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A few reviews

ThrowgnCpr

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dangermouse said:
Note that I'm talking about Norwegian society in particular, and I have no dog in the US religious culture wars. I get the impression there that the opposite is true, that a lot of "Christian" culture is offensively oppressive.

^ This. And "offensive" is a euphemism.  I think it's best if I just stop myself here before I go into a long tirade about religion.  Back to reviewing movies...
 

Vultural

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Shelter - 2014 - 6/10

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Homeless man from Nigeria forms fragile relationship with heroin addict.
He recognizes a soul in crisis.  She says she doesn’t need anyone.
Predictable, despite the bonus Q&A session with director Paul Bettany saying this is based on real life observations of a homeless pair outside his window.
Really?  One far-fetched sequence had the couple encamping in a posh Manhattan apartment after the vacationing owners left a door unlocked - and apparently had no security system.  Trusting New Yorkers.
The street living couple are rather clean, too.  Clothes - hair.
Gradually, they share their backstories and that telegraphs how their ends will play out.
Gritty downer - but their misfortunes are more in keeping with Lemony Snicket rather than Ken Loach.
 

Vultural

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The Illusionist - 2010 - 7/10

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Animated film based on Jacques Tati's script.
The passing of stage performers in the late 50s, yielding to the younger generation.
Sweet comedy, but sad. Haunting piano score.
Scant dialogue.

Aside: English music halls faded out in the 60s. Vaudeville, in the States, much earlier, with the Talkies.
You can still catch a remnant of Music Hall at The Players' Theatre, however, in London.

http://www.playerstheatre.co.uk/

I try to attend every time I visit in London, though I must confess the passing of Dominic Le Foe altered the experience.
 

Vultural

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The Thick Of It - S01 - 2005 - 7/10

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Political satire, probably copied numerous times.
Career bureaucrats and politicians, witless about their duties spend 30 minutes shirking responsibility, finger pointing, switching positions, pushing others under the bus.
Venom laced in every line.
Savagely funny, though not for all tastes (not mine, I confess) and probably uncomfortably close to real situations.
First season has only three episodes.
 

Vultural

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Catch Us If You Can - 1965 - 6/10

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I first saw this ... mmm ... 40 years ago.  Brit Invasion film, dimly remembered.
I recalled this being a funny comedy featuring the DC5, who during this period, were real rivals to the Beatles.
Instead, this is lightweight satire.
The band play stuntmen for a Beef For Go! commercial.
The movie is 90% dour faced Dave Clark and Barbara Ferris.  Other band members casual tokens.
No real plot. Nonsense scenes, chases, dull dialogue.
Hard Days Night, this ain’t, though it clearly wants to be.
I fought sleep watching this.
Early John Boorman directorial effort.
 

Vultural

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War And Peace - 2016 - 5/10

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Lavishly filmed and lavishly praised mini-series of Tolstoy’s classic.
Once you get past the sumptuous visuals, the story itself is more peace than war.
Meaning the tale is dominated by angst dialogue, ennui, and characters full of doubts.
The stereotyped view of Russians.
Acted and directed with great seriousness throughout, to the point of being stilted.
This is Tolstoy, damnit!
All star cast still results in, to paraphrase George Harrison, a drag, a well known drag.
 

Vultural

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Empire Of The Tsars: Romanov Russia - 2015 - 7/10

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Lucy Wolsey hosts three part documentary covering 300 years of the Romanov Dynasty.
Episodes focus on Peter The Great, Catherine The Great, and Nicholas The Not-So-Great.

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Wolsey is always enthusiastic and prepared, and seldom offers personal opinions or snarky comments.
As history, much of this will be old hat to buffs.
The chief draw is that she seems to have been allowed unrestricted access to many areas inside palaces or behind the scenes.
 

Vultural

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S.V.D. - Soyuz velikogo dela - 1927 - 6/10
AKA - The Club Of The Big Deed

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The Decembrist Revolt of 1825, occurred in Russia after the Napoleonic Wars.
After Czar Alexander I died, eldest son Constantine declined the crown and his brother Nicholas accepted it.
There was brief fighting between regiments, the revolution was crushed, most survivors shipped to Siberia.
Oversimplified background.

