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French Cancan - 1955 - 6/10

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After Henri’s establishment closes, he regroups and decides to launch another.
This time, he will revive a bygone, notorious dance number, the cancan.
Love affairs, misunderstandings, arguments and pitfalls.
Will he be ever able to open his cabaret, the Moulin Rouge?

Afterward, I knew this was going to cost me.
“You never said this was a musical.”
“C’mon, Jean Gabin stars, Jean Renoir directs, in color!”
“It was like an MGM musical.  Bloated nonsense.  I don’t see how you like these things.”
“Big screen, too!  Old fashioned magic.”
“When the Miss Fisher movie comes out, we’re seeing it.  You owe me.”
“Aww, man …”
“And I renewed the subscription to the Hallmark Channel.”
“Oh, bummer, dude!”
“Dudette.”


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Vultural

Blinded By The Light - 2019 - 6/10

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Late 80s England.  Javed is buffeted by skinheads, a domineering father, and the thought of being lost.
Then he is turned on to the music, rather lyrics, of Bruce Springsteen.
The Boss is considered passé in the New Wave 80’s, but his words still resonate with the disenfranchised.
Midway, I turned to the person who picked this and said,  “This reminds me of Bend It Like Beckham.
Terse answer.  “Same writer, same director, same producer.”
Feel good material, and a bit recooked.
Springsteen fans (I am not one) should enjoy.


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Vultural

The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich - 1968 - 7/10

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Groundbreaking documentary is showing its age.
Based on Shirer’s thick book (1000+ pages), this neatly slots into rise - apex - fall.
Compared with later, longer documentaries, this qualifies more as a survey.
Despite that, this is an excellent primer, and worthwhile if one cannot commit the time for more thorough explorations.
One of the best elements of this are the interviews with survivors, including those who acutely knew Hitler, or knew others of the inner circle.
This firsthand retelling is missing from virtually all subsequent histories.


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Vultural

Murders At The Zoo - 1933 - 6/10

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Pre-Code nasty misses gre@tness because it pulls its punches.
Lionel Atwill plays Gorman, a sportsman (meaning he shoots piles of animals), who ships a big collection to the zoo.
Early on, however, we witness how he deals with a rival for his wife’s affection.
Binding the man and stitching up mouth shut before abandoning him to the hungry jungle.
Other particularly cruel offings follow.
Unfortunately, Paramount defused this throughout with comic humor, which undercuts the tone.
Better, since the wife had a wayward eye, would have been to juice the sexual angles.
Directed by Eddie Sutherland, who I’ve always regarded as loose change,
Coulda, shoulda been terrific.


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Vultural

Wagon Tracks - 1919 - 6/10

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Stodgy, William S Hart western, though Hart vehicles typically carry the dust of Victorian theatre boards.
Hart goes to meet his younger brother, a recently graduated doctor, arriving on a paddle-wheeler.
While card playing, however, the young man has been gunned down.
Hart, leading the wagon trail to Santa Fe, ponders how the cull the guilty out of the herd.
The print I saw was wonderful, the tinting outstanding.

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At barely an hour, the pace is unhurried, and effectively evokes the Old West.
Hart knew and was friends with Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, and he strived for authenticity in his Westerns.
A first class production.  Even small details such as inter-titles, feature imaginative touches.


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Vultural

Kampf um Norwegen:  Feldzug 1940 - 1940 - 6/10
AKA - Battle For Norway: 1940 campaign

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Nazi propaganda overwhelms with details, grows tiresome.
Documentary shows invasion and conquest of Norway in 1940.
Animated campaign maps are helpful, also a wealth of images.
Every skirmish is mentioned with scant fighting footage.
As propaganda, this is not vitriolic hatred, but more the morale booster.
Why German is in the war with Norway (it’s the fault of the English).
The presentation struck me as dull until the last section, the conflicts around Narvik, where the Allies were giving the Kriegsmarine and Gebirgsjägers a hard time of it.
Goebbels, supposedly dissatisfied, mothballed this and it was considered lost until found in 2006.


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Vultural

Des Femmes Disparaissent - 1958 - 6/10
AKA - Women Disappear

Pierre argues with his girlfriend, Beatrice.
He orders her to stay home, she replies we’re not married.
“It’s girls night out,”  she exclaims, and off she goes, along with her friends.

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Yes, she lied.  The girls are going to a party put on by successful men.  Suitable men.
Those men, fashion designers, shipping magnates, doctors, are likewise liars.
They peddle skin to exotic Mediterranean locales.
White slave trade, older than Rome.
Fast moving, busy French film with a memorable assortment of villains.


