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2/10
There might be a movie in there somewhere...
21 August 2017
The "plot" here involves a woman going to a deserted beach house with her girlfriends over the same weekend that her violent ex-husband is getting released from prison. The beach house is very remote, so if something bad were to happen...

I see nothing wrong with the plot, though I would wonder why anyone would want to put themselves so out of contact, regardless of whether a violent ex-felon were suddenly looking for them.

The filmmakers here were extremely clever in convincing us that this beach house was remote. What they did was give many shots of the young women driving, and driving, and driving. Throw in some long shots of the beach, with nothing going on, with waves, and more waves, and we see that this place is really quite remote, I mean really far away, from civilization.

During some of the conversations, there were peculiar jump cuts that I could not quite understand. Since we are at the same point of view each time, it was distracting, especially when the cuts were in the middle of a sentence.

The sound sometimes also dropped off, which again made me wonder if it was intentional. It was too frequent to be just bad editing... Or was it? I think also a few people misspoke their lines, getting the phrase correct the second time. Normally, of course, this would be edited out, unless the editors thought that they did such a great job the first time that they decided to leave the whole thing in?

There is a very attractive woman (Diana Prince) who goes topless for about 30 seconds (jump cuts strung together, each 10 seconds long = 30 seconds) You can't miss it, since the lead (Taya Parker) exclaims something like "Look - She's going topless!" right beforehand. Lucky for me, otherwise I would have missed it. By that point, I was not looking. You see, while I watched this "movie," I found myself suddenly fascinated by things in my living room that I had not really appreciated before. The coffee table over the carpet, for example. I was fixating on that more and more as this "movie" played out.

Let me give them some credit, though. There was a surprise ending. Something did happen that was not expected. And a lot of women were quite easy on the eyes.

I think that this movie could have been done a lot better. First and foremost, the editing needed a lot of work.
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2/10
What the heck did I just watch?
30 July 2017
This movie is about zombies roaming the countryside after a nuclear holocaust. That is the gist of it.

Diving deeper in, there are several characters doing different things. There is a serum which is supposed to cure the zombies. There are also Islamic terrorists, Russian agents, evil scientists, and bank robbers. As I followed along and tried to understand, the story threads rolled into a large knot which I could not untangle. I honestly don't know who was doing what, or why. There were some very attractive women in the cast, and the locations (mostly Kentucky) were quite scenic so I stayed to the end of the movie. I knew it ended only when it told me and not from anything that was going on.

Please don't worry, I will not give away spoilers. I don't really know what was going on through most of it. It was long and ended at 133 minutes. I knew it was over, but could not tell you what happened.

This movie was made on a shoestring budget with shaky video camera and sometimes choppy sound. I want to say that a low-budget movie need not be a low-quality one. But in this case, unfortunately, what you pay for is exactly what you get.

I am giving them "2" out of "10." I would have given them a "1" but at least they finished it. I would have given up on it much earlier, if I had been viewing the dailies.
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Conflict: Man from 1997 (1956)
Season 1, Episode 6
7/10
The future is . . . 1997!!
17 May 2017
This little gem, I suppose, would be categorized as science fiction, since it involves a time traveler.

The year is 1956, and the location seems to be New York. The protagonist of this story is a young Polish immigrant named Johnny (played by Jacques Sernas) who works two jobs and is also enrolled in night school. He is very hard-working and has a delightful innocence about him. In his precious spare time, he likes to read books to improve his English.

So, during one of his bookstore purchases he gets an old dusty book, an American almanac, and takes it home. After dusting it off, he notices that this almanac is for the year 1997! (How on earth did it end up back in 1956?) Johnny at first suspects that it is a misprint, but as he reads about coming events, it is clear that the book is genuine.

Shortly after Johnny's lucky find, a mysterious character by the name of B. O. Boyne (played by Charles Ruggles) appears at the bookstore, asking about getting the almanac back. Mr. Boyne is strangely dressed and speaks in a slightly different manner than everyone else. His cigarettes also apparently light by themselves.

