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Vultural

Underworld U.S.A. - 1961 - 7/10

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Murderous Noir that came out at the very end of the Noir cycle.
Early on, a young boy watches his father beaten to death by four thugs.
Twenty years later, the grown boy, now a hardened criminal, targets his father’s killers, bigwigs in the Syndicate.
How this passed the Production Code is beyond me.  Crossed a lot of lines, up to and including #14, cruelty to children.

I hunted this down because Samuel Fuller directed and Beatrice Kay played Robertson’s mother figure.
Kay, an acquired taste, did much to keep alive Gay 90s music and vintage Music Hall, not treating songs as crystal relics, but as naughty, salacious, roisterous turns.

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The Wild Wonderful Whites Of West Virginia - 2009 - 5/10

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Long awaited sequel to Dancing Outlaw, which made an unlikely cult star out of Appalachian mountain man,  tap steppin', Jesco White.
This time out, the whole clan is featured.
Cussing, fighting, breeding, shooting, stabbing, nudity - male and female.
Will thrill fans and horrify the unwary.
The family strike me as a more calculating bunch, “acting” for the camera in the era of faux celebrity.
NONE of them have the charism and naiveté of Jesco in the earlier film.

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Muscle Shoals - 2013 - 6/10

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Elusive documentary about famed Alabama studios, mother lode of Southern swamp ‘n Delta blues.
Lots of music clips, as well as recollections / thoughts from Jagger, Richards, Bono, Aretha, Pickett, Sledge, Wexler.
Also the original Swampers and FAME studio chief, Rick Hall.
After awhile, every time Hall started talking, we braced for the next tragedy:  Ma, brother, wife, Pa, one by one the Reaper picked ‘em off.  Kept waiting for Old Shep to buy it.
FAME began to dry up in the 70s, not mentioned in doc.  The Swampers’ Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was sold in ‘85, likewise not mentioned.
Incredible amount of hits referenced - “When A Man Loves A Woman” “Land Of 1000 Dances” “Brown Sugar” “Main Street” “Kodachrome” “Respect” “Patches” “Tell Mama” “Mustang Sally” and “Sweet Home Alabama”
Highly entertaining, perhaps depending on your age and memories.

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Incendies - 2011 - 7/10

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The notary addresses the twins (male y female) during the reading of their mother’s last will and testament.
The girl is given an envelope to give to their father.  What father?  Mom had always been the lone parent.
The son is given an envelope to give to their brother.  Brother?  What brother?
The children leave Canada and head toward their mother’s birthplace.  Lebanon.
And begin to unravel who their mother truly was.
In the 70s, Lebanon succumbed to a brutal civil war between Christians and Muslims.
Dual storylines of the orphans following threads, learning of horrors, mixed with their mother’s youthful journey from fire and death and unfinished promises.
Violence, murders, torture, and dark revelations set the tone.

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Confessions Of An Opium Eater - 1962 - 6/10
AKA -  Souls For Sale

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Strange, cult gem, set in 1902 San Francisco.
Gilbert De Quincey (Vincent Price) gets involved in Tong wars, slave trafficking, opium dens.
Price seems to work for one side, then the other, while beautiful girls hang suspended inside bamboo cages, waiting to be bartered for opium bricks.
Exteriors shrouded with fog to disguise minimal sets, though the entire film has a dreamy (drugged) quality.
Secret tunnels, subterranean waterways, trick doors add to the maze vibe.
Movie filled with fortune cookie dialogue:
“The more we approach our enemies the more they think of us as lambs.”
“The superior man blames himself, the inferior man blames others.”
“There is not poison in a green snake’s mouth, as in a woman’s heart.”
“The path of righteousness lies around us, for the eye that will see and the foot that will follow.”

Edited by Vultural
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Invisible Woman - 2013 - 06/10

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Subdued drama of the affair between 45 year old Charles Dickens and 18 year old Nelly Ternan.
Low key acting, complemented by subdued colour palette (grays, blacks, browns) and moody music (piano or quartet).
In the open-mic, audience Q & A Director / producer Fiennes was defensive when asked, what’s the point?
Questions about social norms are dodged, as are reflections on women, marriage, celebrity.
Fiennes, who is a believable Dickens, aims for the passing snapshots of life.
Richly done, yet seemed superficial.

