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A few reviews

TV's Frink

You Catch On Pretty Quick
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I wouldn't give up on a movie just 'cause Gaith walked out after 10 minutes...
 

Gaith

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^ Well, it's true I left before the family bathed in sewage, so if that strikes you as worth shelling out good money and irreplaceable time for... ;)
 

Vultural

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My postings have been on moratorium for about a year now.
Thanks to ranger613, Gaith, and others for scribbling a review from time to time.

Cranking it up ...
 

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88 - 2014 - 5/10

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Bullet fest mystery / thriller set in the land of violence, the Canadian backwoods.
Katharine Isabelle stars as female companion / waitress / hooker to roadhouse owner and local crime boss.
For withheld reasons, she ghosts in and out of fugue state, caused by emotional trauma.
Her alter-ego, Flamingo, is one no-nonsense, milk swigging broad.
Steals cars, shoots up the bowling alley, goes into full bore revenge against crime lord, Christopher Lloyd.

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Isabelle terrific once again, truly commits to a difficult role and nails it. If anything, there was another outrageous whacked out guns and revenge comedy buried in the script had the writers chosen to focus on Ty and Lemmy.
Michael Ironside is the sheriff. Fine cast in a half-assed script, narrative slice n diced in jumbled chronology.
There’s the flaw. Because of all the jumps in the story, you really must pay attention and even then you might get confused. All well and good if the payoff delivers. Hate to spoiler this, so I won’t divulge. Note 5/10, though. And my rating is a wee bit high.
There’s a lot of unexpected, and really funny black humor.
Will I rewatch 88? Probably (loser) Do I recommend? Only to other losers like me.
 

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Magic In The Moonlight - 2014 - 6/10

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Woody Allen film set in 1928 Europe.
Colin Firth plays magician asked to debunk a female mentalist / hoaxer.
Mentalist is quite pretty and an uneasy romance beckons.
Picture Houdini wooing a Zeigfield Follies girl.
Gorgeous sets, costumes, vintage music.
The 1928 date was a loaded time utterly ignored (Wall Street Crash was 1929 - Hitler became chancellor in 1933).
Likewise the realization that this entire world of gardens and country houses is a breath away from extinction.
Plot remains feather light throughout.
Not to spoil anything, but the narrative faltered in the third act. Badly.
Before that misstep I had been enjoying the movie.
At its core, keep in mind, this is a magic show.
Allen delivers a successful pledge, a very poor turn, and no prestige.
 

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Natural City - 2003 - 7/10

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Fabulous looking Korean SciFi, based on Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep.”
Not a Blade Runner remake or clone, though the story is set in a glossy, high tech dystopia.
Viewers will also recognize elements from Ghost In The Shell and Matrix, especially the stunt work.
The plot deals with renegade cyborgs breaking into a medical security facility to get data on human DNA.
Going against them are paramilitary combat troops, the MPs.
Brilliant marrying of live action and CGI, the latter not overdone.
Some of the action wire work struck me as repetitive, but that seems a minor quibble.
The real breakdown and flaw in the story occurs in the three quarters point, focusing on the love story between trooper R and his soon to expire cyborg girlfriend, Ria.
The love story has no depth, no resonance. The cyborg, referred to as dolls, has the personality of a goldfish.
What does he see in her? Not to spoil, but why does he betray fellow soldiers again and again for her?
The pointless love story undermines sympathy for the main character, and has generated countless bad ratings.

When I first watched this ten years ago, that failing was the main reason I disliked the film.
Recently, I thought of a solution and rewatched the movie.
This time, any shared scenes with R and Ria, I switched off the subs and their infantile dialogue, and imagined they at the very least conversed like adults or lovers. Not a knuckle-dragger and his fembot.
For all this, an amazing looking film and decent actioner.
 

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Vampyres - 1974 - 6/10

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One of the best Hammer films never actually made by Hammer.
Two beautiful women prowl a lonely road from overgrown woods.
They stop passing cars, hitch a ride, and take them to a deserted manor house.
Wine flows, bit of bedroom romping, followed by slaughter.
Gory Horror with abundant nudity, sexy and erotic.
Filmed at Hammer’s house, Oakley Court by independent Essay, which might explain why there was much more blood and flesh. Censors had a field day but current versions are fully uncut.
These are not elegant, romanticized vampires. Their savageness seems typical of the excessive 70s.

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Director Larraz’s audio commentary, in his heavily accented Spanish, is as enjoyable as the film itself.
He dishes the dirt of difficult players, and how much more graphic sex and violence he originally wanted.
Money problems, tight shooting schedules, distribution issues, thoughts on American vs European styles.
The version that finally passed he termed as the Vatican edit.
The film’s narrative drifts into incoherence at times, and he confesses a cool image was more important than plot.
Right on.
 

