Recommend a movie

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Alice ou la Dernière Fugue - 1977 - 6/10
AKA - Alice Or The Last Escapade

Alice Carroll walks out on her overbearing, preening, self centered husband.
The five minute intro featuring this grape munching prat will prove enough for any viewer.
Outside, rain pours in sheets, yet she hits the road heading - who knows where.
Her car breaks down, fortunately outside a manor house.
The elderly occupant and his butler make her comfortable for the night.

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Next morning, things begin to slide.  Faces, perceptions, even the narrow dirt lanes.
Walls rise, roads deadend, and unanswered questions perplex Alice in a surreal labyrinth.

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The worst element of this haze filled, dreamlike mystery is the intrusive score.
The composer hammers down any subtlety with deafening climaxes.
Blame Charbrol for tolerating this, and yet credit him for casting Sylvia Kristel as Alice after previously starring in two Emmanuelle films.

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The 60s: The Beatles Decade - 2006 - 5/10

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Marshmallow documentary charting the times and cultural impact of the 60s, predominately England.
Despite title, few Beatles tunes (producers probably declined to buy the rights).
Aside from the Zombies (interviewed) most songs were by obscure groups (no, not Floyd), or they were mudleys that sorta sounded like a group or hit.
The history is chiefly pop culture and economy, fronted by talking head authors, including sourpuss Mandy Merck.
Five episodes, two years per, shallow overview may be alright for non demanding, non history buffs.
Nonetheless, one of the closing lines of the last episode haunts me -
"The 60s was a period when democracy was a very powerful force.  In the sense the guys at the top with money and power, the multi-nationals and so on, began to realize that the threat to their privileges and power wasn't a Red Invasion, Russian invasion, but democracy itself."  Tony Benn - Labour MP 1950-2001

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Rich Hall's Workin' For The American Dream - 2018 - 7/10

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American expat living in Britain, Mr Hall extols the mystery, history and misery of the so-called American Dream.
Hall is an acerbic satirist in the best tradition of Ambrose Bierce.
Work hard, work long, and one day you'll reap your great reward.
Really?  Do people still believe that?  Or does Barnum's jeer at suckers ring down the ages?
Most of Hall's specials are essential viewing, whether you live in the USofA , or not.
This is 90 minutes of funny, vicious and uncomfortable.
Curiously, Rich skips from the 1950s straight to the 1970s, bypassing the 60s.

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Vita Frun - 1962 - 6/10
AKA - Woman In White  //  White Lady

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Though listed and discussed at various Noir sites, this Swedish film is more a whodunit.
Reminiscent of creaky manor mysteries of the early 1930s, with a dollop of Gothic.
Family and high placed associates gather for the reading of the will.
From delighted to disappointed to distraught.
Warnings are followed by corpses.
The large estate and grounds are a maze of back hallways, listening tunnels, and half glimpsed figures.
Music is a strange mix of combo jazz, wordless chorus and electronic.
Everyone is out for gain, nefarious business during late nights and in the nearby swamps.
Old fashioned, drawing room clichés, evident throughout, may be fun for fans of this type.

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Posted

The Galapagos Affair:  Satan Came To Eden - 2013 - 6/10

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In 1929, Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch abandon Berlin for remote islands, to escape civilization.
Back to the earth, man versus nature, in vogue at the time, especially in Germany.
A year on, articles were published about their Eden and paradise existence, and that drew newcomers.
Documentary of the conflicts, resentments, and eventual disappearance of individuals.
Filmmakers work diligently to make this footnote seem compelling, though it is more a curio, despite the heady aroma of tropical sexual abandon.
Amazing period footage (how did that survive, who kept them?), including a silent pirate movie!
Interviewees include modern day inhabitants who speculate as well as you or I.

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Posted

New World - 2013 - 6/10
AKA - Hangul // 신세계

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Head of powerful criminal gang dies in sudden accident, and the throne is vacant.
Police see this as an opportunity to break up the powerful gang from within.
Because -- the police have infiltrated it.
Echoes of many yakuza and triad films, especially Infernal Affairs.
A masculine cast of major S Korean actors exude macho.
Violence tends to splash in bursts in overlong, poky film, with too many minor characters.
If you decide to give this a look, watch for late twists.

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Meru - 2015 - 7/10

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Mountain film.
Like Everest, Meru is in the Himalayas.
Unlike Everest, there are no servants (sherpas) to coddle rich wannabees, or ****s of pissing, trash tossing, selfie stick waving dickwits.
Nope, this doc follows three climbers, on their own, trying to surmount one of the last virgin peaks on the planet.
Narration outweighs outdoor scenery in this, though the three men are more personable than other rock crawlers.
Film excels at showing hardships, exhaustion, and the risks from overextending your limits.
Extras include a cheerful tour of the cramped, frigid porta-ledge, suspended over oblivion.
I see a fair amount of climbing flicks.  This, for me, is a rarity as the men here are rugged old school, self reliant, not dependent on dozens of paid slaves to do the grunt work.

