in line for this, though.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Machine - 2013 - 6/10

Fairly intelligent SciFi thriller, set in the near future, as Cold War between China and the West escalates.
Pair of bio-engineers working for Ministry Of Defense, try to equip synthetic humans - cyborgs - androids - toasters - what? - with artificial intelligence. Several sequences and themes seem lifted from Ghost In The Shell.
Several deliberately confusing plotlines, as different cliques have their own agendas: scientists, defense contractors, and beefy security guys with brain implants.
Movie relies on deep shadows and glare to hide budget of $1287, couple rolls of duct tape, and baling wire. Film very dark, and subtitles will help understanding garbled guards and radio chatter.

Interesting, but neither inventive nor ground breaking, since female robots trace from Metropolis to fembots.
Female leads effective throughout as tools and weapons.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Married Too Young - 1962 - 4/10

Young, as in still seventeen.
Young man has part time job as mechanic, plans to go to med school after graduating.
He and his sweetie impulsively marry, confront enraged parents, mounting bills, and arguments.
Marked as a comedy, though there are few laughs, though parents are squeezed through the wringer.
More a sanitized time capsule of white bread suburbia, between 50’s rock n roll and British Invasion.
Dull, despite the va va voom presence of bad girl Marianna Hill.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Made In Italy - 2019 - 7/10

“Elegance is not being noticed, it’s about being remembered.” Giorgio Armani

Her parents want her to finish university already, marry a nice boy, stay in the house and make lots of babies.
Irene, less sure that is what she wants, hires on at Appeal, a mid-tier fashion magazine.
Milan, mid 70’s, and a very heady time as new designers Versace, Armani, Pucci, Fiorucci pull the center of the fashion world to Italy.
Apprentice Irene, in this fairy tale, swiftly meets designers, tours factories, goes on foreign photo shoots.
By the conclusion, character trajectories predict who will succeed, and who will disappear.
Funny, sexy (ample nudity), somewhat historical, this short series is well conceived and tightly focused.
Audience may be limited, but this will be irresistible to fashionistas.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Devil - 2010 - 6/10

Promising horror yarn slides into butterfly kill jar concept.
Five persons get trapped inside elevator on 29th floor.
One is the devil in disguise.
Amidst flickering lights, claustrophobia, mounting accusations, and helpless surveillance, bloody killings begin.
Watchable pizza movie, definitely creepy at points, with many almost recognizable faces.
Perhaps better if you suffer fear of tight places, asthmatic concerns of air running out, or anxieties when lights snap out, wondering whose hands crawl your body.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Spies - 2017 - 6/10

Four part “reality” series put fifteen contestants (candidates) though training paces.
Surveillance, how to elude surveillance, acquiring information, betrayal.
Disappointingly similar to “and then there were none” type contests.
At four episodes, none of the competitors stand out, and tips and tactics lightweight.
OK for the curious, yet as entertainment - disposable.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Love At The Top - 1974 - 7/10
AKA - Le Mouton Enragé

During his lunch break, an insignificant bank clerk initiates a conversation with a girl watching trains.
She is enticing, in a sexy way, and later the clerk tells a friend about the encounter.
Mind you, nothing came of that, but the friend, a writer, starts suggesting and advising the clerk what he should do.
At this point, I became of two minds regarding this film, which is one of love affairs and adult games.
One – the writer is a Mephistophelian sort, tempting and maneuvering souls per dark design.
Two – none of the characters actually exist, but are constructs of the writer.
Of course, I could have been wrong, and should have accepted the film as a sadly funny satire.
Top cast includes Jean-Louis Trintignant, Romy Schneider, and a fetching Jane Birkin.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Pact - 2012 - 6/10

After ma dies, wild child daughter returns to her sister’s home and the funeral.
Straight away, she realizes something inside the house is skewed.
Odd creaks, blacker than black dark regions, silent blurs.
Plot steps up, however, as the younger sister (Caity Lotz) starts investigating mom’s secret past.
Along the way, she get some help from the local sheriff (Casper Van Dien).
Movie notched poor ratings, fair reviews, which I tallied to gorehounds mad at low gore, and no T n A.
Probably a good “date” horror or thriller film. Chick horror, is that a subcategory?