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Mask Of Dimitrios - 1944 - 7/10

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Old Warners Brothers chestnut pairing Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet.
A writer of mysteries learns of the death of a career criminal in Istanbul.
Curious, and seeking inspiration for the next book, he follows the trail of crime across Eastern Europe.
Along the way, an old henchman for the villain enters and offers to pool information.
Film filled with flashbacks, betrayals, lies, and increasing danger.
The look is straight up Film Noir, hard shadows and fog, and while locations bounce from Istanbul to Athens to Budapest, the reality is 100% back lot. (Europe was a bit unstable in 1944.)
This is a terrific rainy night film, with Greenstreet and Lorre superb. Numerous low angle shots of Greenstreet make him seem enormous and imposing.
Supporting characters memorable, as well, as you find yourself believing their stories, only to wonder afterward how much is deception, how much self deception.
How little kindness there is in the world today.
 

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Banksy Does New York - 2014 - 7/10

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Documentary on street artist Banksy’s 31 day guerrilla exhibition in and around New York City.
Each day, Banksy’s website offers a clue where the latest art or installment can be viewed. Then it becomes a race, a scavenger hunt, to see the work before it disappears.
Displays get tagged, smashed, “appropriated,” or on one memorable afternoon, bought.
The press gets involved - adding to the publicity - as well as the mayor and police who announce they intend to catch Mr Banksy. Good luck -- London was never able to do so.
Selected locations often deliberately provocative: within inner city blight or near trendy galleries frequented by the clueless, shallow wine n cheese crowd.
The growing media frenzy brings out the best and worst behaviour in people.
As always, tour de force by the artist - or collective - known as Banksy.
 

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French Sex Murders - 1972 - 5/10
AKA - Casa d’appuntamento

Watchable Italian Giallo revolving around, surprise, a serial killer!
After an opening leap from the Eiffel Tower, flashbacks swirl.
The villain is especially despicable as he is swiping jewels from the church. Stealing from God!
Then, in a very wise move, he decides to hide in a sporting house packed with juicy hotties.

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Five minutes later, he is on the run again. This time for murder!
He better flee quick because Humphrey Bogart is on his tail.

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Bogie lookalike Roberto Sacchi plays the police inspector and is the main reason to watch this confused mess.
Oh, yes, Anita Ekberg is the brothel madam, and the professor’s assistant resembles Carl Sagan.
There is a decent amount of nudity, coupling, chases, stabbings, beheadings.
The pace percolates briskly. Even when flaws and plot gaps a mile wide hit, we could not nitpick them because another crazy scene crashed and we were lured back in.
One sorry movie that will appeal to - - you know who you are.
 

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Liar Game: S01 - 2007 - 7/10
AKA: うそつきゲーム

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Great little series about con-men, game playing, greed.
Young girl receives a case full of money and an invitation to participate in the Liar Game.
There are numerous players. The object is to swindle other players out of their case of money.
The winner keeps all the money, losers must pay what they lost. They will be financially ruined.
Straight away, the girl, a trusting, gullible innocent, seeks help from a cunning genius of schemes.
Temporary allegiances, snares, and of course, lies, more lies, and damned lies.
Honorable, upright souls, be warned to avoid this one.
 

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Fading Gigolo - 2013 - 6/10

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Mixed bag comedy/drama written and directed by John Turturro, very much in the Woody Allen mold.
Allen himself plays the owner of a rare book shop, closing his New York storefront because his only customers are rare customers.
To help his soon-to-be laid off employee (Turturro), he hires him out as high priced gigolo to rich woman (Sharon Stone).
If you can buy that premise, you’ll have no problem with Allen becoming pimp daddy as Turturro expands his clientele.
Story and narrative move into the Hasidic community, and comedy dissipates.
Saturated late fall New York locations, and interesting window on the Hasidic neighborhood, but film itself poorly structured with Allen having all the comic moments, and Turturro the bulk of the drama.
Enjoyable, but not as funny as the trailer promised.
 

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Troll Hunter - 2010 - 6/10

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Someone is killing bears in Norway. Only specific hunters are granted a license, and they suspect illegal poaching.
One van in particular which is battered all to hell and reeks of stench, draws their gaze.
College students, filming a documentary, pick up on the whispers and begin to trail the van and its bearded, unfriendly occupant.
The deeper into forests they drive, the more secrets and legends they uncover.

