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Reviews

Midnight Cowboy
(1969)

Hard Times, Friendship and Life Itself
One of the most notable and lauded films in Hollywood history "Midnight Cowboy" is a compelling depiction of urban realist drama set in the colorful and turbulent 1960s. A charming and backward Texas cowboy travels to New York City to try his luck in the flesh trade and gets more than he bargained for. Along the slippery path he meets an equally down and out local and together they shoulder life's heavy burdens in one of the most affecting and memorable portrayals of friendship onscreen. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight are the central leads and their chemistry carry the film in all its rollercoaster motions. The film is also a nice glimpse into '60s New York and the Big Apple's concrete jungle is showcased in all its urban grime and sprawl with matching sex, drugs, good music and a psychedelic party with a Warhol cast to boot. The flick slows down in the middle but picks up again with a moving ending. A gem of art imitating life this is the kind of symbol and representation of an era that endures and stays with you.

The Regeneration
(1915)

O.G.
One of the first full-length gangster films "The Regeneration" packs a solid portrayal of life at its sordid and debased. A boy growing up surrounded by poverty and crime inevitably succumbs to a life outside the law. Climbing to the top of the heap at a young age his glee with his newfound status is suddenly challenged when a turn of events leads to challenge and redemption. The appealingly dated acting of the time and the old-fashioned look and mores add much to the charm and interest of this vintage piece while ably depicting the grime and the filth of the urban poor overriding the slow pace and somewhat difficult to follow storyline. History and art rolled into one sepia-toned tapestry this is one for both film and history lovers.

One Night in Miami
(2020)

Black Panthers
Based on a play "One Night in Miami" finds four of black America's most popular public figures in a motel room where things immediately unravel. Race, civil rights, sports, politics and music leap to the fore as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Jones and Sam Cooke discuss, argue, laugh and contemplate on the turbulent times and their important contributions to it. Fine casting and decent acting carry the message through. A watchable and informative glimpse of America in the 1960s this is one of the notable releases of recent times.

Giliw ko
(1939)

Charming and Moving Musical/Drama from Wartime Southeast Asia
A fascinating non-Western vintage from the Philippines, "Giliw Ko" (My Beloved) is a lighthearted Musical/Drama featuring fine acting and good music in a period backdrop of Oriental tropicalia. A misguided love triangle leads to a happy ending amidst familial interactions, big and spacious mansions, verdant and breezy surroundings, suited gentlemen and period-dressed ladies, modest natives and stirring tunes. The slow-going and dated style of acting ages this charmer considerably but considering this is one of the handful of films from the country that survived the ravages of the 2nd World War makes this miracle of preservation truly a gift for posterity. The bucolic idyll the film portrays is set in the looming menace of the approaching conflict that would shatter it forever and the innocence shown gives this priceless artifact a deep poignancy. Elegant and memorable this is a touching and tender glimpse into a vanished and bygone era.

Zappa
(2020)

A Flawed and Watchable Tribute on Rock's Greatest Oddball
"Zappa" is a recent documentary on the life and legacy of the cult icon highlighting the idiosyncratic personality and offbeat work of the man. Directed by Alex Winter of "Bill and Ted" fame the film comprises images and footage from hours of film many of which were recorded by Zappa himself throughout his life and interviews with band members, acquaintances and family as they narrate and reflect on the man's unique character and his impact on them and music. With the quirky and eclectic tunes as soundtrack the doc is a visual and musical view of Popular Music from its golden age. While a fine effort Winter is a better actor than documentarian and the film lacks the appeal that a good documentary should have. Questionable editing and a lack of basic skilled directing leave this lacking the punch and oomph that a man as interesting as Zappa and his times naturally have. After watching this one gets the impression Zappa was someone who played music and nothing more, failing to reveal what made the man special and unique. For that check out "Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words" which does a better job of conveying the man's one of a kind legacy. Another addition to the nostalgia industry that feeds and nourishes these soulless times "Zappa" resurrects a dead art form and relives memories of a much better time.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
(2020)

The Blues
Based on a play by August Wilson "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is a microsocial depiction of a people, a sound and an age. Set in 1927 Chicago the film centers on Blues legend Ma Rainey's recording of her definitive track "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and what transpires. The personal and musical interactions, the tension, sexuality, drama and most of all the music conjure up the sights, sounds and scenery of the Jazz Age from a primarily black American perspective. Good acting and gripping scenes elevate this small-scaled release highlighting the late Chadwick Boseman's solid performance in one of his final roles. A fitting tribute to a writer, a singer and an actor the movie is a lively and intense portrayal of the American Century.

