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A few reviews

dangermouse

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Glad to see Trollhunter got a look in. An enjoyable film, with a few bits of witty dialogue. Funnier for the natives, but still a good hour and a half. Surprisingly good special effects, I thought.
 

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Äkta Människor - S01 - 2012 - 7/10

Uneven parallel reality series where hubots (robots - cyborgs - cylons) are ubiquitous in society.
They are tireless, work without complaint, and are programmed to be maddeningly cheerful.
Employers love ‘em, human coworkers - who are being displaced - are less thrilled.

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A subset of hubots is programmed differently, or simply lacks programming.
They have free will and are on the run, led by the sinister Niska.

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Several themes are explored over ten episodes: Hubot rights, cloning, government control, black market modifications, human - hubot relationships (and all that implies), discrimination, age ism.
There is also the uneasy reality of humanity being supplanted by our creations - as if we have done such a spectacular job of our stewardship.
Good SciFi / Speculative show, though the creators bit off more than they could chew.
 

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Manson Family Vacation - 2015 - 6/10

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Artistic, unemployed brother crashes with more successful attorney brother for a few days.
“Hey, while I’m in the neighborhood,” he suggests, “do you wanna check out homes of Manson murders?”
There’s the premise.
Viewers best expect creepy crawl.
Film begins in uncomfortable territory, yet the aim does not hold true.
Narrative gradually curves into an unexpected, and rather refreshing direction.
Note the title, note the subject matter.
Do not wander into this if you have qualms or get squeamish about outsiders.
 

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Tangerine - 2015 - 7/10

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Bummer, dude. Had I known, I would have saved this for Christmas.
Not that this is a holiday story, per se, but all events occur on December 24th in sunny Los Angeles.
Tranny Sin Dee has just been released from 30 days in county lockup and she is soon looking to kick ass.
Her boyfriend / pimpster Chester had been two-timng her with a young, blonde fish (natural borned female).
Film turns into a hilarious man ... wo-man ... fish hunt as Sin Dee, last name - wait for it - Rella starts busting down doors hunting for Chester and that fish girlfriend of his.

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There’s a subplot of an Armenian taxi driver, with a taste for trannies, and a stream of skid row riders in back.
Side-splitting, rapid fire dialogue with an eye opening peek into transworld LA.
Geeks - whole thing shot on an iPhone!
Roaring fun, though not for everyone. γνῶθι σεαυτόν
 

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Tightrope - 1984 - 7/10

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Terrific, lesser known Eastwood vehicle, came out just as the Callahan films were getting stale.
Seedy New Orleans locations enhance a rough procedural of detective chasing a serial killer.
Most of the victims work in what is now termed the sex industry.
Eastwood’s detective, a bruised, divorced father, is also drawn to kinky moments in cushioned, satin rooms.

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Scenery loaded with eye candy, strip clubs, rough trade, oiled female wrestlers, dwarf referee, the half sandwich combo, handcuffs, vibrators, masks.
Cruelty abounds, however, and several of the slayings are distressing.
Much of the photography is at night or inside sporting houses. VHS viewers used to complain how visually dark this is, but modern resolution screens will handle the blacks easier.
 

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Fleming - 2014 - 6/10

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Potentially memorable 4-part series falters due to indifferent writing, wobbly storylines.
Dominic Cooper, usually a prune type, good as aimless Ian Fleming, the family disappointment.
Episodes linger over dalliances with eager young females, and his growing influence in Naval Intelligence.
Characters were based on actual people, relationships fairly honest, and most of the history accurate.
Fleming, being an embellished account, one should mistrust the “actiony” bits, however.
Fair warning - Last 20“ of the final episode are a plodding shamble.
Nice hints of Bond: plot turns, music cues, even players (eg: aide Monday makes an ideal Moneypenny), maintain interest, though the overall series is rather a crusty bore.
 

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I I I - Das Ritual - 2015 - 6/10

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Arthouse alert!! Russian film set in remote village beset with plague like wasting illness.
Being marketed as Horror, yet this is not genre true. By any standard, a beautiful film to watch.
Scene after scene of marvelously composed images.
For cinematography and atmosphere, I’d boost this to 8/10.

