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A few reviews

Vultural

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L'empire des Loups - 2005 - 6/10
AKA - Empire Of The Wolves

Forget the plot, dismiss the young stud, overlook the amnesia hottie.
This is Jean Reno’s film and he kicks ass throughout!

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Three young girls have been murdered and mutilated in the Turkish quarter of Paris.
The young inspector is stymied, and is advised to reach out to a disgraced ex-cop.
Schiffer, known in the force as Mr Shifty.
To the illegal Turk underworld, he is The Shaft.  Interrogation of terrified contacts is brutal.
Meanwhile, there is a girl with amnesia, pursued by cops, doctors, and the Gray Wolves (Turkish assassins).
Loud music foreshadows action, galloping mindless plot, characters with the personalities of biscuits.
French film, apparently influenced by Michael Bay.
Wowza on a big scale, if you can follow along.
 

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Fast And Furious - 1939 - 5/10

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Alert readers will spy the picture, then the date.
MGM might have assumed third time would be the charm for this overlooked series.
This is the weakest of the trio that includes Fast Company and Fast And Loose.
Those rare book dealers are back, but the only clue to their line of work is the office door.
Next thing, they are on their way to a beachside beauty pageant.
And - of course - murder, shifty characters, an abundance of liars.
Oh, almost forgot hundreds of stunning lovelies.
Directed by Busby Berkeley, but no dance numbers.
Breezy, forgettable fluff.  Catch the first installments before this.
Comment - Yet a third set of actors play the couple.
 

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The Witness - 2015 - 6/10

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Documentary with unanswered questions may prove frustrating.
Kitty Genovese was repeatedly stabbed in 1964.  Twice.  Half hour apart.
38 people watched from windows, no one helped, no one phoned the police.
Fifty years later, her brother searches for answers.  Truth.  Closure.
Such as, why no one tried to rescue her.  Especially since there were two attacks.
Or did the press bend the story?  Was this fake news?
Cross between a study of brother Bill and a remembrance of Kitty, the person.
 

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Are You Listening? - 1932 - 6/10

Bleak Pre-Code title from MGM, starring Billy Haines and a confusing assortment of blondes.
Haines writes and directs (commercials, comedies, dramas) for a radio station.

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He carries on with another writer, deals with his scold of a wife (actress Karen Morley rips this).
A cynical film, Are You Listening has a dark tone and captures the anxiety of the Depression.
The other narrative is of the three sisters trying to “make it" in the City.

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Women chase husband material (wealthy or high earners), men grope as casual predators.
Being Pre-Code, expect negligees, easy access relationships, unscrupulous villains.
Numerous old stars and character actors in downbeat film.
 

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The Daughter - 2015 - 7/10

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Family pater prepares to marry half his age, trophy wife, as he closes the mill which his family has run for generations.
Invited is his damaged, alcoholic son who reconnects with old school friends.
His mother had committed suicide, and the new wedding rankles him.
He uncovers skeletons and must weigh what damage revealing the truth may cause against stoking his pity party.
The small town, likewise breaking apart with the mill closure, seems a metaphor for the family crisis.
Or vice versa.
Acting uniformly fine.  Paul Schneider memorable as self-righteous son.
 

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Inside The White Slave Traffic and Traffic In Souls

Two “docu-dramas” released during the frenzied phenomena of white slavery paranoia.

Inside The White Slave Traffic - 1913 - 5/10

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Inside The White Slave Traffic is the briefer and more crude of the pair.
An exploitation quickie, this roused censors and authorities wherever it was screened.
Female is lured into prostitution - where she remains for the remainder of the movie.
Despite two lost reels, this shows tricks for luring girls, slang words, and the nationwide network of slavers.
Outdoor photography in this captures dirt streets, boardwalks, horse and wagons.

