Reviews

10 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Ranetki (2008–2010)
5/10
Pleasing, light soap opera about a Russian rock band whose members are high school girls.
18 January 2016
Ranetki is a light soap opera about a group of Russian high school girls who form a rock band. These comments pertain to the first season only. Most of the story is either set in the high school or the apartments where the girls live with their parent(s). Aside from the girls, most of the other roles are classmates, parents, or school staff. The central character is Anya, who also adds some voice-over narration. Although the girls are band members, there is very little of their music in each episode.

This review is from an American's perspective, based on a viewing of the subtitled Season 1. Although the series has various shortcomings, I still found most episodes enjoyable and worthwhile. The five girls have different appealing personalities, all of the other regular cast members are likable, and some elements of Russian daily life seem exotic. There are a few sparkling lines of dialogue.

The series does have flaws, including production values reminiscent of U.S. 1960's TV shows. There are also too-lengthy transition shots, implausible audience exuberance at band performances, and contrived story arcs. This is not a series to be binge-watched over a weekend, but an episode per day works fine.

If Americans are considering watching this series, I would recommend first watching the web video of Ranetki performing the classic Shocking Blue song, "Venus", in English. That would be a nice introduction, instead of just viewing the series cold.
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Tie wa (1973)
An excellent female kung-fu film.
13 April 2001
Director Lo Wei was obviously attempting to duplicate his success of "Fist of Fury (The Chinese Connection)" but with a female heroine, as this film contains several situation elements and cast members similar to that earlier film, plus the same martial arts director. By any standard, this is clearly one of the half-dozen best female kung-fu films of the 70's. The story takes place in China during World War II, with the heroine battling unarmed against Japanese and collaborators. If you have only seen Cheng Pei-Pei in her villainous role as Jade Fox in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", you should see what she was like 30 years ago as a heroine! And as a bonus, she even gets to beat up Jackie Chan (who plays a Japanese villain). Whether you like this movie or not will depend on whether you like female kung-fu heroines.
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Excellent Spaghetti Western.
4 March 1999
Garko displays true stellar charisma in this film, the second film in the Sartana series. Although this film borrows some plot elements from the first Sartana film, the script, acting, and direction is far superior to the first film. The plot has Sartana framed for a bank robbery; the price on his head results in countless bounty killers seeking to claim the reward, while he strives to discover the true criminal. Sartana, supremely cool, never loses his excellent sense of humor, and is always in control of every situation. Klaus Kinski gives another of his deliciously weird characterizations as a bounty killer addicted to gambling. The biggest action sequence in the film has Sartana taking on two dozen opponents in sequence (and he doesn't use a gatling gun, either). And there is a nice musical theme. If you are a Spaghetti Western fan, don't miss this excellent one.
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Day of Anger (1967)
10/10
Top-Notch Spaghetti Western
18 February 1999
"Days of Wrath" is an excellent Spaghetti Western. Both Van Cleef and Gemma have excellent characterizations to portray; it is particularly interesting to witness Gemma's transformation from submissive outcast to dominating gunfighter. Van Cleef has one of his best non-Leone roles. A solid story, with a great music score and theme. Fans of the genre should not miss it. Some American video versions are highly edited; try to see the uncut version.
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Mildly amusing parody of "For a Few Dollars More"
8 February 1999
Anyone who is a big fan of the Leone/Eastwood film "For a Few Dollars More" will get a few (but only a few) chuckles out of this parody.
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Above average Spaghetti Western.
8 February 1999
