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Reviews

Friday Foster
(1975)

some greats of the 60s and 70s in this one.
Pam Grier and Yaphet Kotto worked on three films together. In this one, Friday is a photographer, who is sent to take photos at the airport on new years eve. Tierre Turner, who plays her younger brother, would go on to be a stunt man. Co-stars Jim Backus, Eartha Kitt. Carl Weathers, Scatman Crothers, Ted Lange. Nothing wrong with that cast. Eartha, in all her purring glory, is the emcee for her fashion show where another murder occurs. People are getting murdered faster than they can be questioned. And who is Blake Tarr? That name keeps coming up. Co-stars Thalmus Rasulala and Jason Bernard both died quite young, in their 50s. It's fun to follow Friday around town, as she tries to bluff her way into everyone's house. Directed by Art Marks; his only other film I have heard is Roommates. Based on the comic strip, with the same story line and characters. Check it out at wikipedia dot com.

A Shot in the Dark
(1941)

the Lundigan one.
The Bill Lundigan one. Peter Sellers made another (unrelated) one in 1964. When Richards (Cortez) sells the Royal Club to an out of towner, the murders start. The locals team up to figure out who dunnit. Singer Dixie (Nan Wynn) and Kennedy the reporter (Lundigan) offer to help Lt. Ryder (Regis Toomey) any way they can. This film is just filled with the usual ingredients in an old who-dunnit; competing for the girl, cracking stupid jokes while trying to solve the murder. In this one, the police lieutenant never seems to do any actual police work... he's always hanging around in nightclubs and bars, with his hands at his side. And why is Lundigan always hiding under desks and behind pillars? Is he five years old?? When he sits in a chair, he hangs one leg over the arm of the chair. Was the director trying to make him look like a teenager? This was released JUST before the japanese bombed pearl harbor... it would be all war films in just a couple months. And this one also has a strange ending. It's a short B film from Warner Brothers, so I guess the expectations were already pretty low. Directed by Bill McGann. Was a special effects guy on some real big films before turning director. Key Largo, Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

The Last Laugh
(2019)

C.Chase and R. Dreyfuss
Two of my personal favorites! Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss. Apropos of their age now, Buddy (Dreyfuss) lives in a retirement home, and shows Al (Chase) around the place. Co-stars other comedians... George Wallace, Lewis Black, and the amazing Andie MacDowell. And the other residents at the home keep dying. So Al talks Buddy into taking a road trip! Buddy does a few minutes of his old standup act on stage... a little awkward. Stop-off in TJ. That doesn't go well either. Another standup gig. And they both keep falling asleep. Because they are OLD. Just not ready to admit it yet. It goes pretty much as expected. How DO we measure success? Richard Dreyfuss was so great in Close Encounters, Down and Out in Beverly Hills; Chevy Chase was awesome in so many things... Caddyshack, Seems Like Old Times, Spies Like Us.. the list goes ON! Written and directed by Greg Pritikin. The story itself is so-so, but watching Dreyfuss and Chase again is great fun.

Love, Guaranteed
(2020)

lawsuit over dating site
Rachael Cook is Susan, attorney at law. Damon Wayans Junior Is Nick, a new client, who wants to sue a dating web site for fraud. Right from the start, we can see exactly what's coming. It's a silly, sappy love story. There are a couple funny lines in here, but it's all been done before. Small time lawyer takes on big, giant company for stepping over the line. There's even a Hello, Kitty reference. Susan doesn't know much about online dating, or what things mean on cell phone texting, but Nick teaches her. And she's happy to be the student. It's good. Nothing too crazy and new, but no plot holes. Some funny lines. And we ALL know how its going to end. Directed by Mark Johnson, probably best known for directing Grumpy Old Men. Story by Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy.

The Russian Revolution
(2017)

spoilers - doc on russian revolution history
SPOILERS... it's a shorty, at only 47 minutes. Cal Seville wrote and directed the story describing the lead up to the show down in 1917 that took the Romanov family off the throne. Interviews with various expert authors on russian history discuss Lenin's influence, and the lead up to Josef Stalin. Beginning the story in 1881, Jonathan Kydd narrates the long running history of discontent of the ruling family and the assassination attempts. They removed Alexander II, but the family was still in power, so Alexander III takes the throne. And was a little more appreciated by the people. Some Great old footage of russia. One downside is that netflix uses white captions on white backgrounds, so for anyone depending on captions will miss quite a bit of it. It doesn't end well for the Romanov family. Good stuff. Although it ends quite abruptly; the next interesting chapter could be the rise and fall of the soviet union, post revolution.

