Reviews

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7/10
Classic Halloween
9 December 2017
After Donald Duck plays a cruel Halloween prank on his pants-hating nephews, the three team-up with Witch Hazel and her broom to teach him a lesson about 'tricks and treats.' As of this writing (2017), this short is now 65 years old. And it holds up 100%, both for its animation and its music. Far too many movies or cartoons become dated, but this one is truly timeless. In a mere eight minutes, Disney found a way to show us the spirit of Halloween, and throw in a real witch just for fun.

If there is anything at all dated about the short (and this is a big maybe), it is the use of the devil costume. Although Halloween has probably gotten more gory and creepy since this cartoon came out, I feel like actual devil imagery has decreased and perhaps become even taboo.
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8/10
A Quirky, Mysterious Film
9 December 2017
In spring 1976, a 19-year-old beauty, her German-born mother, and her crippled father move to the town of a firefighter nicknamed Pin-Pon. Everyone notices the provocative Eliane. She singles out Pin-Pon and soon is crying on his shoulder (she's myopic and hates her reputation as a dunce and as easy); she moves in with him, knits baby clothes, and plans their wedding. Is this love or some kind of plot? There is so much going on in this film. Initially, it appears to be from the perspective of Pin-Pon and his obsession with a woman who may be the town bicycle. But we only hear his thoughts some of the time. In other moments, we get Eliane's thoughts (as well as memories), and other people take certain scenes as the narrator, too. This only adds to the layer of mystery about what is all going on.

One thing that makes this film very French and not very American is the excessive nudity. Isabelle Adjani spends a fair amount of time in various stages of undress. This is never really necessary, but really says more about French attitudes than anything else. I do not feel like it was meant to be exploitative or sensational.
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5/10
A Forgotten Disney Film
9 December 2017
A young boy and a bunch of misfit friends embark on a quest to find a dark magic item of ultimate power before a diabolical tyrant can.

With the budget of $44 million, it was the most expensive animated film ever made at the time. Earning $21.3 million domestically, it led to a loss for the studio, putting the future of Walt Disney Feature Animation in jeopardy. Due to its poor performance, Disney released the film for the first time on home video in 1998.

Despite growing up in the 1980s, I actually never heard of this Disney film or any of its characters. Even now (2017) when I finally watched it, it seemed like a film that never existed. If Disney tried to bury it, I can understand it being forgotten throughout the 90s, especially as their second golden age was overshadowing decades of duds.

The movie itself is neither good nor bad. A few repeat viewings and it would probably grow on me, but there are no really memorable characters. And there are no songs, which is what really makes a Disney cartoon immortal.
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The Psychic (1977)
7/10
Quality Fulci
7 December 2017
A clairvoyant woman, inspired by a vision, smashes open a section of wall in her husband's home and finds a skeleton behind it. Along with her psychiatrist, she seeks to find the truth about who the person was and who put her there.

Chris Eggertsen included the film as number seven in a countdown of the "Top Ten Underrated Horror Gems", citing its "excellent cinematography and deft use of color", though criticizing its "poor use of dubbing". The dubbing is, indeed, a bit of a problem, but that is more or less standard with these things. Often, if I understand correctly, they do not even have an audio track to begin with and dub everything later regardless of language.

The film works great as a giallo. The general concept is usually someone thinks they see something, but is not quite sure, and then they have to investigate it. This works on those lines, but the "seeing" is a psychic vision, not quite accurate. A gallery is mistaken for a museum, a man with a beard has shaved, and so on.
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7/10
Essential Viewing
6 December 2017
A poor student (Paul Wegener) rescues a beautiful countess (Grete Berger) and soon becomes obsessed with her. A sorcerer (John Gottowt) makes a deal with the young man to give him fabulous wealth and anything he wants, if he will sign his name to a contract.

The film is loosely based on "William Wilson", a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, the poem "The December Night" by Alfred de Musset, and Faust. The Faust elements are obvious, the other two less so (though the Musset quotation might give it away). This is really a great early example of horror literature on screen.

Cinematographer Guido Seeber utilized groundbreaking camera tricks to create the effect of the Doppelgänger (mirror double), producing a seamless double exposure. Hanns Heinz Ewers was a noted writer of horror and fantasy stories whose involvement with the screenplay lent a much needed air of respectability to the fledgling art form.
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Navajo Joe (1966)
5/10
So Bland!
6 December 2017
A Native American warrior called Navajo Joe (Burt Reynolds) seeks revenge on a gang of sadistic outlaws who has massacred the people of his tribe.