"A Pistol for Ringo" is an above-average Spaghetti Western. The anti-hero (Gemma) and villain (Sancho) are both very charismatic, and each has a good sense of humor. The basic plot situation is interesting: Fleeing from a bank hold-up in which their leader was wounded, a gang of bandits takes refuge at a farm. Although the farm is surrounded, the posse cannot attack because of the hostages. The anti-hero is highly paid to infiltrate and destroy the gang, and recover the money. The film has some unusual twists; for example, the bandits are executing two hostages per day, even after the anti-hero joins the gang, and he makes no effort to halt the executions. There is an interesting contrast between the behavior of the anti-hero (Gemma) and the sheriff (Martin) who behaves like a traditional Western hero. The film has a nice music score by Ennio Morricone. But somehow, this film failed to fully satisfy this viewer. The heroine is dull and bland, too much of the film takes place at the farm, and the anti-hero kills the villain in an absurd manner. There are also some gaps of logic-why didn't the bandits lock the sheriff in his jail? In any event, the film was such a financial success that the seven principal actors were reunited in "The Return of Ringo" (a sequel in name only, since all characters were different). This review of "A Pistol for Ringo" is based on the (poorly) English-dubbed home video version, titled "Ballad of Death Valley." The video suffers greatly from lack of widescreen; for example, the first shootout has Ringo against four opponents at once, but all you can see on the TV screen is Ringo and one of the opponents, so you don't even know who drew first. If you want to see this film, try to see it in widescreen.
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Just an average Spaghetti Western.
1 February 1999
I am a big fan of Spaghetti Westerns (the good ones, anyway), and was really looking forward to seeing "Sartana." I loved the film "Django"--I can understand why it was so successful and inspired so many imitation Django-films. But after viewing the English language video of "Sartana", I can't see any reason why "Sartana" inspired any imitators, or was so successful. To me, "Sartana" was just an average Spaghetti, with a high body count--mostly resulting from the villains killing each other. I watched the video twice, and I still don't understand the plot--it was a jumbled mess; perhaps the original Italian version made more sense. Klaus Kinski's role was limited to just a few scenes, with almost nothing to do. William Berger made a charismatic villain, but his personality inexplicably alternated between bravery and cowardice. (And I don't know how Berger was able to recruit gang members, the way he was always killing his own men.) The unshaven anti-hero Garko (who bore an uncanny resemblance to James Franciscus in some scenes) was pleasing but unexceptional in the lead role, his only unique feature was his weapon, a tiny four-barrel pepperbox-style pistol--which in reality, with its short barrels and tiny bullets, should have been vastly inferior in range, accuracy and effectiveness when compared to an ordinary six-shooter. Even the background music was bland. Too many incidents were lifted from the Leone/Eastwood films: the musical watch, the metal plate deflecting a bullet, the eccentric coffin maker. And Sartana wins the final showdown by using a trick, instead of his skill. "Sartana" is a historically important Spaghetti Western because of its success and the number of imitators (in name, at least) that it inspired, but there are many better films within the Spaghetti Western genre.
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That Woman (1966)
7/10
Personality vehicle for Eva Renzi.
7 January 1999
"Playgirl" is strictly a personality vehicle for Eva Renzi. The degree to which one enjoys the film depends on the degree to which one enjoys and responds to her personality. From a personal viewpoint, the film puts me totally under her spell.
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Slapstick western.
4 January 1999
Nothing about the film is serious; it's purely a slapstick western. The only violence is harmless punches and pies in the face. Children might like the film; it was too silly for me, but it's always nice to see Uschi Glas.
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Good spaghetti western, but overrated
4 January 1999
I had heard so much about this film; my expectations were very high. Kinski was great, of course, as was the Morricone music, and the idea of a silent hero. But I found myself ultimately disappointed by the plot. The film could have been so much better if the following had been considered: (1) It was a unique and novel twist with the villains operating totally within the law. This should have been maintained, instead of having them break the law later in the film. (2) At one point a gun is inoperable because it is frozen; but at a later point in the film a gun has been in the snow for days, but still works fine. (3) The powerlessness of the hero at the end violates all western formulas--he should have been able to do something significant, even if he did not triumph. This is a good film, far above the average "spaghetti western." But I don't feel it's in the same class as "Django" or "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly."
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