It does not take Johnny too long to realize that he could make a bet on a horse race to make some serious money. However, unfortunately for him, some local gangsters take notice of his amazing luck and want to learn what kind of 'system' he is using to place his racing bets.

Mixed in with this story is also Johnny's love interest, Maureen (played by Gloria Talbott), who wants to marry a rich man and have a great life. She cares about Johnny, but does not see a serious (and financially secure) future with him.

So, while Johnny is chasing after Maureen, he is being chased by gangsters as well as Mr. Boyne!

I liked this movie, since the characters were all quite likable. The gangsters were thugs, but in a silly and goofy kind of way. And the kindly Mr. Boyne was just mysterious enough to keep people guessing about his true origin. I especially enjoyed the comment Maureen made, when confronting Mr. Boyne about 1997, asking why he was not wearing a space suit!

I also enjoy any movie that shows what people in the 1950's thought the 1990's would be like: space travel, time machines, self-lighting cigarettes, and the like. Sure, why not?
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Fatal Desire (2003 Video)
4/10
A Forgettable Melodrama
29 April 2017
I saw this movie entitled as "To Live and Die in Hollywood" and right away noticed something wrong: Everything is actually in Georgia!

Oh well, the title really means that we are talking about a producer who makes big "Hollywood" movies. From what little we see of his movie-in-the-movie, it doesn't exactly look like "Blockbuster Material," if you know what I mean...

Okay, so our big producer "Ben" (played by Jordan Williams) has to cut costs and does not have any safety measures in place while filming a car chase. As a result, the lead stuntwoman dies during filming.

Ben's trophy wife, "Sue" (played by Wendy Guess) thinks everything should be okay, even though Ben is facing a serious lawsuit for negligence. She wants to party, drink, and have great sex. Ben, meanwhile, is worried about losing everything he owns.

Ben flies off to meet with lawyers for a few days, and Sue is left alone. After a seemingly casual and illegal drug purchase, her car breaks down and she is forced to walk through a rough neighborhood to get home. While doing so, a motorcyclist, Rick (played by Pierre Perea) passes by and offers her a ride. She accepts and then invites him into her mansion for a beer, which was probably not the smartest thing to do.

There were few surprises in this story about love and revenge. Indeed, many other movies have done a better job. The editing sometimes made it difficult to follow, and there were dream sequences that were a little unclear - were those really dreams, or did it happen? Maybe I was the one who fell asleep and was dreaming! Another thing was that the stuntwoman looked a lot like the wife. I was confused at the beginning, thinking they were the same person.

One positive thing: I liked Pierre Perea's acting. He was convincing, showing a range of different emotions. And maybe Wendy Guess also deserves credit for playing a dumb blonde. She did that rather well.

If this movie happens to be available to watch, you might just want to pass on it.
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5/10
An unremarkable spoof on horror movies
25 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This review contains spoilers. Consider yourselves warned...

The charming town of Bisbee is located in southern Arizona. I was lucky enough to visit the place several years ago. Though not very large, it offers a nice hotel, some galleries and cafes, all with an Old-West backdrop. I highly recommend it.

The movie "Bisbee Cannibal Club" is about a group of cannibals that reside in Bisbee. They are very particular about their food - they only want to dine on vegetarians (vegans in particular), so they hang around the local vegetarian restaurant and scope out suitable prey for their next feast. The restaurant is not large, and often they are sitting very close to their next victims, as they engage in their own musings over how the victims will taste.

As more people start to disappear, another group of folks take notice. A quick stop for research at the local library determines that the disappearances are caused by cannibals picking on vegetarians. So, this group now calls itself the "Bisbee Cannibal Hunters" and decides to find the cannibals.

Since Bisbee is such a tiny town, it turns out that the cannibals live just two or three houses up the street from the hunters. Convenient, to say the least. And another thing: When any following is done (either by cannibals or hunters) nobody ever notices, even when the person is ten feet behind.

It was sometimes difficult for me to distinguish cannibals from hunters, since they generally looked about the same: 30-something roughneck bikers, all acting tough. Their music was loud and they drank heavily. They also liked firearms; lots of them.