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Vultural

Starship Trooper - 1997 - 6/10

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Near-future Earth finds itself at War with planet Klendathu.
A few whisper we were the provocateurs, infringing on Klendathu territory.
Hardly cause for them to annihilate a major Earth city!
Patriotism surges, high schoolers enlist, and, whether they remember their training or not, few soldiers survive.
Intense battle sequences coupled with black satire aid this flawed SciFi.

I saw this theatrically and I remember how, at work, we jeered the soap opera romances, clichéd boot camp, and the deadly accuracy of bug farts against the sneering fleet.
Aside from Rasczak and Carl, most characters are ignorant fools, including the top brass.
Still, over the years I’ve rewatched this … what …a dozen times?  More?  The pezhead and his guilty pleasure.
I speed through the Rico-Ibanez-Barcalow twaddle, linger over Dizzy, and ask myself why, oh why, oh why, has no one in the fan-edit world ever given this gem an adult overhaul.


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Vultural

The Ice House - 1978 - 6/10

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Opaque ghost story is confusing, unresolved, yet worthwhile for the patient.
Brother-sister cultivate a spa for affluent souls, left bereaved, embittered, adrift.
Paul, bruised from a divorce, receives extra attention from the sibling caretakers.
A mysterious icehouse holds a mysterious allure for him.
That, and the fragrant night flowers that twine the exterior.
Heavy on atmosphere, short on explanations, this may exasperate those who desire stitched endings.
I enjoyed this, perhaps one should not hunt for meaning.


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Vultural

Hagazussa - 2017 - 7/10
AKA - A Heathen’s Curse

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Labeled as Horror, though I don’t necessarily agree.
Close in tone to 2016’s The Vvitch, only the environment is more primitive, and the community more fragmented.
A mother and daughter live isolated from the nearby village.  They raise goats, barter milk.
Because they are isolated, they are viewed with suspicion.  Outsiders.
Film beautifully captures the austerity of hardship.
While slow (the girl, later woman, Albrun, often spends great lengths staring, seemingly vacantly), there is a lot going on.  An immersion, if you will, into Nature, the pulsing life force.
This is also a tale of vengeance, though the distracted will probably miss it.
Well worth your time.  And I still dislike the Horror label as I fear that will mislead casual sorts into expecting modern attitudes and plot devices.  I wish there was another label.


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Crawl - 2019 - 6/10

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“There's a gator in the bushes, he's calling my name ...”  (courtesy M Hatchet)
Gator country!  Wail, baby!
In the middle of a Force 5 hurricane, the estranged daughter decides to check on dear ole pa.
She finds him, under the house, in a HUGE crawl space, where he’s busted up.
Meanwhile, the basement fills with water.  Jeopardy!
Hold on, boss.  There’s an alligator down there.  Double jeopardy!!
Make that two gators!!!  Outside, in the flooded streets, there are even more.  Chomping down.
Fairly serious Nature killing film (not Sharknado crap) has great saurians, though too  much family time.
Hurricane effects look good, and there are meals aplenty!

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Vultural

Agatha Christie And The Truth Of Murder - 2018 - 6/10

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I wonder if this will be an ongoing holiday series?  Like the iffy ghost stories?
Agatha Christie famously disappeared for eleven days in 1926.
In this mystery, she responds to a plea to solve a murder.
Set in a country manor, Christie lures suspects with the ruse of an inheritance.
Nicely photographed, with recognizable faces in the cast.
Decent story, and certainly miles ahead of any Hallmark mystery (of which I get to view plenty).

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Vultural

The Great Battle - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - Ansisung  //  안시성

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Do you still have an appetite for epic siege warfare?
Along the line of Helm’s Deep and Minias Tirith?
This is, at least, is based on a historical event, circa 650.
Chinese Emperor Taizong invades Goguryeo (Korea) with 200,000 battle tested warriors.
Armies and forts collapse before him, until he faces the relatively small fort of Ansi.
This features some amazing set pieces mixed with slo-mo sequences that seem derivative of 300.
The series of move-counter move strategies are inventive.
Although over two hours, lulls are sparing are serve to aid character development, which is lacking in this.


