Recommend a movie

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The Wife - 2018 – 6/10

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The peerless author, acclaimed, lauded, is to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.
Accompanying him is his son, struggling in the giant’s shadow, and his support and anchor.  The wife.
Oh, and on the trip is another writer / reporter, wanting to a biography, after “clarifying” a few questions.
Acting is excellent throughout.  Sympathized with characters, rooted others on, hated one.
For all that – – Within ten minutes, I turned and asked,  “Are you familiar with this storyline?”
“No, I didn’t read much about it.”
“Well, do you think this is about THE BIG TWIST ENDING?”
“Yeah, that how it feels to me.”
Sure enough, the script telegraphed the ending early on.  So, the whole time, I am beginning to hate every single spineless character, not to overlook the producers who have dumbed down the film to make it easy for viewers to follow.
Final ten minutes – THE BIG TWIST ENDING – my mental jukebox spins Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”

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Posted

The Sign Of Four - 1932 – 6/10

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Downright creaky rendition of the detective mystery.
Arthur Wontner looks like the oldest filmed Holmes, though resemblance to the Paget drawings is uncanny.
This comes across, to this viewer, as a bridge between the theatre versions (Gillette, Saintsbury), and Universal adaptations (Rathbone).
This may prove too modern for purists, as there are motorcars, as well as speedboats.
There are also a few elements from other stories cobbled in.
Nevertheless, this is well done.  You could do a lot worse.

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Posted

View From A Blue Moon - 2015 - 5/10

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Surfing “documentary” focusing on tube and curl specialist John John Fletcher.
J J and friends catch waves across the globe, in what comes across as vanity project.
The limited narration is akin to “See John surf,”  “Go, John, go,”  “Wave, John.”
Slick, 4K photography, yet editing is so brisk one cannot study technique for more than five seconds.

I live with someone who likes adventure docs (surf, climbing) and I have seen more than I care to recall.
Pretty camerawork aside, this one is piffle.
For classic surf films, watch the Endless Summer trilogy.
For big wave surf, Bilabong Odyssey or Riding Giants, and, if you can find it, Biggest Wednesday: Condition Black.  Fifty footers.

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Posted

Vendredi Soir - 2002 – 7/10
AKA – Friday Night

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Laure packs up her apartment and prepares to move in with François.
Drives through rain soaked Paris where, owing to a subway strike, streets are snarled.
Motorists are urged to help out, pick up passengers, if possible.
Laure offers a ride to a heavy set man, one a little rough around the edges.
Gradually, within the claustrophobic car interior, and the man’s sporadic nervous energy, Laure wonders what she had invited in.
Haunting film evokes loneliness and the nocturnal hours better than known, themed works.
Snatches of scenes pass by constantly.  Fellow drivers, pedestrians, lovers, shoppers, diners.
Individuals making their way through the city stream, of whom we are the onlookers.

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Posted

None Shall Escape - 1944 – 6/10

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Reichskommissa stands trial before an Allied tribunal for crimes committed in Poland.
Narrative quickly shifts into flashbacks, not to show how he became a monster, but rather how his growing power and influence permitted greater and more heinous activities.
One understood early on, this man was a bitter and rotten soul.
Movie is preachy at times, to be expected, yet note the date.
World War II was ongoing at this point, and victory was not necessarily a foregone conclusion.
Camerawork is impressive throughout, and the story must have been an eye-opener to the home front.
Can’t say I enjoyed this, yet it was impressive, especially considering when this was lensed.

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Posted

Des Morceaux de Moi - 2012    -  6/10
AKA - Pieces Of Me

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IMDB reads “mother-daughter” film, but this is coming of age.
Younger daughter, Erell, is increasingly frustrated by high maintenance mom, who suffers MS.
She lives in small village, her friends are resigned or simply going nowhere.
Everyday, the same ole, same ole.
Until her older sister returns after a four year absence.
As Erell narrates, “Things are the same, but they are not the same.”
One aspect I enjoyed was watching the “kids” (17-19) strike out, break free.
No idea how common this is in France, or Europe.
Now, in the States, 30 year old offspring are still dependent on parents.
Aside from that observation, while this was well acted, I was never engaged.

