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A few reviews

Vultural

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You Don't Know Jack - 2010 - 7/10

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Al Pacino quite good as Jack Kevorkian, US physician who assisted 120 suicides.
With Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Danny Huston, and ... if you are over 40 ... Brenda Vaccaro.
By turns funny, provocative, infuriating, sad.
Includes 10 minute documentary with cast & Dr. Kevorkian himself.
If I got a debilitating, agonizing disease I would want an exit option.
Might not take it, but I would want it available.
Overlong at 2 hours 14 minutes.
 

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Sex, Chips And Rock N' Roll - 1999 - 6/10

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Coming of age mini-series.
Sisters Arden and Ellie fall in the path of The Ice Cubes, a rising pop group in the early 60s.
Wistful recollection of Eccles, with an irresistible song selection and youthful performances.
Nice layers of multiple generations conflicting, as well as surprising class misconceptions.

I found this quite by accident when looking for other work by James Callis (aka - The Wolf, aka - Gaius Baltar).
 

Vultural

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Internet'€™s Own Boy - 2014 - 7/10

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Poignant documentary of Aaron Swartz, prodigy and Internet activist.
Swartz was part of the team who developed RSS web feed code (he was 14 at the time) and was instrumental in developing CC (creative commons copyright).
He landed in prosecutorial crosshairs after uploading public information and knowledge that private corporations were charging for.
Perhaps his shining moment was rousing public opinion against the SOPA bill which was considered a done-deal.
Everyone who uses the Internet is indebted to him.
Film very good about showing what Swartz did, and one got a good feel for his personality.
Narrative brutally honest about Federal agents intimidating and coercing Swartz’s  friends during interrogations.
No punches pulled when showing overzealous prosecutor, as well as dubious souls who have never been prosecuted (big bankers, a couple of familiar software guys), but stops short of highlighting MIT involvement and lack of intervention.  Swartz might well be alive today had MIT acted better.
Very well done.  Inspiring.  Sad.
 

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Great Passage - 2013 - 7/10
AKA - Fune wo amu - or - 舟を編む

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Within the publishing firm, the sales division is only too happy to transfer their worst salesman to the dictionary division - considered career death.
Once there, the nebbish bookworm excels and gradually rises through the small ranks.
The updated edition, titled The Great Passage, takes 15 years of checking, cross-checking, verifying, re-verifying definitions and meanings before it finally reaches publication.
As the world passes from print to digital.
Not altogether dull, though story moves at its own leisurely pace.
By any standard, extremely geeky.
 

Vultural

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Peindre ou Faire l'amour - 2005 - 5/10
AKA - To Paint Or Make Love

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Guy retires, lives in the city, worries about getting bored.
His girlfriend, out one afternoon painting in rural oblivion, is approached by the blind mayor and given a tour of a house for sale.
Next beat, the guy and his girlfriend buy deserted pastures manor and move to the woodlands.
In other films, this would be slasher setup. Not here.
The pair befriend the mayor, his girlfriend, and, for reasons unexplained to viewers, lose their moral compass.
As in, they become “swingers,” mostly one gathers, because they suffer ennui.
Sorta like the energy they put into their performances.
Anyway, attractive visitors soon appear and disrobe. Yes, start thinking of prospects in the Ozarks, or Everglades, or Outback, or Yorkshire in winter. Move yourself to Provence for more appetizing riders.
Well photographed, pretentious fantasy.
 

Vultural

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My Old Lady - 2014 - 6/10

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Ha! Beware of the free lunch. The surprise gift.
Or, in this movie, the inheritance.
Destitute Yank spends his remaining funds to fly to Paris to see the property his father willed him.
Several floors, nice grounds, worth a fortune - with a catch.
A viager. The former owner, who lives as resident and receives a monthly payment of €2000 from the new owner.
For Americans, think reverse mortgage.
One might predict all sort of comic implications, but no, this darkens into serious drama territory.
The whole film smacks of theatre boards, which is just what it was.
Mostly a two set play with the stone broke American, the elderly British resident, and her daughter.
Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas.
All scratching to clutch tight to the property.
 

Vultural

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San Francisco 2.0 - 2015 - 6/10

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Documentary by Alexandra Pelosi.
For non-USA residents, she is the daughter of ex House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
Straight off, I braced for a “message” so was not surprised.
Doc charts affluent developers of the Bay city versus poor folks being squeezed out.
Note image above. Everything is disposable. Even a legendary ballpark.
By and large, the poor are renters living on rent control.
Landlords want to quadruple rent for rich Millennials working in burgeoning tech firms.
Never mind that so many are start-up unicorns.
Talking heads (Robert Reich, Jerry Brown) cite vanishing diversity, class inequality, diminished opportunities . . .
Sure, boss, whatever. Landowners always want top return, tax man wants higher property taxes, eager young adults will pay for trendy.
How quick do you think developers and City Hall can jerry-rig the system?
Lower orders, if your education and work skills are inferior, then your pie shall be humble.
Been that way since Caesar.

