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A few reviews

Vultural

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Operation Valkyrie: Stauffenberg’s Plot To Kill Hitler - 2008 - 6/10

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Documentary on botched 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler.
Sections on Stauffenberg”s childhood, personal life, military career are fine.
Background on the conspirators, failed attempts, and the historical perspective during the latter years of the war are clear and well presented.
Some reenactments, but not too much.  Likewise for the CGI, primitive, limited, yet not excessive.
“Talking heads,” by and large, are poorly miked throughout.
At 76 minutes, this feels a bit long, and the first third is too slow.
 

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Stella í Frambðdi - 2002 - 6/10
AKA - Stella Runs For Office

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Odd, to say the least, political comedy direct from Iceland.
The leading party watch and giggle as rivals repeatedly sabotage themselves.
Until campaign advisor Stella emerges as a darkhorse contender.
Weirdly funny film with out of place music interludes:
A woman plucking a chicken while listening to “Sway,” two blue collar guys dancing to “Big Spender,” the drunken inspector seizing the microphone in a song competition.
All in Icelandic.
Many laugh out loud moments.  Other times, I knew I was missing jokes and references.
Definitely not Scandinavian Noir.
Quirky - foreign - way off the path.
 

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La Femme Bourreau - 1968 - 6/10
AKA - The Woman Executioner

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Tempted to score this higher, for the strangeness factor.
Surreal Expressionistic film of man who copycats a serial killer.
Confused, abused man begins affair with his therapist / parole officer.
He also identifies with a recently executed female serial killer and starts wearing with wigs and heels.
Film is loaded with jump cuts and the narrative often leaps.
The result is borderline incoherence, yet it has a great score and the “look” is particularly striking.
For you cult buffs, Jean Rollin was in the acting credits.
 

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Un Lever de Rideau - 2006 - 6/10
AKA - A Curtain Raiser

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One act short of youthful miscommunication and fateful decisions.
“Bean-counter” boyfriend starts tallying how many minutes and hours his girlfriend has kept him waiting.
Most disrespectful, he concludes, while complaining to an older friend.
The more experienced male tries to offer advice, suggesting patience and dialogue.
The girl arrives - 45“ late - and the boyfriend’s resolution is sorely tested.
Thirty minute film, while elegantly staged, may tire impatient viewers.
For more curious souls, a easy introduction to director François Ozon.
 

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Lèvres de Sang - 1975 - 7/10
AKA - Lips Of Blood

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Moody, atmospheric, dreamlike Horror film is a must for Jean Rollin fans.
A man sees a photo of a ruined caste, which triggers a childhood memory of an encounter.
He starts inquiring about the castle, the photo, and finds opposition to his search.
After a trip to the city tombs, he unleashes four female vampires, nude save for the sheerest fabric imaginable.
Most of this was filmed at night in a cemetery, urban wastelands, and underground.
Rollin’s films always have a measured pace, but he has a photographer’s eye for details.
As vampires, the ladies are fairly laughable, especially when the teeth appear.
Most will gaze through the fabric, however, I daresay.
A rewarding film.  Novices, be warned, this is close to arthouse.
Prudes - nudity galore.
 

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The White Ribbon - 2009 - 8/10
AKA - Das Weiße Band - Eine Deutsche Kindergeschichte


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Unsettling story of corruption and secrets within a small village.
A malicious booby-trap opens the stage for escalating accidents, each growing more sinister.
Black n white film, set in 1913 (for you non-history types, one year before the onset of World War I).
The schoolteacher is our guide and narrator.  He unearths truths, he guesses at others, he shares rumors - and lets us know rumors are just that.  He is not omniscient, however, and they may frustrate some of you.
Uncertainty and mystery shroud almost every sequence.
I normally do not care for children in leading roles.
These are exceptionally directed.  A strait-laced mix of guilt, evasion, secrecy.
Innocents could be the rare souls in this.
I did not enjoy watching this, I did not like it,
Nevertheless, this is an outstanding piece of cinema and I strongly recommend it.
 

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KEDi - 2017 - 6/10

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Lightweight “documentary” for masochists.  Oops, excuse me, cat lovers.
Everyone else, caveat emptor.  γνῶθι σεαυτόν
Camera follows several cats living in Istanbul.
Humans care for them, declare how amazing they are.
Felines lead a merry life in an exotic locale.
Nothing negative whatsoever in this.