The vegetarians, on the other hand, looked different: much softer and sensitive in appearance. When they were not eating tofu, they would go to poetry events and recite the worst spoken word I have ever heard. I was not sorry to see their numbers diminish.

So, at the end of this movie, there is a huge shootout at someone's house and only a few hunters are left standing. All the cannibals are dead. The hunters then decide to try some of the "steak" that the cannibals had been cooking. Quickly realizing that it was the best they ever had, they now turn into cannibals themselves, which is perfect timing since a visitor shows up who tells them he is vegan.

This movie was clearly shot on video and the editing was passable enough, I suppose. There were some day and night sequences that were hard to follow. (One case in point: Someone hiding outside at night was looking in a window; we then see a daytime event; we then go back to the man outside at night. Did a full day pass?)

There was a "garden" somewhere outside of town where people were burying bodies. Unclear where that was, or what was going on. And of course, as all this mayhem was going on, the other townsfolk seemed oblivious and the police were not interested.

It kept my interest long enough to watch to the end. I give it a 5.
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7/10
Fairly decent effort
21 March 2017
This "movie" is really a collection of different shorts that are not related to each other. Some stories are quite brief (lasting a few minutes) and others much longer. All of them deal with the supernatural in some way. There were at least a half dozen different stories.

Interestingly, two stories are in foreign languages. The first, 'The Lady in White' deals with an urban legend in Venezuela. The subtitles were helpful, to be sure. The second, 'She is not my Sister' deals with something out of this world in the Czech Republic. The subtitles for the second one were small and difficult to read.

I enjoyed watching this. Not surprisingly, I enjoyed some of them more than others.
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Admissions (2011)
9/10
What happens to us when we die?
21 March 2017
This is a question people have been asking since the beginning of time. And who really knows?

In this 20-minute short, we get a glimpse of what might happen. People suddenly appear in a small white room. There is a clerk (played by James Cromwell) sitting at a desk, who politely tells them to sit down and wait. These people don't know how or why they are even there, and the clerk responds that they have just died. These are people who died at the exact same moment, so they might not even know each other.

In the few minutes they have in this waiting room, they have to accept the shocking truth that they are dead, and that eternity (in Heaven or Hell) is coming next. What should they say to each other? How is God judging them?

I think this was well done. After watching it, I could not help but wonder.
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7/10
Formulaic Horror Film
26 February 2017
Countless horror films deal with young people trapped in a remote place, and getting killed off one by one. Dead of Winter is yet another example...

The story starts out simple enough. Recently paroled "John Garber" (played by Damon Runyon) lives in snowy Colorado. He is unemployed and desperately needs a job. His sister suggests he work as a bus driver for a local company that sponsors treasure hunts. John agrees to do it.

These treasure hunting events are specifically called "Geocache Treasure Hunts." It is similar to looking for Easter Eggs. Strange clues will indicate where to find them. There is a prize of $25,000 for the person who finishes first.

John takes a busload of treasure hunters on a drive up to the mountain. During the several-hour drive, we meet different characters, all hoping to win the prize money. The character of "Bradik" (played very well by James Wallis) is particularly obnoxious, annoying people as well as making moves on an open lesbian couple.

The bus finally parks. The wintry destination is truly breathtaking, as well as freezing and desolate. The treasure hunters then break into small groups, and set out to search for clues.

Very soon, it is apparent that things are not as planned. People are starting to die, and then they unexpectedly lose the bus! The are stranded far away from civilization, have no phone signals, and must find shelter. Who wants them dead? It is unclear if any of them will survive.

I enjoyed watching this movie though I have seen variations of it many times before. For a relatively low-budget film, they did a great job. The acting was convincing enough as well.

