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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Von Ryan’s Express - 1965 - 6/10

Big ole WWII flick isn’t half bad, and is one of Sinatra’s finest roles.
Huge group of Allied POW’s escape from a prison camp in Italy.
Hijack a freight train and thunder towards neutral Switzerland, SS in pursuit.
From there, this becomes cat and mouse.
Sinatra’s character, Colonel Ryan, is not exactly likeable, and is called Von Ryan by fellow soldiers.
Plenty of action throughout in steely macho adventure.
The ending? Sinatra insisted.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Look Both Ways - 2005 - 6/10

Meryl, an anxiety ridden illustrator witnesses a disastrous train accident.
There, she meets Nick, photographer, who has learned he has cancer.
Both are damaged, no – say, limited individuals, who are trying to navigate their problems.
Quirky Australian comedy mixes offbeat romance, spontaneous animation inserts (of ways to horribly die), and a refreshing, hopeful tone.
Always refreshing to see characters with a clear view of themselves, with few delusions.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Masks Of Death - 1984 - 6/10

Sherlock Holmes comes out of retirement to solve a series of baffling wharf deaths.
Until the Home Secretary asks him to suspend the inquiries and investigate a locked-room death.
Time is 1913, the cusp of the Great War, and the death is of a prominent German figure.
The mystery is a bit of a muddle, the sets are lean yet serviceable.
An excellent supporting cast bolsters Peter Cushing in one of his final films, and his last starring role.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Ignorant Fairies - 2001 - 7/10
AKA - Le Fate Ignoranti

After the abrupt death of her husband, Antonia discovers he had a secret life.
A secret family, of which she had been unaware.
They are aware of Antonia, however. The wife, who kept him apart from them.
Story is one of different worlds bumping into each other.
Of outcasts and outsiders, and Antonia accepting and being accepted.
Borders on touchy-feelie, and one late “moment” is ridiculous.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Hands Across The Table - 1935 - 6/10

Regi is a manicurist in a swank hotel.
One of her repeat clients is a wealthy pilot, who unknowingly has entered the friend zone.
Instead, her mendacious self latches onto the rich playboy, Ted.
Turns out Ted lost his fortune in the 1929 Stock Market Crash, however.
Ever since, he has behaved like a goofy, feckless fool to hide his poverty.
Audiences of the day sighed over Ted and Regi (Fred MacMurray and Carole Lombard).
From my modern vantage, I can foresee they may be doomed.
The real couple is Regi and the wheelchair bound pilot (Ralph Bellamy).
The hotel is a heady Art Deco construct; one wonders if that was Depression era aspirations.
The current print is well restored.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Page Miss Glory - 1935 - 6/10

Small town girl Loretta arrives in Gotham, finds work as a maid at the upscale Park Regis.
There, she cleans rooms for two hustlers who fabricate a beauty to win a high paying contest.
They tell curious reporters the beauty is reclusive, while interest and attempts reach a fever.
Turns out, with the right makeup, glamorous gown, maid Loretta might just trick the nosy.
Romance is weak, Dick Powell still cast as a youthful dunce.
Marion Davies and screwball Patsy Kelly make a great comedy pair.
Outdone by Mary Astor and Pat O’Brien swapping barbs and one-liners at a furious pace.
Only in the 1930’s films do you get this staccato dialogue.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Mordach: Death In The Mountains - 2023 - 7/10
AKA - Mordach: Tod in den Bergen

The corpse is found in the Bavarian stream.
Initial suspect, the Turkish man, waiting to board the train.
Thing is, he is with the Federal crime unit.
Yet, his DNA is found on and in the female victim. And is gun is missing.
He is tasked with assisting the local investigation, despite being the prime suspect.

Fear not, suspects soon emerge, along with motives, lies, casual betrayals.
German thriller, broken into two parts, has strong plotting, no romance, mix of character types.
Outdoor Bavarian mountain scenery is used often and wisely.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Puzzle Of A Downfall Child - 1970 - 6/10

Her old photographer ferries to the island to visit a retired, reclusive fashion model.
She talks of her first love, the older man who took advantage of her when she was 15.
The initial assignments in New York, affairs with men, anxieties, loneliness.
Throughout, Lou is an unreliable narrator, jumbling chronology, glossing events, suppressing.
Her narration is a labyrinth of mis-remembrances and fantastical deceptions.
Faye Dunaway gives a tour de force performance in this overlooked and challenging film.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Crossed Swords - 1954 - 6/10
AKA - Il Maestro di Don Giovanni

One of Errol Flynn’s final swashbucklers is fun, if you are in the right spirit for it.
A usurper desires the throne of a small Italian principality.
Meanwhile, a new decree states all males over twenty must marry, which the freewheeling Renzo avoids.
This is a playful movie, spoofing Flynn’s dashing heyday.
As for Flynn, he looks good, face fuller, yet tanned and healthy.
His scenes with luscious Gina Lollobrigida are full of amused chemistry.
Silly plots, flamboyant costumes, but rousing action. Flynn’s swordfight finale is a highlight.
Gozillaflix DVD has murky dubbed audio, although the video is sharp and colorful!

