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A few reviews

Vultural

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Ian Fleming - Where Bond Began - 2008 - 7/10

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Excellent documentary of the writer, focusing on his newspaper years (where he learned his craft) and WWII service in Naval Intelligence (where he saw firsthand the world of espionage).
Enjoyable for Bond buffs, though this is not about 007, but the creator.
In a delicious irony, Fleming’s voiceover is done by Jonathan Pryce (AKA: Elliot Carver).
Joanna Lumley, a sometimes cheeky presenter, was a Bond girl, and was in The New Avengers.
Much of this will be interesting to newcomers, and the history is more accurate than 2014‘s Fleming.
 

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Cilla - 2014 - 7/10

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Well done, if not altogether completely accurate, mini series of young Cilla Black.
Cilla was the girl singer in Brian Epstein’s stable.
She never succeeded in the States, yet became a telly institution in Britain.
Series covers the early days when she was a Cavern Club devotee and often sang onstage with the boys, through her hit making years..
One of her friends is Rory Storm’s drummer, Ringo.  Then there’s those other guys.
Numerous songs throughout, and several groups listed, including some that never made it out of Liverpool.
Sheridan Smith does her own belting and is terrific.
Story ends around the same time as the end of the British Invasion, but before the end of Swinging London.
 

thecuddlyninja

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Sicario - 2015 - 8/10

Visceral, taut, suspenseful. Not what I thought it was (though I've never seen Prisoners but now really want to). This was an interesting look at no-win situations and ends justifying means. My favorite thing about this film, and the less said the better about the movie as a whole, was something that I'm going to put in non-spoilery terms. There is a character in the film who would be an action revenge hero in many movies these days. Except in this film, we get a wider perspective which reveals that a lot of stuff that we put in movies as positive heroism can be fucking sociopathic, sadistic and murdery. Not a condemnation because life is shades of grey but a very interesting perspective. Also, Deakins is a pro and this movie looks great. The camera work is really interesting and worth watching a second time just to focus on.


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Vultural

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The History Boys - 2006 - 7/10

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Talky adaptation of popular play.
Graduating class of Sheffield grammar school qualifies for Cambridge and Oxford.
Merely qualifying doesn't guarantee entry.
There are interviews to hurdle.
A young teacher is hired on to hone skills, to show the lads can learn and think independently.
Despite a mis-inspired end twist, a satisfying movie, chock flash with of history nuggets, wordplay, poetry and song (including George Formby!).
A powerful tonic against defeatists and yob worship.
 

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Good Hair - 2009 - 6/10

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Who knew a documentary about "fixing" bad hair could be so fun?
$1000 hair extensions, hair relaxers containing sodium hydroxide (lye), and a outta control stylist competition.
Plus, answers to questions like -
“How do you have sex with a woman wearing a weave?”
Answer - Girl on top.  Touch hair and die!
Hosted by comedian Chris Rock.
 

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Hardcore Henry - 6.5/10

I was very interested to see this movie but cautiously so. I'm not a gamer at all (well, FIFA a bit but not any FPS games). Regardless, though, I'm interested to see any movie that does something different from everything else. The plot is very thin and I didn't care about any of it. The ending made no sense and I didn't care for the climactic action sequence at all.

But, I enjoyed the hell out of this movie purely because the stunt work and choreography is brilliant. Some of the action is absolutely stunning. If you're sensitive to motion sickness, this is not for you. The fact that many stunts were performed so well while also filming with a camera is nuts. Props to the whole team for putting together an amazing set of stunt pieces. Especially when so many parts were long oners, it's a testament to the work and the editing that so much action came off and looked great.

It's also nice if you appreciate practical stunts. These Russian dudes are nuts. So much great work. It did make for a visceral experience. My biggest problem with the last act is that the whole film has "realistic" fights in the context of the established world but a part of my disappointment with the last act is that there's a touch of people attacking two or three at a time even though there are many more. That being said, this movie is clearly trying to recreate a FPS in cinematic form and enemies in games are 100% that stupid.


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3 Coeurs - 2014 - 5/10
AKA - Three Hearts

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Tax accountant misses the last train, ends up walking midnight streets with a woman out buying cigarettes.
He suffers panic attacks, she has esteem problems.
They make a date to rendezvous in Paris later, only one gets stood up.
All tailspin from there.
One character relocates abroad - the other hooks up with their sibling!
Mind you, the  original midnight strollers had never exchanged phone numbers, let alone names, so the subsequent encounter was sheer coincidence.  - Fate -
Or, the hand of a clumsy writer.
There is also the possibility that everything that occurred after that missed date is all dream-time.
An even worse cheat, especially since that notion is postulated yet never resolved.
I am trying to be careful here, trying not to spoil a muddled movie.
The denouement dovetails to that missed rendezvous again with yet another potential outcome!
Enough to give arthouse films a bad name.
 