This movie is a miniaturized version of the rebellion in one regiment.
The main character, however, is a cardsharp, seller of information and betrayer.
Rebels plan in back rooms, but the cad hears enough valuable information to sell.
One sequence takes place in a circus, which has little bearing, though it is interesting to see the strong-woman hoist an artillery cannon.
As Soviet films go, this is mild on the propaganda.
S V D is also a marvelous example of “flicker” as light dances throughout.
Howling midnight gales, hard shadows, cigarette smoke are expertly used for atmosphere.
 

thecuddlyninja

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Catching up on some Oscar stuff:

Spotlight - 7/10

I was more invested in the procedural aspects of this film than I thought I would be; it was more of a procedural than I thought it would be. Very well acted and competently-enough directed. The kind of movie I'm not annoyed about winning best picture (looking at you 'The Artist'). It's a good movie about an important subject done decently well. Taking away real life (because I'm too lazy to look stuff up and also I'm talking about the movie as a piece of art) it was entirely too convenient when it was revealed who buried the info at the newspaper in the past, and the explanation given. I'm sure it was real, but either way the character's explanation really didn't add up to me. I thought Rachel McAdams was a touch too much for me but Keaton, Ruffalo, Schreiber and Slattery are all very good to great, in my opinion. Tucci is wasted but excellent nonetheless. He's just too good so I always want to see more of him.


The Danish Girl - 6/10

Alicia Vikander is a worthy Academy Award winner. She was excellent in every frame she's in (when you could see her - more on that later) and was my emotional anchor in the story. Eddie Redmayne was good but seemed to have a narrow range for Lili's default mode. When Lili was emotional, Redmayne was quite good (particularly the last half hour of the film) but I was far more invested in Vikander's portrayal as a whole. Their chemistry was very good and the last act landed for me emotionally after the second act strayed a bit. 

However, the direction in this one was frustrating at times. All of the close-ups mostly worked for me, since the leads were generally great and the emotion was there. In the "social" scenes, this was weird but that's a small gripe. What's odd was the choice of composition using out of focus shit. It drove me crazy. An out of focus foreground drawing focus to the middle ground is totally fine. But for the love of science, you don't have to have the blurry, out of focus thing be in a third or more of the damn frame! The very first time we see Einar experimenting with dress, he is caught by a friend. And I kid you not, we see the shot from the perspective of the friend (that's fine) and there's a whole layer of see-through scarves and dresses in the way. Of Lili's first reveal, in a sense. Maddening. There are a ton of emotional shots ruined in this way, at least for me. A very tense scene on a sidewalk is broken up by a bunch of blurry fruit covering the bottom third of the frame. It's so weird. The actors were enough to carry this through and land emotionally for me, but man I wish there had been some different compositional choices since it took me out of the story multiple times.
 

Vultural

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The Tag Along - 2015 - 5/10

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Individuals are being haunted, then carried away in Taiwan.
Forest demons, their woodlands being felled, hunt souls in the city.
Film launches with inventive opening credits.
The “disappeared” one realizes are those who are forgotten or neglected.
Elderly grandma, for example.
Another plus is the two part construction.  First is in the city, second is deep in the woods.
The story is narrative driven, though a couple usages of found-footage are effective.
Biggest problem is the moralizing.  Coupled with “guilt" the story grows preachy.
 

Vultural

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Great Canal Journeys - S02 - 2014 - 7/10

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Once again, Timothy West and wife Prunella Scales helm the narrow boat on four canal trips.
Four part documentary offers canal history, beautiful scenery, and a leisurely pace.
Prunella’s cognitive decline more pronounced in this series, especially the latter episodes.
This may distress Fawlty Towers buffs.
The couple are in their 80s and deal with her condition as best they can, but you feel for them.
Credit the filmmakers and stars for unflinching honesty.
She often drifts into a fog - he can get irritable.
Worth a watch, even if you have not viewed S01.
 

Vultural

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The Green Archer - 1940 - 6/10

Fairly early Columbia serial.  Younger brother is convicted of crime and sent to the slammer.
Meanwhile, the older brother, the cunning, sly one, inherits large manor home from where he spins his web of crime.
The huge estate has subterranean tunnels, trap doors, secret rooms, intercom, giant killer dogs (Great Danes), a car elevator (with full time elevator operator), even an underground garage!
The villainous brother masterminds a platoon of thugs and robbers.  Local police are hapless.
Squared off against evil doers is the masked ghost of the house - the Green Archer!
And an insurance agent named Spike!
Much of this serial is ridiculous and awful in a delightful way.
The crime lord is a preening fool.  He struts, gloats, brags about his big ole brain, then wails like Baby Huey when he loses a round.  Fortunately, his feeble brained flunkies more often than not bail him out.

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Female characters squeak when startled and stand still during fistfights, watching or wringing their hands.  One memorable scene, she keeps straightening her hair while Spike gets his ass kicked.  Guess it was windy.
The Green Archer communicates by shooting arrows with notes into stuffed furniture.  I started wondering if he did re-upholstery work during his day job.
Quality of chapter cliffhangers?  This serial has more cheats than a trailer park.
Caution - Children in 1940 were less shielded than those of today, as this serial is filled with killings.
 

