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A few reviews

Vultural

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Ordinary Fascism - 1965 - 6/10
AKA - Triumph Over Violence  / / /  Обыкновенный фашизм

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Unsurprising Soviet documentary on the rise and activities of the Nazis.
Not so much about World War II but rather the National Socialist Party.
History shown from the Soviet point of view.
No “Allies” mentioned in the Great Patriotic War (how USSR termed WWII for years).
A couple chapters devoted to Communist factions in the Weimar era.
Narrative is overlong, condescending, and opinionated.  Reference the '65 date.
Interesting more as a curiosity, less as historic document.
Unseen (to me) Soviet war footage, along with quite graphic concentration camp imagery.  Beware.
 

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Let’s Spend The Night Together - 2010 - 5/10

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Documentary about the ladies who put the sex in Sex - Drugs - Rock n Roll.
The groupies.
Whitebread, feel-good pic showcasing American squad notables.
Pamela Des Barres, Sweet Sweet Connie, Cassandra Peterson (Mistress Elvira), Tura Satana (huh?) ...
Some are pathetic, confessing the current crop of rockers they are bangin’ are younger than their grandsons.
Makes you wonder what those gents were thinking.
A few souls are deluded, arguing the case they were artistic muse rather than joy holes.
Also events were way back when, before AIDS, before the Lennon murder and subsequent beefed up security and bodyguards.
Female topless photos were digitally blurred, while infamous Plaster Casters totems were displayed in full glory.
Mildly fun, though shallow and glossy.
 

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Paris - 2008 - 5/10

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Text on the box referenced Woody Allen's Manhattan.
Not even close, this was more like one of Altman's ensemble works.
I wanted to like this, but it was an unsatisfying meal.
Multiple plots, many characters, scant narrative advancement, limited resolutions.
As always with these type of films, certain stories vanish, while others (including the less interesting ones) unfold.
Excellent photography of Paris.
Perhaps a date flick. Over two hours.
 

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Nighty Night - S01 - 2004 - 7/10

Mean spirited, blacker than 2:00 AM, venomous comedy.
When husband is informed he has cancer, he inquires about treatment.
Wife Jill, on the other hand, suggests books such as “Goodbye Everyone” or “Heaven, I Can’t Wait!”
She then proceeds to hurry him to the grave.
Meanwhile, new neighbors arrive in a doctor and his wife (with multiple sclerosis).
Jill immediately sets out to rupture the marriage so she can bag and mount the doctor.

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“I’m double jointed,”  she confesses.  “My hips go both ways.”
Jill is self-centered, toxic, wildly inappropriate, abusive - too many superlatives.
Everyone she encounters, she treats like bird scrapings.
Not remotely politically correct.  Funny as hell.

Note - I keep thinking someone planned to make an edit of this.
Did I dream this?  Is it still happening?
Tell me it's one of Maniac's projects.
 

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Bright Leaves - 2003 - 7/10

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Gaze longingly, nicotine fiends.  Green fields of burley.
Ross McElwee documentary about the decline of great grandfather's empire, and tobacco itself.
The sire brought out the Durham Bull blend, crushed when Duke released pre-rolled Bull Durham cigarettes.
Duke today is a charitable foundation, a university, global empire, and probably the cause of millions of cancer deaths.
McElwee is forgotten, though survives in an old Gary Cooper film, Bright Leaf (that was blend that grew in North Carolina).
This follows the typical meandering pace of all Ross McElwee docs, delivered in his soft Southern cadence, and his usual wit.
Definitely worth seeing, though Sherman's March is McElwee’s most accessible flick and the one to hunt down.
 

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Backtrack - 2015 - 6/10

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Psychological thriller set in nighttime Australia.
After his daughter dies in an accident, psychiatrist (Adrian Brody) becomes haunted by a ghost.
Or is it his imagination?  Guilt?  Or repressed memory?
Perhaps demons originate from his childhood home, so back he returns.
Visually dark film, starts slow and confusing, but gears eventually click together.
Bleak design scheme in that places resemble the abandoned hours of midnight shift.
Evokes the early (ie: the good) M Night Shyamalan efforts.  Perhaps evokes too much.
 