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Upturned Glass - 1947 - 6/10

Visiting speaker Michael lectures the criminology class on murderers.
Without declaring he is the example, he narrates the murder.
He and Emma had been in loveless marriages when the romance began.
Her sudden death came as a shock, however, and Michael eyed the petty, envious sister-in-law.
An underseen thriller, splashed with Noir.
There is an absurd mistake with a body which I cannot understand.
Narrative meanders in the final act, but it pulls together.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Secret - 2009 - 6/10
AKA - Sikeurit // 시크릿

A bullying thug is murdered, and his brother is a ruthless mob boss.
As the gang leader searches for the killer, so do the police.
One in particular, a corrupt cop, suspects the killer is his own wife.
The couple have marital problems, and the tears and angst drag the whole show down.
The “plot” is of our cop trying to destroy or mislay evidence.
Then there’s a mysterious blackmailer.
If you stick with this, there are a remarkable series of twists in the final act.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Restaurant - 2003 - 6/10


Early, so-called reality show hews closer to that overused “reality” moniker.
Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito (celebrity meaning, he wrote a book) launches a Manhattan restaurant.
Series shows the serving staff and the cooks working the flames.
Also the problems: bad reviews, money issues, personal conflicts.
Plus, the obvious fact that Rocco flat out does NOT want to work.
He would rather wander the tables and flirt with attractive females.
Rocco does not even run the pass.
Unlike scripted reality shows, here you are a fly on the ceiling, observing a trainwreck caused by the owner.

What are you reading?

Harsch, Rick - The Skulls Of Istria

Diatribe, travelogue, brutal exposé of preening humanity.

Our narrator, a self described defrocked academic, enters as a drunken barfly, jabbering away at the man seated across the table. Who may, or may not, understand English.
No matter. The silent companion comprehends the key element: sit listening and the drinks are free. Sorta like the free meals with preaching inside the Salvation Army mission.

The breeze of words soon blows into a gale.
Our narrator, once worked for a doctorate, despite a distracted work ethic. Dashing across a series of unfinished books ~ concepts launched then discarded for fresh novelties. Likewise, females.
As he wanders across the continental USA, then into the Balkans, he finds his forte.

The soured observer.
Tourists, for example. “… the inadvertent recorders of their own doom, voracious photosnappers waging their undeclared war of attrition against magnificence, stunting vengefully what promises elude them,” or “American tourists always think that to step out of west Europe is to step into war.”

A barely whispered lament is how, as the Balkans become more touristy, the rest of the planet becomes more Balkan.
Endless conflicts, petty and writ large. Species human, treacherous liars and murderers. Even the well meaning hide blood soaked hands.

Don’t be put off. This is a roller coaster of a book. Read it, brush up on your Balkan history, reaffirm your place in the Great Parade.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Chloe - 2022 - 6/10

Middle of the night, Becky receives a cry for help from her childhood friend, Chloe.
Too late, Becky learns she is dead.
She adopts the name Sasha, along with a new persona, and ingratiates herself with Chloe’s wealthy friends.
Since Chloe’s death feels somewhat sinister.
Dicey six part series shuffles time and perception.
Often we observe Sasha’s theorizing of an event, only to be reeled back to reality.
There is much to enjoy if winding thrillers are your cup of tea.
“Heavy sleeper” concept over-used, and the ending borders on a mere attempt.

What are you reading?

Various (Editor: Beech, Mark) - Unquiet Grove

Dark events set in the greenwood, well deep in the forests, far away from any footpath, let alone roadway. A world thronged with aged trees, whose perceptions of humans range from indifference to apprehension to hostility.

While out inspecting his estates, Mr Hopking died unexpectedly at age 47. He had been a talented, if eccentric, horticulturist. 150 years after his death, swathes of his grounds flourish still, resisting developers. In “The Secret Plantings Of Bostick St. Leonard” a descendant unwisely attempts to unravel bygone mysteries.

The city family relocates to the less hectic countryside. The new home, bought for a song, is in disrepair. Meantime, none of the locals will say why it is called “Burnt Orchard”. While wife and son succumb to the drowsy spell of the area, husband Nat resists and observes in growing anxiety.

A chance encounter with a doddering, semi-retired colleague, launches Dr. Suffling along a trail to modern paganism. “At The Roots” finds him drawn into a strange world of transmutation.

“The Dark Ballet Of The Trees” proves to be one of the bleakest works in this collection. An asylum for the mentally or emotionally damaged, run by a theatre impresario. Times are harsh, however, in what appears to be wartime Britain. Everything is impacted by the Blitz. Restrictions and money woes push several players into a corner, where anger and resentment inflames into rage.