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Everest - 2015 - 7/10

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Based on the 1996 summit expedition where eight lost their lives.
Film excels at revealing the preparation, support staff, and Wild Westish camps.
Also showing how crowded and competitive Everest tourism has become.
Affluent tourists, to be sure, yet many, many of them.  Too many.
Tour guides know as many as possible must reach the top.  Otherwise, future bookings will suffer.
Breathtaking photography, mostly in the Himalayas, though not 100%.
Interesting Making-Of doc reveals backdrops (eg: lift chairs).
Admirable, and a good companion to 2010‘s The Wildest Dream.
 

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It Follows. (2014)

A try to make a horror movie like Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street but at the same time quite actual.
Everything was there for me to like it: creepy mood, very strong and simple idea, very well shot (à la John Carpenter), the young actors/actresses are not amazing but quite all right.
But sadly, after a good first hour the movie falls flat. It is just more and more of the same until an ending without a proper wrap.
Maybe some people will say that it's what makes it good, but to me, if you come with a strong idea you need to end the movie in a proper way or else everything you give to the audience is just a strong idea that leads nowhere.
Too bad because it really could have been a new classic of horror.
I still recomment to watch it because it is a well made movie, but I felt it ran out ideas and it was not that scary either.

I rate it a 7/10 anyway. But it is VERY generous.
 

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Kurokôchi - 2013 - 7/10
AKA - クロコーチ

Sleazy, dishonest, crooked, scheming, even murderous.
Barely comes close to describing the used car ethics of Detective Kurokôchi.

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He extorts money from politicians, covers-up killings by businessmen, blackmails anyone he can slip the wedge under.
For all that, he is almost a breath of fresh air in the entrenched law enforcement hierarchy.
And, as the 10 episode series unfolds, he digs deeper and deeper into a long buried mystery.
The 300 Million Yen Bank Robbery of 1968 (actual event).
Forces behind the vanished monies, one soon realizes, are powerful and secure.
Nevertheless, they never take the shifty Kurokôchi for granted.
He is partnered with a by-the-book individual, whom he shamelessly exploits.
Very much a game of lies, knives and smiles.  Irresistible!
 

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Queen Victoria’s Letters - 2014 - 7/10

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Unexpectedly entertaining two part series on the Widow Of Windsor.
Victoria wrote an astounding 50 million words in journals and letters.
Many myths debunked here.
Until widowhood, she was used and abused by strong men.
She had a strong sense of humor, as well as a strong sex drive (9 children).
The memoirs published in her life were considered scandalous, and after her death her daughter Beatrice did serious redaction.
With so many, many journals, however, much abides.
Fine documentary for Anglophiles.
 

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Louisiana Hussy - 1959 - 4/10

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Laugh out loud trash of hip swaying female in small swamp village.
Movie opens as a girl wearing tight slacks skedaddles out of a house, hops on a horse and giddyaps away.
Hollering menfolk, one shooting a pistol, chase after her to no avail.
Next scene, one of a pair of feuding brothers finds her out in the swamp while he’s out harvesting Spanish moss.
Sign outside his shack reads:  Fish - Fur - Moss.  A job is a job, I suppose.
Sooner than you can say,  “Is it warm in here or what?”  that female, the above mentioned “hussy” is digging her claws into barebacked men doing the horizontal hokey poke.
Generally to a sludgy blues score.
Late flashbacks reveal more men (surprise) and carnal wickedness.

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This gem is like forty-eight ways bad, from acting to dialogue to editing to fisticuffs to overall structure.
Scenes are often inserted during a lull or exposition that have no bearing whatsoever to the story.
Like fifteen seconds of shack tramp grinding the Twist in her white bra and half slip.
Or when she strips naked and goes skinny dippin’.
For trash fans, this is a glorious film!  Jaw dropping lunacy abounds.
While I have a soft spot for hard blondes, actress Nan Peterson falls short in the bottled department, though she has an expressive feral-like face that really propels this winner.
 

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Taxi - 1998 - 6/10

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French action comedy (“Taxi” pulls multiple hits in IMDB).
The speediest (“stop sign? what stop sign?”) pizza delivery guy in Marseilles ditches his motorcycle after he gets his taxi license.  Naturally, he becomes the speediest in the taxi world as well.
Marseilles police are aware of him, since he blows down speed meters while clocking 130 MPH, but they have other worries.  A bank heist team, known as the Mercedes Gang, has throttled into town.
Daylight robberies, screeching rubber, brilliant escapes from the frustrated, if imbecilic, police.
Who can catch the gang?
Yes, predictable as a child’s sing song.
The two male leads are given the most character development, the baddies are more sneering than deadly.
Broad based comedy with several car chases, slalom style.
Empty headed fun, primed for anyone who ever asked a cabbie to “step on it.”
 

