Recommend a movie

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Demon Eye - 2019 - 4/10

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Way out on the moor wastelands, Dad, troubled by “something,” kills himself.
Next beat, his long estranged daughter flies in from the States to find out what happened.
Backstory pertains to a village girl from 1850s who fashioned a tin amulet and prophesied doom and gloom for sinning, wayward locals.
Right quick she is burnt (well, no one likes debbie downer) and the village begins to wither.
So, will that Yank lass find that long lost demon amulet?
Fine outdoor scenery undercut by damn near everything else.
An OK premise, but producers seem so obsessed with avoiding clichés that they pile on inventive, ridiculous alternatives.
For example, throughout, a crying baby doll wails and is supposedly scary.  To whom?  Audience males who’ve just found out they got their girlfriend’s sister pregnant?
Most of the characters resemble street bums – there is a  dog, we never see – John & Sadie?
Stupid film, that could have been better had fools not been in charge.
Almost, but not quite, a “bad cinema” pleasure, though connoisseurs will want to seek this out.
There is a birthing sequence that had me laughing out loud.

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Suite Française - 2014 - 6/10

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Can a sensitive Wehmacht officer and sensitive young wife of his enemy find love in Occupied France?
Paris has recently fallen and Nazi officers are billeted with local families.
In this film, at least, the homes have attractive females of varying availability.
While our lieutenant is a gentleman, others act on urges.
Although “based on a true story,” this is not remotely original.
The more interesting aspects are how villagers react to the invaders, and turn on each other.
That is secondary, however, to the doomed love of kindred spirits.
Weep n sleep.

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Posted

Alraune - 1928 - 6/10
AKA - A Daughter Of Destiny

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Silent version of Hanns Heinz Ewers’ mandrake tale stars Brigitte Helm.
The daughter of a prostitute and an executed criminal, she is the ward of an obsessive professor.
Around her is a litter of longing males, who leave her curiously uninterested.
Flawed film suffers broad over-acting and choppy narrative, perhaps from censored footage.
The movie brims with nervous energy throughout, and will appeal to Weimar cinema buffs.
Musical score is classical medleys (predominately Mussorgsky and Debussy) with jazz combo tossed into nightclub scenes.

There are two earlier versions.
A 1919 one, directed by Curtiz, considered lost, and an extant 1918 which I have been unable to track down.
There are also two later versions.

* * *

Alraune - 1930 - 6/10

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Sound version of the 1928. Brigitte Helm reprises the lead, with new director and cast.

The “mandrake myth” is most pronounced in this, as are the scientific dabbler’s motivations and collaborators.
In this, the princess, desiring an heir, is the trial run.
Alraune, however, is the breakthrough, an artificial experiment brought to adult fruition.
Helm not only plays Alraune, but also Alma, the prostitute incubator.
During her turn singing a cabaret number, one can easily understand why she was Von Sternberg’s original choice for Lola Lola in Der Blaue Angel.
Typical of an early talkie, static camerawork seems rudimentary, the pace is dreary.
Both prints I viewed were nth generation soft, and overlaid with hard Danish subs.
Sound leaves much to be desired, but is passable.

* * *

Alraune - 1952 - 6/10
AKA - Mandragore

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The luminous Hildegard Knef stars as the bewitching siren.
She is at times childlike, other times maliciously cruel.
Heavy mortality among male admirers, nonetheless.
Camerawork is high Gothic, and the costumes and interiors evoke Douglas Sirk.
As with other versions, the mandrake root is referenced, but the fable, the magic, is underplayed.
Instead, the subcurrent is of eugenics, which would have been an unsettling taboo in post World War II.
The Klimt inspired set design is a highlight.

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La Belle Endormie - 2010 - 6/10
AKA - The Sleeping Beauty

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Catherine Breillat mixes the sleeping princess with the Snow Queen, shuffles and extends the time.
An evil witch delivers the curse, a trio of less powerful faeries attempt to modify the curse.
Princess Anastasia, succumbing to the splinter, begins a long, dreamlike quest.
An imaginative reexamination of childhood fairy tales, with no special effects or computer gimmicks.
Breillat disorients expectations of an audience familiar with childhood tales.
Nice followup to the previous Perrault film, Barbe Bleue.