This film is entirely Canadian-made, location as well as actors. Interesting that they set the story in Colorado (USA.)
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Luna Park (2013)
7/10
Too many family secrets!
25 September 2015
This drama centers on an ex-actress ("Alexia", played by Laura Reilly) who lives in New York and owns property in Los Angeles. The property in question is an apartment building called "Luna Park." The actress' younger brother ("Christi", played by Taylor Caldwell) lives in one of the units as the caretaker. Christi is mute and spends his days spying on all the hunky neighbors. Finally getting caught hiding in a closet, Christi is in trouble, so Alexia sends a friend ("Max", played by Michael Brent) to Los Angeles to do damage control and watch over Christi. She cannot go herself, since there is too much "bad family history" between brother and sister.

Christi is gay, as are all of his hunky neighbors, as are all of the guys in New York associated with Alexia. Of course this makes sense, since she produces gay cinema.

As Max settles in at Luna Park and tries to help Christi, he learns more about the family history and also starts to fall in love with Christi. This of course complicates things even more!

I enjoyed watching this, though there were lots of cuts back and forth (locations and time) that were seemingly disconnected. The same treatment with color and black and white. Clearly, the dreamlike quality was intended.
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7/10
Interesting Idea
24 May 2015
No spoilers here! However, you should know that the "story" here jumps around. Or rather, it leaps from one person to another. We start out getting introduced to a young man who seems to be involved in some kind of criminal activity. He then meets a young woman to talk about things, and they retreat to a hotel. They talk about various things, deceptive and foreboding, and are then visited by room service. Well, now we leave them behind completely, and follow the room service man and see what is going on in his life. It is also strange and deceptive. At some point, a young bride appears who is running away on her wedding day. We now follow her to a park! There is yet another story of deception to follow.

It found this intriguing, but I don't know if it is for everyone's taste. I will give this a "7" since it did hold my interest... and "7" is also in the title!
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2/10
Long and Rambling
30 January 2015
When Lars von Trier finished his rambling speech at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 (in which he claimed to be a Nazi) I recall feeling bewildered and disgusted. Likewise with his two "Nymphomaniac" movies, I am left with the same feelings.

This review covers both movies: We are introduced to a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac named Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg), who, based on her condition makes choices in her life and causes drama to follow. Everything is related in chronological chapters. She reveals all of this to a man named Seligman (played by Stellan Skarsgård).

The sexual scenes are not erotic at all. This must be intentional? Whether intended or not, some scenes just drag on for too long. There are number theory references, literary references, and a little Mozart and Franck thrown in as well. Talk about pretentious! The viewers are supposed to believe that they are watching something arty and intelligent, and thus might feel less turned off...

Lars von Trier could have made the same story but used a different medical condition. Why not have a person who suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Said person could then relate their life story around all the times that they suddenly needed to use a toilet and couldn't find one! I am sure there would be lots of drama there too; and it would be about as interesting to watch.

I am giving this movie a "2" since I liked looking at the trees. There were many shots of them throughout the movie, and they were nice to look at.
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8/10
What's inside the safe?
3 June 2014
This movie follows a gang of young thieves who are known as the "Red Trans Am Band", since they use a (stolen) red Trans Am when committing their crimes.

Who are these hoodlums? The main players are the leader ("Julian", played by Miguel Angel Rodriguez) and his girlfriend ("Mariana", played by Andrea Aguirre.) To make things interesting, Mariana's father ("Comandante Romero", played by Eleazar Garcia, Jr.) is the police commander! He does have some suspicions about what his daughter is doing with the boyfriend.

Julian promises Mariana that they will do one final job and then settle down to start a family. They want to break open a safe located in the home of a wealthy factory supervisor. They expect to find lots of money and jewels… But they discover a lot more than that! There are several certificates of deposit worth tens of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, these are also being sought by some vicious gangsters who were also planning to break into the safe! The lead gangster ("Quinones", played by Roberto Ballesteros) is ruthless and determined to get revenge. Stealing those certificates was the worst thing that the "Red Trans Am Band" could do!

