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A few reviews

Vultural

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Space Battleship Yamato - 2010 - 5/10

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Wow, flashback to a bygone era.
Earth is being bombarded by hostile aliens using radioactive meteorites.
The hope for humanity lies with SB Yamato, which resembles a submarine meets aircraft carrier meets shark.
The cast overacts, spitting their lines in staccato outbursts which reminded me of the 60s era.
Fighter pilots participated in dismal CGI dogfights, while the bridge crew were parked at futuristic, 1984 type, consoles. The Captain was glued to his Laz-E Boy recliner.
Best of all, every single character was selfless, noble and heroic.
Just like real life.
 

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Hidden Face - 2011 - 7/10

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Quicksand thriller from Spain.
Insecure female decides to “test” her boyfriend.
Does he really love me?
Would he miss me if I left?
She disappears.
Big - big - big mistake.
After a couple of days, he gets drunk at a cafe and goes home with a new bang bunny.

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Males, being creatures of limited depth, rarely recall ex-girlfriends once new the new face drains the mojo.
Slow to get going, but a nightmare for asthmatics, the claustrophobic, and the insecure.
 

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Legend - 2015 - 6/10

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Tom Hardy portrays the brothers Kray, crime lords in 60s Swinging London, and is the chief reason to view this.
Hardy riveting as certifiable Ronnie, equally effective as more polished Reggie.
Film starts in early 60s,after the Krays have conquered the East End where they are feared and adored.
Oddly enough, the narrative is told primarily from Reggie’s girlfriend, later wife, Frances.
Consequently, there is little in the way of “gangster” business. Violence is minimal.
More a character study, especially the triangle between Ronnie - Reggie - Frances.
Atmospheric set designs. Nice, unfamiliar soundtrack. Fine acting all around.
Still, the film is sorely lacking in oomph.
Fifteen minutes of Guy Ritchie would have juiced this up.
 

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Sitcom - 1998 - 5/10

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Stately home exterior, Happy Birthday sung within, punctuated with gunfire and screaming.
Then the phrase, “Earlier ...” and the flashback.
Deliberately strange François Ozon comedy / satire of family mores.
During dinner, the son stands up, announces he is homosexual, goes to his room.
Also at the table is the maid’s husband who offers to speak with the boy.
He goes to his room, removes his own clothes, and verifies the homosexual claim.
After dinner, the suicidal daughter reveals a propensity for S&M.
The distraught mother decides to test her son’s sexual inclination her own way.
Oh, I almost forgot the family white rat who is encouraged to crawl in and out of all sorts of places one would not normally think of.
And no, I’m not giving much away since this is simply the opening twenty minutes of a bizarre ride.
Somewhere, Robert Crumb smiles.
 

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Gone Girl - 2014 - 6/10

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I got stuck watching this, but I knew it would be coming so I never read a single review, comment, blurb.
Only knew it was about a wife who vanishes from a troubled marriage.
That encapsulates the plot, and the less you read or know, the better you may enjoy.
The problems regarding habeas corpus absentia are glossed over.
Unless I missed an update to Law 101, no body = no crime.
Not that that curtails media sharks and the resultant street circus.
Ben Affleck fine as out of his depth, slippery husband, though the film is awash with repellant creatures.
Nasty little time, more or less recommended.
 

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Dark Places - 2015 - 6/10

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Tightly wound, adult thriller with Charlize Theron playing troubled survivor.
When she was 8, her family was mass murdered. For thirty years, she lived on charity, royalties from a ghost written memoir, envelopes with cash or cheques from accident onlookers. Now the money has dried, and she still has no job skills, no employment history.
A conspiracy club offers money if she tries to discover what truly happened.
And down the grim, trashy rabbit hole she goes.
Adapted from an earlier book by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), this has less fireworks and is less over the top.
Theron’s character is haunted and bruised, with no super abilities or genius IQ.
Story is more believable than Gone Girl, and the feel is more realistic.
Note - Not necessary, but older viewers might remember the mass hysteria over Satan worship, with possession and sacrifices, that was a cultural feature of the 1980s.
 

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The Victorians - Their Story In Pictures - 2009 - 8/10

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Four part documentary series on the Victorians as seen through the cinema of the day - paintings.
Pictures that not only reflected times and conditions of the era, but how the people wanted to view themselves.
Entertaining, informative, never dusty. Plenty of details for genre fans yet accessible for casual trippers, as well.
Host Jeremy Paxman seems curious, skeptical, almost wistful at times.
Fairly chronological, going from early moralistic scenes to the Empire at its height to the melancholy themes of the Pre Raphaelites, the Aesthetic Movement, and beyond.

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This series aired a couple years ago, yet is readily available.
As always with Victorians, so much of their world echoes our own.
 