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The Bride (Nevesta) - 2017 - 5/10
AKA - Невеста

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Days before the wedding, the photographer’s bride dies.
The grieving man has a plan, however, as he staunchly believes a photograph can capture a soul.
And with the proper “vessel,” said soul can be transferred.  Resurrected.
Shuttle ahead 150 years, as the great grandson is now getting married.
First, though, he and his intended are summoned to the remote family estate.
There is a long family tradition, understand, that must be observed.
Despite an effective set-up and atmospheric set design, this film is a sad bungle.
The lead female has the expressions and charisma of a peanut.
Throughout, no one is intelligent.  Our lovers, senior family, young children.  Time and again, when faced with a decision, and you know they will select dumb or stupid, all and sundry select stupid.
Well worn clichés are milked.  When fleeing, for example, how many times can people trip and fall?  In this film, a lot apparently.  Then the old manor:  it has ducts, big enough to crawl through.  Sheesh.
What disturbs me most is that I remain convinced the of bones of this story were solid, and that it was lobotomized along the way.

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La Femme d'à Côté - 1981 - 7/10
AKA - The Woman Next Door

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Arlette and Bernard enjoy an idyllic life in their rural home outside Grenoble.
The nearby house stands empty, until Philippe moves in, who seems an excellent neighbor.
Finally, Philippe’s wife, Mathilde, arrives and the electricity between she and Bernard crackles.
While their spouses are blissfully unaware, viewers recognize the stormy history.
Bernard makes excuses, trying to avoid the old flame, but both are drawn to the fire.
Both know which buttons to press to stimulate physically and emotionally, and do so shamelessly.
Toxic love story, with thriller elements, should ring for many.
Most of us have been in addictive relationships, utterly destructive, that we cannot break from.
Older, wiser souls try to avoid contact for life.  Not so here.
Fanny Ardant absolutely bewitching.

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Lady You Shot Me: Life And Death Of Sam Cooke - 2017 - 5/10

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Inept biography plays more like “Cold Case” episode than fact filled documentary.
Fact:  Over 50 years have passed since Cooke was murdered.
Most of the participants from that period are deceased.  Only two interviewees either worked with or knew Cooke directly.
Fact:  There was an autopsy, there was a hearing where the sunglass wearing shooter was acquitted.
A lot of supposition and theorizing goes on in this, a fair amount runs the conspiracy line.
This is cheap looking throughout, with measured narration.
Not without interest, however.
Music:  Cooke’s tunes were not permitted to be used.  The rights holder, ABKCO, refused.
Older music fans need read no further.  If younger and curious, proceed.
ABKCO is / was Allen Klein’s umbrella company.
Klein was an accountant, who with methods aggressive and hostile, obtained higher royalties for musicians.
Yet somehow, the songwriting copyrights became his.
Aside from Cooke, “clients” included the Beatles, the Animals, Rolling Stones (to their  everlasting regret), labels Cameo Parkway and Philles.
The merest whiff of Klein, one of the most disreputable villains in modern music, galvanized my full attention.

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Belle Épine - 2010 - 5/10
AKA - Dear Prudence

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After being arrested for separate shoplifting, two teenage girls form a tenuous relationship.
Unlike what some reviews indicate, they do not “bond.”
One is bourgeois, has superior prospects, yet is adrift following the death of a parent.
The other is harder to pinpoint, save she of rougher cloth, with more limited means.
Both are drawn to an underground scene of midnight motorbike racing, and death.
None of these lost souls are portrayed well, nor are they particularly interesting.
Nor is the film, for that matter.
Premarital sex, midnight motorbikes, cigarettes.  These teen tropes were done in the 50s, likely before that.
Here, set in 2010, they are old fashioned and implausible.

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Milius - 2013 - 7/10

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Perceptive, if skewed, look at the man, his bombastic persona, and tremendous output.
Very – very little of his personal life is shown.
Amongst a plethora of impressive interviewees, were Milius’ son and daughter.
No mention of wives or marriages, or any personal details.
Consequently, most of the anecdotes or stories from others are “work” related.
For a doc of an artist, such is to the point, with very little fat.
Fans of this man will truly enjoy.  As Sam Elliott warns early on, however,  “John doesn’t write for women, and he doesn’t write for pussies.”  This documentary will appeal mostly to men, especially those who have won a few battles and lost a few.
Note - I will never view Big Lebowski’s Walter quite the same.