I enjoyed watching this action movie. The acting was convincing. I especially liked the main gangster.Something about his mannerisms made it clear that he was evil. On the other side, the story line was a little convoluted. And I also find it interesting, when people are shooting guns, some of them have a tendency to stand up in clear view and take a lot of time to aim their pistol. Curiously, they seem to get shot before succeeding! A final thing: A musical group known as "Las Incas" is well represented in this movie. They perform in a local restaurant where the main characters frequently gather. We get to hear some of their songs all the way through as the camera pans from the vocalist to the guitarist to the drummer and back to the vocalist. If you like music that is so often played in Mexican restaurants, then you will certainly enjoy this.
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6/10
Planning a Kidnapping?
1 June 2014
It is well-known that kidnappings are quite common in Mexico. This particular film focuses on such events in Mexico City. The police there are busy chasing after kidnappers and successfully catching them, by showing up in massive numbers, complete with machine guns and smoke grenades.

One of the policeman ("Det. Amescua", played by Eleazar Garcia Jr.) , however, is corrupt. He organizes kidnappings himself! After acquainting himself with a beautiful young executive ("Jimena", played by Marisol Santacruz) he rounds up about a half-dozen petty criminals and convinces them to carry out his big plan: They will do all the dirty work, and he will be in the background directing them, as "El Jefe" (the boss).

The petty criminals grab the young woman and hold her in an abandoned building. She is terrified and wants to escape. As they await further instructions from El Jefe, they argue among themselves. And meanwhile, the police are conducting an investigation using all their mighty resources. The clock is ticking!

This was an okay movie, all in all. I do have some criticisms. The background music was a little loud, making the conversations difficult to follow. (Spanish is not my first language, but still!) Also, the music was sometimes poorly matched for the scenes... definitely a distraction. The petty criminals also did not seem mean enough; there was something silly about them, almost like they were harmless. And finally, the police's approach of taking a small army everywhere seemed overdone. With that amount of firepower, maybe the criminals AND the kidnap victims might be shot.

I give this movie a 6/10.
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Deportados (1977)
9/10
A sad story about illegal immigration
23 May 2014
This story follows a man ("Raul", played very well by Julio Aleman) living with his wife and son in San Felipe, a small city in Guanajuato, central Mexico. Raul has been struggling to find work. One day, two friends tell him about their plans to "go to the other side" (the USA) to get jobs. Although the prospect is dangerous and uncertain, Raul decides to join them. He leaves his wife and son behind, promising to send money home.

Their intended destination is Weslaco, Texas. Although in the USA, they find everyone speaks Spanish. Jobs are hard and the pay is low. But what is worse is that these three men do not have legal "papers", so they must always be watching out for the police.

One afternoon, they nearly get caught! After escaping, Raul knows that the police will recognize his face and tells his two friends that he wants to move on to California.

Meanwhile back in Mexico, Raul's wife and son are at the mercy of a local man who wants to take advantage of his absence. He is ruthless, and the family is in great distress. Of course, circumstances are such that Raul and his family cannot contact each other.

As Raul treks slowly westward, he encounters more problems. But also along the way, he finds people who are sympathetic to his plight since it is so common. There are wonderful instances when he gets help from strangers, when all seems otherwise so hopeless.

This film was very well done. It shows the difficulties for people who are just trying to make a living while also having to hide their immigration status.
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7/10
Interesting Short
9 April 2014
This narrates the story of a young woman, Annie, who gets caught up in the "White Slave Trade." It is all an accident, or so she thinks, that an unforeseen scandal forces her to leave her parent's home and marry some man, George, who will provide for her. Little does Annie know that this was all part of a big plan to turn her into a prostitute!

They move to New Orleans and soon Annie has to start "working" at the job which was intended for her from the start. She tries to escape, but the Sex Traffickers have a network throughout the USA and send coded telegrams to each other. There is really no place to go.

Even though this movie is technically "incomplete" since some reels are now lost, there is still a full story here. This movie also contains a strong message about how innocent women can be forced into working in the sex industry. And since they are women, the corrupt system is unfair towards them. The customers do not receive the harsh penalties that the prostitutes get.