Mank
(2020)

The Man Behind the Words
A fun and engaging depiction of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz's role as writer of "Citizen Kane", "Mank" appeals with the sophistication and verbal play of golden age Hollywood. Shot in attractive black and white the film shows the inner workings of the movie business and the characters involved that make it tick. Gary Oldman is a natural as the alcoholic and endearingly clever Mankiewicz as he wrestles with a deadline and his principles to get his point across. The rest of the cast deliver in seamless support. But the real star of the show is the smart and witty script that keeps the viewer on board with its scintillating back and forths and endless repartee. While no classic this is one of the more entertaining and watchable flicks of recent times. Who said writers are boring?

Honest Thief
(2020)

When Lines are Blurred
Tom Carter is a bank robber who wants to turn himself in. Meeting the girl of his dreams compels the successful thief to mend his ways and he contacts local law enforcement to make a deal. Matters go out of hand though when events take a turn for the worst and Carter is off to a mad rush to save his life and the one closest to him. Featuring well-paced action and good acting "Honest Thief" is one of the notable Action flicks of recent times. Although age has taken its hold Liam Neeson proves he's one of the big screen's foremost actors of the field as he displays the authority and countenance that made films like the "Taken" series blockbusters. It's nice to see Jeffrey Donovan in action again too. Simple and to the point "Honest Thief" delivers smoothly like a heist made in heaven.

The Queen's Gambit
(2020)

The Queen's Gambit
A well-done drama on a female Chess player and her rise to the top. Based on a novel "The Queen's Gambit" depicts the life of a young orphan and her quick ascent in the game's hierarchy as a Chess prodigy highlighting her interactions with those close to her and the personal struggles she endured as she attained her goal. Good acting and a good soundtrack color with verve the rollercoaster ride of a life and talent and the burdens that come with them. The story is clearly based on the life of Bobby Fischer and it would have been much better if the lead character were a tall and handsome man to accurately depict the inspiration and give more depth and authority to the film and show the game is truly "The Game of Kings" instead of a silly weird-looking redhead who looks like she just came out of the set of "Gossip Girl". The usual pc cliches pop out throughout reminding one it's 2020 even if the film is set in the mid 20th-Century. But don't miss this because of those eyesores, this is one highly watchable flick that successfully blends a good story with the great game of Chess. For practitioners and enthusiasts of "The Gentleman's Game" and movie fans alike.

Barbarians
(2020)

"Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!"
A well-executed blend of history and fiction depicting the decisive battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D. where an entire Roman army was completely destroyed by Germanic warriors, "Barbarians" (Barbaren) is a German production that successfully brings the past to life in vivid and gruesome detail. The story of Arminius, the barbarian-born Roman turncoat who betrayed his patrons as he led his countrymen to one of the greatest carnages in military history is adeptly chronicled with good acting, good directing, a well-written script that uses the languages of the time and a gripping and brutal portrayal of the battle itself. The film makers take a leaf from the American style of film making with the movies' good pacing, skilled cinematography and well-placed soundtrack. This ain't no Euro snore. The dark overtone of the film conveys the grim savagery of the ancient world. Although the film reminds you of its time with the token annoying out of place female superhero who eyesores you throughout the film it's a snag that the quality of the film overrides. Compelling and consistently watchable this is one of the best historical series in television.

1066: A Year to Conquer England
(2017)

The Norman Invasion and the End of the Anglo-Saxon Era
Another well-done documentary by the BBC on one of Britain's most decisive eras, "1066: A Year to Conquer England" is docudrama as history and entertainment. Chronicling the build-up to the landmark Battle of Hastings and the battle itself to its aftermath the film features and highlights the individuals and events as Northwestern Europe headed to a showdown that would alter European and world history forever. Good acting and presentable battle scenes bring the past alive with interviews from historians providing further information to the events. Aside from a few misguided choices and an amusing tinge of pc the documentary is a watcher from start to finish. Compelling and thrilling this is an impressive series on one of history's most important and fascinating ages.

Halloween
(1978)

The Stain That Won't Go Away
As a fitting flick to view this Halloween this "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" copy and Horror standout fits in nicely in the season of all things creepy and scary. A tragic and disturbing crime occurs in a suburb which would echo later on with more devastating consequences. Using the usual tricks and cliches of unsettling music, jump-jolters, female victims and masked grunting fiends the film delivers with natural acting and a steady pace skillfully providing enough scares and thrills to make it standout. Although languid in a lot of places that bring out the snooze the film packs enough punch to make one see it through. Lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis in her first major role distinguishes herself with her unconventional allure and fine acting as the stereotypical lone female survivor. Well-done and memorable this is one of the essentials of the slasher genre and one film and fright fans should see.