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Thus noted, for narrative, I’d kick this down to 4/10.
Damn little happens, and the pace is killingly slow.
Actors seem little better than somnambulists, serious and sluggish.
Scenes and characters are introduced, then abandoned.
When one sister comes down with the sickness, the healthy sister consults a rogue priest.
Most illness is mental, he declares, if one enters the other’s psyche the cure can be found.
Very tough sledding. The lame “was it all a dream” crutch applies. For arthouse geeks.
 

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5 Flights Up - 2014 - 7/10

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Arthouse / indie film set in Brooklyn of two seniors considering selling their flat.
There is a hefty financial inducement to sell (estimate - $1 mil), but mostly those five flights, no elevator.
Diane Keaton plays an ex-schoolteacher, Morgan Freeman an artist whose work is currently passe.
Leisurely paced slice of life, low on action, though huge events are happening.
For the couple, this could be the last move / last major decision they get to make.
They brace for the blitz of prospective buyers, as well as idlers who look because they are bored.
Ratings on this seemed segregated by age demographics.
Younger viewers bored - older viewers spellbound.
Those who have all the time in the world, those whose days are numbered.
Numerous flashbacks of the couple, forty years younger, when they dated then married in the 70s.
Possibly better appreciated by those 45 and older.
 

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Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter - 2013 - 7/10

. . . Based on a true story.
So begins this unlikely quest as main character Kumiko obsessively views a worn VHS.
The film is a far-fetched documentary where, at the end, a suitcase stuffed with money is buried under snow near a fence. The criminal marks the spot with a red ice scraper. Then it is forgotten.
The documentary is the movie Fargo, and Kumiko is convinced the money waits still. For her.
At age 29, Kumiko is an over-the-hill office girl.
Her boss wants her gone. Her mother wants her to marry, get pregnant, or move in with her.
Instead, she flies to Minneapolis in the dead of winter and begins trudging north.

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The Japanese section moves very slow. Kumiko is a social misfit and almost shunned.
Once in the States, she is also an outsider but is tolerated as a foreigner or turista.
Nevertheless, she is an isolated, driven soul.
And winters in the Dakotas are unforgivable.

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A haunting film with unforgettable, stark landscape.
Kumiko’s story, by the way, was “inspired” by the urban legend of Takako Konishi.
 

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Almost Human - 2013 - 6/10

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Bit of a mistake, this. I had watched the Swedish series Äkta Människor, then decided I wanted to view the remake. Only I chose this buddy cop series instead of Humans.
This is a slick, empty headed failure. Glossy high tech, stereotype roles.
Angry cop, wise supervisor, nervous geek deep in his lab, mouthwatering chrome-femme colleague.
Angry cop’s new partner is a discontinued robot model (with synthetic soul, that way the actor doesn’t have to speak and move like other androids).
Plots are stale, outcomes predictably happy, dialogue is crap, acting stiff.
In the year 2048, there are still cellphones, cars, desk computers, nightclubs, as well as Frisbee sized drones.
There are noodle shops and plenty of booze. Blame limited imagination on producer is J H Wyman (Fringe)
J J Abrams created the three-note opening music, yet the rest of the music, better, is by Crystal Method.
For the patient, by E10 the show finds its footing and voice. Original ratings tanked around that point.
For the first time, the underbelly of an elite city is shown, also a growing class divide between normal humans and genetically perfect ones, and rudimentary story arcs appear.
After E13, there are a couple of loose ends, but no annoying cliffhangers.
I have read it is canceled, I have read it is renewed. Eh.
 

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Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood - 1995 - 8/10

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Essential companion to Hollywood: A Celebration Of American Silent Film, the definitive, 13 part documentary of early Hollywood.
An excellent introduction and a good checklist for hunting down movies to view.
The English version is narrated by Kenneth Branagh, there is footage from vintage interviews as well as survivors.
At only 6 episodes, this is less detailed, but highly recommended, nonetheless.
This probably ought to have been 10 episodes, at least, but there may have been budget limitations.