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Slither - 2006 - 6/10

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Campy alien invasion yarn that mines Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Night Of The Living Dead, Alien, and too many other films to reference.
Meteor lands in woods outside small Southern town (filmed in Canada), except said meteor is not empty.
In a burg stuffed with rednecks and mush mouths, the “invader” picks the first curious human.
From then on, the campaign of conquest and expand launches.
Earth is doomed!
Dialogue runs savage funny, insensitive, crude.  Political correctness monitors - run!
Gore - slime - children in danger (ain’t no marines in this, either) - not enough nudity - orifice seeking slug-like invaders - and unforgettable scenes of a 'bout to bust mommy and tentacle sex.
Would rank this a point higher, except the jokes and invention flagged near the finish.

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Note - There was actually an extended edit of this here.
Col Hutty (quintessential exploding star member) gave a mixed review.
 

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Arthur & George - 2015 - 6/10

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Three part series of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Sherlock mania in full swing, Sir Arthur is recently widowed and suffers depression.
He receives a letter from a recently released convict, potential solicitor, asking to review his conviction.
Martin Clunes makes a crisp Doyle.  Costuming seems impeccable and most of the goings-on take Doyle and his secretary outside of London, so plenty of afternoon and full sun framing.  
Story springs the odd turn here and there, but nothing too far fetched.
Because ... yes, inspired by true events!
The young solicitor, Doyle’s interest, and subsequent law change were all true.
Everything else onscreen, say dialogue or additional characters?  No, sorry, pure writer’s imagination.
Entertaining, and at three parts not an endless soaper, but starchy.
 

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Poison Ivy - 1953 - 6/10
AKA - La Môme Vert de Gris

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Casablanca  police hear a dying gang member ramble about $20 million in gold, US transport, and an imminent date.
Baffled, they alert the US consulate, who contacts the FBI, who ship off crack agent, Lemmy Caution.
First of the Lemmy Caution series starring craggy faced (mirror breaking) Eddie Constantine.
This bears all the trappings of Noir:  shadows, endless cigarettes, smooth gangsters, seedy nightclubs, hard dames.
Only, this is too lite for Noir.  Breezy almost playful, and the fisticuffs are ridiculous.
Moreover, Lemmy always seems three steps ahead of the muscle and the brains.
Enjoyable from start to finish, but pure marshmallow.
Compensations include nightclub dancer that US censors would never tolerate.

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I Smile Back - 2015 - 7/10

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Well acted across the board, but depressing, disturbing film of mental illness.
Mom (outstanding Sarah Silverman) drinks, pops pills, snorts lines, prowls for men who like doggie.
Stunts and reckless behavior to break the numbness.
Not shown, but probably when she’s on lithium.
When she skips the lith, she swings from belligerent to utterly withdrawn.
Childhood demons might be a cause, or it might be genetic.
Family and friends are trapped with her, or swirling near the edge of her whirlpool.
This is about a soul in a tunnel with no light at either end.
 

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The Toll Gate - 1920 - 7/10

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Hard scrabble western.
Outlaw leader (William S Hart) advises gang the reward for them is too high and they ought to disband.
Not surprisingly, the men opt for one final big score.  Train carrying a hefty payroll.
Only the train is packed with lawmen and the Army.  The men are cut to pieces - save for the outlaw leader, and the snitch who betrayed his companions.
From here on, the story is one of vengeance.
Slow going, seldom dull, but a moral code - typical of Hart - overlays the tone.
Interesting to observe the clothes, hats, manners, far different from TV Westerns or films from the 40s onward.

Hart is not the easiest of silent stars to watch - Tom Mix is loads more fun, though more rhinestone.
 

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The Danish Girl - 2015 - 6/10

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Unsteady biopic of transgender pioneer, “inspired” by Einar Wegener ] ] Lili Elbe.
30s Danish artist goes from modeling female costumes for his artist wife, then cross-dressing at soirees.
Finally, he decides he was mis-born male and tries to convince medical types he is not insane.
Extremely earnest and correct film rings false on a few fronts.
One, the history is inaccurate - hence the “inspired” tag.
Wegener/Elbe was not the first operation, that was Dora R in 1921.
Eddie Redmayne, exceptional as Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, here is either miscast of suffers atrocious pancake makeup.
Not once could I accept him as female, transgender or cross-dresser.
This reminds me of gay cinema of the early 70s (eg: The Boys In The Band).
Heavily viewed, embraced.  Entertainment quotient - broccoli.
 

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Middle Men - 2009 - 6/10

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Eye candy galore in film about the rise of the Internet porn industry.
Two dysfunctional geek whizzes devise encrypted payment tools to view skin.
Then they get some Russian backers.
Luke Wilson is the corporate fixer who smooths the kinks, allowing Internet porn, as we know it, to flourish.
Subplots with FBI, terrorists, marital problems, and murders, doodle around but don't drag the pace too much.
 
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