Cat people should purr happily watching this.
Captures feline personalities and activities.
I have been to Istanbul and can assure you many cats there are like these.
At an outdoor cafe, a big orange tom sat next to me and kept thumping my leg when he wanted more food.
In another bistro, a cat curled up beside Zelda and slept, happy with the warmth.
 

bionicbob

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In 1984 I was 14 years old, and it was the greatest movie watching year of my entire life!!!!
Ghostbusters, Terminator, Beverly Hills Cop, Star Trek III, Gremlins, The Natural, Temple of Doom, Karate Kid, Red Dawn, Purple Rain, Police Academy, Footloose, Spinal Tap.... the list just goes on and on....it was mind-blowing time for movies, the blending of blockbuster with artistic creativity.   

My top two favourite movies of 1984, which may reflect enjoyment for the odd and unusual lol, are BUCKAROO BANZAI and this little epic....
http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEOvn2IaLMM[/video]


STREETS OF FIRE
I saw the Shout Factory Collectors Edition on sale yesterday and instantly picked it up.  LOVED IT!
The new transfer looks very good, a few specks here and there, but it is the best version to date I have watched.  The audio is fantastic.  The movie still entertains the socks off me ha ha!  Yeah, Michael Pare's acting inexperience is still evident in the movie, but it works for the role.   And that glorious soundtrack! WOW!  Most the of bonus features are repackaged from other releases, but Shout did produce one comprehensive new doc that is almost as long as the movie.   I found it very informative and enlightening and well done.  If you are a fan of the movie, I highly recommend this new release.
 

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Hour Of The Pig - 1993 - 7/10
AKA - The Advocate


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In medieval France, an attorney, weary of decadent Paris, relocates to rural simplicity.
He soon realizes the rustic life is laced with scheming, cynicism, and homicide.
Beckoning country lasses pose their own challenges.
A powerful lord offers his ripe yet dim daughter, the inn servant helps the cock crow, and a mysterious gypsy wants him to defend her pig from a charge of murder.
Oh, can’t forget the ongoing witch trial!
Funny, in a cruel way.  Colin Firth as the innocent with his assumptions.
 

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Mil Sexos Tiene la Noche - 1984 - 6/10
AKA - The Night Has A Thousand Desires

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Interesting Jess Franco film.  Not necessarily good, but interesting to me.
Female medium works nightclub/carnie circuit doing mind-reading tricks.
A group of calculated parties start using her for foul deeds.

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Unlike many of Franco’s works, the sets and compositions are imaginative and detailed.
The vibe reeks of a late 70s drug orgy.  As with most of Franco’s oeuvre, copious sex and nudity.
Pacing is siesta time, Lina Romay floats like a somnambulist, though she is in full form throughout.
 

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Nightmare! The Birth Of Horror - Dracula - 1996 - 6/10

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Good horror documentary about the genesis and development of Dracula.
Not the film, nor the Romanian prince, but the Bram Stoker creation.
Sorry folks, Bram never seemed to have journeyed to Bran Castle.
Stoker’s biography is sketched, but the focus is on how he fleshed out the story, where he kept coming up with fresh ideas and settings.
Films barely touched on, as cinema flowered after Stoker’s death.
Manuscripts - photographs - first printing books among highlights.
 

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City Hunter - 2011 - 6/10

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Jin Pyo seeks revenge on government officials who betrayed and murdered his black ops team.
He kidnaps an infant, then trains him for 20+ years to be his instrument of revenge.
Trouble is ... the child grows into preferring justice over vengeance.
Revenge is a staple of K-dramas, and the father figure, Jin Pyo, clutches a toxic form of it.
Choreographed action every other episode, martial arts predominate over gunfire.
The love story (hello - this is a K-drama!) is corny and annoying, though characters grow on one.
At 20 episodes, this is overlong and padding is evident.
Emotional entanglements get quite involved by the last act.
Despite a so-so score, I watched to the end and enjoyed.
 