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Five episodes were on post WWI productions and studios.
Silent footage used was of excellent quality throughout.
Series book-ended with an introductory episode (up to the end of WWI) and the usual “end of an era” chapter.
One chapter follows Scandinavian films, another French, another German, another Britain.
Especially poignant listening to Joan Morgan, English child actress, who received the “big offer” from Hollywood. Her father turned it down without consulting her. Fifty years later, one could tell the lost opportunity still hurt.
Little on Italian films, brief mention of Soviet Union, nothing on Austria.
 

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End Of The Tour - 2015 - 7/10

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Compelling, if historically suspicious, road trip of two writers.
Rolling Stone columnist takes assignment to interview David Foster Wallace, author of “Infinite Jest.”
Jesse Eisenberg takes the rather sour role of reporter Lipsky, resentful, envious, awe-struck and is terrific.
Jason Segel memorable as the author uncomfortable under the sun of fame.
He’s incredibly layered as individual who exposes himself and his flaws on one hand, then keeps friends at arm’s length on the other hand.
Film gracefully contrasts the loneliness and isolation most writers struggle with, alongside the near-delusional self confidence they must maintain to sustain themselves.
 

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The Undead - 1957 - 4/10

Roger Corman cheapie filmed inside an empty supermarket.
De-listed scientist, after having traveled in Nepal, hires a hooker (named Diana Love) to help with research.
No, not that kind of research. Hypnosis / regression into past lives.
Anyway, Miss Love drifts back to the Middle Ages and recalls she is imprisoned and scheduled for a beheading.
The “witch” accusation carries a heavy punishment.
Her “modern” soul gives her alter-ego escape advice, which results in altering the time line!
One of the best reasons to watch this flick is for “real witch” (sexy Allison Hayes) with her imp (Billy Barty).

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If you didn’t get enough of Ms Hayes in Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman this has more bodacious goodies.
Acting in the modern sequences is wooden, lines poorly delivered.
Problems are less noticeable in the medieval era because everyone speaks a Shakespearian hybrid dialect.
Atmospheric score. Cheap, though OK special effects (don’t expect too much).
Mr Satan is a laissez faire bon vivant, and a cheerful pragmatic.
 

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Roosevelt Game - 2014 - 8/10

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Nine innings J-drama, set in the corporate boardroom, in the development lab, and on the diamond.
Small manufacturing firm finds itself under serious attack by king sized competitor.
The larger outfit has deep pockets, and they soon launch every trick in the book to destroy the smaller group.
To add insult to injury, the big guys even poach three top players and coach from the small firm’s baseball team.
(Footnote - Corporations in Japan sponsor their own teams, have a season, and a tournament.)
To save money, the small firm begins layoffs and decides to shutter the baseball club.
They compromise, however, and the team will be only disbanded after they lose in the playoffs.

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Bet you can see where this is heading? Well, not exactly.
In the best tradition of J-dramas, the villains are wicked, sinister types.
But they are not stupid. In the ballpark, or in the boardroom, they are crafty and intelligent.
They countermove every tack the smaller electronics firm attempts to stay alive.
An addicting, nine episode series, with the battles played across multiple fronts.
Of course, the ball teams will square off eventually.

Enjoyed this greatly, and I truly despise baseball, specifically overpaid. MLB players who give the impression they don’t even like playing the game, disdain fans who root them on.
The games in this are old-fashioned, and the players earn next to nothing, so they play for love of the game.
Baseball fans, track this down!
 

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Serial (Bad) Weddings - 2014 - 6/10
ALA: Qu'est-ce Qu'on A Fait au Bon Dieu

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Forced French comedy of traditional Gaullist, Catholic family marrying off three daughters.
To a Muslim, to a Jew, to a Chinese. Brace yourself for tasteless jokes.
Daughter number four, the parents pray and pray and pray, will marry a nice Catholic man.
Lo and behold, she gets engaged to a nice Catholic man, only she neglects to tell parents he is black.
Lot of stereotyping in this movie, politically incorrect humor, silly misunderstandings. Very dated.
Focus is on diverse males and pissing contest behaviour, females little more than afterthoughts.
While I didn’t care for this, others around the Net rated this major laughs.
 

