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5631 reviews in total 
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Solid Film Noir, 21 September 2016

A crooked politician (Brian Donlevy) finds himself being accused of murder by a gangster (Joseph Calleia) from whom he refused help during a re-election campaign.

The staff at Variety magazine gave the film a favorable review, writing, "Parading a murder mystery amidst background of politics, gambling czars, romance and lusty action, this revised version of Dashiell Hammett's novel — originally made in 1935 — is a good picture of its type...Mixed well, the result is an entertaining whodunit with sufficient political and racketeer angles to make it good entertainment for general audiences. Donlevy makes the most of his role of the political leader who fought his way up from the other side of the tracks." You know, it is hard to top George Raft (who was in the original), and I am not sure if Alan Ladd is successful in that regard. But what this remake does have going for it is Veronica Lake, who may be the greatest femme fatale of the era. She seems to get forgotten these days, but between this and "I Married a Witch", she was a strong presence.

Considered the Ideal Version, 20 September 2016

When a nobleman (Christopher Lee) is threatened by a family curse on his newly inherited estate, detective Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) is hired to investigate.

"Baskervilles" may be the most familiar Holmes story, and is almost certainly the one that has seen the most film adaptations. This one, however, from Hammer and starring Cushing and Lee, is often considered the finest. I have not seen all the versions, so I cannot definitively say this is correct... but I find it very hard to believe it has ever been beaten.

Cushing is not physically what I expect of Holmes, but he has that deep, calculating look that works so well. He is a threat to anyone with a secret. Lee is, of course, perfectly cast as a nobleman. Even when he did not play such roles, he carried himself in just such a way.

Unfortunately, as of 2016 the best way to see (and own) this film is on blu-ray from Twilight Time. They have packed the disc with extras, but because of their license they have only printed 3000 copies and are charging a steep price for them. Surely a wider release would be appropriate for this title?

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not Your Typical Horror Thriller, 19 September 2016

When aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

Although classified as a "horror thriller", this categorization might throw potential viewers off. The horror elements are relatively few and far between, and the thrills are rather subtle. This is not to say the film is in any way a bad picture, simply that it defies conventional categories.

The plot is nothing spectacularly new. In the last few years, we have seen films about the dangers of beauty and fame with Debbie Rochon's "Model Hunger" (which has some coincidental parallels) and "Starry Eyes". But "Neon Demon" is very much about a certain look and atmosphere and not so much about any deep, well-crafted plot or character development.

At almost two hours, the film is paced in a more casual way, and this easily fits into what we call the "slow burn". Those seeking action and excitement will be bored, so please enter with the proper mindset. Instead of action, we are sumptuously provided with a feast of color, neon that can only be compared to "Death Spa" or perhaps "Inherent Vice". This rarity of color is even more striking given that the director claims to be color blind.

The overall tone is weird, or as some have termed it "alien". You can never put your finger on it, but something is off, which (for me) makes it all the more appealing. Today the term "Lynchian" is criminally abused and overused, but it may be apt here: I kept thinking this was a perfect companion for "Mulholland Drive", though I would be hard-pressed to actually explain why.

The music is electronic, occasionally atonal. This is a growing trend that I hope continues to grow. Artists like Diasterpiece ("It Follows") have picked up the mantle left behind by John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream and others. In this case, the music is even more jarring than ever before and really takes on a life of its own.

Elle Fanning is incredible, and she is quickly overshadowing her sister. Perhaps it is not fair to compare the two, but it seems inevitable. Keanu Reeves is very reserved, which is quite refreshing. His name may suggest an "over the top" approach, but that is far from the case here. And special mention must be made of Jena Malone, who is perhaps one of the top actresses in the business today (though her scenes seem to keep getting cut from films). Malone delivers what is likely to be the most disturbing love scene of her career, but given her propensity for strange films, you never know.

Broad Green Pictures is releasing the film on blu-ray on September 27. It is a must-see and probably only gains in power upon repeat viewings. The disc includes an audio commentary with Fanning and the director.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Poignant, 17 September 2016

An aging, industrialist Japanese man (Toshiro Mifune) becomes so fearful of nuclear war that it begins to take a toll on his life and family.

Viewers watching this have to sympathize with the protagonist. He might be eccentric, but his fears are not baseless: indeed, at the time this film was released, Japan had been hit only ten years earlier. The possibility of being hit again was very real (other than the fact it was now peace time) and Brazil is actually a smart place to go if you want to be free of nuclear bombs. Even today (2016) I don't believe there are any nuclear weapons in South America.

The question is asked: is it crazier to have this irrational (or semi-rational) fear, or to have no fear at all? Modern writers have even taken to comparing this film to 9/11 and terrorism. I find that a tad odd (say what you will, but the bombs were far worse than any terror attack). But it's a valid point. Should we be overly wary of terrorism or ignore it altogether? It seems the only correct response is to embrace Aristotle and recognize that too much on the spectrum one way or the other is folly.

