Recommend a movie

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Cleopatra: Mother, Mistress, Murderer, Queen - 2016 – 6/10

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Thoughtfully constructed and produced documentary of the fabled queen.
Presented chronologically, interspersed with talking heads and actors.
The experts clarify historical misassumptions, add textures to her story.
Actors more reenact events (no speaking) and are much above the usual doc players.
Money had been spent of this, and it shows.
Actium, wisely, not attempted.
Bettany Hughes, one of the contributors, also presented Helen Of Troy a few years ago.
Also worth a look, though lavish production values for Cleopatra give it the nod.

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Isle Of The Snake People - 1971 – 4/10
AKA – La Muerte Viviente

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Inept voodoo film set, from the opening map, in the Pacific.
Dismiss that.  From the drums, rituals, plantations, zombies, this is clearly meant to be Haiti.
A new police captain arrives, along with the niece of the island’s largest landowner.
The official plans to squash sacrificial slayings, while the niece is a Temperance do-gooder.
The movie plods.  Scenes linger past their welcome, even sensuous gyrations with snakes.
One of Boris Karloff’s last appearances, and he looks frail.
An interesting sequence occurs when the niece, under a spell, splits into two souls, good and evil, who are erotically drawn to each other. Alas, that is not maximized.
I have watched worse – – and will see worse in the future.

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Posted

Generation Wealth - 2018 – 5/10

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Indirect followup to 2012‘s Queen Of Versailles charts the recent obsession with greed.
No longer keeping up with the neighbors, the mob attempts to keep pace with the affluent.
The first half is incisive, with penetrating analysis, historical overview, and smug interviews.
Our age of decadence.  Perhaps, even, the end of a cycle.
Midway, however, wanders off topic, muddles into naval gazing, and totally loses the thread.
Pornography is explored, professional women commodifying their beauty.
Finally, our filmmaker wonders if she is a good mother.
From interviews with her own ever-smiling mother, we realize both women chose careers over parenting.
She had three + documentaries here, but by cramming so much in, the result is a mess.

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Posted

February - 2016 – 6/10
AKA – The Blackcoat’s Daughter

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Moody thriller, set in a Catholic girls school during winter break.
For two girls, parents are late or no-shows, but the cleaning staff will look after them.
Both girls are suffering a crisis, one of flesh, one of faith.
Meanwhile, one set of parents, approaching late at night, pick up  female hitchhiker.
Like the two students, she also is deeply troubled.
The rest is atmosphere and underlying tension.  Stray details coalesce, but they often slip past quietly.
Viewers who prefer visceral horror, screaming, chopping, jump scares, will find little here.
Fans of subliminal terror will enjoy much more.

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Sisters Of Death - 1976 – 5/10

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During initiation rites into the “Sisters,” events go horribly wrong and one of the acolytes is killed!
A few years later, the now disbanded “sisters” are invited to a reunion, way, way out in forlorn desert.
Too late, they realize they are targets in a murderous killing lair!
Third rate telling of “Ten Little Indians” has its moments (attractive females and a twist finale).
Otherwise, it is slow, over talky, the murders are dull, the rehashed plot is stale.
But wait!  How about those attractive females?
Though a cheap 70s flick, this is not exploitation.  Unbuttoning of clothing is as far as those things go.
Teasecake, rather than cheesecake.
If compelled, watch the first 25 minutes, skip to the last 25 minutes.

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The Party - 2017 – 7/10

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As in, dinner party from hell.
After her elevation to a ministerial post, Janet invites family and close friends to help her celebrate.
Everyone brings knives.  Well, no, one carries a handgun.
Depending on how you feel about dinner parties, this is either a talky bore or a delicious banquet.
Very theatrical, with perhaps three stage sets, this feels like a play.
Kristin Scott-Thomas and Patricia Clarkson bolster a diabolical cast.
Dialogue is brittle black and venomous, and pacing is perfect.
I laughed throughout and enjoyed thoroughly.
Then again, I hate dinner parties.

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Blow Dry - 2001 – 6/10

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Arguably the finest film ever crafted on the white knuckle sport of competitive hairstyling.
The small town of Keighley scores a coup, landing the annual, fever frenzied tournament.
Plus, they boast two hair shops on high street.  Who could enter!
Problem is, the two owners are not only rivals, but divorced from each other.
Nice comedy manages to be a wicked satire and respectful at the same time.
Rickman’s wry sense of humor carries most of the narrative, though Richardson and Griffiths are wonderful.
Unfortunately, the studio decided to include a pair of young American’s, neither of whom can act, and are more distractions than anything.
Not as good as other Brit comedies of this period, but solid.