Generally, I dislike “found footage” films. Lazy filmmaking. Boring pace, ignorant (read stupid) characters, less than amateurish photography.
None of those flaws apply here.
The narrative moves along, lingering to explain as needed. Student filmmakers seem normal, not stereotyped templates. Moreover, main character Hans, the hunter, is focused and decisive. He always knows where he is going and why. Finally, the cinematography is well done. Troll Hunter resembles an actual documentary, rather than spit and paste slapdash.

I can’t label this a Horror film, those seeking frights and chills will be disappointed.
Good popcorn movie, nonetheless.
 

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Jupiter Ascending - 2014 - 3/10

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After-hours at the zoo, there will be a shift switch.
Lions and chimps stroll concrete pathways, twirling cage keys, cigarettes dangling from lips.
Inside cages will be humans. On one cage will be a sign reading NON COMPOS MENTIS.
The grinning lunatic within will likely be watching Jupiter Ascending.

Despite atrocious reviews, I told myself it couldn’t be that bad.
Even so, I could go stupid. Apparently not stupid enough.
OK - one day our heroine is scrubbing toilets for a living. Then she finds out she is galactic royalty.
She actually owns planet earth!
Yay! No more taxes, no more waiting in line at the taco drive through, no more living with white trash relatives who want to sell her eggs for drug money.
Does she go that route? Aaaacccckkkk !!
She gets a teenage crush on wolf guy who flies about on magic shoes, she gullibly believes all sorts of lies from supposed relatives who do nothing all day - as they have for thousands of years. TV? Dining? Bathroom? Nope, they just sit around.
Expect lots of overwhelming CGI that adds nothing. Expect endless, overlong fights that are actually quite petty (wolf guy in combat with squads here and there). Expect a script geared for autistic cockroaches. Expect to see name actors sleepwalking their way through this vat of hogfat.
Further evidence of the sad creative decline of the Wachowski siblings.
Jupiter Ascending ain’t Fifth Element, let alone Interstellar or Gravity.
This makes Matrix Revolutions, the Zion crap, appear intelligent.
Yes - I watched it. Idiot.
Hopefully the inevitable porn spoof (Jupiter Ass-Ending) will prove superior.
 

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Gunman In The Streets - 1950 - 6/10

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Interesting pursuit Noir set in post WWII France.
Dane Clark plays an ex-GI who remained behind the war and set up a nice little black market operation.
When the film opens, he’s being transfered from jail to jury when he is sprung via armed attack.
From then on this is a cat n mouse police chase.
Clark’s colleagues are interrogated, hideouts smashed, ex-girlfriend followed.
As this was shot in France, the look and feel differs from American Noir.
The streets, the shops, the clothes, the faces, most notably a young Simone Signoret.
Aside from the location, the plot offers nothing fresh.
Clark slips catlike through police nets and his character is cold and unsympathetic.
Director Frank Tuttle was an early casualty of the HUAC blacklist which might have explained the European location.
 

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L’ Arnacoeur - 2010 - 5/10
AKA - Heartbreaker

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Featherweight French comedy, laughs lighter than an over whipped souffle.
Man, his sister and brother-in-law operate a small outfit designed to break apart unhappy couples.
Prevent the doe eyed innocent from marrying the cheat, the abuser, the jerk.
All’s fair.
Only rule - they do not break up happy relationships.
Before you can say, “that sounds ...” the man owes thousands to a loan shark and a very juicy offer comes from a gangster type to stop his daughter’s upcoming marriage.
The engaged couple is deliriously happy, yet the heartbreaker needs the money.
Narrative not only thin and predictable, but more than a little creepy.
To learn about the fiance, a lot of time is spent spying and stalking.
Cameras in bedroom and bathroom. Nothing is humiliating is acting shown, but if you think about it, someone was watching everything.
Fans of Romain Duris, he has better films out there.
 

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Babadook - 2014 - 5/10

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Disclaimer: I don’t like kids, especially undisciplined, over-indulged kids. I also have a problem with single mommies and sons who are way too touchy feelie.
I also dislike any film where children are in danger, a very cheap way of terror.
Chances are, if you are a parent - enjoy rambunctious children - or see nothing wrong with a 7 year old who still sleeps in Mom’s bed, you will rank this higher.