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Spy Smasher - 1942 - 7/10 (Serial scale)

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Yes, boys and girls, spies have infiltrated America and mean you harm!
Police - FBI - CIA (wait, there is no CIA) are outsmarted by the diabolical Mask and his gang of thieves, saboteurs, traitors, and the ever ready Kriegsmarine.
Fortunately, the heroic and rugged Spy Smasher is there to thwart their villainy!
One of the greatest cliffhangers ever from Republic features a pile of stunts that still impress.
Kane Richmond, starring in a dual role, is clearly in peak physical form throughout.
Fights are well choreographed and inventively staged.  Many with double, or triple!, jeopardies!
(Lucas and Spielberg borrowed sequences for Raiders).
A few too many cheats on cliffhangers for my liking.
This also informed a scene from A Christmas Story, where Ralphie and Randy stand in line to see Santa Claus behind a boy wearing costume and goggles - Spy Smasher's garb.

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Step By Step - 1946 - 5/10

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Recently discharged Marine chases a pretty blonde on the beach.
She smiles, laughs, but "slow down, tiger," she struts away.
Later, he knocks the door when she works as secretary.
Except!  Another female is introduced as secretary!
Fast paced, silly mishmash of stolen identities, spies, killings, and befuddled police.
Lawrence Tierney stars as the can-do, likeable Marine, with his trusty Scottie dog, Bazooka.
Interesting to watch Tierney here, before type-casting hardened his tough guy image.

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Ghost Stories - 2017 - 6/10

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Muckraking reporter who exposes psychics, spiritualists, wh****ot, receives summons from his inspiration, an older man who likewise derided frauds and phonies.
"I have three unsolved cases that make me wonder.  Had I been wrong?  Is there a supernatural sphere?"
Three investigations, three stories.  Each quiet, almost prosaic, though each carries chills.
I watch, not bored, but hardly engaged.
Until, one of the case characters tears the fabric of the structure.
That caught me off guard and the story became inspired -- for a bit.
Based on a play, which may explain why this is overly talky.
It also suffers "writing room syndrome," being too timid and creative risks scotched by compromise.

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Brúðguminn - 2008 - 6/10
AKA - White Night Wedding

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On the eve of his second nuptials, Professor Jon reflects on the first marriage.
The first wife, an artist, grew bipolar.  The second, a former student of his, is twenty years younger.
Quirky comedy from Iceland, dosed with bitterness and creeping regret.
Assorted neighbors of his current residence, the remote and sparsely inhabited Flatey, are a mix of harmless, deluded, or resentful.  Add copious alcohol and an influx of wedding guests.
Mostly funny, and I gradually rooted for the young bride, but that twenty year difference gave me pause.
Time shifts occur frequently in this, viewers will need to stay sharp.

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November - 2017 - 8/10

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"Kratt" - a magical creature in Estonian mythology.
A creature formed from household implements by its owner, who gave the devil three drops of blood to animate the kratt.

18th century (?) villagers skirt the edges of starvation and utter poverty.
Through religious faith, or witchcraft, they claw an existence.
A few have kratts that steal for them.  If not, well, everyone steals.
Relatives from the afterlife visit, as does the Plague (who can be easily fooled), as does the Devil.
Inside this black n white, hallucinatory display, wind several stories of obsession and obsessive love.
Reminiscent of the experimental Book Of Days by Meredith Monk, as well as works by Sergei Parajanov.
For the classically curious, many of these folktales were told earlier in the ballet "Kratt" by Eduard Tubin.
Visionary, despite the slow pace, with jaw-dropping photography.  A sublime film.

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Distorted - 2018 - 5/10

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Following a breakdown, artistic female starts seeing "things" no one else does.
Her husband blames their environment (spacious, well appointed apartment) and they move to the high tech condo.
- Unsaid is where does the money come from? -
Soon, lights flicker, the TV flashes - even when switched off, and neighbors hum "Beautiful Dreamer."
The plot, a garbled blend of conspiracy theory, mind control and surveillance, teeters from implausible to preposterous.
Piffle.

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Panic Attack - 2017 - 6/10
AKA - Atak Paniki

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Multiple storylines that connect ... somewhat.
A bride at her wedding, young boys getting stoned, a couple having lunch, airline passengers saddled with an overly chatty seatmate, a sex worker, an online gamer.  There may another, I don't remember.
Title might just as well be "When Disaster Strikes!"
This Polish film is not as funny as adverts declare.  Characters are, one way or another, spineless.
Despite a few clever premises and sympathetic acting, the writing does not deliver.