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The Hoodlum - 1951 - 6/10

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Ma pleads with the parole board,  “He’s a good boy.  He’s learned.  Please, he’s my son!”
So junior get released, then starts working at his brother’s gas station.
Conveniently located across the street from the bank.
Grade-D Noir with hard as nails, Lawrence Tierney.
Main supporting cast are terrible, including Tierney’s brother, Edward.
Guys portraying the heist crew are fine, and the caper was creative.
Film clocks in at barely an hour, packing bullets, betrayal, and sleaze.
Okay for Noir diehards.

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Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex - 2008 - 7/10

After reading about the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army), and what a group of amateur halfwits they were, I dug this out.

Baader Meinhof follows the genesis of the gang from 60s student protesters, and their radicalization into the  RAF (Red Army Faction) following brutal police crackdowns.

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During the bloody 70s, the RAF robbed banks to raise funds, bombed police stations and US military bases in Germany, assassinated prosecutors, bankers, ex Nazi businessmen, killing at least 34.

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Film captures all that, including public sympathy for the RAF, political maneuvering to crush the members, the growth of second and third generation members after incarceration of the leaders, and continued terror into the 90s.
Violent, gory history lesson, upsetting the delusion the 60s was all peace, love and understanding.

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Lord Of Tears - 2013 - 4/10

Arthouse horror charges from the gate, takes a wrong turn midway, gimps to the finish.
Scottish teacher inherits city house, plus a stately manor house, and a parental warning to “never go to the manor.”
Sooner than you can suggest he sell, he’s returned to the country.
Opening packed with moody imagery, black n white stills, turbulent clouds, all artfully sequenced and underlaid with an evocative score.
Twenty some minutes in, the American female appears, and the story grinds to a stop.
The girl cannot act, her character is annoying, and one wonders why the director kept her.  US demographic?
Seriously, one could discard 75% of her screen time and the film would be better for it.
Oh yeah, there is also a character with a booming voice, wearing a dinner suit and an owl head.
Disappointing because Tears began so well, though it might have been a one-note tale.

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The Mysterians - 1957 - 6/10

Vintage invasion film from Toho!
Earth (Japan) gets invaded by denizens from Mysteroid, planet five, between Mars and Jupiter.
Give yourself a gold star if you’re going,  “Wait a minute, there ain’t no ...”
Thanks to war between themselves, Mysteroid blew itself up and only Asteroid Belt rubble remains.
First inkling of the invasion occurs when Moguera, a clumsy, giant robot, lumbers from the woods and starts wrecking neighboring villages and then troops.

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Then the big ole white dome erupts out of the landscape near Mr Fuji and the Mysterians start making demands.
They want two square miles of land for themselves.
And women.
Leaders can shrug off the land grab, but seizing womenfolk?
War!
Big budget SciFi with impressive effects (for 1957), mattes, miniatures, interiors, and great score.

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Le Passe - 2013 - 7/10

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Estranged husband arrives from Tehran to give wife her Paris divorce.
There, he meets her current - younger - boyfriend de jour.
Also the man’s son, as well as his wife’s daughters by previous marriages.
Ma’s bounced around a bit.
Gradually, secrets emerge about the older daughter’s fury, and the boyfriend’s comatose wife.
Not a fun film, but well acted from an intelligent, adult script.
Shot in suburbs far from touristy Paris.
Nice to see Iranians not cast as terrorists or zealots.

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Cold Eyes - 2013 - 5/10

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Shameless, scene for scene Korean remake of Eyes In The Sky (HK - 2007).
Tightly synchronized gang executes daring daylight robberies, foiling hundreds of surveillance cameras.
Special security branch gets involved, and begins sifting the slimmest of clues.
Straight faced, high tech glossy, slick as all can be, but not necessarily better than the Hong Kong original.
Lacks any sense of humour, and the characters are little more than faces.
Watch for nice cameo by Simon Yam near the end.