Traffic In Souls - 1913 - 6/10

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Traffic In Souls is a better film, storywise and budget wise.  At 88 minutes, this is also an early feature.
There are multiple storylines: the rich family, the two sisters, and two sets of girls who arrive in New York.
Methods and roles within the slave ring are displayed, also some eavesdropping technology.
Acting in both films is melodramatic.  (Pickford would largely change that.)
DVD of Traffic In Souls has an insightful commentary by historian Shelley Stamp.
Most of her comments pertain to social mores of 1913, film reaction, and white slave hysteria.

While I prefer Silent films from the 20s, the earlier film have their own creaky charm.
The look and attitudes hark back to the Edwardian or Gilded Age.
Moralizing intertitles, declarative gestures, formal manners, swept away in the Roaring 20s.
 

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Love And Crime - 1969 - 6/10
AKA - Meiji · Taishô · Shôwa: Ryôki onna hanzai-shi

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Japanese anthology compilation, heavy on sex and violence.
Predatory females work their assets for gain or revenge, based on actual individuals.
Sada Abe would be the most famous, or infamous, for the marathon bout of coitus climaxing in strangulation and castration.
Oden was the last female beheaded in Japan, and Toyokaku was a woman who murdered her way to her own inn.
Fast paced little film with ample nudity, killings, and corpses.
Knowing that these were real people may increase appreciation.
Male viewers might wish to avert their gaze when scissors appear.
 

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Lidice - 2011 - 7/10

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Companion to 2016‘s Anthropoid shows the Czech village of Lidace before - and after - the assassination of SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.
There is a mirror narrative of one of the villagers, in prison for murder.
Two murders, different punishments:  incarceration versus liquidation.
The massacre of Lidice became legendary.
Staging and cinematography is excellent, and enough time is allotted to many characters so one gets a feel for them as individuals.

Thanks to Gaith for recommending Lidice.
 

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Rakka - 2017 - 7/10

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Terrific short, something between a pitch and a pilot.
Alien bipeds enslave humanity, torture and experiment, and start major terra-forming.
Resistance is small, and tiny victories result in harsh reprisals.
At barely 20 minutes, this alien invasion genre packs in a lot of images, action, storylines and proto-characters.
One element I did not care for smacked of tinfoil, that is a quibble.
Sigourney Weaver leads a solid cast, directed by Neil Blomkamp for new studio.
If there is interest ($$), they will craft more, and I would watch.
For what it is, Rakka is outstanding, though it is quite brief.

Best - This is on YouTube, at 1080p, with subs, for free viewing!
 

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Snodgrass - 2013 - 6/10

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1991, John Lennon is behind in rent and applying for a lowly job.
Some still remember him.  “You’re the guy who quit the Beatles!”
This version of the Beatles, however, without Lennon, never quite made it.
Lennon views those around him as dim fools, the man, the wad - - - Snodgrasses.
Angry, sarcastic, bitter, venting when no one gives a damn.
Ian Hart excels as 50 year old washout, spitting rage, cocksure that the lads never ought to have compromised and agreed to sing that “How Do You Do It” trifle.
Unpleasant “what if” story - except - this John still breathes in 1991.
 

TM2YC

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Vultural said:
Snodgrass - 2013 - 6/10

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1991, John Lennon is behind in rent and applying for a lowly job.
Some still remember him.  “You’re the guy who quit the Beatles!”
This version of the Beatles, however, without Lennon, never quite made it.
Lennon views those around him as dim fools, the man, the wad - - - Snodgrasses.
Angry, sarcastic, bitter, venting when no one gives a damn.
Ian Hart excels as 50 year old washout, spitting rage, cocksure that the lads never ought to have compromised and agreed to sing that “How Do You Do It” trifle.
Unpleasant “what if” story - except - this John still breathes in 1991.

No way. You probably already realised but Ian Hart also played young Lennon in 1994's 'Backbeat'.

 

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TM2YC said:
No way. You probably already realised but Ian Hart also played young Lennon in 1994's 'Backbeat'.


Way.
Yes, I have Backbeat on DVD.
Another Lennon role by Hart was in The Hours And Times from 1991, which I suspect you already knew, as well.

 

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Vultural said:
Another Lennon role by Hart was in The Hours And Times from 1991, which I suspect you already knew, as well.


