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A few reviews

Vultural

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Regency House Party - 2004 - 6/10

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Reality based mini-series puts six ladies and four gents into the Regency era.
Great house, attractive clothes (though uncomfortable), bottomless alcohol.
Reflecting the era, the goal is for successful engagements, engineered by chaperones who will be well compensated. Maneuverings, games, and emotional explosions fuel episodes.
There was a rush of these living-in-the-past roleplay shows a decade earlier.
Bathing facilities were limited, chamber pots were the norm, shampoo had not been invented.
Nope, I am fine with my time period.
Enjoyable enough series. Thank God I did not binge watch this six hour fest (also thanks my NCAA obligation is over).
 

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The Phantom - 1943 - 6/10

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Classic Columbia serial, perhaps their best.
Tom Tyler stars as the Ghost Who Walks. Phantom helps jungle expedition search for 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.

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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.
 

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Angel - 2007 - 6/10

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Cracker factory time.
Director François Ozon’s previous English movie, The Swimming Pool, was a razor honed drama about a cynical mystery writer in the vein of PD James or Ruth Rendell.
Angel swings about and follows an Edwardian scribbler of melodramatic, romantic kitsch (based on Victorian powerhouse author, Marie Corelli, now forgotten).
Romola Garai portrays the narcissistic, delusional, borderline insane writer, Angel Deverell.
Garai commits 100% to this role and is wonderful. You detest her, laugh at her misconceptions, and feel sorry for her. Her literary success proves there has always been an audience for junk, though the herd will, eventually, shift toward different junque.
For travel sequences, Ozon uses obviously fake rear projection, to show Angel’s addled perceptions. The house where she lives, Paradise, is spectacular.
Charlotte Rampling, Sam Neill, and Michael Fassbender, top a strong cast.
I enjoyed this a lot, but others around me held a lower opinion, annoyed by the satire and florid production values. All roundly disliked Angel.
Bad movie fans, rate this much higher.
 

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Snowpiercer - 2013 - 4/10

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Affix piece of paper to back part of my belt.
Paper reads: Just watched Snowpiercer. Kick me.

Opening credits reveal planet earth reeling from global warming.
Desperate nations seed the skies with solar reflective clouds.
Before humans can say, ahhh, surface completely freezes over, life goes extinct.
Except - - for one train! Rolling nonstop, high speed, for seventeen years!
Passengers are all class based, think Elysium on rails.
Our hero is in back of train with sewage steerage. Front sections more luxurious.
Video game plot. In order to advance, hero must overcome obstacles.

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Generous amount of action, though film way too long (slightly over 2 hours), with tiresome monologues.
Aimed at what audience? Non-demanding twelve year old boys?
Though even at that age I would have wondered: How come the train never runs out of fuel, water, food? How come it never breaks down? How come tracks - the world under sheets of ice - never need repair? How do compartments stay warm? Are there showers, soap? Where do folks get (obviously) new clothes?
The train itself, as our hero advances, grows larger and larger.
Utterly preposterous.
 

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^ ... Yeah, that sounds even dumber than Divergent, and Divergent sounds pretty dang dumb.
 

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The Pact - 2012 - 6/10

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After ma dies, wild child daughter returns to her sister’s home and the funeral.
Straight away, she realizes something inside the house is not right.
Usual 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 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 term?
 

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Devil - 2010 - 6/10

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Promising horror yarn slides into butterfly kill jar concept.
Five persons get trapped inside elevator on 29th floor.
On of ‘em 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, concerns of air running out, or anxieties when lights snap out, wondering whose hands crawl your body.
 

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The Machine - 2013 - 6/10

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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 Defence, try to equip synthetic humans - cyborgs - androids - toasters - what? - with artificial intelligence. Several sequences and themes seem direct 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.

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

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Chinese Puzzle - 2014 - 5/10

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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 tedious.
Hardcore arthouse types will queue in line for this, though.
 

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Europa Report - 2012 - 7/10

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Better than expected SciFi, as two year mission heads to Europa (Jupiter) to see if life exists under frozen ice.
Not a fan of “found footage” but this was cleverly done. Helped that the science in this seemed accurate.
Problems and difficulties grew out of 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 are 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.
 

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Her - 2013 - 7/10

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Near-future yarn that received plenty of ink last year.
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.
 