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Children Of The Century - 1999 - 5/10

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French costumer.
Old fashioned potboiler detailing the affair between George Sand and poet/critic Alfred de Musset.
Despite fabulous sets (including the actual rooms Sand and Musset occupied in Hotel Danieli, Venice), and stunning costumes (including a sapphire ring and jewel-encrusted dagger belonging to Sand), and earnest acting, the film suffered from ham fisted, melodramatic direction.
Actors over-emoted, the narrative charged from major crises to tiny dustups like a careening speedboat.
The characters grew annoying, whining throughout.
I saw the long version, 135 minutes.   Spare yourself.
 

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Youth - 2015 - 8/10

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Striking visuals enrich a series of vignettes, compact yet powerful, not so much about old age, but more about the ability to recharge.  Not to succumb, to stay invigorated in Life.
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel play very old friends, renowned composer and acclaimed director, relaxing at what can only be defined as an exclusive health spa.
One is in self-imposed retirement, the other struggles to stay relevant.
Multiple characters drift in and around them.  Over the film, one gets an image of who many of the characters were, where they are now, and where they may be going.
Not really an “old fogy” film, as I think many fear.  Wonderful feast for film buffs.
 

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Vultural said:
Youth - 2015 - 8/10

Is this the one with Paul Dano? I just heard him mention it on a podcast, I think. I was interested from that but now I have your positive review, as well.
 

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thecuddlyninja said:
Vultural said:
Youth - 2015 - 8/10

Is this the one with Paul Dano? I just heard him mention it on a podcast, I think. I was interested from that but now I have your positive review, as well.

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Dano plays a young actor, worried that, no matter how successful, he may only be remembered for one role.
He shares several scenes with Caine, and that had to have been a thrill for Dano.

I enjoyed the film more as a visual experience.
Some of the storylines are sublime, others pedestrian.
The setting, a posh spa, means visitors are all affluent.
For me, it is difficult to relate or sympathize with the angst of the wealthy.
So I focused much more on the cinematography, set design, colour palette ...

When this plops in the closeout bin, I will likely buy it.
Will probably rewatch in five years - suspect my rating will edge downwards.
 

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Face - 1997 - 6/10

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Ex-"rights" activist Robert Carlyle now sticks it to the man by robbing banks.
The caper goes off, only the haul was not as expected.
Events turn sour.
Basically a character study of an idealist coming to terms with the realities of getting old.
With Ray Winstone, and an outta control Philip Davis.
 

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Horror Europa With Mark Gatiss - 2012 - 6/10

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Decent introduction / overview of Euro-Horror for newcomers.
The aficionado will see little new.
Begins with Expressionistic films from Weimar Germany.
After World War II, focus swings from France to Italy to Spain.
Talking heads include Mario Bava’s son, Kümel, Argento, Toro.
Sequences from Daughters Of Darkness, Diabolique, numerous Giallo, Devil’s Backbone.
Franco mentioned once, Rollin one of the larger omissions..
Not a bad documentary, but at 90“ this barely skims the waters.
 

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Coming Home - 2014 - 7/10
AKA - Gui Lai or  归来

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Man returns home after being imprisoned as a “rightist” for over a decade during China’s Cultural Revolution.
He attempts to rebuild his family though there are complications.
His wife suffers amnesia and does not recognize him, his daughter shuns him.
Over time, he uncovers some of the mishaps that befell while he was in prison.
Not all, however, which may frustrate Western viewers.
No dates are given, the Cultural Revolution goes unmentioned.
Gong Li remarkable as the broken wife.