I did not know! That looks amazing, like out-takes from 'A Hard Days Night'. The Epstein voice is spot on. I cannot seem to find details of when/where this HD remaster will be available.
 

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The Founder - 2016 - 7/10

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Aging, over-the-hill salesman investigates one of his few “good” clients.
Pair of brothers doing gangbuster business with their hamburger stand.
Salesman offers to help them launch franchises and expand nationwide.
Against their instincts, the McDonald brothers agree.
Story of how Roy Kroc built an empire and took it away from the founders.

Mixed feelings watching this, much as I have mixed feelings about the McDonald’s chain.
Kroc is a predatory, unscrupulous wolf, but I think the brothers never could have rivaled his achievements.
Loved McDonald’s when they arrived in my town when I was 10.  Outgrew them by 18, but still visit when options are limited.  City to city, country to country, fare is predictable.  And those fries ...
 

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Beyond The Black Rainbow - 2010 - 5/10

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Futuristic tale of company that helps you create “a better you.”
Except experimentation now seems their locus.
Camera work reeks of student film class:  slow dissolves, step printing, colorization.
Acting is ponderous and stilted to the nth degree.
The opening corporate mission statement indicates 1983 and the music remains 80s throughout.
Synthesizers and musique concrète.
A lot of visually impressive work undermined by exhausting, dreary, glacial pace.
 

ssj

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13th – 2016
Content 10/10
Style 4/10

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netflix documentary explores the prison-industrial complex and police brutality as a modern replacement for slavery. the content and social commentary are essential for understanding modern america, but i had issues with the stylistic choices, which made the first half difficult to watch in anything but 10-minute segments before having to rest my eyes.

the worst offense is the beat-you-over-the-head display of key phrases in the narrative. these big, block letters appear repeatedly, as if the doc makers regarded the audience too dumb to notice what was just uttered. they also present missed opportunities for the use of other relevant photos and footage.

another problem with the presentation is the overly kinetic camera. it's not shaky cam, but the nearly constant angle switches and frequent use of rotating angles detract from the substantive discussion and were completely unnecessary.

fanedit idea: replace the block lettering for a much better viewing experience.
 

TM2YC

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Yeah agreed. 13th is very good except for the style. I found the extreme framing was distracting. e.g.

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Gaith

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Vultural said:
Beyond The Black Rainbow - 2010 - 5/10

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[...]
A lot of visually impressive work undermined by exhausting, dreary, glacial pace.

Yep, that movie broke me - I got a little over half an hour in, couldn't finish it. I still await the "get on with it!" fan edit - 20, 25 minutes total? :p Strip out the actually quite copious and dull backstory and just make a short film about the escape... with closing titles saying that she was rescued by the X-Men, and brought to Xavier's school for rehabilitation? :D
 

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Ouija: Origin of Evil - 2016 - 6/10

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Old school style yarn of family messing with Ouija board, getting more than they bargained for.
Recently widowed mother earns pocket money by holding seances.
Revenue is meager, though, and PAST DUE bills stack up.
Mom really doesn’t have the gift, either, but the youngest daughter does.  (The child who plays Doris is well directed.)
Thing about the open-ended Ouija board.  When you make contact, it works both ways.
And to reference Rocky TF Squirrel, are they friendly spirits?  Not in this movie.
Set in 1967, though cars, clothes, soda fountain, echo the 50s.
OK scares, no gore, no nudity.  “Child in danger,”  a trope I generally dislike.
 

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La Ferme Aux Loups - 1943 - 6/10
AKA - Wolf Estate

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Bouncy French mystery finds two fledgling newspaper hounds investigating murder of Russian homeless man.
The lead deadends, so the pair head to the country with the boss’s attractive secretary.
During a howling thunderstorm, their car breaks down and they seek shelter in an “old dark house."
Inside - hey, there’s that dead Russian bum!
Not the most original, yet fast paced, light on its feet, with rather salty dialogue.
Thinking afterward, I wondered if this was filmed in Vichy France.
 
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