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Miss Bala - 2012 - 6/10

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Mexican film about aspiring beauty contestant getting embroiled with the drug cartel.
Narrative begins plausibly as two girls hurry to the cattle call, and line up for their big break.
That night, they go to a party thrown by police and federal drug agents.
Who in their right mind would attend a DEA shebang?
The main girl gradually gets sucked into a war between gangs and cops,
all the while showing up for her beauty contest appearances!
After awhile, realism gave way to allegory.
One of those “interesting” flicks; worth seeing and recommending, but more arthouse than grindhouse.
 

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Wolf Creek 2 - 2013 - 4/10

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Sequel to the fun grinder that was Wolf Creek.
This opens with lonely encounter with law enforcement grafters,
then succumbs to repetition of earlier themes, unimaginative story lines, whining characters.
Mick Taylor remains a grinning, malevolent force of nature.
Still, the template of trailer trash meets dead teenagers felt like cold leftovers.
Lazy efforts all around. Writers - director - money men.
 

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I R I S - 2009 - 7/10

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Convoluted Korean actioner. 20 interlocking episodes with a cliffhanger or surprise at each one.
Gunfights galore. Lavish production values, sprawled across many global locations.
Unbearable romance elements. (the bane of K-dramas)
Backstory and relationships are established in the first couple of episodes. By #04, the pedal goes down.
Begins as espionage, gradually the existence of I R I S is revealed. Conspiracies and plots spread like weeds.
I thought this ended at Ep 17, but no, there were still plot twists and fresh narrative.
Wildly popular in Asia, spawned two sequels (mixed reviews there).
 

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Kill Your Darlings - 2013 - 7/10

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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 n miss, 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.
 

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The Gatekeepers - 2012 - 7/10

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Documentary interviewing six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, and the endless problems stemming from the Palestine occupation.
All calmly, matter of fact, discuss assassination, interrogation, torture.
Refreshing candor and bluntness.
Men express genuine surprise when peace accords were reached in Oslo, only to watch it all unravel.
None hold back on pin-pointing the chief instigators and enablers for war and terror:
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, religious West Bank settlers, gutless Prime Ministers.
Nominated for an Academy Award, lost to the feel-good, crowd pleaser, Sugarman.
Kinda says it all.
 

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Sightseers - 2012 - 6/10

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Black comedy of repressed, middle aged female escaping thumb of domineering mother, who is slipping into dementia.
The female meets a slightly older man, they take off on a roadtrip - holiday - sightseeing tour, leaving Ma in the muddle of her short wired brain.
Straight off, the female realizes her boyfriend has a slight problem with order and rage, though he compensates by stoking her romping appetites.
Creeping body count on this. Each death one was at once grisly and funny.
Litterbugs, PETA members, health enthusiasts, beware all.
 

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The Angel’s Share - 2012 - 6/10

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Likeable Scottish comedy / drama opens with misfits ordered to perform community service for petty crimes or drunken behaviour.
Main character has a steady squeeze who wants him out of a multi generation blood feud.
After a day trip to a distillery, coincidences pile up, stretching disbelief and plausibility quite thin.
As mentioned, the overall good-natured tone carries glosses over this, and you root for their most peculiar caper.
Subtitles an absolute must! Brogue is indecipherable at times, and many phrases sounded like Gaelic.
 

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Resolution - 2012 - 4/10

OK, lemme get this straight.
Nebbish leaves his hot blonde wife (newly pregnant, ole flying circus position gone forever in a few months), so he can spend a week with childhood buddy, who is a meth addict, living in rural oblivion.

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Weird snapshots show up, peepers stare into the house at night, video tapes, odd sounds.
After a day or so, the straight guy starts to wonder if the shack - Indian grounds - may be cursed.
Displaying zero common sense, he stays put, musing aloud, “What is going on?”
I could well point the looking glass at myself, wondering why I select crap like this.
Not to give anything away, but if you’re one of those types who applaud open endings, this has your name on it.

Plenty of sites out there that explain (or try to explain) the ending. Good luck.
 

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Wer - 2013 - 6/10

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Horror yarn of the hairy outsider.
We’re talking serious back hair here, as well as full beard, and shaggy hair.
Don’t even get me started about his king sized hands.
After a happy camping family is mauled (middle of the night, middle of woods, stupid city people), an unscrubbed mountain man - with a Romanian accent - is apprehended.
Interrogations, tests, and each night the moon gets fuller and fuller, until,
Oh, my God! There’s a full moon out! And wer is short for -- aarrggh!
 
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