Classical Music and Kurosawa, 16 September 2016

Yuzo (Isao Numasaki) and his fiancée Masako (Chieko Nakakita) spend their Sunday afternoon together, trying to have a good time on just thirty-five yen. They manage to have many small adventures, especially because Masako's optimism and belief in dreams is able to lift Yuzo from his realistic despair.

Kurosawa really did a fine job working in post-war Japan, capturing the stress and occasional optimism. Some have compared this film to the works of Frank Capra because of its sentimental overtures. That is interesting and quite possibly a valid connection. It certainly stands out as a different sort of Kurosawa.

I do love that he cast no known actors, with the exception of Ichiro Sugai, who would go on to appear in 140 pictures, including Kurosawa's "Stray Dog" (1949) and Ozu's "Early Summer" (1951). Whether this was intentional or just a reflection of the film industry of the time, I do not know.

PostwarKurosawa, 16 September 2016

The daughter (Setsuko Hara) of a politically disgraced university professor (Denjiro Okochi) struggles to find a place for herself in love and life, in the uncertain world of Japan leading into WWII.

One character was inspired by the real-life Hotsumi Ozaki, who assisted the famous Soviet spy Richard Sorge and so became the only Japanese citizen to suffer the death penalty for treason during World War II. It is this aspect that makes the film particularly interesting, as it reflects on the role Japan played in the world from 1933-1945.

The film as a whole is interesting for being made so soon after World War II. Clearly the budget and production value is limited, but you might expect a country ravaged by war would be too busy with other things to make movies. Not so when you have a man named Kurosawa.

An Interesting Historical Footnote, 16 September 2016

An ex-bomber pilot (Alan Ladd) is suspected of murdering his unfaithful wife (Doris Dowling).

Today, this film might be best remembered as indirectly providing Elizabeth Short with the nickname "Black Dahlia". Short, or more specifically her murder, is far better remembered in popular culture than this film is.

But, even more interesting is how it was written by Raymond Chandler on the fly, not from one of his novels. The producer recalled, "It was not until the middle of our fourth week that a faint chill of alarm invaded the studio when the script girl pointed out that the camera was rapidly gaining on the script. We had shot sixty-two pages in four weeks; Chandler, during that time, had turned in only twenty-two with another thirty to go." Essentially, no one knew what the end would be halfway through the shoot!

A German "Centennial", 14 September 2016

The series (11 episodes) tells the story of the village of Schabbach, on the Hunsrueck in Germany through the years 1919-1982. The central person is Maria, who we see growing from a 17 year old girl to an old woman, and her family.

"Heimat" has faced some criticism for its selective interpretation of German history, with some writers noting that there is limited treatment of the hyperinflationary spiral of the 1920s, the Great Depression, or certain aspects of Nazi history such as the Holocaust of World War II. But we must remember, even with so much running time, not everything can be covered, and this is from one perspective.

Frankly, this is an admirable series because few countries in the Western world had such a turbulent 20th century. We could argue that France and Poland also did, or maybe Spain, but none of these compares to Germany. To go from being seen as the most evil place on earth to normalized relations is quite a shift, one that no other country has managed.

Delicious Cheese, 14 September 2016

A man who loves to travel, travels to an island where a mad doctor is creating zombies.

"Brides of Blood" (1968), also starring John Ashley, had been popular in the US. American distributors approached Ashley to see if he would be interested in appearing in a follow-up movie. Ashley agreed, which led to him acting in and/or producing a series of exploitation films in the Philippines. The film, which cost $125,000, was followed by a sequel, "Beast of Blood", in 1971.

This is just the perfect kind of cheese for a low budget movie. Yes, the picture looks bad and could really benefit from a new transfer (everything is sort of blue-green tinted). But in a way, it's this imperfection that adds to its charm. A great picture might make it more obvious just how silly all the effects are.

French New Wave Begins, 13 September 2016

Francois comes back to his home village in France after more than a decade. He notices that the village has not changed much, but the people have, especially his old friend Serge who has become a drunkard. Francois now tries to find out what happened to him and tries to help him.

It has been cited as the first product of the Nouvelle Vague, or French New Wave, film movement. The film is often compared with Chabrol's subsequent film "Les Cousins", which also features Jean-Claude Brialy and Gérard Blain. Perhaps I am mistaken, but "Cousins" is the film that is better known today and more highly praised. But, of course, it was also more expensive to make, so we couldn't have "Cousins" if "Serge" had not been a success.

The film initially ran to 2 hours and 35 minutes, though Chabrol cut a great deal of quasi-documentary material to reduce the running time, a decision he later regretted. Where exactly that footage is now, I have no idea, because the version released by Criterion is a modest 99 minutes. This would mean an extra 45 minutes may exist somewhere.

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