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Adorable menteuse

There have been some good films without a script over the years. This is not one of them.
A few days ago I watched Michel Deville's "Tonight Or Never" (1961), which didn't have much of a story either, but - maybe because of the tightly controlled single setting, a Parisian apartment - it was a perfectly calculated movie with nary a wasted moment. "Adorable Menteuse", maybe because it gets out into the city and the country, rambles on for at least an hour apparently without a script; when a wisp of a story appears in the last third, it hardly seems worth caring about. Marina Vlady's beauty is the only redeeming virtue....but it's not redeeming enough. 0.5 out of 4 stars.

The Salzburg Connection

Terrible movie, terrific Karen Jensen
Tedious, completely incomprehensible spy mishmash gives the strong impression that it was made up on the spot simply to utilize some Salzburg locations that cast & crew had access to. Anna Karina is totally wasted in a drab role; the blonde knockout Karen Jensen fares considerably better - in fact, she is the ONLY virtue of this movie. Oh wait, there is also a good (if brief) car chase. *1/2 out of 4.

Ce soir ou jamais

Sophisticated, sensual, entertaining talkathon
Not much story here, but still a sophisticated, subtly sensual, entertaining talkathon, set entirely inside a Parisian apartment and unfolding in real time, but directed with enough camera fluidity that the viewer never feels trapped. It is also a celebration of female beauty, and a great showcase for Anna Karina in particular who, in one of her first roles, is childlike, seductive, mysterious and funny (to quote a scene in the film itself). Though - and that's a matter of personal preference for stronger bodies - I find Jacqueline Danno (Martine) even sexier. *** out of 4.

The Wilds

Riveting, compelling, beautiful, dark, funny; a wonderful series
This series flew completely off my radar during its first run in 2020, and I only discovered it randomly after reading reviews for the recent "Yellowjackets"; to my surprise, it turned out to be even better than "Yellowjackets". It begins with a similar premise, but in its first season "The Wilds" has no male characters in the survival situation, making for a thoroughly refreshing all-girl dynamic; it also has no horror aspirations (although there are a couple of graphic and/or disturbing scenes), but it does have a "whodunit" aspect to it. The second season adds a boys' group to the mix, though it keeps them separate from the girls; I was wary of that development as soon as it became known, but I trusted the showrunners to....well, run the show as they see fit, and I have to admit my fears were not confirmed. Despite some slow spots, the second season is just as compelling as the first, with themes and twists that sneak up on you step by step. And even though the boys get technically more screen time in S2, the girls still get their moments to shine, particularly Fatin (she is so damn cool in this season) and Leah (she is so damn unhinged - and rightfully so). The show is well-made, well-acted (you can feel the personal investment of the young actors in these characters), well-scored, extremely well-photographed, and above all carries a touching message about empathy, compassion, acceptance, solidarity; it says that we should not judge people on first impressions, for better or for worse. You know you love a series when you actually HOPE there is a cliffhanger ending that doesn't resolve things just to increase the odds of one more season. 8/10 for both seasons so far.

Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event

First let's have some particulars and then we'll talk about sex
OK, the Uncle Matt / Lord Epping joke had most definitely run its course at this point, and it is not unfair that this would be the last entry in the series, but it is also one of the most tolerable ones, thanks to a larger-than-usual role for Carmelita and - especially - some surprisingly racy material that the filmmakers managed to sneak through right under the censors' noses, most notable my above summary line (which is followed by a "huh??" reaction by Uncle Matt and Carmelita). **1/2 out of 4.

The Wilds: Day 50/33
Episode 7, Season 2

One of the main themes of this series is not judging people on first impressions, and the same thing goes for the series itself; for most of the second season the girl's community has been presented as happy and harmonic while the boys have divided into two camps, but slowly a reversal has sneaked up on the viewer: the boys are regrouping while the girls are drifting apart. And just when you think you have it all figured out, it sneaks up on you once more (the "poker" beach sequence). 8/10.

There is really only one thing wrong with this series: that it ends after the next episode.

Ghost Catchers

Moments of inspired craziness and meta-humor, but way too much singing
Olsen and Johnson are as wild as the Marx Brothers here, but too often they play second fiddles in their own movie; there is far, far too much singing which will turn off approximately 19 out of 20 viewers today (keep the FF button handy). There appear to be no decent-quality copies of this film in circulation, so that's another thing that restricts viewing and sounding pleasure. But don't miss the scene where O & J openly discuss Abbott and Costello's "Hold That Ghost"! This whole movie could be a fever dream. ** out of 4.