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Vultural

Scent Of Mystery - 1960 - 6/10
AKA - Holiday In Spain

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Vacationing Mr Larker thinks he witnesses a murder attempt and becomes a busy body.
The target, a fetching female, informs him how very mistaken he is.
Nevertheless, with a foot-dragging cabbie (a droll Peter Lorre), he continues to meddle.
Despite the shallowest of plots, the picture quality and scenery of Spain is breathtaking.
In 1960, this was a wide, three screen Cinerama production.
The print I saw had been seamlessly configured into the Smilebox format.
Originally, this was also released in Smell-O-Vision (another gimmick to lure TV viewers).  Missing here, but you can figure out what the aromas were and where.
Empty headed, but should please those drawn to this.


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Maelström - 2000 - 6/10  

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Bibi (Bibiane) is having another bad day.  From the looks of things, she’s on a streak of hard luck.
The abortion, losses inside her boutiques, the post dismissal she’s been dodging.
Curiously enough, her story is told by a fish.  Gasping its last breath, waiting its turn on the chopping block.
What goes around, comes around, however, the fish declares to a heedless fishmonger.
Dark film of individuals unhappy or empty.  And yes, there is a difference.
Ostensibly a personal journey, Bibi is flawed to the core and it is hard to imagine her straightening her trajectory.
Unexpected use of “Hair” music adds a touch of bizarre.


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La Dama Rossa Uccide Sette Volte - 1972 - 7/10  
AKA - The Red Queen Kills Seven Times

“Centuries ago,”  grandfather explains,  “the black queen killed her sister, the red queen.  But the red queen returned and killed six more people before killing her sister.  And every hundred years, the curse repeats.”
“And when will the next hundred years be?”  asks one girl.
“In 14 years …”
And so, 14 years pass.  The sisters’ hate for each other escalates.
Until one accidentally kills the other.

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Baffling Giallo set in the fashion world is loads of fun.
Part of the confusion stems from the two surviving sisters who look similar.
Also two of the models (one being Sybil Danning) who bear resemblance.

Delicious audio commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman.
Both are funny, informative, and extremely entertaining.  It’s apparent they love this film.


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Vultural

Un Adultère - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - Infidelity

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Alice shares a flat with Morgane, and increasingly, Morgane’s boyfriend,
Desiring more freedom, 25 year old Alice hires an estate agent to find her a new apartment.
For no reason whatsoever, the young girl / older, married man drift into an affair.
Seems purely physical, guilt-free, even after one increases the risk of exposure.
Viewers expecting sophisticated chic will find bourgeois characters and settings.


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The Revenge Of Doctor X - 1970 - 3/10
AKA - Venus Flytrap  //  The Devil Garden  //  The Double Garden  // Body Of The Prey

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Indescribably bad, even for me.  And boring, to boot.  Calamity!
Rocket scientist, Doctor Bragan, grows increasingly unstable at NASA command.
A Japanese vacation is suggested.
While driving up from Cape Canaveral, he pit stops at a Tarheel car garage / snake farm.
Out back are Venus flytraps.  He digs one up, boxes it up and carries it past Japanese Customs.
Relaxing near an active volcano, he has a brainstorm that humans might be descended from plants!
Ipso boingo, a scientific genius might be able to transform that Venus flytrap into a humanoid.
The dialogue is stilted, the dialogue is muffled.  Lead actors took thespian lessons from drain plugs.
Music bounces from lounge to koto to Bach, and is inappropriate throughout.
Aside from a bevy of topless diving girls, the only entertainment in this is the giant flytrap.
Clearly, the claptrap took Method classes.  Script by Ed Wood, Jr.


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Maiden - 2018 - 7/10

High seas documentary.
In 1989, an all-female crew entered the Whitbread, round-the-world, sailing competition.
Scoffers declare women will quit, women will never get along, women are weak.
The girls do have problems, mostly through inexperience.
But they are also fairly fearless, taking the tightest route near Antarctica to shave time.

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Mix of still photos, crewmates (and competitors) reflecting, newscasts, and home footage.
What is equally astonishing is the sheer amount of film taken at the time.
Well done, though the DVD extras bored me.


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La Ragazza Nella Nebbia - 2017 - 7/10
AKA - The Girl In The Fog

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A 16 year old girl disappears from her small village.
The media savvy inspector and his assistant are dispatched from Rome.
The inspector does not rely on DNA, forensics, science, but uses leaks to reporters to pressure suspects.
And yes, there are suspects.  A stalker, and the fact that the girl belongs to the Confraternity Church, which the inspector regards as a cult.
The contrast of secretive villagers and cynical city interlopers is sharp.
Initially, I thought this was going to be patterned after Les Oubliées or Le Mystère du Lac, two French series with vanished girls.
Only no, the plotting here is diabolically clever, with a progression of twists that spring like traps

 


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