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La Maison du Mystère - 1923 -  7/10
AKA – The House Of Mystery

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Ten episode silent serial from France.
Straight off, serial rules do not necessarily apply to surviving Silents, likewise European serials.
After marrying his childhood sweetheart, Julien is convicted of murder and sent to Devil’s Island.
While imprisoned, his boyhood friend runs his factory for him, and secretly attempts to seduce his wife.
Events spin out over twenty years, before – during – and after the Great War.
Blackmail, murder attempts, harrowing escapes, fights, disguises.
Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler came out a year before, and may have been an influence, especially with the disguises.
Nonetheless, the French DNA predominates.  Interiors, clothing, attitudes.
While only ten parts, each episode runs approximately 40 minutes.  Few bonefide cliffhanger endings, though no cheats.
The print I viewed had been immaculately restored, excellently tinted, nicely subbed.

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Posted

Préparez vos Mouchoirs - 1978 - 6/10
AKA – Get Out Your Handkerchiefs

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This “popular in its time” arthouse comedy has dated uncomfortably.
Husband feels is wife is cold, disinterested in life.  She also suffers fits and swoons.
Men around him advise she needs to get pregnant.  “We’ve tried!  For years!”
Soon, the husband approaches a man in the restaurant, and asks if he would like to enjoy his wife.
She has no say in this, nor when a male neighbor gets involved.
Eventually she does find one who inspires her, though this is implausible beyond belief and sexist, to boot..
By design, this is meant to be disturbing, in a comic way, yet social attitudes have altered so much, that I daresay modern audiences will be unable to view this dispassionately, or through the lens of history.
Acting is broad based, appropriate but not relatable.

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The Spy Who Fell To Earth - 2019 - 7/10

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Mesmerizing documentary for history buffs, mystery hounds, conspiracy types.
The unmasking of a superspy who was involved in the Six Day War (1967) and later Yom Kipper War (1973).
Both Israel and Egypt claim Ashraf Marwan was “their guy.”
And seeing how he fell to his death in 2007 (pushed, thrown, jumped), viewers do not hear his side.
Instead, we listen to a passel of talking heads from various security branches – utterly reliable, of course.
The producer does an inspired job of rewinding periodically, establishing contradictory points of view.
I never made up my mind about his loyalty, but my interest never flagged.

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Free Solo - 2018 - 7/10

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Terrific mountain climbing documentary, and I have viewed more than I want to.
This follows simply the best free climber in the world.  No hammers, hooks, pylons, clamps.  No rope.
Handhold, foothold, finger, toehold.
Awesome!  Note, however, the life expectancy of this small group is not lengthy.
Without a rope, even the tiniest error …
The subject, the emotionless Alex Honnold, is far from likeable.  Fellow climbers refer to him as Spock.
What drives him?  He cracks the door a slice when he mentions his “bottomless pit of self loathing.”
Blonde girlfriend Sanni, who receives a fair amount of screen time, seems mismatched.
As expected, scenery is breathtaking.  Unbelievable.

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Arctic - 2018 - 7/10

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Mads Mikkelsen as Overgård, alone in a polar wasteland, stoically waiting / hoping for rescue.
His makeshift camp lies inside airplane wreckage, he catches fish when he can.
Lone neighbor, seen in the distance, is a lumbering polar bear, also hunting.
Ostensibly an endurance story, one can see how this might perplex lazy viewers.
Unlike a Hollywood film, there is no backstory.  No memories of wife, girlfriend, plane crash.
Monologue is spare, Overgård is taciturn and ordinary, not some heroic survivalist.
In short, no spoon-feeding for an audience of limited imagination.

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El Autor - 2017 - 6/10
AKA - The Motive

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Álvaro has literary aspirations.
Not getting published in some ezine, not landing a bestseller.  No.  LITERATURE, full stop.
But, he doesn’t really have the talent, or ideas, or rich memories to mine from.
Instead, he begins observing neighbors in his apartment, then manipulates them.
Character study of a classic meddler, and not the sanctimonious or well-intentioned sort.
Far more absorbing than the typical “writer” plot, as this guy is a real piece of work.
At times infuriating, always uncomfortable.

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The Inugami Family - 1976 - 7/10
AKA - Inugami-ke No Ichizoku // 犬神家の一族

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Family assembles around the patriarch as he rattles his way to the reaper.
Several greedy descendants, one last will and legacy, one lone heir.
Even before the reading, one of the attorneys is murdered.
As is ever the case, there is always another lawyer.
After the codicils and stipulations are read, the killings increase.
This film contains odd characters, and odder goings on.
So much so, that midway I paused to research to see if this was based on a Rampo story.
No, but the story would easily fit into his world.