Mexican Spitfire's Elephant

Big improvement on "Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost"
The penultimate entry in the "Mexican Spitfire" series is at the very least much better than the preceding one, "Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost". There are still lots of tired Uncle Matt / Lord Epping impersonation routines, but there is also a much larger role for Lupe Velez and she is as hot and fiery as ever; she also gets to do some terrific singing and dancing. Marion Martin, who had played the "dumb blonde" in two previous entries, has a new and improved role here as a cool femme fatale. The Dennis part has been re-cast, again, but nobody seems to be paying any attention to him anyway. **1/2 out of 4.

Over My Dead Body

OK B-movie vehicle for Milton Berle
This begins well, with an unusual premise and some surprising "meta" moments. But then it gets dragged down by an unfunny "drunk" character (as I have said before, there has never been and there never will be a funny "drunk" character in the movies - they are invariably tiresome), and climaxes with an overlong courtroom sequence where everything would be resolved much faster if Milton Berle's character presented the "left hand" clue earlier (even if we willingly accept that the police hadn't already thought of it, or the killer himself for that matter to avoid that rather crude mistake). ** out of 4.

Whispering Ghosts

Bob Hope must have been busy that day
Playing like a rejected Bob Hope project, this low-budget, claustrophobic mystery-comedy has some atmospheric moments when it sticks to the mystery, but the thickheaded comedy wears thin quickly. Brenda Joyce is stunning. ** out of 4.

Gildersleeve's Ghost

Amusing horror spoof
Though no great shakes on its own, "Gildersleeve's Ghost" is at least much better than "Gildersleeve's Bad Day", the only other film in this series I have seen so far. It throws in everything but the kitchen sink: ghosts, a mad scientist and his shady assistant, a loose gorilla, an invisible woman, a "haunted" mansion with secret passageways, a thunderstorm, etc. Clever special effects, funny if old-hat gags, an astoundingly fleshy and bodacious Marion Martin (when we see her body in the flesh, that is), and a good supporting comedic performance by the prolific but little-known Nicodemus Stewart. **1/2 out of 4.

Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost

No ghosts - or laughs
Extremely poor entry in the "Mexican Spitfire" series. No story, just people yelling at each other and behaving like morons. Carmelita has become almost totally irrelevant, Donald MacBride is obnoxiously loud, and Mantan Moreland is wasted. Also there are no ghosts. * out of 4.

The Wilds: Day 30/1
Episode 1, Season 2

Glad to have this back
Season 1 was wonderful, and this is a terrific start to season 2. I'm still not sure about the inclusion of the boys (the all-girl dynamic was one of the biggest strengths of the 1st season), but they seem interesting so far; in any case, the showrunners have at the very least earned the benefit of the doubt. Besides, the girls still get the chance to shine here (well, except maybe Shelby yet), the photography is still great, and there is a totally unexpected plot twist in the penultimate sequence. 8/10.


Surprisingly enjoyable
Surprisingly enjoyable, decidedly adult, stunningly progressive revival of the popular Nickelodeon show. The more mature content was probably the only way to do it: the characters have grown up 9 years since we last saw them, and so have - presumably - the audiences that followed their original adventures. Yes Sam is missed (Gibby less so) but the actors refused to return, so what can you do? The lack of actual iCarly-show content is probably the most legitimate complaint, but then again, it's a common occurence for sitcoms to have the characters rarely working in general. Just to be clear, this is not a comedy classic, but neither was iCarly 2007-2012; like the original, it is a relaxing, undemanding way to pass 25 minutes. 7/10.

Russian Doll: Schrödinger's Ruth
Episode 6, Season 2

The most mind-bending episode yet
Well, it seems Nadia has finally broken the fabric of time. But many of us would probably do the same in her place, for - literally - a second chance at life. I kinda wish the previous episodes were more like this one, instead of taking us on what seems to have been a wild goose chase about stolen Kruggerand coins. The ending is totally unexpected and shiveringly good. 7.5/10.