Aside - I have visited San Francisco regularly for over a decade.
Political liberalism aside, the true power brokers always strike me as conservatives.
Folks often praise diversity, while prize exclusivity.
 

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Vultural said:
You Don't Know Jack - 2010 - 7/10

alg_pacino.jpg


Al Pacino quite good as Jack Kevorkian, US physician who assisted 120 suicides.
With Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Danny Huston, and ... if you are over 40 ... Brenda Vaccaro.
By turns funny, provocative, infuriating, sad.
Includes 10 minute documentary with cast & Dr. Kevorkian himself.
If I got a debilitating, agonizing disease I would want an exit option.
Might not take it, but I would want it available.
Overlong at 2 hours 14 minutes.
Agreed - a very good movie that could have been great with a quarter-hour trimmed out.




Vultural said:
San Francisco 2.0 - 2015 - 6/10

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Documentary by Alexandra Pelosi.
For non-USA residents, she is the daughter of ex House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
Straight off, I braced for a “message” so was not surprised.
Doc charts affluent developers of the Bay city versus poor folks being squeezed out.
Note image above. Everything is disposable. Even a legendary ballpark.
Well, the demise of Candlestick is the NFL for ya more than SF, isn't it? Those creeps always go for the bottom line. ;-)

As I like to say, the main trouble with SF is that there just isn't enough of it to go around. The Golden Gate is named in homage to Istanbul, not the gold metal found in the inland mountains, because geography that spectacular is quite simply destined for greatness.

But, "2.0"? Psh - the City's gone through a lot more updates than that in its brief history.
 

Vultural

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There is rather a sad sequence in San Francisco 2.0 doc where folks - black folks - being evicted from Pacific Heights or Doelger City (sorry, I don't know the lesser neighborhoods well) lament how tourists will not longer be able to view and appreciate urban street art. The murals.

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I was watching the show, shaking my head.
You guys are deluded, I thought.
Turistas - meaning middle class Americans, Europeans and Asians
ain't never going to venture that far out. They hit the major sites:
Fisherman's Wharf, Haight-Ashbury, Lombard Street, Chinatown,
maybe Alcatraz, maybe Union Square.
Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, Golden Gate Bridge.
City Lights - ha ha, the traveling readers.
But neighborhood of "color"? No.
I go to North Beach every visit, and it is generally lean on guests.

Gaith, you were the only soul on the site I figured would instantly know the image I selected and why.
 

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Black Line - 1960 - 6/10
AKA - Kurosen chitai / 奇想活劇傑作選 石井輝男 黒線地帯

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Terrific little Noir from Japan.
Reporter is investigating underworld prostitution ring (the Black Line), and he is royally set-up.
One minute he is drinking with a pimp, next minute he wakes next to a strangled hooker, his tie around her throat.
From there, the pace shifts into high gear, as he tries to solve the mystery and elude police.
It’s great how so much gets packed into 80 minutes.
Murders, go-go dancers, drug smuggling, a rival journalist, near captures.
A procession of lovely, malicious, female distractions try to slow him down whenever possible.
Memorable fight inside either a mannequin warehouse or adult inflatable "female companion"€ warehouse.
Bluesy, raucous jazz score just heightens the experience.
 

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Coffee Town - 2012 - 6/10

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Nice, overlooked comic gem.
Denizens of small coffee shop discover their hangout could be turned into a food bistro.
Instead of deadbeats fixed like barnacles to tables all day, pushy, noisy eaters will arrive.
And lingering, loitering, chilling all day, will be gone with the tape deck.
So they evolve an absurd plan to stop that.
Funny on multiple levels: situation, farce behaviour, clever wordplay.

I enjoyed this, but to tell the truth I never glanced more than a second at laptop types (mostly guys) sitting in coffee shops. I assumed most (mostly guys) were safely eyeing porn without mom, wife, girlfriend looming.
I also think this world is already disappearing, as laptops give way to phones for the majority.
 

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Eleventh Hour (UK) - 2006 - 6/10

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Four part series stars Patrick Stewart as Ian Hood, celebrated scientist working with Home Office, to solve crimes, outbreaks and other disasters. Assigned to protect his is a female agent from Special Branch.
Stories involve cloning, Plague germs, contamination.
The female agent is shamefully written as a liability, more of a Doctor Who companion, asking questions, barely capable of protecting her charge.
Studios often cast one character as an imbecile to make another appear superior. Feeble writing.
Worth catching for Stewart, who is outstanding, but if you desire more . . .
 