If this film is known for anything, it is just how much Burt Reynolds hated working on it. The story, in its simplest form, is that he thought he would be working with Sergio Leone and instead got Sergio Corbucci. Beyond that, his protests seem a bit over the top. Yes, this is a bad movie. But is it really the worst one he ever did? Ultimately, it does not really seem terrible in a technical way. Just bland, boring, nothing really special. If Reynolds was not in it, it would be forgotten. The worst part is actually the soundtrack. The Navajo Joe theme is played way too many times and is not very good the first time.
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6/10
The Brazilian Camera
5 December 2017
Eldorado, a fictitious country in Latin America, is sparkling with the internal struggle for political power. In the eye of this social convulsion, the jaded journalist Paulo Martins opposes two equally corrupt political candidates: a pseudopopulist and a conservative.

Its exhibition was forbidden in Brazil in April 1967 for "tarnishing the image of Brazil" but after protests by both Brazilian and French filmmakers, it was authorized by the Brazilian government to be screened at Cannes and in Brazil. What image it is tarnishing is unclear to me, but but every country sees national pride differently.

If any aspect of the film is singled out, it is typically the cinematography. In this case, it comes from Luiz Carlos Barreto, who is more generally known as a prolific producer rather than a cameraman. His best-known film is likely "How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman" (1971). Although he produced 50 films, he only acted as director of photography one other time -- on "Barren Lives" (1963).
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7/10
That Same Old Fun
5 December 2017
Alcoholic werewolf cop Lou Garou (Leo Fafard) springs into action when an eccentric businessman with evil intentions seduces Woodhaven's residents with a new brewery and hockey team in this outrageous horror-comedy sequel.

"WolfCop" is one of the greatest horror films of the 2010s. One might want to say one of the best "horror comedies" or "Canadian horror films", but let us not be too restrictive. The gore, the humor, the originality... it really set a high bar for other films, especially films from otherwise-unknown creative teams.

And being such a great film (and instant cult classic), a sequel was inevitable. But the challenge was put in place: could a sequel live up to its namesake? As hard as that is to do, "Another WolfCop" succeeds. This is the same gory, wacky, frenetic thrill ride from the first time around. In some ways, perhaps even crazier... but at the very least a worthy follow-up.

The gore is most definitely increased, and along with it the body count. The weird factor is up slightly, with the inclusion of an alien-type clone being (not sure how to describe it). Some of the characters and plot lines do dangle a bit, creating the appearance of an incomplete film... but oddly enough, this works, making things even stranger than necessary that not all questions get answered. What is the creature in the strip club? There are other were-animals? Do werewolves have different genitals than their human counterparts (apparently so)?

The inclusion of Kevin Smith is a bit distracting, but he actually does a fair job acting. If I was not aware of who he was he might not have seemed out of place. I suppose that is the risk you run when you try to include a cameo from a hockey-loving director who is currently in the middle of a Canadian trilogy.
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High School (1969)
7/10
Some Things Never Change
5 December 2017
Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman takes us inside Northeast High School as a fly on the wall to observe the teachers and how they interact with the students.

This film came out in 1969 and I graduated in 1999. So there is a thirty year gap between these students and myself. Yet, in many ways, this seemed all too familiar. My impression is that school has increasingly become oppressive for students, but the old back-and-forth between students and authority is still here. The kid who does not want to change for gym class. We did not learn that Paul Simon was a poet, but just within the last year (2016-2017) Bob Dylan has received a Nobel Prize for Literature. So the same idea is there.

The camera has a strange lingering on teenage butts. Maybe we can dismiss this as a product if its time, but today if someone went into a high school and zoomed in on a girl's butt in gym shorts, that would not be seen as very appropriate.

And what is up with the gynecologist? The sexual education comes across as surprisingly progressive, but this guy is saying things he may not know to be creepy... saying he gets paid to put his fingers inside teenage girls? And laughing about it? Ummmm... what do you even say about that sort of thing? I expect locker room talk from high school boys, but doctors?
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Pulp (1972)
6/10
Three-Quarters Baked
4 December 2017
A seedy writer of sleazy pulp novels (Michael Caine) is recruited by a quirky, reclusive ex-actor (Mickey Rooney) to help him write his biography at his house in Malta.

This is Mike Hodges' follow-up to "Get Carter" (1971) and takes a bit of a different turn. Though there does remain that seedy element, only this time transported to Malta. Fans of Italian exploitation and Z-grade science fiction are sure to recognize Nadia Cassini ("Starcrash", 1978).

Hodges spent a long time coaxing noir veteran Lizabeth Scott out of retirement to fly to Malta for the shooting. Scott said that while she enjoyed the beauty of Malta, she was not pleased that most of her footage was cut out — eight scenes in all. Hodges for his part reported that Scott was challenging to work with while shooting. Scott "hadn't make a picture in 15 years and I had to really coax her into coming back." But Scott overcame her stage fright and Hodges was pleased with Scott's performance.
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