I was impressed with this movie. Although it was a different era (horses and wagons are often visible along the city streets) the message could still apply today.
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9/10
A Desperate Situation
3 April 2014
This film was very well done.

It depicts the fate of a young Polish woman who gets picked up by Soviet police and is whisked away to a forced labor camp in Soviet Russia. Even worse - she is the mother of a baby boy, who goes there with her.

A little history: At the very beginning of the Second World War (1939), Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia both agreed to carve up independent Poland. The Nazis invaded the western part. Many books and films have depicted the horrors of what they did there. Less known is what the Soviets did in the eastern part, which they invaded. It is a fact that many Poles were arrested and deported to the Soviet Union during this time.

This movie shows nothing military; it is not a war movie. The young woman, Nina (played by Polish actress Agnieszka Grochowska), has been scared awake by some men in the darkness of her apartment, telling her to get her things to leave. And from there, she finds herself in a dreary work camp in the middle of nowhere.

The other prisoners in the camp are also women and a few children, all from Poland. They are all doing the best they can to get by. No surprise, the treatment is harsh. The Russian men are constantly shouting at the women to work harder. Nina has an especially difficult job, since she has to care for her young boy. When he falls ill, she has to see if she can find medicine for him.

The location where this film was made was perfect. There is nothing for miles around. The prisoners are all regular people who committed no crime. They just happened to be seized and deported after their country was invaded.
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10/10
A British equivalent of Schinder's List
2 April 2014
This was a truly wonderful documentary.

It is related in a narrative style, where we go back and forth between modern times and 1939 to tell the amazing story of what one man did to save a large group of children from the Nazis.

That man is Nicholas George Winton. During the 1930's, he was a successful stockbroker living in London. He certainly looked like one, all dressed up and wearing his big glasses! In the winter of 1938, he was planning a skiing trip in Switzerland. His plans were changed by a last-minute phone call from a friend in Prague, Czechoslovakia. There was a serious problem there, since Nazi Germany had recently annexed part of the country (Sudetenland), and it looked like they were going after more.

Nicholas met with terrified and hungry refugees that had been displaced by the Nazis. They were desperate to leave. As we all know from the tragic history, no nations were willing to take them in. Even the United States kept its doors firmly shut.

What could anyone do to help these refugees? Nicholas found a way to save at least some of the children, by getting them adopted. This took an enormous amount of effort filling out lengthy paperwork, and of course money - 50 pounds per child. He founded an organization that placed these Czech children into British homes. It was heart-breaking for the Czech families to say goodbye to their children at the train station, but as the political situation steadily got worse, they knew it was the right thing.

In 1939, over 660 children were officially adopted into new homes. The flow of children stopped abruptly on September 1st, 1939, which is when the war officially started.

During the war, Nicholas enlisted in the Royal Air Force and flew missions into Europe. Afterwards, he returned to his business, got married, and started a family.

It was nearly 50 years later that his wife discovered a dusty suitcase in the attic of their house, showing all the documents and photos of the children. Nicholas, as humble as anyone could be, had never mentioned it to her. His wife thought it would be great to reach out and see how the children (now well into middle age) had fared, and she reached out to them.

We learn that many of them grew up to become successful citizens. Some remained in Britain, and others emigrated. They had never known who had been responsible for getting them out of Czechoslovakia, and were quite eager to meet and thank Nicholas Winton for his great deed.

In one excerpt from a live television show, we see people introduce themselves to Nicholas, now well into his 80's. He is moved to tears, and humble as always, says very little to them.

Not surprisingly, we learn the fate of the Czech parents who had to give their children away: they were sent to the death camps. The children that Nicholas was unable to save also perished there.

All of this shows what one man was able to do. People were so inspired by him that some organizations are now trying to do the same. As Nicholas Winton celebrated his 100th birthday, he then met with some different organizations that want to help people all over the world.
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8/10
A clever prank that goes terribly wrong
5 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Two college buddies, Ben and Jared, love to play practical jokes on people. Their girlfriends witness them and sometimes laugh, but often warn the guys against doing them. Ben is clearly the leader here, and insists that they are just having harmless fun.