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300: Rise Of An Empire - 2013 - 5/10

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Not quite as good as 300, but good enough, I suppose.
Narrative runs parallel to the Spartans, finally shifting to the big battle at Salamis.
Beware, if you are watching this for Greek history class.
Hordes of attractive, bare chested males (mostly the CG breed) scream and slash in a bluish world.
Other than some female warriors, nothing new for this sequel.
Not a bad film, merely the over reliance on action.
Enjoyed it for what it was - midnight popcorn.

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Gimme The Loot - 2012 - 6/10

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Graffiti artists Malcolm and Sophia labor all night on a new mural,
only to see it completely tagged and defaced the next day by rival gangs.
Their newest “exhibition” is to sneak into Mets ballpark and tag the home run sign.
Oh, and they need $500.  Easier said than done.
Bleak comedy trails the rather amoral pair as they steal cans of spray paint,
only to get robbed and hustled themselves.
For those who think New York is Sex And The City, this is a refreshing dose of reality.
Quite a fun show.  (Best get subtitles.  Hood speak hard to follow sometimes.)

Edited by Vultural

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Bastards (Les Salauds) - 2013 - 7/10

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Existential French Noir, grim and fatalistic.
Seaman summoned home after brother-in-law commits suicide.
Niece has been raped to the point of requiring repair surgery.
Sister shoves him toward vengeance.
Filmed mostly in gloomy interiors or at night.
Minimal dialogue, unusual for a French flick.
Physical similarity between sister and “villain’s” wife add to confusion.
Limited exposition, viewer on his/her own to grasp roles and backstory.
Typical of Noir, the deeper the seaman digs, the filthier and uglier the truth.

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American Hustle - 2013 - 6/10

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Man, I was looking forward to this.  Thinking it would be like Boogie Nights.
Nope.
Odd interpretation of the AbScam sting, where politicos took bribes for influence.
FBI coerces low level hustlers to run the scam.
Main FBI handler displays less intelligence than my cat, other agents little more than career chasers.
Fashion seemed right.  There weren’t enough drugs, music was incorrect.
Noticing crap like that kept yanking me out of the flow.
Plus, I had already heard and read so much ballyhoo about this my expectations were unreasonable.
Compensations included Adams and Lawrence as outstanding distractions, though.

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Edited by Vultural
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The Lineup - 1958 - 6/10

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Taut film spinoff from old (lost?) 50s TV show called San Francisco Beat.
Don Siegel directs retrieval caper of twin hoods fetching merchandise smuggled in by innocent tourists.
Eli Wallach terrific as barely restrained, borderline psychotic killer.
Narrative sorta ho-hum cops a step behind bad guys.  Good use of Bay locations.

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Quatermass And The Pit - 1967 - 7/10

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Excavation crews, working deep under the Hobb’s End Underground station, start finding skulls.
Archaeologists quickly arrive, soon discover a huge metallic object.
Military bomb experts realize it is not metal, while other members dig up the dark history of Hob’s Lane.
Extremely intelligent script, based on the legendary BBC serial from the late 50s.
Great mix of Horror, SciFi, ancestral memory, superstition.
One of Hammer’s best.

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Behind Green Lights - 1946 - 6/10

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B-film quickie from 20th Fox.
Body is dumped outside police station setting off more reactions than a pinball machine.
Three murder suspects, body switcheroo, fistfights, escapee, romance, conspiracy, political chicanery.
All that, in barely an hour flick.  Breathless nonsense.
Carole Landis as lead actress was near end of her career here.  A once major star, now relegated to B pictures, she would be a suicide in two years, age 29.
John Ireland made the most of his small part, in this his second film, and he would stay busy for five more decades.

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Yakuza Deka - Assassin - 1970 - 5/10

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Sonny Chiba stars as undercover cop infiltrating drug gangs.
Main thread has something to do with smuggling marijuana from faraway Mexico.
Guess the Yakuza never heard of Thai sticks.
Despite all the explosions, shootings, stabbings, etc ... film felt like a spoof.
There must have been thirty-seven plots going on, the narrative was incoherent at times.
No matter.  Wild 70s costumes, garish sets (nude marijuana orgy room a standout), amped out action sequences.
Lot of energy, lot of fun.

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