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A few reviews

Vultural

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The Donner Party - 1992 - 8/10

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Everyone has their holiday favorites.
The Donner Party documentary is the American Dream, turned upside down into nightmare.
Back in 1846, a portion of the covered wagons rolling west to California, left the main body to take a "shortcut."
Hastings Cutoff was longer, much more difficult, and devoured precious time. By the time wagons reached the Sierra Mountains, the Donner group was trapped near Truckee. They had to winter there without food or supplies. Days turned into weeks, then into months. For food, they turned to companions. The other white meat.
Completely true story.
Most females I know go haywire when they hear guys use the shortcut phrase. Maybe it's in their DNA.
 

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Class Of ‘92 - 2013 - 6/10

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You probably had to be there.
Documentary of the young players who graduated from the junior team, then propelled Manchester United into the football juggernaut of the 90s.
90% interviews (back slapping, feel-good sort), with stray news footage of Cool Britannia. Soundtrack features well known Manchester groups - Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, Oasis.
Culminates in the ‘99 European Cup.
I guarantee you, my British friends will rate this much, much higher.
 

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Skirt Day - 2008 - 5/10
AKA: La journée de la jupe

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Manipulative French drama of overwrought teacher in schoolroom Hell.
Students mouth off, bully, grope, text, heckle, anything but learn.
No expulsions, probations, or accountability.
During a scuffle a gun falls from a bag, and she seizes that and force feeds the class “lessons.”
Despite outside reporters and SWAT team, the film felt stagey. Like a one set play with monologues.
Male students awfully large and menacing, and there seemed to be an anti-Islamic undercurrent.
 

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Snow White And The Huntsman - 2012 - 6/10

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Grabbed this from shelf with low expectations.
First thirty minutes were surprisingly enjoyable and raised my hopes.
Dark version has roots in 1997‘s Tale Of Terror rather than the Disney songfest.
Theron gives layered performance as malevolent Ravenna.
Incredible costumes well thought set design. Film undercut, however, by the director unable to cut the unnecessary and the distracting.
Useless comic relief, and a faerie sequence that is fey, dopey, and aimed at four year olds.

FE note: One of the few films I’ve watched and grasped how
it could be improved, and what scenes needed jettisoning.
I viewed the extended version and there was no additional footage in the Bonus section.
There were also those pesky dwarves.
Good thing I don’t edit. Sauron would win, Smith would win, Ravenna would win.
 

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hmmm, interesting. I had just written that film off because it starred Kristen Stewart, who is just atrocious, and I figured it had too much hollywood/disney crap embedded in it. Maybe I'll take a look. I'd be down with Sauron winning ;)
 

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Vultural said:
Good thing I don’t edit. Sauron would win, Smith would win, Ravenna would win.

you, sir, just made an excellent case for doing so.
 

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City Island - 2009 - 6/10

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“New York" yarn of prison guard, who sees the son of abandoned girlfriend during lockup rounds.
Signs the release papers so con can help remodel his outdoor work shack.
Does not inform “son" or anyone else of kinship.
Introduce wife, daughter, son. Everyone has their secrets. PG secrets.
Feel-good time waster, not too unbelievable. Attractive looking cast.
Film might be too Bronx for many, though.
 

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Backfire - 1950 - 5/10

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More appropriate title might have been “Misfire”.
Ex-G I about to be released from vet hospital, plans to run ranch with foxhole buddy.
Middle of the night, a mysterious woman visits his bed and warns same friend is in trouble.
Fine noir cast (Dane Clark, Edmund O’Brien, Ed Begley) struggle with poor script and clunky direction.
When the G I exits hospital, hot nurse invites him to dinner, then to her place.
“No, no, I gotta find my buddy, Steve!”
All wrong.
 

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In The Realms Of The Unreal - 2004 - 7/10

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Documentary on Henry Darger, janitor and outsider artist.
After he was shifted to hospital, where he died, Darger’s 15000 page, illustrated novel was discovered in flat.
Film told in voiceovers from actors and people who knew Darger.
Obsessions play out across the pages, tracking his fantasy kingdom heroines, the Vivian girls, and the atrocities of the child slave wars.

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Fascinating from start to finish, though shifting back and forth from Darger to his art, creates a documentary of halves and neither is fully satisfying. For all the drawings shown, I still wanted more.
 

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Ring Virus - 1999 - 5/10

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Korean remake of J-Horror classic.
Watching cursed VHS tape leads to death in seven days.
This version filmed matter-of-fact, audio mix not very detailed.
The two protagonists were older, and unrelated.
Several sequences relied on viewer familiarity with the original. Such as the young child explaining who “told her” to act accordingly. Also, why the male protagonist, in this case a flawed surgeon, was drawn into the mystery to begin with.
Marketing claims aside, K version is not the “scariest version of them all."
Worth a view, but does not eclipse the original.
 

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Ringu - 1998 - 8/10

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Watershed moment for dead wet girls everywhere.
After her niece mysteriously dies, the aunt (reporter) hears whispers of the cursed VHS.
Discovers similar deaths of other students. Enlists her ex (estranged) husband to help. He has psychic abilities.
Immaculate composition throughout - every scene balanced and beautifully arranged.
Terrific sound editing, as well. From moody score, to disconcerting effects in rear speakers.
Narrative at once enigmatic and logical. A terrific after hours film, with all distractions switched off.
Launched numerous remakes and sequels, all inferior.
 