Cultural Revolution short overview -
 

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Sense And Sensibility - 1995 - 6/10

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I have probably viewed this almost twenty times.
Over the years, I have grown more and more disenchanted with it, due to two headliners.
Alan Rickman’s Col Brandon is portrayed as rather weak and incompetent, not to mention he was way too old to be a proper suitor for Kate Winslet’s Marianne Dashwood (Rickman was 30 years older than Winslet).
A much bigger problem is with writer / star Emma Thompson who cast herself as 19 year old Elinor Dashwood.  Thompson was 36 when the film released, and matronly at that.
There is still a lot to appreciate in this version.  Scenery, outstanding support (though Hugh Grant sleepwalks his role), great score, costume design, even the direction - and I do not like Ang Lee.
This used to be such a favorite, Wish that it were still.
 

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Sense & Sensibility - 2008 - 7/10

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Outstanding three part series of the Jane Austen costume drama.
More than holds its own with the  Ang Lee / Emma Thompson version, but marred by a fatal casting error.
Being longer, more characters and incidents entered the narrative. Some useful (Lucy Steele's sister), some useless (an opening erotic moment, a pointless duel).
Story follows a family of females after their father dies and they are displaced from the manor.
Their mother was wife #2, and English estates always pass into male hands.
Struggles to survive in “good society” and perhaps find romance.  
Cast was uniformly fine, though Dominic Cooper profoundly miscast as Willoughby.
He plays his character as an oily troll, and few females, of any time period, would throw themselves at him, unless he was dripping money.
 

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Pride & Prejudice - Having A Ball - 2013 - 7/10

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Irresistible documentary for hardcore Janeites and casual Austen fans alike.
This focuses on that key element of the Regency world for the young, the ball.
Dance steps were actually fiendishly complicated, and physically demanding.
Status could be seen in choice of candles, desserts served, as well as clothes.
Speaking of clothes, female knickers were crotchless.  Male clothing was very form fitting, to display . . . mmm . . . simply to display.
Casually mentioned was how increasingly modern, and wrong-headed, modern adaptions of P&P have become.
If you have reread Austen numerous times, if you have multiple film versions of P&P, S&S, as well as Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, not to mention Lost In Austen (w/ "Downtown" intact), then this documentary is for you.
You know who you are.  If you are a Janeite, rate this much higher.
 

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Toten Augen von London - 1961 - 6/10
AKA - The Dead Eyes Of London

Atmospheric mystery / creeper with a dark Noir look.
Scotland Yard has its hands full as a serial killer targets elderly rich men.
The main suspect is one “Blind Jack,” a massive bear of a man with a satisfied smile.

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And yes, Jack is blind!  The film, by the way, is a German production as is the language.
The story plods occasionally, and there are budget constraints, but this is a good krimi film.
Police procedural.  The inspector works through blackmailers, prostitutes, crooks,liars, killers.
A lot of inventive camera work and visual surprises maintain interest throughout.
Watch for young Kinski as shady operator.

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The Elephant Man - 1980 - 9/10

Anybody who says Lynch can't make a straight narrative has never seen this film. To date, the only black and white film my daughter has sat through, and sat through this she did. Riveted. That's a credit to the wonderful cinematography. I sometimes get bored during some B&W movies but this one looks gorgeous and there's so much in the contrast and lighting that it's visually interesting. We were both brought to tears a few times. Hopkins performance is excellent, it is understated how he subtly alters the character. He goes from accepting Merrick despite his handicap to just accepting him because he's a nice man. It's a great analogue for acceptance of all forms. Hurt's performance is pitch perfect in every scene and he conveys such emotion even through pounds of makeup.

Fun fact: the Oscar category for makeup was created because so many people petitioned that this movie deserved a special Oscar for it (as it did not exist at the time).

A wonderful story that is as relevant today as it would have been in the late 19th century. Veers toward overly sentimental but it gets me at every point.
 

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Son Of A Gun - 2014 - 6/10

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Testosterone overload + logic implosion = beach read.
Ewan McGregor plays hardened lifer in max security lockup.
He befriends a shy new arrival, probably because the kid is only in for six months.
Then before you can imagine escape - gold heist - betrayal  . . .
Entertaining actioner so long as you don’t think too much.
Story is really from the “kid’s" point of view, but he lacks the charisma to carry this off, especially compared with all the studs.
Alicia Vikander has dark role as crime lord’s less-than-thrilled paid companion.
 
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