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Big Wednesday - 1978 -  7/10

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John Milius’ overlooked ode to surfing and surf culture, of which he was a part.
Film split into various chapters, eras, as three young friends adjust to changing times, changing circumstances.
Milius’ voice is pronounced here, quite lyrical at times.
1962 - 1965 - 1968 - up until the early 70s.
Vietnam, still raw and painful, knifes through relationships, though the focus remains on the waves.
Humans eddy along the stream of events, the once-admired become discarded.
Majestic photography!  Not as crisp or detailed as current films, but with long takes one can observe how waves build up and break, and how seasoned riders can work the pipe as long as possible.

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The House Of Shame - 1928 - 6/10

Over breakfast, the husband starts going over his wife’s clothing bills.
She pouts, he storms off to work.
At the office, hubby cooks the ledgers, pockets the cash.  Embezzler!
Gets on the phone to sweet stuff and sets up a rendezvous.  Only she’s not his wife!
That night at the party, menfolk start shooting billiards to see who slips off with whose wife.  Wife swapping!
When a uniformed cop appeared, hubster thinks he’s been caught, confesses his light fingers to wifey, begs her to fix things with the boss.
“How dear?” -  - “I know!  How about, you let him lube your chassis?”  Now, daddy is hosting pimp my ride!
At the office, the lecherous boss states,  “I’m sure we can come to an arrangement, Mrs Baremore.”
Baremore!  Really?  Ha ha ha.  I kid you not.  Awesome!
End of Part 1.

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El cheapo, trashy Silent is 6 Parts of melodrama, comedy, moralizing and sleaze.
Dirt track studio aspires with decent sets and lurid story that chugs along.
Later, one of my favorite scenes occurs where a gentleman hands his ladyfriend a bouquet.
She pulls out a rosebud, brushes it next to her cheek, then on her lips where she proceeds to kiss it, lick it, nibble it, then wrap her lips lightly around it.  All the while, smiling innocently at her date.
Is she offering what I think she’s offering?  How’d this get past the censor?  Maybe they were clueless.
Tempted to score this 87/10 for sheer outrageousness, and being PreCode before the Code existed.
Nevertheless, this is an overcooked turkey, with no sound (no music) and the print is battered.

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Una Mujer Fantástica -  2017 -  7/10
AKA - A Fantastic Woman

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On the eve of a vacation together, Marina’s much older boyfriend suffers what appears to be a stroke.
Complications follow, as she must deal with the hospital, police, finally the man’s family.
Marina’s trans status informs everyone she comes into contact with.
Remarkable study of an individual walking a tightrope without a net.
Bystanders ignorant, indifferent, hostile. try to be tolerant, open-minded, yet the sooner they see the backside of Marisa, the better.
Her reaction is poignant throughout.  Resigned, stoical, barely suppressing a desperate grief.
Memorable scene when one of the relatives describe her as chimera.
Of course, he does not “see” her, he only sees the surface, and her reaction resembles a wound.
Real tour de force.  At first, I thought this was from Spain, but no, Chile.

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Chasing Trane:  The John Coltrane Documentary - 2016 - 7/10

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Probably not enough here to lure seasoned Jazz buffs, but plenty for the curious or those who dip in and out.
Bit of background into Coltrane’s childhood and upbringing, work as a journeyman, achievements as a leader.
Family life and personal matters less so (consider the endless road for musicians).
Interviewees include friends, family, artists who actually played with him, later musicians who were influenced by him.
Bolstered with music throughout, as well as countless period photos and inspired illustrations.

In 2001, Ken Burns delivered a ten part, highly praised (over-praised?) series on Jazz.
The Trane doc would have fit well, especially since Burns seemed to treat the post 40s as an afterthought.

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Enemy At The Gates - 2000 - 5/10

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Lord, this shoulda been good!  Stupid ass producers.
1942, the Nazis surge across Europe, striking into Russia, and try to capture Stalingrad.
Soviets resistance is furious, though they are no match for the Wehrmacht.
That is, until a sniper emerges who proves deadly to the German officer corps.
Soviet propaganda elevates him to “hero” status, Berlin sends in their best sniper.
Great war scenes, taut cat and mouse sequences between the two shooters.
What went wrong?  Some fool decided to shoehorn in a love story.
Worse, turn that into a triangle of jealousy and resentment.
I wish some faneditor would “fix” this.
This could have been great.