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Innkeepers - 2011 - 5/10

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Last days of famed New England inn/hotel. Only a few rooms are rented, and a two person skeleton staff tag-team seven hour shifts.
They also spend free time searching for the famous ghost, said to haunt the premises.
I watched the female desk clerk huff her inhaler twice in fifteen minutes. Straight off, I figure, “you in trouble, girlfriend.”
Barely recognizable Kelly McGillis (above), Cruise’s hot babe in Top Gun, plays late arriving, ex-actress, now occult dabbler.
Competent low budget production, though predictable and slow paced.
 

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Hannah Arendt - 2012 - 7/10

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Narrow bio-pic of philosopher, focusing on her New Yorker essays on the Eichman trial.
Her opinion that Eichman was a mere functionary of the Nazis. At once, a non-thinking paper pusher, as well as the necessary machinery involved in the Holocaust.
Howls of protest erupted, as victims preferred a face of pure evil.
Her thoughts regarding the culpability of Jewish leaders in Europe bearing responsibility for their part in cooperation brought even more fury.
Friends abandoned her, school administrators attempted to curtail her classes, a Mossad unit “visited.”
Quiet,,chilling film. Subtitles are a must, as dialogue shifts from English to German to Hebrew.
 

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Cry Danger - 1951 - 6/10

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Solid B-film Noir with Dick Powell, William Conrad, Rhonda Fleming.
Lifer Powell released from the big house after five years.
He was the driver in a robbery, but caught the rap for the actual job.
Once out, he starts kicking the big dogs, demanding half the dough for his trouble.
The plot sours.
Film packed with hard men, fast broads, and dialogue drenched in acid.
Brisk 79 minutes.
 

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Don Jon - 2013 - 5/10

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Poor Jon, decisions, decisions.
Whether to slide the sausage into an endless feast of voluptuous club girls, or whank the weasel while watching online porn, with no yakking afterwards.
First third of this jewel was mercilessly funny.
Then hero Jon drifted into - aarrgghh - relationship with smokin’ hot, gum chompin’ Scarlett.
From relationship into redemption. Wasted moment of what could have been a fratboy classic.

I made a comment about a repeated scene and drew howls from the whole room.
Consider yourself warned.
Every time he concludes an online “moment” he grabs a tissue (Kleenex, Scotties, Puffs, whatever).
Next, the wad rattles into a metal wastebasket.
“Hey,” I said, “no tissue would make that noise. What did he do, wait till it dried hard?”
 

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Baise Moi - 2000 - 6/10

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No holds barred French rage flick as two abused hookers barrel into crime spree.
Sleazy, graphic, repellent to many.
Violent robberies, counterbalanced with lulls featuring hardcore sex. Leads were porn actresses.
Sensitive male viewers, be warned, gun fire targets the crotch.
A fun film? Hardly.
You want a “road movie” with nasty souls, enduring an ugly world, with no sense of humanity?
Dial 'er up.
 

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Rampo - 1994 - 8/10

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Wonderful Japanese arthouse/mystery/detective/erotic/D: all of the above.
Knowledgeable viewers will note Rampo, as in Edogawa Rampo, and anticipate a wild ride.
Film opens as pre WWII official censors Rampo’s latest story (wife smothers invalid husband) as subversive.
Rampo’s agent, points out actual news article of woman whose husband died in exact manner as story.
The writer investigates, stalks, imagines a new story, merging fantasy with reality in the process.
Eventually his alter-ego, Detective Akechi, takes over and trails the woman to the castle of a mad marquis.
Lush score, gorgeous costumes, fabulous sets. Brilliant film that is constantly inventive and imaginative.

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Note: Available on laserdisc and DVD, but both have issues.
Video on LD is soft, and few modern screens support S-cable for better resolution.
Subs on LD, however, were minimal and matched the theatrical release.
The DVD was over-subbed, so one winds up constantly reading, rather than feasting on images.
Hopefully, this gets remastered for a 20th anniversary.
 

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We Are What We Are - 2013 - 5/10

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Marketed as a horror film, though it really isn’t (unless you are a vegan).
Very private family, living in a tiny Catskill community, fasts during the weekend.
They are waiting for Lambs Day, a celebration of their own, peculiar religion.
Constant rains and flooding make everything difficult, and early on, the mother, clearly ill, drops dead in a ditch.
The two daughters have to carry on with tradition.
Dark, dreary mood piece, lacking gushers for gorehounds.
Viewers of a certain age will recognize Michael Parks as suspicious village doctor.
Barely recognizable Kelly McGillis, Cruise’s hot babe in Top Gun, plays trailer park neighbor.
 

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My Afternoons With Margueritte - 2010 - 6/10

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Nice, feel-good, French film.
Village laborer (Depardieu) begins spending lunch on park bench with elderly woman (Casadesus).
She begins reading aloud to him, gradually reawakening his own lapsed reading habits.
Nice relationship between the two, as well as with friends at the tavern.
Love interest between burly laborer and fetching bus driver completely implausible.
Casadesus (born 1914) is exceptional at any age.
Depardieu solid as ever, yet I found his sheer bulk distracting. His gradual metamorphosis into Jabba The Hut is grotesque.
 
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