Vultural

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Sex In Strange Places - 2015 - 5/10

Misleading title.  Sorry, no sex on the trampoline, hanging from the trapeze, or in hamster wheel.
Instead, our travelog takes us to Turkey, Brazil, and Russia.
Sex is the paid sort (prostitution), and we get the low end (refugees), transgenders, and the upper tier.
Presenter is over-eager, bright young thing.  By turns vacuous and idealistic.

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Part of me wonders if Miss Stacey’s clueless behaviour is a facade, a role she plays.
She whines throughout, and feels really, really bad for the way prostitutes are treated.
And yet, would she be so sympathetic if they set up shop in her same apartment?
(As someone who lived next to a drug dealer for two years, I would predict she would tire of midnight visitors pounding doors, gunfire, police raids, screaming, etc ...)
Many of her questions are refreshingly direct:  How much do you charge?  Do you pitch?  Receive?
Other times, ignores the obvious - such as clients who choose transgenders yet still declare they are 100% hetero.
E01 - Turkey, is a downer with refugees having to resort to sex to live.
E02 - Brazil, is Carnival and mostly trannies, broad jokes and more fun.
E03 - Russia, the high end.  Paradoxically, she is less sympathetic to successful call girls.

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This hardly is a documentary in the usual sense of the word.  More like home travel movies.
Just like the presenter is not exactly a professional.
There is a great exchange where she confronts a club owner, telling, “You know, some of your girls are unhappy."
“Are all your fellow journalists happy?”  he retorts.  “Is every doctor happy?  Every mailman?”
 

Vultural

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A Night To Remember - 1958 - 7/10

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Classic British film of the Titanic’s maiden, and last, voyage.
Well cast ensemble of upper and lower class, crews and captains.
Unlike later productions, rather reserved, displaying impeccable British understatement.
Far less dramas and emotional outbursts.
 

TM2YC

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I just heard that Director Ken Loach has put up many of his early films on his YouTube channel. Most you have to pay for but quite a few are free to view, and not short films, full-length stuff!

Thought it was the kinda thing that'd float your boat Vultural.

 

Vultural

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^ Sadly, I do not have full control of the remote.

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In mine own castle, Ken Loach movies are invariably selected by others,
and I am certainly not telling the ladies about your news.

Ken Loach marathon - what could be worse?
A Mike Leigh marathon, oh no!!!!

Update - From elsewhere (other members of their cabal, I suppose)
the ladies have discovered this Loach YouTube site.
Bummer.
 

Vultural

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Whiplash - 2014 - 7/10

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In your face character study of aspiring drummer and drill-sergeant, sadistic teacher.
Film has been surprising to many, though hardly to anyone who ever played in high school band or beyond.
That environment has always been extremely competitive, both within the ensemble itself and during contests with other bands.
The student is gifted and ambitious, which the teacher recognizes, but he pushes him harder.
Profanity, obscenity, bullying, physical violence escalate.
Acting over the top, yet totally in keeping with the tone.
Stellar soundtrack.
Basic familiarity with jazz might enhance enjoyment, though not necessary.
 

Vultural

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When Pop Went Epic - The Crazy World Of The Concept Album - 2016 - 7/10

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Documentary, hosted by a droll Rick Wakeman, explores concept albums.
From early steps to the heyday of the 60s and 70s to the excesses that led to parody.
Many “survivors” interviewed, all amused and chuckling at the loon within.
One of the more illuminating interviewees was artist Roger Dean, who explained his private concepts for his Yes covers.
Lots of music - sadly, I own almost every album on LP or CD.
Worse, there were two or three albums I did not have, which I now have to find.
Hopefully, they came out in gatefold.
Great companion to Prog Rock Britannia - An Observation In Three Movements.
 

dangermouse

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^ Whiplash is an incredible film - an exercise in focus, in clear story-telling, and brilliant acting. One of the best films I've seen this year.
 

Vultural

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Les Beaux Jours - 2013 - 6/10
AKA - Bright Days Ahead

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Midlife crisis alert!
Woman drops her dental practice after dispute.
Too old for new career, too young for retirement, she investigates the senior center.
Tries acting class, pottery, painting, the lot.
Eventually, she begins an affair with one of the instructors, twenty years younger.
Her husband - yes, she is married - is blind, disinterested, tolerant.
Typical of too many French films, plot never really goes anywhere.
 
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