Ben has a younger brother named Chance who is still in high school. Though Chance is an excellent student, he is also quite innocent and clueless. He is a classic nerd, the type of guy who has never kissed a girl. In spite of their different personalities, Ben loves his younger brother very much.

One night at a big party, Ben and Jared convince a young woman to make aggressive moves on Chance. It works! As expected, Chance is caught completely off guard. But he also enjoys it, as this is his first sexual experience. The following day, Ben suggests to Chance that he should get tested for HIV, just in case he was infected. Chance does not think it necessary, but agrees to do it. They then both visit a local clinic for the HIV test.

All of this is part of the next prank: Ben creates a doctored report that indicates that Chance is HIV positive. As it uses the same hospital forms from the clinic, it looks official. Ben leaves the report in an envelope at the house, knowing that Chance will discover it when he gets home from school.

Ben and Jared go out for the day with their girlfriends, laughing and wondering how Chance will react when he discovers the news. The girlfriends are not so sure. Even Jared is not sure if this prank is cool.

Chance arrives home and reads the test result, and then panics. He then goes into his bedroom and hangs himself. The two couples arrive later and make the tragic discovery when they open the bedroom door.

This short was well made. The actors are convincing, and the production value is excellent. Chance especially seems convincing as an innocent victim.
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Jerker (1991)
8/10
An important part of gay history
5 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A Little Background: "Jerker" was written originally as a one-act play. Curiously, it had a slightly longer name: "Jerker, or The Helping Hand: A Pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Telephone Calls, Many of Them Dirty".

The story is really just about two gay men who engage in sexual conversations over the phone. The author, Robert Chesley (1943-1990), has written dozens of plays, mostly with gay-related themes. This work is perhaps his most famous.

The play premiered in 1986 in Los Angeles and was a big success. Around the same time, some recorded excerpts were also broadcast on KPFK (the Los Angeles Pacifica Radio station.)

Due to the explicit subject matter, a listener filed a complaint. This caused the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to investigate. The result was KPFK getting sanctioned for transmitting "indecent and possibly obscene material." The FCC then tightened its definitions of obscenity. This was the 1980's, after all...

With all the controversy surrounding "Jerker", it was unlikely anyone would be forgetting about it. So within a few years (1991), this movie was produced. Sadly, Mr. Chesley had already passed away by then from AIDS. He was 47 years old.

The Story: The location is San Francisco. The year is 1985. We meet J. R. (played by Joseph Stachura) and Bert (played by Tom Wagner) engaging in several phone sex conversations.

J. R. calls up Bert nearly every day. So, how did J. R. get Bert's number? We learn that Bert scribbled it down and handed it to J. R. one night in a local bar... When J. R. reveals how he got Bert's number, Bert does not remember. In any case, Bert does not have J. R.'s number. Only J. R. makes the calls.

As these two horny men talk dirty to each other and get off, they also reveal other intimacies. Bert worries about a friend in the hospital who is sick from AIDS, and J. R. has a disability from his time in Vietnam. Each of them suffer pain and loneliness. Sex fills that need, at least to a point.

The nature of their relationship remains anonymous: Neither man knows the other man's full name or address. So when Bert becomes sick, he stops answering the phone. J. R. leaves voice messages for him, each with more concern. Where is Bert? J. R. then leaves a message saying he checked the bar where he first met Bert. He learned that nobody has seen Bert in weeks. J. R.'s final call is the worst - the number is now disconnected. Bert is gone forever. J. R. is devastated.

Additional Comments: This is not a "porn" movie. It deals with sadness and loss. With that said, there is some sexually explicit dialog, and some brief nudity.

The title "Jerker" can possibly refer to masturbation, or a "tear jerker", depending on the viewer's interpretation.