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Caught On A Train - 1980 - 7/10

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Publishing agent climbs the battered Orient Express, and finds misunderstandings and gamesmanship.
Initially, all is fine.  Fellow passengers, even an attractive American girl he tries to impress.
Then the imperious, elderly woman storms into the cabin.
Superbly acted test of wills will thrill live theatre buffs.
People who have ridden some older trains will recognize the discomfiture and disorientation.
Especially European border crossing checks, which sadly, one only finds in Eastern Europe now.
 

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Grapes Of Death - 1978 - 6/10
AKA - Les raisins de la Mort

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Sour grapes, in this case, tainted by pesticides, turn a village into murderous fiends.
Not zombies, as often referenced.
Being a Jean Rollin film, there are beautiful and imaginative visuals, and a sleepy tempo.
One female, trying to make her way to her boyfriend’s vineyard runs the obstacle course.
Rural wastelands and a small village are the main settings after she flees a train.
The afflicted stagger at times, only to bolt into action.
Gore is minimal.
 

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Beasts Of No Nation - 2015 - 8/10

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Tour de force story of boy indoctrinated into wartime militia unit.
Though no nation is specified, you could toss a dart at a global map and strike conflict.
The Commandant (Idris Elba) leads his charges, convincing them they are impervious.
Rivalries within the unit run undercurrent, as well as rebel politics facing the Commandant.
I worried this would be a sad or depressing film, but did not find it so.
Provocative, yes.  Disturbing, though I accept that humans enjoy killing each other.
 

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The Girl From Rio - 1969 - 5/10
AKA - Rio 70 // The Seven Secrets of Sumuru

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Yeah, I knew this was going to be bad.  Still ...
This was based on Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru character and I have read those books.
Plus, ole Jess Franco directs with probably the biggest budget he ever had.
Thief escapes to Rio de Janeiro with $10M in a briefcase.
A crime syndicate headed by George Sanders ties to forcibly seize it.
Sumuru, here called Sumitra, also covets the loot to fund her female army and rule the world!
Chases, fisticuffs, nudity, a phone that still works after being underwater, Carnival costumes.
Outstanding location filming, and finally memorable Goldfinger girl Shirley Eaton (in her final film) as a blonde and a brunette.
Sadly, there is no plot, no sense of style, not even a genre to hang onto.
Waste of cast and resources.
 

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The Crimean War - 1997 - 7/10

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Three-part documentary about an almost forgotten conflict.
This makes full use of photos, letters, engravings, drawings.
Talking heads are minimal - fine by me, too many speakers smack of padding.
First section deals with the causation. Russia wanting Istanbul,
Next is of the war itself, blunders, starvation or freezing of soldiers.
Finally, the aftermath and the seeds laid for World War One.
Actual voices include Tennyson reading “The Charge Of The Light Brigade,”
as well as one of the original buglers, playing the call to charge.
 

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The Secret Life Of Mrs Beeton - 2006 - 7/10

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During Victoria's reign, Isabella Beeton created “The Book of Household Management,” cookbook and overall go-to Bible for generations.
Her life was not all plummy, however. She suffered several miscarriages, was in debt most of her married life, and died at age 28.
In fact, the film opens with her cheekily observing her own funeral.
Anna Madeley makes a very beguiling and saucy Mrs Beeton, though one of the film's major revelations is perhaps speculation.
Breezy bio, do not expect focused social criticism.

The Beeton book, by the way, is available at amzn-co-uk and currently darned cheap ... as one penny USED!
 

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Les Oubliées - 2007 - 6/10
AKA - Forgotten Girls

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Fifteen years after the sixth girl disappeared, another one vanishes.
The serial killer has resurfaced.
Not that murders are confirmed, for no bodies have ever been found.
Families, exhausted by despair, suspect the cold case detective is way over his limit.

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Six part French mystery of forgotten victims and an officer who pushes himself to madness.
Directions shift throughout, rather like a lost car tackling meandering intersections.
Character study of driven individual fighting apathy, resignation and suspicion.
 

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Legend Of The Witches - 1970 - 5/10

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Predominately nude “documentary” of history and practices of witches and covens in England.
Indoctrination, rites, magick, hand holding innocents traipsing round the bonfire.
Omniscient male narrator drones an already drowsy  experience.
Camera work, on the other hand, is excellent, given that the budget must have been laughable.
Contrast is sharp, interesting angles throughout, effective use of shadows and firelight.
Probably quite steamy back in the day, a curio now.
 
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