(Dean)
(2016)

demitri M humor. good !
I LOVE Demetri Martin's standup. Here, he is writing and directing a film, in the comedy category, about death and grief. He's Dean, who is dealing with his dad (Kevin Kline). Robert is dealing with the loss of his wife, and has decided to sell the house. Mary Steenburgen is Carol, the realtor who will be selling the house. Which Dean isn't happy about. Martin's own artwork and humor are interspersed. There's a funny bit at the wedding where he does a clever word play bit when he gives his toast. The other best man is such an idiot, he thinks he's been insulted. Martin uses a bunch of other comedians in the film: Asif Ali, Jon Benjamin, Beck Bennett. I'm a huge demetri fan, so i liked it. The airplane scene was a little weird. It took a minute to figure out what happened. I totally get the awkwardness Dean feels with everyone. His father. His old friends. Meeting new friends. Potential employers. I loved how no approach worked with the girls... at first, the best friend's line worked, but later, he can't say anything right, and the chicks like Dean instead. It's all pretty random. Which i think is the secret to Martin's humor.

Motherless Brooklyn
(2019)

historical bit on a real city planner
An Ed Norton project. He is Lionel Essrog, a detective trying to figure out who gunned down his friend. Alec Baldwin is Moses, a hot-headed big shot in city planning. A fun story in the trivia section here about the real man. Apparently, Norton's grandfather had actually met the real city planner Robert Moses years back. Check Moses out at wikipedia dot com. Bruce Willis is Minna. So we follow Lionel as he runs around town, trying to retrace his friend's steps. In this one, he has Tourette's; Norton seems to enjoy playing people with unusual features. Some great jazz music. Until they beat the crap out of him again. But half the time, it's his own fault for pretending he's someone else. It's pretty good, as detective stories go. Think Chinatown. Directed by Ed Norton. One of two films that he has directed. Story by Jon Lethem.

Dunkirk
(2017)

retelling of ww ii evacuation
Won three oscars, so it must be pretty good. Another tale of history from Chris Nolan. During the "great war", WW II, the forces were pushed back to the coast, forcing a HUGE evacuation. Considered by many to be a crucial point of the war, they had to make this happen, or the war might go the wrong way. Some interesting things discussed in the trivia section here on imdb. Nolan wanted things to be as accurate as possible, which accounts for his five nominations. Separate stories of trying to escape the french side of the war. An airman trying to get out of his downed plane. Soldiers on the beach, waiting for boats that don't seem to be coming. Boats trying to make their way across to save them, without being blown up themselves. Very well done. Lots of suspense, even if you know the outcome (since this happened 80 years ago, early in the war). Very intense. As most of his films are. Written and directed by Chris Nolan. You may have heard of his other little projects... Inception, Prestige, and a couple Batmans.

Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb
(2020)

seems to be based on some actual history
Interesting. And annoying. Another grand tomb, discovered quite near the giant pyramids of Giza. The priest of Cats! With mystery and intrigue along the way. But.. WHY do they have white captions on white backgrounds?? I tried turning on additional captions, but the version I was viewing did not seem to have them embedded. Frustrating. I missed about half of what was going on. And did it have to be so LONG? Almost two hours. Of course, a recent discovery of an egyptian tomb in such complete, undisturbed condition is pretty amazing. Produced by Lion and At-Land Productions, it appears netflix is the only distributor. Interesting but frustrating. Searching for burial chamber discoveries, I find several from february and march of 2018, where they think that this may be the tomb of the priestess Hetpet and her family. Hmmm... and why are they disregarding to many archy rules like wearing gloves when they touch newly found items, and opening things out in the bright sunlight, where they will be quickly degraded? Directed by James Tovell, known for his documentaries. It's entertaining. And long. And very non scientific.

Phantom Thread
(2017)

Good Anderson project.
D. D. Lewis is Reynolds, dressmaker to the rich and famous in 1950s London, with his sister. No time for distractions. Until he meets Alma ( Vicky Krieps), who is much younger. She waits on him in a lunchroom, and immediately after placing his order, he asks her out to dinner. Where he (rudely) removes her lipstick. We learn right away that he's a bit of a nut. But when i saw the film is over two hours, i knew it was going to be a complicated story. Alma begins to model for Reynolds and his sister. Music plays a role in the film as well... it's always flowing and beautiful, like his dresses. But... to fill two hours, the story does go off on some tangents. Like the Rose wedding. That was strange and awkward. Odd moments when Alma tries to correct Reynolds. He's stubborn and eccentric, and every now and then she tries to nudge him, to make him behave more like a gentleman. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Written and directed by Paul Anderson. He has been nominated for EIGHT oscars over the years... so far. And a couple were for this very film. He had also done Punch Drunk Love and There will be Blood. Quite a range.