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Aozora Musume -1957 - 6/10
AKA - Blue Sky Maiden // 青空娘

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Sweet story of girl, recently graduated from high school, going to live in Tokyo with her father.
She had been living with grandma, since ma had had her out of wedlock and there was that shame factor.
Oh, and dad had been married back when, is still married, and the family is not at all keen about her moving in.
With a big smile and almost boundless cheer, she tries to win them over.
Immaculate compositions, as always with Japan productions, nice period look at Post War Tokyo.
Partially predictable, but with a couple of unguessed plot turns.
 

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La Fiancée du Pirate - 1969 - 6/10
AKA - A Very Curious Girl

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Revenge film about the maltreated village slag.
After Marie’s mother is killed by a hit n run, and her pet goat comes to a bad end, she methodically gets even.
No more kissing and cuddling with menfolk to warm the nights.  Now it’s,  “Money first.”
Village men pay.  And pay.  Marie may not be easy on the eyes, but she is easy - - when cash is offered.
When irate wives refuse to give husbands money, the men barter watches or possessions.
When elders try to persuade her to cease, she offers a little persuasion of her own.
Even though this is likely set in the late 1960s (a poster with Belle de Jour is in one scene), one gets a feeling this could have been set in Medieval France.
Look quick for Louis Malle as the penniless Spaniard, “no tengo dinero,” who scores, nevertheless!
 

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Une Belle Fille Comme Moi - 1972 - 6/10
AKA - A Gorgeous Girl Like Me

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Sociologist decides to write his thesis about jailbird, Camille, convicted of murdering at least two men.
She demands her banjo (to polish her nonexistent singing prowess) and she wants fresh nuts since the prison does not provide.
Sociologist is soon in over his depth as Camille’s lies, eyes, thighs and absurd stories befuddle him.
Frothy Truffaut comedy studded with nonsensical situations, foolish males who follow their wands, and a fast talking sorceress who offers petals freely yet takes and takes.

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At one point Camille is handling four different men, putting the squeeze on each of them.
Funny, sexy, beguiling satire of the femme fatale.
The same actress played a bitter, vengeful vixen in 1969s La Fiancee du Pirate, but this is much more fun.
 

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Searching For Sugarman - 2012 - 7/10

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If you are a music fan, like a hardcore collector, you are always searching for new.
Or forgotten, or overlooked. You don't want mainstream, that's for the herd.
Documentary about the obscure Detroit musician, Rodriguez.
He released two albums in the early 70s. Both sank like stones.
One night, so the story went, angry, despondent, Rodriguez killed himself onstage in front of a bored crowd. No one knew him, no one missed him.
Except in South Africa where he had been massively popular. And he had never known.
Film follows the trail. Who was Rodriguez? What happened to him?
This one really pulls you in, partly for the mystery, partly because his music was so good.
 

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California Solo - 2012 - 6/10

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Character study of washed out Scots musician, now working for California farm.
His green card is 20 years old, and he has forgotten about a very old marijuana possession charge.
Until he gets pulled over for DWI (driving while intoxicated).
Low key story shows his attempts to avoid deportation, and interactions with friends and estranged family.
Robert Carlyle plays the burnout guitarist. He looks too old for the role, as written.
His bygone band, the Cranks, hailed from the Madchester Scene, which was time specific to 1988-1993 or thereabouts. Carlyle would have been 30, though his character says he and his brother were "just kids" in Manchester then.
Otherwise, nice film, quiet.
 

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Ripper Street: S02 - 2013 - 7/10

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Very much an extension of Season 01.
Narrative seems to have skipped a year or two.
One character now married, another’s wife has gone AWOL.
If anything, the tone is grimmer and darker than before.
Bucking the usual glossy, warming Victorian fare, the lives of all characters here spiral into misery for which there seems no exit.
Absorbing for viewers, but a dark, hard, brutish series.
 

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Verdun - Visions d'Histoire - 1928 - 7/10

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Long (150 minutes) dramatization / reenactment of the historic battle for Verdun during World War I.
This is helped along with some stock footage, as well as maps, diagrams, and rough animation.
WWI had ended only a decade earlier, so original audiences would have been quite familiar with the history.
Tactics are shown for both German and French. Victories are noted, as are defeats.
British troops are referenced, but they were busy at the Somme.
Yanks would not enter the war until 1917, a full year after Verdun.
For history buffs - especially war buffs - this is interesting throughout.
This is a nice companion to the BBC series, The Great War (1963).
 