Alatriste
(2006)

Blood and Grime in 17th-Century Europe
Set in the bloody fields and court intrigues of 1600s Europe "Alatriste" is a period drama blending history with fiction. Based on a series of novels about a Spanish soldier and gun for hire the movie depicts his life and struggles on the battlefield and the people around him. With tones of clarity balanced by dark hues the film moves like a Veláquez painting in motion with good acting and cinematography elevating it to quite a feast for the senses. Renaissance Spain's backward poverty and unique allure are highlighted in realistic display. Good albeit somewhat lackluster battle scenes and an occasionally slow pace with lead actor Viggo Mortensen's inconsistent acting are the cracks in this otherwise impressive flick. A well-made addition to historical action dramas in the silver screen this is one history lovers and movies fans shouldn't miss.

Der Student von Prag
(1913)

The Double
Set in the early 19th-Century and based on literary classics this pre-war release is one of the earliest film's of the fabled German Expressionist genre and one of the best and most innovative. Using cutting-edge technology and a depth unseen on the big screen "The Student of Prague" (Der Student von Prag) utilizes dark tones and an eerie vibe. A young man agrees to a deal with a creepy and mysterious stranger to attain what he wants and gets more than he bargains for. Overly theatrical and exaggerated acting and a slow pace coupled with being a silent may deter the film from being appreciated by 21st-Century viewers but silent fans and hardcore film lovers will appreciate this.

The Devil All the Time
(2020)

White People are Crazy!
A preacher with morals that disappear in convenience is posted in a small town in nowhere America and a Pandora's box of unsightly events burst forth. Ugly and grimy barely literate rednecks, Southern drawls galore, unhinged bible-thumpers and serial killers in a plot on a road to nowhere and you got a pc version of Southern Gothic. Robert Pattinson must be hard up on quality scripts to appear in this C-grade millennial charmer. It's funny how in one of the few mainstream flicks of these times where the entire cast is white you got characters straight out of the Twilight Zone. Considering who released this film it's no surprise. A shame, as the acting is good and the story had potential. Liberals and the chemically imbalanced will love this.

Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto
(2012)

The End of Innocence
In dark gothic tones "Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto" is history encapsulated in brevity and suffering. Symbolized by the cracked animated puppets the film depicts a world where time exists in sombre stillness, hopes are blighted and innocence ended with one single shot. One of the most effective and appealing shorts this is one simple gem you'll never forget.

Raging Bull
(1980)

Blood and Guts
Raw, visceral and bloody as any Boxing flick should be "Raging Bull" pummels those punches in this hard and gritty B & W knockout. The film depicts the chaotic and turbulent life of middleweight champ Jake LaMotta as he punches and rages his way to the title and the world around him. LaMotta's personal and professional life seethe and simmer as the film takes the viewer from his dreams of getting the title to his career triumph all the way to his physical and professional decline. The violence and mayhem permeate as one can feel the tension throughout where anywhere and anytime something or someone will explode. The brutality of the ring is ably shown with choreographed highlights of gloves busting at swollen and bleeding faces with blood squirting everywhere. Robert De Niro won an Oscar in the lead performance and he certainly is the centrepiece as he slugs and rages through his complex and terrible character. Although somewhat slow-going for a fight film with too much emphasis on the drama of LaMotta's personal life this is certainly one of the best Boxing portrayals made for film. For film and fight fans alike.

Tagebuch einer Verlorenen
(1929)

The Vicissitudes of Fate
When a young woman makes a fatal decision destiny unfolds. Taking the viewer from a dysfunctional household to a brothel, a reformatory, a beach and back to the reformatory once again one is witness to the harsh realities of life German Expressionist style. Moving at a consistently watchable pace in emotive black and white theatrical acting gives way to the enduring image and legacy that is Louise Brooks. With her trademark bobbed hair, attractive distinct features she defined an era as she aestheticized it. While not a great actress she steals every scene she's in highlighting her presence which made her image one of the icons of an age. It's one of cinema history's puzzling injustices that she never attained the stardom she deserved. One of silent film's most notable artifacts and one of the Weimar era's lasting legacies this is one film silent fans and film lovers will appreciate.

Unheimliche Geschichten
(1919)

Three Characters in Search of a Story
One of the finest and most underrated film's from the Weimar Era, "Eerie Tales" (Unheimliche Geschichten) is a watchable and entertaining mix of horror, suspense and fantasy. When portraits in a bookstore come to life and enact stories from classic literature then one knows one is in for quite a unique treat. With its modernist touch despite the standard theatrical acting of the time, the creepy atmosphere that pervades throughout the film, the striking black and white and its unsettling plots the movie foreshadowed the fabled Expressionist genre that was shortly to come. I watched this primarily to view Anita Berber and it was interesting to see Weimar Germany's most notorious femme fatale in action. Though no conventional beauty she had a charm with a tough knowing look that reveals the complicated personality she was known for. Although long and seeming to go on forever the film moves at a consistently steady pace despite its age. A distinct artifact from a fascinating time this is one relic from history that's memorable and worth the watch.