Under the Volcano
(1984)

well done, but gets dark
One of John Huston's final films... he only directed two more after this... and died three years after this. Stars Albert Finney, Jacqueline Bissett, Anthony Andrews. Geoffrey Firmin is a retired british consul, living in a small town in mexico, just at the outbreak of WW II. On the Day of the Dead. Finney was nominated for best actor. One of his FIVE nominations! Firmin is in a church, praying that his ex wife will come back to him. And she does. As he drinks. And rambles. And stumbles around the house, looking for more drinks. Then we're off to the fiesta and the bullfights. Along the way, some interesting sights... there's a Sinarquista riding on the bus (look it up on wikipedia dot com). And a dead body on the side of the road. Quite a day. It's very well done. But Warning... it gets very dark at the end. Novel by Malcolm Lowry. He died young at age 47, from alcohol related causes.

The Shadow
(1994)

remake of the old radio series.
Alec Baldwin is Lamont Cranston, but sometimes known as The Shadow, in this 1994 remake of the 1931 radio series. Made into a magazine series. Co-stars Ian McKellen, Peter Boyle, Jon Winters, Penelope Miller, Tim Curry. When Khan, the statue (John Lone, who was also the Last Emporer), comes alive at the museum, strange things start to happen. It's a bit campy, but I guess there's no other way to play it. So many dirty double entendres. McKellen and Curry are scientists, and Khan needs their equipment for ingredients to make a bomb. Can The Shadow save New York from the evil Khan? Lots of old style buildings and dark, goth creepy music to set the scene. My favorite thing about this film is the creepy little dagger which comes alive, and only obeys it's master. It's pretty good. Directed by aussie Russell Mulcahy. Started out making music videos for the huge rockers in the 1980s.

A Good Year
(2006)

man checks on inherited vineyard
Russell Crowe is british businessman Max, who inherits a vineyard from Uncle Henry en france. He must go back to check it out. As we can see, he has been living the fast, action packed life as a stock trader. When he arrives, he doesn't make any friends. And.. the gentleman running the vineyard is SO disappointed that Max wants to sell the place. And one more complication... a girl claiming to be another heir turns up at the last minute. Some funny lines in here, mostly insults uttered quietly behind someone else's back. The story marches on, and Max meets an old flame. And starts to like the place. As these movies go. No big surprises, but it's a sweet story. Directed by Ridley Scott. Nominated for four oscars (but not for this film). He and Crowe have worked together on numerous (very successful) films. This is certainly a slower pace film than Gladiator.

Murder Made Easy
(2017)

caper. what's really going on here?
Joan (Jessica Graham) and Michael (Chris Kelly) throw a party for their friends. But.. they are having it on the very anniversary of the death of Joan's husband. And that is sure to make the guests a little suspicious. Although this is a different kind of dinner party.... you'll have to watch to see it. The whole night takes place in the apartment. And there are major twists and turns, so look out! Really good. Written and directed by David Palamaro. Has only directed four films so far. I liked it.... keeps you guessing all the way right up to the end.

Harry Price: Ghost Hunter
(2015)

based on a real ghost hunter
According to imdb, the actual Harry Price set out to expose the false mediums, yet also believed that some were actually authentic. Rafe Spall is Harry, brought in to help a woman (Zoe Boyle) found wandering the streets in the early 1900s. He moves in with the Goodwins to study the family, as well as the house. To complicate matters, the man of the house Edward ( Tom Ward) is an MP, and wants to avoid any publicity. As the story unfolds, we find many secrets that need to be told. And the people that don't want them to be told. Harry Price was a real guy, and has a page in wikipedia dot com. Interesting stuff. Fairly interesting story. Check it out. Directed by Alex Pillai. Written by Neil Spring.