Gildersleeve's Bad Day

Very mild, harmless time-filler
Apparently Harold Peary was a big hit on the radio during that time with this Gildersleeve character; on the screen he comes across as an agreeable personality (apart from that obnoxious fake laugh), but certainly not strong enough to hold the screen as the only lead - he probably would serve better as part of an ensemble. "Gildersleeve's Bad Day", about him getting called on jury duty and inadvertently bribed, doesn't have many laughs, but it's harmless enough. ** out of 4.

Bwana Devil

Tepid adventure under the hot African sun
Apparently this was the first "official" theatrical release in 3-D; without the glasses, pretty much the only eye-catching composition / depth of field comes at the very start, in the opening credits. Lots of uninteresting conversations serve as filler between the infrequent but reasonably well-done attack scenes - considering the era and the amount of blood that could (not) be shown (there is also some blatant use of stock footage). Second-billed Barbara Britton appears after half the movie is over but looks good, especially with sweat covering her neck. ** out of 4.

Mexican Spitfire at Sea

The fifth entry in the "Mexicn Spitfire" series consists mostly of aimless running around without going anywhere, and people behaving like collective morons; despite the ship setting, it is almost totally static as well. Lupe Velez is still funny, but wasted in a minor supporting (!) role. It is obvious to anyone that this series is operating on fumes at this point - and even the fumes are getting exhausted. ** out of 4.

The Mexican Spitfire's Baby

Ensemble comedy cast keeps this one going
The 4th entry in the "Mexican Spitfie" series has plenty of stale impersonation gags and dumb misunderstandings, but Lupe Velez is still delightful, Leon Errol is still a master of the delayed reaction (although Lord Epping is an one-joke character stretched well beyond his limits - I prefer him as Uncle Matt), and there is a good comedic supporting cast (Zasu Pitts, Tom Kennedy, Fritz Feld, and Marion Martin as an early Marilyn Monroe / Jayne Mansfield prototype) to keep things tolerable. The climactic "knife" duel IS funny. **1/2 out of 4.

Mexican Spitfire

Should have been called British Lord instead
After a bright start with "Girl From Mexico", the "Mexican Spitfire" film series gets derailed by the introduction of the grating Lord Epping; while there is little doubt as to Leon Errol's versatility (he is essentially playing not two but THREE roles here), a little of Lord Epping goes a loooooong way, and there is a lot of him in this film - Lupe Velez gets seriously sidelined, until a climactic cakefight. Dumb mistaken-identity gags galore. *1/2 out of 4.

The Girl from Mexico

Lightweight, fast-moving farce
Lupe Velez is infectiously charming and tirelessly energetic in one of her biggest hits; she was one of the few broad comediennes of her era - possibly of any era. She and Leon Errol make a compatible comedy team - both the characters and the actors seem to genuinely like each other. **1/2 out 4.

iCarly: iTake a Girls' Trip
Episode 10, Season 1

Spicy Brooke
This is definitely an Adult iCarly - and I'm digging it (it's almost surprising when you still see the Nickelodeon logo at the end of the credits). This episode - perhaps the best so far - first teases the possibility of Freddie and Carly hooking up (which I actually hope does NOT happen, at least so soon), but the real fun begins when Brooke shows up; she is a spicy cute adorable hot mess (emphasis on hot). Esther Povitsky, an experienced TV comedienne, is perfect in her all-too-brief role. I think Freddie should have his head examined, though - first he let Gwen go (see episode 8), and now Brooke. Maybe that's the joke. 8/10.

My Favorite Spy

Good Hope, Bad Hope
Slick but labored and overlong; pretty much the same film as Hope's earlier "My Favorite Blonde", but without the same urgency (maybe inevitably - the war was over, after all). Shows some brief promise when Bad Hope enters the picture (a rare role for him), but soon after dissolves into a series of tiresome slapstick sequences. Hedy Lamarr is spectacularly shapely. ** out of 4.

My Favorite Blonde

Comic version of "The 39 Steps"
With the same leading actress, no less. And it is made with enough technical proficiency to pass muster as a "real" espionage thriller, invaded by Bob Hope's jokes (my favorite: a debate session with himself). Madeleine Carroll proves equally adept at the comedic and the serious moments; George Zucco and Gale Sondergaard always add good value as villains, but they are underutilized this time. **1/2 out of 4.

iCarly: iLove Gwen
Episode 8, Season 1

One of the best episodes so far, but one question... could Freddie let Gwen go? She is both totally cool and hot as hell. Hopefully we'll see more of her later, although they seemed to close her arc (for now?) in this episode. 7/10.

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