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Nightmare Cinema - 2019 - 6/10

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Anthology horror is mixed bag, but when it hits – oh, when it hits this strikes gold.
In each, a pedestrian walks the late night, deserted avenue, passing under the movie house.
On the marquee, the individual’s name and a cryptic title.  The empty booth offers a ticket.
The first tale is classic 80s slasher, energetic, faithful, funny, laced with twists.
Next is cosmetic surgery (females I sat with cringed), featuring Richard Chamberlain (still alive!!!) as the soft spoken surgeon of vast experience and additional suggestions.
Followed by the good priest, the beautiful nun, a class of children, and the dark presence.
The fourth is psychological horror and disintegration.  While I equated it with Cronenberg, the end credits were dedicated to Charly Cantor, nudging me to seek out this hitherto unknown individual.
Final sequence … well … you’ll find out.
While derivative, the enjoyment level on this is pretty good.  Mickey Rourke plays the “projectionist.”
Perfect to dip in and out.

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Greta - 2019 - 6/19

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Young woman spies forgotten purse on subway seat and decides to return it to the owner.
And no, she is not a native urban dweller, but newly arrived, living with more cynical roommate.
The owner of the purse is a Parisian expat, missing her daughter.
The young girl has a similar ache in her heart, her mother being recently dead.
Bonding is swift.
Dark thriller is effective for awhile, when the tension of uncertainly predominates.
Sooner or later, filmmakers have to reveal the mystery, and they play a weak hand.
Mildly disappointing.

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Familieweekend - 2016 - 6/10
AKA - Family Weekend

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Pa invites his three adult offspring to the family manor.
Though he suffered a recent heart attack, none bothered to visit the hospital.
They were too busy with plodding careers, going downhill.
None are blind, however.  Dad, while ailing, remains wealthy.  Is an inheritance imminent?
Netherlands comedy of manners pivots from droll to farce to brusque.
Characters wear agendas openly, money of course, which burns their fingers throughout.
Entertaining, if slight.

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Sobiibór - 2018 - 5/10
AKA - Собибор

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Concentration camp in eastern Poland, near Russian border, bears constant influx of arrivals.
Political prisoners, Poles, Belgium, Jews, Russians.
Bad behavior by Nazis, stoic endurance by incarcerated.
Rebellion brews as the war crawls to a conclusion.
Heavy handed direction is further marred by one-dimensional acting across the board.
This is certainly neither Son Of Saul, nor Come And See.
Worse, the film exhibits the recent Russian practice of dubbing all non-Russian speakers.
Voice actors, male and female, speak in a listless monotone.

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Nobody - 1999 - 6/10
AKA - だれも

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Decent video thriller of three fashionably dressed office men who casually insult another trio.
The other three, while less clothes conscious, are more comfortable with violence.
Events swiftly get ugly.
Low budget is disguised using night settings and rainy environment.
Then there is the female model, a fetching siren who “loses” accessories.
Not a bad flick, though a few reveals are preposterous.

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Que Horas Ela Volta? - 2015 - 6/10
AKA - The Second Mother

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Val works for affluent family as nanny, housemaid, cook, laundress, do-it-all.
She has a roof over her head, is paid, is a member of the family - more or less - and exploited.
The daughter she had to abandon years earlier, to send money back, invites herself in.
The girl, studying for college entrance exams, is an unsettling, confident force.
Film delves into several conflicts:  generational, class, merit.
Hardly a subtle film, viewers may feel their sympathies frayed by every character.

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Fighting With My Family - 2019 - 610

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Still miss Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)?  She’s here, as is Florence Pugh and Nick Frost.
So is Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson (AKA - The Rock).
Last detail is a heads up.  This is a biopic of female wrestler, “Paige.”
Tight knit, wrestling obsessed, family promotes matches in villages and small venues.
If only they could catch a break, say, from a WWE scout, then they could roar in arenas.
Dreams come true, somewhat, in this follow by numbers, feel good flick.
Acting is fine, the story is corny.
Wrestling enthusiasts might applaud, maybe.  They may not appreciate the arena as scripted.

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