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
(1942)

B. rathbone solves another one
Basil Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes from 1939 for about the next ten years. First in the films, then in the Suspense television series. By the time Voice of Terror came along, he had already been nominated for two oscars. The U. S. had been dragged into WW II, so Sherlock is fighting the nazi element. Co-stars Evelyn Ankers, and as usual, Nigel Bruce is Watson, the sidekick. When a man shows up at the door with a knife in his back, they decide to investigate. Threats are coming over the radio from the nazis to Britain. Holmes must convince Kitty, girlfriend of the dead man, to help them. Some viewers may recocognize Meade, played by Thomas Gomez, who was also Curly, in Key Largo. It looks like Voice of Terror was Gomez' very first acting gig. Directed by John Rawlins. Sir Doyle had already died back in 1930, but his work must have been worthy; as of today, there are still currently THREE works in production starring his Sherlock Holmes, ninety years later. Doyle was a spiritualist, and allegedly had some association with Houdini and James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.

Murder by Decree
(1979)

big names in here...
Can't beat this cast: Chris Plummer (Sound of music), David Hemming (Blowup), John Geilgud (Arthur, Murder on the..), Donald Sutherland (Mash, Start the Revolution), James Mason(North by Northwest). All heavy hitters. Sherlock Holmes and Watson (Plummer and Mason) try to track down Jack the Ripper in old London. It kind of plods along. Sutherland is Mr. Lees, who may or may not be of any help in the case. Gielgud is the Prime Minister. Directed by Bob Clark. Also directed Porkys and Christmas Story. Interesting combination of detective work by Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, combined with several books on Jack the Ripper.

The Trouble with Spies
(1987)

low key spy thing...
Many Big names in this spy caper. Although there are more spies than caper. They work very hard to get the jokes across. Angus (Robert Morley) sends Porter (Donald Sutherland) on a mission to Ibiza. Ned Beatty and Ruth Gordon are guests staying at the hotel. Lucy Gutteridge plays the hotel owner. Greg Sierra (from Barney Miller) is the po-po who shows up to question the guests. It's listed as a drama, but everyone tells jokes, and then we pause a couple seconds to give us time to laugh. If we really wanted to. I can see why this gets very low ratings on imdb... the script needed a tune-up, in spite of all these big names. And not much meat on the plot. Was the novel really this light, or was too much left on the editing floor? And the opening title was mis-spelled: Spys instead of Spies. That shows the attention to detail this film got. And for a hotel full of spies, no-one even tries to act normally.. they are always talking about what all the other guests may or may not be up to. No surprises. No plot turns. It goes blandly along. Just lacks the spy-adventure that makes us want to see what's coming next. Directed by Burt Kennedy. Novel by Marc Lovell. This seems to be an HBO production.

Straight Up
(2019)

gender bending.... insecurities...
Written, directed, and starring (which is sometimes a danger signal!) James Sweeney. He's Todd, who wants to know his own sexuality. His friends have decided he's gay, but he's still not sure. He meets Rory, who has her own issues. She's having a terrible week. They both are uptight and a little goofed up, which they both freely admit. All Todd's friends are happy to have sex, and to talk about sex, but Todd blames his own lack of sex on his OCD issues. Lots of really fast talking. By various characters. It's good, if you can get past the endless, fast talking, which frequently descends into arguing. Clearly another stall tactic, so Todd doesn't have to perform sexually. With anyone. Todd thinks he might be bisexual. Or asexual. I guess the question is, would he be equally comfortable loving and living with a guy as he is with a girl? If it really IS just the weirdness of body contact during sex that grosses him out, I guess that would be the tell. Love without sex was the plot of about half the episodes of will and grace... they even make a joke about will and grace! There aren't many people who would be happy staying in a relationship without ever having sex. Brendan Scannell (Bonding) is here as Jerry. You'll also recognize comedian Randy Park as Todd's dad. There ARE some really funny bits in here, but there's SO much fast talking and or arguing. I don't have much patience for that. Showing on netflix.

Starting Out in the Evening
(2007)

odd story of a writer....
Leonard (Frank Langella) is an aging, exhausted writer. He is contacted by graduate student Heather Wolfe, who wants to interview him as part of her graduate studies. Co-stars Lili Taylor (known for I Shot Andy Warhol), as Leonard's daughter. Heather thinks he can help both their careers. He's reluctant at first, but then agrees. And he only wants to discuss his work, but when she pries a little deeper, he begins to reveal pieces of himself that he never meant to . And he seems to want to keep it on a business level. At least at the beginning.... at one point, Heather says "do you think people will still be reading you in a hundred years?" and Leonard's response is "what I wonder is whether people will still be reading in a hundred years!" ... how appropriate. And this was just back in 2007. It's quite good. Lots of talking. Kind of a throwback to the films of the late 70s, early 1980s which were thinker films. With talking. And psychology. Screenplay and direction by Andrew Wagner. Novel by Brian Morton. Playing on the roku streaming channel.