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Posted


Gumshoe - 1971 – 6/10

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Nightclub emcee, comedian, also fancies himself a private detective.
At least that’s what his classified advert proclaims.
And that nets a client, a healthy retainer fee, .38 Smith & Wesson, and a photograph of the target.
Followed by a dizzying assortment of operators, sharp dolls, side stories, and lurching mystery.
Tone is part satire, part dead serious.  Dialogue, especially banter, is brisk, peppered with zingers.
Maddening Lloyd Webber soundtrack, where each cue sounds – almost – like random classic Noirs.
The mystery itself is very confusing, likely by design, and one of the rival gumshoes is a ringer for Dashiell Hammett.

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A.I. Rising - 2018 – 6/10

SciFi from Serbia opens in 2148, and reveals the entire Earth is now exploited by Capitalists!
As Socialism tries to rebalance society, mega corporations expand space colonization.
Cosmonaut Milutin, assigned to a mission to Alpha Centauri, is ordered to take a crew mate.
Female.  Actually, a female android.  Curvacious machine with a processor.

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Although cover art resembles a knockoff sequel to 2014’s Ex Machina, not so fast.
Our pilot very quickly programs his attractive into “intimate” mode, not grasping that she / it records everything to her hard drive and reports to Corporate.  This undercurrent of constant surveillance darkens the vibe.
Porn star Stoya plays the android.
Devotees of Lifeforce should brace for even more gratuitous nudity, also considerable bouts of soft core rompings.  Sadly, none of the co-minglings occur in zero gravity.  Missed opportunity for us amateurs to behold the fiendishly difficult flying wheelbarrow position.
Low budget film, but hides that well.  More plot than one might expect, as well as anti-capitalistic stance.

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Many scenes seem to loop, or progress slowly.  Has a stylish 50s SciFi look and soundscape.
Better than I expected, closer to 2013’s The Machine.  Not for kids or prudes, however.

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Posted

Frantz - 2016 – 7/10

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Post World War I story of French veteran tracking down the family of killed German soldier.
Though his reasons are unclear to the grieving family, viewers will recognize this familiar tale.
His guilt is unbearable, leaving parents and fiancée to assume the men were pre-War friends.
François Ozon film is about deception and false assumptions, however.
Acting is tightrope throughout, with several emotionally taut performances.
Viewers who know their history will appreciate this more, as well as the secondary stories.
One tip:  Carnage was profound, a generation of males were slaughtered, leaving a man shortage.

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Up The Junction - 1968 – 7/10

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Posh bird from Chelsea moves across the river to Battersea.
Finds work in a factory, rents a squalid flat, buys second hand furniture.
Ken Loach extends the working class point of view of 60s England.
The juxtaposition of the affluent beauty amidst the lower orders is good move.
Despite a two hour length, the story seldom drags, there is simply too much to take in.
Casting is excellent in unglamorous Swinging London tale, plus there is the unfolding mystery as to why she is “slumming.”

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N. a Pris les Dés... - 1971  – 5/10
AKA – N. Took The Dice

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So … director Robbe-Grillet took his previous film, Eden And After, recut it, inserted outtakes and additional footage, then recombined it into … a … an almost incomprehensible muddle.
Nevertheless, for those who enjoy experimental cinema, there is quite a bit to appreciate.
This moves differently, and is like a fable being told by our narrator, “N”
It is more hallucinatory.  Ofttimes, the doings in the desert mirror cafe sequences.
Concepts of doppelgangers and parallel realities
Unlike the previous version, there is no nudity.
I would recommend viewing this one after the earlier film.

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Gadjo Dilo - 1998 – 6/10
AKA – The Crazy Stranger

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Young French man wanders the Romanian countryside, cassette Walkman in his pack.
He seeks Nora Luca, gypsy folk singer, all but unknown in the west.
Colorful story throws him into the Romany world, where he is perceived as a curio.
The fact that he knows only a few Romany phrases and NO Romanian, cast him as the rube.
Fortunately (and fortune bears two faces), one girl speaks French.
To term their relationship highly charged would be understating it.
Film does not gloss over the tensions between normal Romanians, and the gypsies.