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Star Trek: Prelude To Axanar - 2014 - 7/10

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For the old guard, longing for Star Trek of yore, this was red meat.
Paramount had tolerated, even signed off on independent, fan series for decades.
Star Trek Continues, Starship Farragut, Star Trek: Phase II, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, etc ...
Amateur productions in quality and talent.
Axanar, however, utilized actors and production members who had worked on legitimate Star Trek projects, as well as Battlestar Galactica.
The actual film would detail the Four Years War, the conflict between Federation and Klingon, set before the Kirk - Spock era.
This preliminary short floored the fanbase, and crowdfunding money poured in for the feature.
Paramount sued.  Were they terrified by real competition to their juvenile formula?
The short, despite budget constraints, is reverent, faithful to the series, and leaves one eager for more.
After a few years, Axanar, losing in litigation, was shut down.
All that remains is the original "prelude," a tantalizing remnant of what might have been.

 

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No, My Darling Daughter - 1961 - 6/10

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Fairy tale of bubbly daughter to super rich investor father.
He wants to send her to Paris for finishing, she wants to remain in school.
Instead, she meets a visiting Yank and starts "living."  Sight-seeing, picnics, enjoying life.
You'd think that would suffice, yet everyone meddles and assumes.
Brisk light comedy chirps merrily along, and it is interesting to see pre Swinging London (though everyone involved in privileged beyond belief).
Although the conclusion was "all's well that ends well," I found it rather sad myself.

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La demoiselle d'honneur - 2004 - 6/10
AKA - The Bridesmaid

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Uneasy Claude Chabrol film, based on dark Ruth Rendell novel.
At the wedding of his oldest sister, Philippe meets bridesmaid Senta.
Sparks ignite, and she soon engulfs Philippe, emotionally and physically.
Their time together is spent primarily in the basement of a dilapidated manor.
Senta is an actress, who worked with John Malkovich. Woody Allen, was a dancer, bummed around overseas.
Philippe's warning radar seldom goes off.  Even when he manages to question Senta, she disrobes or coaxes him back into her sheets again, thus distracting his tiny brain.
Viewers know something is wrong, and the movie is queasy road of deception and delusion.

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Possession - 2002 - 7/10

Dovetailing, if unequal, stories of love, mystery, betrayal, and poetry.
One shimmers with intensity, the other is shallow.
A professor's research assistant finds a fragment of correspondence hidden within a reference book.
In the finest scholarly tradition, he simply takes it.
The fragment hints at a hitherto unknown relationship between a major Victorian poet and a lesser one.
Our learned thief enlists another scholar, and off they sally in quest of Truth.

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The Victorian narrative is far more compelling, ravishing even.  The understatement is aching at times.
The scenery is wondrous, the wordplay exquisite.
Indeed, watching this leads one to bemoan what passes for conversation or correspondence nowadays.
The latter day story is glossy, vacuous and crude in comparison.

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Our amateur sleuths (cast with an eye toward the American market) engage and behave as if they had wandered in off a teenage romantic comedy.
They delve into a richer past, perhaps their way of dealing with personal shortcomings, academic and emotional.
For lovers of language and Victorian costumers, this may be irresistible.
Just brace for the drop in IQ and EQ of the latter counterpart.

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Shockproof - 1949 - 5/10

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The doll steps onto Hollywood Boulevard, pavement of dreams and broken promises.
Like a pampered feline, she glides into glittering boutiques and coolly purchases French perfume and flashy dresses of green satin and red silk.
Then she slinks down in the cramped office, bright from the blinding Los Angeles haze outside, the room sliced with shadows from window louvers that keep out neither the sun nor the heat
The man behind the desk is the boy scout, the square shooter, the honorable man.
Her parole officer.
Jenny crosses those long legs, flashes the smile that had ruined other men, even answers the hard questions, including -
"Yeah, I murdered him.  But I'm paroled now."
The cop is more cynical than yesterdays rubbish.  He's heard the lies before, all of 'em.  Criminals never change, they merely learn new hustles.
Something about this one, this Jenny, is different, he thinks.  Could be her dress, open at the neck, or the French scent, rising from the vale of desire.  Could be her legs, tanned and smooth.  Or it could be the hair, that flowing blonde hair.
Only the blonde came poured from a bottle, her yellow is fools gold.  Flashy, but cheap, not real.  Just like Jenny.
He ought to know better, our parole officer.  Yet he sits transfixed by the hair, the legs, and the fragrance of perfume and warm skin.  He breathes it in.  Unaware, he climbs the gallows of temptation, before taking a swan dive into the troubled waters of love.

Shockproof is a Paramount crime drama, not nearly as pulpy as my opening synopsis.
Most of it moves slow and stiff, bordering on melodrama, with a Noir dash near the end.
Sam Fuller wrote the tawdry script, but Hollywood altered his ending.
An early Douglas Sirk film, replete with luxurious wardrobes, superb use of lighting, and masterful set design, including the haunting Bradbury Building (Blade Runner and "Demon with a Glass Hand").  
The story itself?  Eh.
The two leads have the chemistry of a pair of water-logged two by fours.
Surprising, because in real life Cornel Wilde and Patricia Knight were a married couple.
Time waster, though Sirk enthusiasts will find plenty to admire.

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Thanks!

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