Renoir
(2012)

story of an artist and his family
In the early 1900s, the beautiful, young Andrée Heuschling (Christa Théret) was the model for Pierre Renoir. After his death, Andrée married his son, Jean. There really are some beautiful images here.. when Pierre dips his brush into the water, the camera stays on the glass, and we watch the paint gobs slowly cascade at different speeds. When Andrée holds the garden hose, the water sprays in delightful formations. When asked why he doesn't use black in his painting, Pierre says there are enough dark, unpleasant things in the world. He wants to add color and beauty to it. There's full frontal nudity, which delights the much-younger brother Coco. He'll make pottery .later in life. Some scenes just go on too long... lots of very slow bicycle riding. The family slowly walks up and down the river on a picnic. Dad Renoir slowly walks around the living room, to show us all he can still do it. Then a written summary of what happens to Pierre, Jean, and Andrée at the very end. Directed by Gilles Bourdos. Story by Jacques Renoir.. the grandson of Pierre! It's good. Moves at a gentle, relaxed pace, but it's all done well.

Lolo
(2015)

her son does NOT approve
Un film français ! Co-writer, director, and starring Julie Delpy! She's Violette, in the fashion industry. She meets a fisherman, and accepts an invitation to a party. Turns out he's really a nice computer guy, and they start dating. But there's a hitch... Violette's son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste) doesn't like the new guy, so he starts doing things to bust them up. And he makes his own mother so paranoid, she starts acting weird around the new guy, JeanRene (Dany Boon). After this goes on for a while, we can only hope that Violette stops blaming JeanRene. Of course, the son is loving every minute of the misunderstandings and screw-ups. Will mom ever catch on? Delpy was an actor for YEARS before she began directing. Shared oscar nominations for Before Midnight and Before Sunset. This one is okay. Like a (really long) episode of three's company. So many misunderstandings... orchestrated by the son.

No Surrender
(1985)

Liverpool ... back in the day.
Like the opening card says, Liverpool. New Year's eve. Michael ( Michael Angelis) has been hired on to manage a nightclub on the outskirts of town. And so far, both the catholics and the protestants are coming. The magician's rabbit has died. The bar is a front for the mafia. There will be a costume contest. The employees don't have specified duties, and the local punks smash any cars that try to park in the lot. And that's just the beginning. Can Michael survive the night? Will the club itself survive? Some low-key surprises. Will any of the employees support him? Directed by Peter Smith. He was nominated for a couple Baftas...not for this film. Written by Alan Bleasdale. It's pretty good, if a bit random and frenetic. A look at the rougher side of Liverpool in the mid 1980s!

Revelation
(2001)

interesting mix of story and history
The real star of the film is the Loculus, an ancient religious piece with huge historical significance to many. Wikipedia dot com tells us the general definition for loculus is small place or satchel. Over the centuries, various experts and leaders have tried to break down its meaning, without success. Terence Stamp is Lord Martel, the most recent guardian of the ancient object. He asks his nephew Jake (James D'Arcy), an expert code breaker, to find it and destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands. Kind of a Temple of Doom meets DaVinci Code adventure. It's filmed in very low light, so we miss a lot of what's going on. That may account for the low rating, after 1500 votes on imdb. The film also references the discussion of Newton's work in chemistry and the occult. As wiki points out, studying and publishing chemistry and/or magic was forbidden in england during this time, so we may never discover the real extent of Newton's work in this area. Some beautiful filming locations, as Jake and Mira (Natasha Wightman) run around searching. And having awkward sex. It's pretty good. Not as bad as the ratings would have you think. The ending is a little confusing... open to interpretation. Which is probably what the writer intended. Pretty good stuff. Directed by brit director Stuart Urban. Has won a couple BAFTAs. Story by Frank Falco.

A Quiet Storm
(2016)

adventure in new orleans
Aurora (Morgan Glover.. her only role ? Where did she go? ) is a teenager who plays a beautiful piano. She's doing well in school, and has applied to college. Unfortunately, she's in the rough part of new orleans, where murder and mayhem are more than common. And it turns out someone from her own family might be involved. To talk or not to talk. That is the question. And she's getting advice from everyone around her. Pretty heavy stuff. Violence. Written and directed by Jason Affolder, who frequently writes and directs his films. I guess Glover didn't like acting... this seems to be the only thing she did. Modeling must pay better. It's quite good!

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