A fateful encounter between one of the Fair and a young girl with a streak of witchery. ”In The White May”, both pocket something of an agenda. While they neither outright lies – both withhold. A haunting tale that lingers longer after the pages close.

“Uhripuu” journeys to the remote forest. Finland, buried under snow, where wilderness is being ravaged by a devastating fungus. Science, unable to reach a solution, invites a folklorist to listen to old tales, perhaps find a remedy in arcane legends. Another story of untrustworthy characters, hidden motives, with, perhaps, parallels to modern plagues – or ongoing pandemics.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Plunkett & MacLean - 1999 - 6/10

Freewheeling retelling of a pair of highwaymen.
A fallen criminal pairs up with an impoverished gentleman.
Robbing from the rich and giving to … themselves.
An antidote to glossy productions, this is grubby and dirty.
Where even amorous relations result in sore consequences.
Funny throughout, situations and wordplay, layered with a thoroughly modern dance score.
Truth, ever strange = https://www.irishpost.com/news/irelands-gentleman-highwayman-seven-facts-about-the-irish-outlaw-of-london-hanged-for-his-courteous-crimes-102797

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Old Man And The Sea - 1958 - 6/10

Spencer Tracy in essentially a one man vehicle.
An elderly Cuban fisherman has not caught a “big one” in months.
Until he lands a huge marlin, larger than his boat.
Therein is the drama, how to bring catch back intact, with sharks about.
Not high adventure, but an existential struggle of Man vs. Nature.
Long at 90”, it feels slow, despite lush photography.
I am hardly a Tracy fan, and this is just one more of his films that left me flat.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Fragile - 2019 - 7/10

An off-road auto crash leaves two men dead.
Both were apparently strangers: Felix from a wealthy family, Dom working class.
As police try to put together why they were in the same truck, the back story unfolds.
That is also the trick to this well crafted Canadian series.
It is fairly clear, the crash was no accident.
The small town isn’t so much a nest of secrets, as it is of longings and frustrations.
As well as buried wrongs and long held resentments.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Atlantis, The Lost Continent - 1961 - 5/10

Two fishermen rescue a shipwrecked female, then take her back to her home.
Turns out, she is a princess of Atlantis!
Is there a reward? Nope, just slave labor for our eagle scouts.
Turns out there is a power struggle for the kingdom.
Big budget sword and sandal has interesting effects, but no script.
Expensive and stupid.
My favorite was the energy crystal death ray gizmo, which was swiped from Archimedes.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Theater Camp - 2023 - 7/10

Theatre aspirants, register immediately!
Summer camp for children smitten with the acting bug.
Trouble behind the scenes, however, as the founder has suffered a stroke and the finances are dire.
Not to fear, her dimwitted son is bursting with ideas.
Kids rehearse, counselors nurse grievances, crises erupt.
Missing anything? How about, the bank is ready to foreclose.
A jewel for fans of theatre, especially musical theatre.
Fans of Connie And Carla, of Waiting For Guffman, shoot, Footlight Parade (1933), hurry to find your seats already!

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Iron Commissioner - 1978 - 5/10
AKA - Il Commissario di Ferro

Mauro is a one-man police unit. Backup? Ordinary patrolmen? Who needs ’em?
Almost single-handedly, he busts a kidnapping ring.
When a few escape, he begins the hunt.
Mauro neglects his family, doesn’t bother going to HQ.
Thereby missing out when a terrorist takes over his office.
Two unconnected storylines, neither compelling.
Half baked, rushed Euro-Crime clone.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Space Sweepers - 2021 - 5/10
AKA - Seungriho // 승리호

Space janitors sweep debris from orbit. Defunct satellites, crushed vessels, bodies …
The crew of the Victory finds a small girl, who turns out to be an android, who is actually a mega-bomb.
Will the crew bond with their find? Will conspiracy types stop at nothing to acquire the “child”?
Best suited for families, others will find this cringe time.
Aside from a few characters, everyone has the maturity of eight-year-olds.
Sadly, like many Korean films this is overlong. Action sequences go on and on.
Heroics are never ending. Everything is excess overload.
Again, for families – children – this will be OK.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

I Love This Dirty Town - 1969 - 6/10

Margaret Drabble bemoans the transition of the city into suburbia.
One realizes the city, for her, is dozens, if not hundreds, of small villages.
Freestanding green-grocers and butchers, instead of Tesco and Marks & Spencers.
Independent chemists, rather than Boots. Pedestrians over the motor car.
Her complaints likely resonated when Romans organized Londinium.
Ever the battle between developers and residents.
James Mason explored this topic in The London Nobody Knows (1969).
Suggs turned the lens towards places on the verge of extinction in Disappearing London (2006).