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Eleventh Hour (US) - 2008 - 6/10

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Rufus Sewell stars as Jacob Hood, scientist who works for FBI to solve crimes, outbreaks, disasters.
Assigned to protect him is no nonsense female agent. Hey ... wait a minute ...
Sound familiar? After the UK series was dropped, creator Stephen Gallagher sold it to CBS. In fact, three of the episodes are near word for word remakes.
One might assume this would be a no-brainer. The BBC version was fresher, Stewart the superior actor.
Hold on, though, UK only had four episodes, while the US aired 18.
Despite being a Bruckheimer production, slick visuals do not predominate. This series remains very much in the mystery thriller genre.
Stories about cloning, genetically modified food, human growth hormone, baby farming, manmade viruses.
Producers either learned from UK failings or the US market wanted a tougher female. Cute notwithstanding, Hood’s protector has no qualms about shooting her gun or kicking the hell out of suspects.
Overall, the UK series is darker, with uncertain resolutions. US episodes end more positively.
 

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Galileo: S01 - 2008 - 6/10
AKA - ガリレオ

When faced with baffling, unsolvable murders, female cop consults physics professor.
One case follows another until - Hey! - Apologies to Mr Berra, but is this deja vu all over again?

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Hold on. Another reboot of the Eleventh Hour franchise?
Not exactly, there are too many flaws.
For a serious drama, there is comic silliness.
Several music cues are goofy and slapstick, their noisy intrusion wrecks the mood.
The story arc suffered implausible romantic leanings. Detective and professor are acid n oil opposites, the attraction phony.
Complaints out of the way, the 10 part series was entertaining throughout.

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Most of the crimes are “unsolvable.” - Spontaneous combustion - Poltergeist - Fireballs - Ghosts - Premonitions
That is, until the prof and students set up testing apparatus.
Big, Goldberg devices.
Fun to watch, though uncertain how valid the scientific accuracy is.
Easy science for non-demanding C grade students.
 

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Student Services - 2010 - 6/10
AKA - Mes chères études

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19 year old university student (Déborah François) starts turning tricks to pay rent, buy food, shop for nice clothes.
Narrative charts her progression from desperate Internet search to experienced free lancer.
Fair range of johns, though most are unpleasant.
Couple of warnings -
This aired on French television and the screen is filled with full frontal nudity.
Not male nudity, though a large “male substitute” is featured prominently in one sequence.
For viewers who prefer their females to resemble Barbie or a 10 year old, Ms François favors a full bush.
 

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Expensive Women - 1931 - 6/10

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Early Pre-Code melodrama opens with woman in lingerie chatting with friend in bathtub.
Plot meanders into bored rich types, quite the thing in the Great Depression, who drink and party all day.
Heiress Dolores Costello meets composer William Warren and they seem a good fit,

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until she meets his younger friend, a dashing but weak willed gentleman.
Affairs, guilt, oh-so-adult agreements while everyone drinks and dances and laughs.
With something like this I usually end up looking at gowns and set-design.
Interiors all seem to be so white back then.
Photography is period “silver screen” though all shots of Costello and her campy friend (Polly Walters) soft focus.
One of the party goers resembles Wini Shaw (“Lullaby Of Broadway") though I could find no confirmation of such.
 

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Burt'€™s Buzz - 2013 - 6/10

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Documentary about elderly Burt Shavitz, cofounder of Burt€'s Bees product line.
Featherweight across the board, simply because this man talks little  and while his story is mildly interesting, it is hardly compelling.
Suffice to say and fellow hippie female friend started selling beeswax candles, lip balm, novelties, up in Maine in the 80s.  His backwoods, bearded image was used as logo and namesake.
Company enjoyed incredible success, Burt was bored, sold out for a trifle.
Don'€™t know whether to praise filmmakers for trying to make him appear entertaining, or to blame them for casting him as a taciturn, slow thinking old man.
Shavitz died in 2015, by the way.
 

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Vultural said:
Burt’s Buzz - 2013 - 6/10



Documentary about elderly Burt Shavitz, cofounder of Burt’s Bees product line.
Featherweight across the board, simply because this man talks little and while his story is mildly interesting, it is hardly compelling.
Suffice to say and fellow hippie female friend started selling beeswax candles, lip balm, novelties, up in Maine in the 80s. His backwoods, bearded image was used as logo and namesake.
Company enjoyed incredible success, Burt was bored, sold out for a trifle.
Don’t know whether to praise filmmakers for trying to make him appear entertaining, or to blame them for casting him as a taciturn, slow thinking old man.
Shavitz died in 2015, by the way.

This is weird. I like Burt's Bees products, but would have never thought "hey, I'd love to see a movie about this dude's life." Sounds completely unnecessary and boring. And I like boring and unnecessary movies...
 

TV's Frink

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My wife just perked up when I mentioned it. Added to our queue.
 

Vultural

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The Woman In The Fifth - 2011 - 5/10

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A throwback to the incomprehensible arthouse fare of the 70s.
Writer Ethan Hawke moves to Paris to be closer to his daughter.
Had he been in prison? A mental institute?
He is penniless, yet lands a job watching monitors for a gangster? Drug peddler? Accountant?
Meets a potential literary muse in Kristin Scott Thomas. Is she ... or maybe ... but then ... say wha ... ?
The old phrase, "That's why they call 'em furreign films," definitely applies here.
A confused jumble.
 
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