Note:  I have been to Romania a few times.  I watched a pack work a set of hustles in Timișoara (in McDonalds) one evening.  Similar scenes had played out where I worked with Traveller kids.  Mock fights, girls removing tops to adjust their bras – if they are wearing one to begin with, while a quiet soul glides from table to table, taking cellphones, lighters, any item not nailed down.
I never saw any of the girls wearing traditional garb, as in this film.

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School For Unclaimed Girls - 1970 – 5/10
AKA – The Smashing Bird I Used To Know

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Lo-watt exploitation snoozer might fall into “women in prison” category, but … c’mon.
Remand girls live in a rather posh dorm, have a pillow fight, have the dreaded shower sequence (above).
Oh yeah, our heroine, Nicki, finds herself there after stabbing Mom’s boyfriend when he tried to rape her.
Never mind he’s a grinning sleaze, and Mom a lonely, bed bouncer with a checking account.
Glossy MGM sudser has barely any energy and is way too posh to be a trashy frolic.
Missed opportunity, since, clearly, production funds were enough for ten authentic poverty row flicks.
Writer director Hartford-Davis lensed similar twaddle in the 60s.
“See! wild youth of today!!” except his yarns were behind the curve and out of step.

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All About Nina - 2018 – 6/10

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Stand up comedienne moves from New York to Los Angeles, chasing the break.
Offstage, she bangs meaningless one night stands.  Onstage, venting time.
Most of the jokes are painfully funny, more female centric.
Actually, the club scenes, auditions, competitors, are enjoyable.
Actor Winstead shines here.
With relationships, however, things drop a notch.
Personal matters reflect “Me-Too” period, and seem forced, almost contrived.
Her LA guesthouse owner evokes passe New Age, space cadet stereotype.

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Death Bed:  The Bed That Eats - 1977 – 5/10

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How’d I miss this gobbler?  I was dating Zelda at this point, and surely this would have screened at the Nuart or Reseda or Victory drive-in.  Or my brother would have posted me a copy over the years.  Nope.
Anyway, per title above, inside an abandoned manor lurks a huge four-poster that eats folks.
And not just humans!  First couple arrives for a bit of buckle bouncing.
The man brings stamina building food:  apple, tangerine, Ripple, and a bucket of chicken.
While the man fumbles with her brassier, the bed wolfs down that fried chicken.
The narrator of the story is trapped within a painting.
As he relates how the bed came to be cursed, victims are chomped.  Or he carries on a one-sided conversation with the bed, who does little more than chuckle, moan and chew noisily.
Sure enough, this movie is desperately bad, and yet it is weirdly original, so some points there.
This is god awful slow, however, and our thespians have the acting chops of a bag of soggy pork rinds.

Speaking of actors, in the credits I saw “Dave Marsh” as the soul trapped in the painting and went,  “No way!”
WAY!!!
I looked it up.  Same Dave Marsh who wrote for Rolling Stone, Creem, Village Voice, as well as editor of the first and BEST edition of The Rolling Stone Record Guide, the red one!

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Le Cri du Hibou - 1987 – 6/10
AKA – The Cry Of The Owl

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Depressed over an impending divorce, Robert starts observing a young woman at night.
He’s not exactly stalking, she simply seems so happy he enjoys the vibe as it washes over him.
Juliette catches him, however, calls him out.  Then invites him inside.
He has assumed, because of her smile, she was well-adjusted.
Too late, he finds himself entangled in her moods and obsessions, and activates a malevolent pair.
Layered tale of deception, self-deception by Chabrol based on a Patricia Highsmith novel.
Superior to 2009 remake which suffered plotholes.

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King Of Thieves - 2018 – 5/10

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Another “over the hill” gang rides again.
A quartet of aging geezers, and a young tech geek, eye the impregnable bank fortress.
Vault for stashed wealth, legal and illegal.
Caper film is a meandering stroll through ineptitude.
The gents commit more mistakes than Paddington Bear, without his lucky fortune.
Nothing really new in this, and it is frustrating to view, what proves to be, a foregone conclusion.
Late – quite late – in the film, there is a breathtaking moment as the men march out, infirm, out of step, then scenes of their much younger, swaggering selves, parade by.  Only a moment, alas.
Based on the recent, 2015, Hatton Garden robbery (Losses = £200 million).

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