Bare Knuckle
(2016)

Bare Fists
Driven by extreme necessity a wimpy-looking man who everyone knows has no place in the boxing ring takes on the biggest challenge of his life and comes in for a surprise. Despite the "Rocky" dramatics this is a well-acted and well-directed short featuring the brutal and fascinating world of old-time bare-knuckle Boxing. Raw and naked fists, bruised faces and bodies in underground settings set the mood and the scene on this compelling era of the great sport. Fight and film fans will enjoy this period piece on a bygone age.

Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam
(1920)

The Monster of Prague
A centrepiece of early German Expressionist film "The Golem" (Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam) is a dark supernatural drama based on myth and legend. In medieval Prague a circular is sent that all Jews will be banished from the ghetto they reside in for reasons anyone aware of anti-Semitism knows. A prominent and respected rabbi resolves to save his people by resurrecting a long-held tale of magic and the occult. His effort is a success. His plan is fulfilled and all goes swimmingly well until like the Frankenstein story the creation turns to be dynamite that threatens to conflagrate everything in its path. With its raw, jam-packed unaesthetic sets the film recreates the dismal poverty of a medieval ghetto and the dark hues and tones of the restored film give the feel and vibe of dreamlike clarity and aesthetic beauty. The film doesn't lack in humor and Paul Wegener's stunned-eyed Golem is one of the most amusing images in cinema history. Slow-going with the common herky-jerky movements and overly theatrical acting of the time the movie nonetheless holds up well. As the film celebrates its centennial this year now is a good time to rediscover this notable artifact from a bygone age.

Unhinged
(2020)

Watch Who You Flip Your Finger To!
Big bad Russell Crowe is coming to get you! The award winning actor plays an unhinged (and how!) maniac wreaking mayhem and destruction with anyone and anything that crosses his path. One fateful morning he comes across an unlikely duo who bring out what he does best leading him to his eventual undoing. Tense, disturbing and with lots of laughs the film doesn't pull back with its horror and unintentional humor. Seeing an overweight sweaty and grimy Crowe being psycho tickles the funnies to no end with comedy substituting for terror easily. Too many unrealistic coincidences and a mother-son tandem falling short in the victim role show the scriptwriter's and director's capabilities leave something to be desired. This is a plot that could have been great had it been fleshed and worked out more. Nevertheless this is still a watchable and entertaining flick to fill some time in your quarantine blues.

Bill & Ted Face the Music
(2020)

The Third and Final Act - "Woah"!
Bill Preston and Ted Logan are off again into one of their adventures and with this final one they finally get it right. After failing to live up to their mission in the past the Beavis & Butthead come to life duo have their history come munching up real fast at their heels as they face a deadline to accomplish a mission of universal-shattering proportions. And off they go zooming back and forth in a dizzying manic rush to beat time and get things done. In this journey one is witness to a time-travelling phone booth, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong and Mozart forming a band, a visit to hell and our two heroes facing themselves in multiple scenarios and appearances with the bumbling duo ably assisted by their charming daughters. Cool cameo by Dave Grohl too. Despite the corniness and pc overall the film works in its sweeping rush of comedy, adventure, sci-fi and fantasy. Watching this film has been quite a moving experience as the first two films were soundtracks to my childhood and like "School of Rock" is a celebration of a long dead art form. Fun and silly enjoy this throwback to a better and more simpler time.

Borrowed Time
(2015)

Facing the Past
An aging sheriff haunted by his youth decides to take drastic measures. With every pace, every step forward memories of yore bring back the joys and pains. As he gets to the precipice a swift turn of events leads to terror and a revelation that changes his life forever. Well animated and moving as well as touching this nugget of a short packs enough mental and emotional wallop to cover a full-length film. A must see.

El empleo
(2008)

Dehumanization
Haven't we all experienced being tired of life? The same daily routine, the lengthy and overburdening trials, the same dramas, the awful people, neverending personal issues, etc., you get the picture. And doesn't work make it all worse? The same drudgery of having to get up every day, the same daily routine, the lengthy and overburdening trials, the same dramas, the awful people, never-ending personal issues, etc., you get the picture. This appealing crudely animated film perfectly encapsulates all of that. Used and abused, tried and tired, weary and wearily the clock ticks on...

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