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Young Doctors In Love - 1981- 5/10

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More misses than hits in dated spoof of hospital dramas.
Interns arrive at busy hospital and brace for ER overload.
In the same vein as Airplane and Naked Gun, except the writing is worn out.
Assorted actors do their best, but jokes are stale, many of the setups forced.
I recognized cameos from General Hospital, a rage when this came out, forgotten now.
Likewise, references to trashy fare like Student Nurses and Candystripe Nurses, staples of drive-ins back during that time.  Warch for a young Michael Richards (Cosmo Kramer) as a hitman.
OK if you like 70s - 80s spoof films, and have viewed the better ones already.

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That Cold Day In The Park - 1969 - 7/10

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From her upstairs window, woman spies young man on park bench, as rain begins.
She invites him inside to warm, offers a meal, takes his clothes to wash.
That last piece ought to have warned him. Keep an eye on your clothing. He is young, however.
While not a hustler, he knows a good setup when he sees one.
Unfortunately, he fails to grasp her degree of loneliness, the current world she feels trapped in.
Early Robert Altman film came right before the “big titles.”
Moody thriller, although those elements are tame by today’s norms. A dark atmosphere predominates.
Slow, stealthy spider and fly story, focuses on the patient cocooning of the prey.
Sandy Dennis occasionally breaks the fourth wall by staring directly into the camera.
Forcing viewers to look inside her in return, seeing a creepy soul whose tight screws begin to pop free.

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American Grindhouse - 2010 - 6/10

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Careening documentary of grindhouse cinema covers miles of territory at breakneck speed.
From the Silent era’s Traffic In Souls, through sleaze, exploitation, Blaxploitation, spoofs, until current times.
Always the same ethos, get asses into theater seats!  And what works for Klaw will be gobbled by MGM.
I could not keep up.  There must have been 200 films, although many were simply lobby cards or posters.
Titles raced by, and I’m going,  “Hey!  I never heard of Wolf Woman from 1916.  I gotta find this winner!”
Quite a few talking heads, all seem utterly delighted to have been invited to gab away.
Absolute must-see for fans for trash, bad cinema, Grade Z shambles.

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Fishermen’s Friends - 2019 - 6/10

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Crowd pleasing yarn of Cornish fishermen who sing shanties, get discovered by a label rep.
Brits have these films down to a formula.  When they work, the trans-Atlantic crowd goes wild.
Other times, the stories fall flat or feel forced.
This is good, reminiscent in places of Englishman Who Went Up Hill, other times Waking Ned Devine.
With ten men in the group, most are given one-liners and sharp retorts.  Most of these zingers are funny and strike home.
The label rep is truly out of his element, a well-intentioned, and not overly stuffy, Margaret Dumont type.
Plenty of songs with layered harmonies.  Predictable to a tee, fine if you are in the mood.

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Un Beau Soleil Intérieur - 2017 - 5/10
AKA - Let The Sunshine In

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Successful artist Isabelle picks up numerous men, engages in meaningless affairs.
She longs for LOVE, real love, with Mister Right, not Mister Right-Now.
That said, she seems to hone in on married guys, ones not remotely interested in leaving their wives.
I think they were aiming for “hot mess,” but failed miserably.
Being a successful artist does not add a layer of interest.  Her character is a drag.
Pity party sad sack, who laments to anyone within earshot.
Note:  After preview audiences began laughing at this stinker, producers and everyone involved decided they ought to term this a comedy.
Don’t buy it.  This is as funny as an armpit in late summer.

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Gloria Bell - 2018 - 6/10

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Self named character is looking for a dance partner, not necessarily a commitment.
Mister Right-Now will do nicely.  Meanwhile, her career is smooth sailing, her children are grown and doing OK.
At a 70s retro club she meets a retired ex Marine (oddly miscast John Tuturro) and they hit it off.  Sorta.
He’s recently divorced, has family issues and is needy.
To my mind, Gloria is already an empowered female.  Her bucket list doesn’t include this thumb sucker.
Yet without this trainwreck love affair, there would not be this movie.
Thin and overpraised.

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