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Agatha Raisin: The Quiche Of Death - 2014 - 6/10

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Possible pilot that aired during the holidays.
Mystery, murder and comedy in the Cotswolds, with London press agent moving to the sticks.
The village seems 95% Caucasian, 100% rich (who else can afford those homes?) and they are having an annual cooking competition. In order to fit in, our newcomer decides to enter and win ... by any means.
Yes, good way to score points, claim the trophy.
Only murder surfaces, as do suspects, countless bang the weasel infidelities, backstabbing tongues, you name it.
Of course, being a city gal, and blonde know-it-all, Miss Raisin starts sleuthing.
Easy, predictable ... like watching “Midsomer Murders” lite.
 

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Ladies They Talk About - 1933 - 6/10

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Barbara Stanwyck in Pre-Code women in prison flick.
Moll used as decoy while gang pulls off bank heists.
Only she gets caught and sent to the slammer.
San Quentin seems nicer than most caged womens’ pens.
The matron and assistant matron are no-nonsense, but sympathetic wardens.
Jailbirds listen to records, read, play cards. Hardest duty is laundry.
Stanwyck displays gentle and rotten streaks side by side.
Her loyalty to her old gang is paramount, though, which places her outside redemption.
At barely an hour, film loaded with plotlines, twists, romance, and razor edged dialogue.
For all that, not essential Pre-Code.
 

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Modern Times - The Vikings Are Coming - 2014 - 6/10

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What is wrong with British men?
Don’t ask me, ask British women.
Single women. The ones who want children, but lack a boyfriend or husband.
They’re heading for the sperm bank.
Only they don’t want reliable British steel. They want Danes.
Has to do with anonymous donors, which is the UK method. Whereas Denmark males offer names, photos, brief stories. English birds make more personal choices that way.
Rather shallow documentary skirts an issue of what happens when donor children appear at daddy’s door when they hit 18?
Also - the cuter Danes are very popular. A couple have potentially sired over 100 offspring.
What happens if those children meet down the line ... and make their own children?
 

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Helpless - 2012 - 7/10
AKA: Hoa-cha

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Nice paced Korean mystery.
Enroute to introduce his fiancée to his family, the boyfriend stops at a gas station for coffee and snacks.
Inside the car, the girlfriend answers her cellphone.
The boyfriend returns to an empty car.
He cannot find her. The police are uninterested, dismissing it as bridal jitters.
The boyfriend hunts harder, discovers she was not who she claimed. His fiancée was an imposter.
Eventually he hires a friend / relative (?), ex-police to track her down.
All that occurs early on in dark, downward spiral of a tale.
Solid mystery / thriller. Absorbing date flick, especially if your partner keeps secrets.
 

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Stung - 2015 - 5/10

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Poor marks on IMDB should have warned me, but a glowing review on DVDTalk tempted the sucker in me.
Two caterers drive into rural nowhere. Birthday party for elderly WASPs in a crumbling manor house.
Lance Henriksen is the most recognizable player.
WASPs are soon attacked by wasps, big ones, maybe three or four inches long.
Them what gets stung gives birth to a fresh wasp, roughly the size of the host body.
Clearly, you want to keep pissed off insects near field mice and away from sumo wrestlers.
Plot is predictable, the pace grows boring, and the script has more flaws than invention.
There’s a good amount of meals - uhh, victims - at the party, but most get killed within three minutes.
Suspect filmmakers could not imagine different ways of killing, so that’s their fault.
Also, numerous small sized, crafty wasps are easier to hate and fear than laughable jumbos.
Then again, real wasps likely don’t take direction well. Again, blame the filmmakers.
To be fair, I was drinking, yet that didn’t make this retread any more entertaining.
 
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