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Forever And A Day - 1943 - 6/10

American businessman is tasked with selling long held London property.
He meets the prospective buyer during a nightly Luftwaffe bomb run.
While waiting, the potential buyer tells him the history of the home, as well as bygone inhabitants.
From the old crust who founded it in 1804 during the Napoleonic Wars to the present Blitz occupants.
Defenders of the realm, scoundrels, lovers, souls trapped by Fate.

Almost the entire “British colony” of 1940’s Hollywood participated in this forgotten chestnut.
Meant as a morale booster for the home front, as well as a vehicle to stir the Yanks.
This might have been a good film to watch with my father who was also a film buff.
I recognized 20 of the 80 stars involved, I imagine he would have caught far more.

What are you reading?

Power, Albert - Azerbaijan Tales

Three novellas, set in Azerbaijan during Soviet control.
“Matinee In Baku” luncheons with a forgotten film star, waiting in a word-of-mouth popular cafe. In walks an older man, scruffy, yet charged with a probing intensity. He soon rakes the slumbering embers of memory. Secrets from the actress’s past; also secrets of her own mother, an even more legendary actress.
Buried business, ugly business. One wants suppressed, another wants excavated.
“The Pit-Crypts Of Kish” carries ripples of the first story. A minor character from “Matinee” is part of an archeological dig at Qabala, along with three men, and a party apparatchik.
Faith and history run parallel, if unevenly.
The ending felt not so much unresolved as unfinished, with several shingles of narrative tacked on in a concluding act. I was dissatisfied.
“The Sanatorium At Chakhirshirincelo” makes for a murky finale, yet compelling and fulfilling.
The director of the institute wonders if he can release an inmate, accused of murder, back to her hometown. To help him decide, another apparatchik arrives.
Different voices, conflicting agendas, diverse recollections, all muddy the waters. Not one unreliable narrator, but a handful, force the reader to grope in darkness.
Power has a sure hand throughout, sitting us inside the director’s office, then drawing us deeper and deeper, down and down, into a labyrinth of underground passages, heavy with ancestral memory.
As a bonus, there is also a poem, of which I will not elaborate. This feels like a window, cracked open by the author, providing, ever so slightly, a glimpse of the muse.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Big Heat - 1988 - 6/10
AKA - Seng Fat Dak Ging // 城巿特警

From the opening drill through the hand to the final fireball, this film is balls to the wall.
Two cops initiate the rookie into unrestrained gunfights, foot chases through hectic freeway lanes, and squaring off against the high powered, well heeled, businessman / mobster.
The narrative is tucked into the furious proceedings. The death of an ex-partner and suspected smuggling.
Violent mayhem includes decapitation, dismemberment, shootings, stabbings, carvings.
There is also the criminal undercurrent, frequently alluded to, that the 1997 Takeover is coming, and time to profit is now, right now!
A lesser known Hong Kong film starring Waise Lee and Philip Kwok, and an early directing hit by Johnnie To.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Hollywood Boulevard - 1976 - 5/10

Midwest girl journeys to Los Angeles to become a movie star.
Predictably, she winds up at an exploitation outfit, beginning as a stunt driver, then getting lines.
Broad comedy pokes fun at dozens of B-movie clichés.
Rubber suited monsters, machine gun slaughters, car chases, topless girls, pretentious directors …
More laughs than yawns, though chase sequences extend too long.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Phantom - 1943 - 6/10

Classic Columbia serial, perhaps their best. Tom Tyler stars as the Ghost Who Walks.
Here, the Phantom helps a jungle expedition search for the lost city of Zolos.
Opposition includes evil saboteurs, zealous tribal leader, treasure hunters.
Fairly decent cliffs include lion, alligator, tiger, gorilla. Luckily the Phantom has a great dog, Devil.
Tyler excellent in title role. Athletic and muscular. Perhaps the template Bionic Bob had in mind for Strikes!
Credits only list two, but also starring Frank Shannon (Dr Zarkov from Flash Gordon) and the ever wily, Kenneth MacDonald who was a stellar villain.

Hard to tell where this was set. Expedition members all wear pith helmets, porters seem to be South American, natives appear South Pacific, then there’s a Mongol ruler.
Wholesome matinee fare, though many more killings than anticipated.

Note: Though helmed by SPCA poster child B Reeves Eason, animals seemed to fare OK in this series.