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First World War - 2003 - 8/10

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Excellent, 10 part companion to 1963's thorough, 26 episode documentary, The Great War.
Despite covering the same years, there is little overlap plus a lot of additional information.
Example - British encouragement of Japanese involvement against German Pacific territories laid the seeds for the Pearl Harbor attack
Or, Jews, fleeing Russian persecution, serve under the Kaiser and relocate their families to Germany.
Or the proposed German plans to attack Boston.
Much of the global conflict is referenced, Asian campaigns, Arabian adventures, African guerrilla warfare.
What is missing are the the first hand interviews and detailed campaign analysis.
Thus noted, one whole chapter is devoted the the Ludendorff Offensive, which almost turned the outcome.
Ending seemed rushed, though historians might say the same about the war’s resolution itself.
Marvelous series, perhaps easier to digest than the '€˜63.
 

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Berlin - Metropolis of Vice - 2005 - 7/10

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Free-for-all tour of 1920s Berlin, widely considered one of the most decadent time/place cities ever.
Film takes its cues from Mel Gordon’s “Voluptuous Panic” and is packed with images, most which cannot be shown here.
Much had to do with the defeat of Germany at the end of World War I, the annihilation of so many men, runaway inflation, as well as the sense of devil take the hindmost.
Tourists flocked to Berlin, mostly because their runaway inflation meant that everything - and everyone - was inexpensive.

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On parade are cabarets, gay clubs, lesbian clubs, transvestite societies, nudist associations, the sex museum, drugs, alcohol, S&M and prostitutes, legions of prostitutes - male, female, mother & daughter combos, pregnant females, obese types, deformed or paraplegic, sugar lickers, racehorses, grasshoppers, half-beavers, gravelstones, kontroll girls, boot girls, half silks . . .
Of course, the inevitable backlash arrived with the rise of the National Socialist Party.
 

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Riot Club - 2014 - 6/10

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Privileged toffs behaving very badly, indeed.
Not only are they rich, entitled, and destined for the best of everything,
but they get to urinate all over the lower orders.
At least they do in this film.
Supposedly based on the Burlington Club, the Riot Club originated after the death of Lord Ryot.
Film rings false as they would not book an evenings revelry in a bourgeois pub.
Nor would they hire a call girl who would balk.
Also, paparazzi and phone cams are ubiquitous nowadays.
Nevertheless, a choice film for conspiracy and Illuminati buffs.
 

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How to Be Sherlock Holmes - 2014 - 6/10

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Glossy overview of the actors who have played Holmes.
From William Gillette to Mr Cumberbatch.
Of particular interest are what each has added to the canon.
Gillette, for example, switched from a straight pipe to the iconic curved pipe (so audiences could see his face).
He also uttered the phrase - on silent intertitle - “Elementary.”
Rathbone updated Holmes to the 40s, Cumberbatch to the present day.
Jeremy Brett given left-handed praise, with apologists whining how tired he looked at the end (for those unaware, Mr Brett had been fighting cancer for several years, eventually succumbing to a heart attack).
Rathbone quit Holmes, worrying he would become typecast (which occurred). No mention was uttered of the sheer times he portrayed the detective. 13 major film roles, and a whopping 220 radio episodes!
The narrative also reminded viewers how fortunate they were to have two new actors (Cumberbatch & R Downey) playing the consulting detective. No mention of the Miller / Liu series.
Purists decry the omission of Vasily Livanov, considered by many to be the finest Holmes.
( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079902/ )
 

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Murder Is My Beat - 1955 - 5/10

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My mistake. I mistook Barbara Payton for Beverly Michaels and grabbed this from my stash.
Pretty bad film from the get-go. Note police captain in awful black n white checked sportcoat. Ugh.
Dead man found in fireplace, face and hands burned beyond recognition.
Blame falls on girlfriend - clubgirl - hooker at cheap bar.
Cop traces her to mountain cabin (chance to see lots of snow for no reason).
Atrocious dialogue, like the writer attempted wiseguy Noir and ended up with junior high mimicry.
Acting uniformly bad. Photography ranges from static to overused stock. No pace.
There must have been ten minutes of trains roaring past. Plus, a couple minutes tour inside a ceramics factory!
Blows, man. Payton’s final film. From this point on, her story was ugly.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0668510/bio
 

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Secrets Of China - 2015 - 6/10

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Maddening three part BBC doc ought to be called Billie Takes Selfies In China.
Presenter Billie JD Porter whines, complains, pouts, acts disrespectful, and helps us understand China.
Evidently, she did no homework before filming began. Not even basic Mandarin.
In one episode she is in a boot camp for kids failing in school because of attitude problems or addiction to games.
Billie encourages one of the girls to keep fighting, but Billie will return to her posh life so she is giving bad advice.
Another episode focuses on marriage mania, and the insane money involved.
Third show displays the widening gap between poor and ultra rich. Hey, didn’t Mao lead a revolution?
Billie pretends to embrace and commiserate with common folk, but she is obviously drawn to glitz and wealth.
Interesting points are made throughout, though the self absorbed host is distracting and culturally clueless.
 
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