Outstanding acting from Essie Davis as distracted, still grieving mother whose husband died seven years earlier.
As well as newcomer Noah Wiseman who is extraordinarily annoying with his fears, homemade weapons, creepy acts toward other children, and clinginess. To be fair, who allowed this child to be so? Yes, good ole Ma.
For the bedtime read, he discovers the Babadook (a bad book?) book.
Apparently, merely by reading, the creature is summoned forth.
In no time flat, the dumpy home sounds with knocks in the night, groans, deep sighs, and black shadows.
Real or imagined? The film never lets on the for the longest time.
Meanwhile, mother and son behaviour declines noticeably, and others take note.
Much as I appreciated the acting and deft, slight of hand directing, I disliked the characters, and the film itself left a sour taste in my mouth.
 

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Inherent Vice - 2014 - 6/10

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I disliked the book, my bride dislikes Joaquin Phoenix, so what was I thinking?
I was hoping-hoping-hoping for an echo of Boogie Nights.
Paul Thomas Anderson directs, and location setting marks a return to the Los Angeles of the 70s.
Not to be. Boogie Nights was almost epic in its structure and grandeur.
Inherent Vice is the incoherent ramble of a blitzed stoner. That is fully in keeping with the novel, though.
Seemingly important characters surface, only to disappear. Many story threads wither unresolved.
Overlong, and not especially funny, though it had its moments.
Think shaggy dog yarn. Almost like Big Lebowski - only straight and grim faced.
Good Noirish acting from Phoenix and Brolin not enough.
 

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Big Lebowski - 1998 - 8/10

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After being disappointed by the recent Inherent Vice, I dug this perennial from the shelves.
Mister Lebowski, AKA “The Dude” returns home from shopping the friendly Ralph’s aisles.
He is assaulted, face plunged into the toilet, while one of the vandals pisses on his carpet.
Later, at the bowling alley, The Dude laments to friends, and, egged on, begins to investigate the mystery.
Hilarious, shaggy dog tale. Cult classic for stoners, bowlers, mystery fans, damn near everyone save souls who hate Southern California, which this film reeks of.
Most people I know either have personal acquaintance with a classic slacker such as The Dude, or they have been him at one point or another.
Bridges unforgettable as The Dude, yet everyone involved is in top form.

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Sunset Strip - 2012 - 7/10

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Glossy, shallow, but fun documentary of Sunset Strip, focusing primarily on the club scene.
Doc traces the earliest beginnings, when Sunset Blvd was a narrow lane running from Hollywood to Beverly Hills.
Then goes from nightclub era to music clubs to current Disneyfication.
Interviews with dozens and dozens of historians, musicians, movie stars, comedians, groupies ...
Film also gets the geography correct. Less accurate docs might try to squeeze in places from Hollywood Blvd as well as Santa Monica Blvd. Each had their own vibe. Not only does this stick with the Strip, but it doesn’t bother with the meandering Sunset that snakes to the Pacific.
All Los Angelenos have their own version of the city. In the doc, Hugh Hefner recalled the glitzy 50s nightclubs. Others reminisce about the 60s - 70s - 80s or later. Yet there has never been a “there” to LA. It’s always a river that flows and changes.

Three Strip shorts -

The hippie chick is four years older than me, and she was a bonefide teenybopper in the 60s. Saw all the groups who were gone by the time I arrived. Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Love ... She and friends were waiting in a club for the show when they saw a drunken bum stagger toward the stage. Where is Security, they wondered. Even more when the wino kept trying to climb the stage. Eventually he succeeded, grabbed the microphone and started singing “Break On Through.” The other Doors joined in, the drunk was Jim Morrison.

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My brother visited me only once. I gave him the whole experience. Pink Flamingoes at the Nuart, Disneyland, Tower Records on Sunset, and a punk show at the Whisky. The Weasels and The Dogs. Midway through the Dogs’ set, two guys walked onstage. One took the mic while the other dropped to the floor and started writhing in convulsions. My brother started screaming, “That’s Steve Jones singing! And Paul Cook! Sex Pistols! The Sex Pistols! This is the greatest moment of my life!!”

Tower on Sunset was one of my favorite record stores. Even when I had no money, no car, I’d hitch a ride then walk. The shop was a temple of music. It was vast and stocked massive deep catalogue. Current chart toppers would be stacked from the floor to waist high - 200 copies of vinyl, maybe? One stand alone was a Beatles shrine.
Groups were always there for in-store events. Or you’d see musicians or TV stars, just shopping. Few bothered them, less gutter paparazzi back then.
I was pulling my MG out of the lot, this VW Karmann Ghia waiting for my space. “Who’s that driving?” I asked the hippie chick. “Rod,” she said. “Rod Stewart?” “No, Rod McKuen,” she said. “Oh.”
Rod Stewart I might have gone back into Tower to see what he was buying. Poet Rod McKuen? - I’d seen him before.
 
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