The movie maintains a "one-act play" feel to it, since we are limited to the two characters and the interiors of their apartments.
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10/10
A thrilling escape from East Germany
24 July 2013
This made-for-television movie is about an adventurous escape from communist East Germany. The year is 1984, and three teenage boys (Frank Korbach, Alex Baumgarten, and Thomas Peitz) are living in Brandenburg an der Havel, a city located near Berlin. These young men see no future in East Germany and would like a better life in the West. One of them gets in contact with a "human smuggler", who agrees to take them out of East Germany for a fee. It is illegal and dangerous. The Stasi (State Security Service of East Germany) are aware of what the boys are up to and are watching them.

Unknown to the boys, Frank's father (Kurt) is an important man in the Stasi. After the three boys vanish, Kurt is convinced that his son is innocent of any wrong-doing and leads the investigation in finding them. Meanwhile, Frank's mother (Beate) wants to help her son escape and gives him the name of a man (Max Steiner) in Gera (a city to their south) who can help. To complicate things further, one of the boys (Alex) is a diabetic needing access to insulin.

Meeting Max and his daughter (Maria) in Gera, a plan is hatched to cross the border into Czechoslovakia. That border is not as strongly enforced as the border separating the two Germanys; but there again, if the Czech authorities catch them, they would return them to East Germany. And as they continue their journey yet further along, the ultra-determined Stasi seems to be one or two steps behind them.

For a television movie, I thought this was excellent. It did not seem at all "low-budget". The acting was convincing, and the locations in East Germany looked authentic. No doubt, there are parts of Germany that still look this way. But in addition to that, there were the old cars (Trabis), clothes, phone booths and the like. It took effort to get this appearance.

The personal situations of the three escapees were also realistic. Many of the people who escaped from East Germany were young and seeking a better life. East Germany offered very few opportunities to move ahead. Over the years, people tried many clever ways to escape; some of these ways, like underground tunneling out of East Berlin, were fantastic. But it was always dangerous. Many people died trying to leave. And if people were caught, they had to serve a sentence in prison for "illegally" leaving the country.
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A thoughtful scary movie
1 May 2013
I saw this movie just last night. I was expecting a repeat of so many other zombie movies, and was not going in with high expectations.

This is low-budget fare. So, no super-duper special effects! But this should not dissuade you from watching, since they did a very good job with what they had.

I liked how the story started with some people and then moved with one character, and then moved and stayed some other characters. What we get from this is learning how nobody knows what is happening. Some are running all the time (but to where?) and some are locked up in their homes (but for how long?) Everyone is scared and doesn't know what to do.

Since this is taking place in modern times, people expect to use their fancy cell phones to communicate with each other. But nothing seems to work. The government is seemingly out of the picture. The people in this movie are truly alone.

Though the story takes place in Wales, it was not relevant. A cabin in the woods could be anywhere. And someone coming to your door late at night, making noise and trying to break in, is terrifying.

A good horror movie, to say the least.
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Lip Stick (2010)
9/10
A study in loneliness
20 March 2013
I got this on a DVD with a bunch of other scary movies. This particular one, a video short (under 15 minutes) stood out as it was both scary and sad. At the introduction, we are informed that it was "made entirely by women." Well done, whoever did it! This film portrays an attractive young woman, alone in the room of a low-budget hotel. This is definitely a horror story: the "horrors" that this woman faces are sexual addiction, loneliness and despair. Her overwhelming desperation is palpable. She is totally turned on, and lonely.

Most of this piece focuses on the woman, remaining in the room. On occasion, we get a few flashes of the outside. From the exterior, the hotel seems to be abandoned. Maybe it has been this way a long time. How long has this woman been living here? And how long does she intend to remain? Some railroad tracks near the hotel bring an occasional freight train. None of them stop, since there is nothing here. This place is truly in the middle of nowhere. No wonder the hotel is abandoned!
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Mrs. Amworth (2007 Video)
5/10
A non-standard vampire story
2 December 2012
I got this video in a collection of horror DVDs. I did not know anything about it, other than the title, "Mrs. Amworth", was the name of a British movie made in 1975 about a vampire.

This movie was apparently shot in 2007, in video. The picture quality is actually very good, much better than expected.

So, the story centers around a charming small town that could be anywhere in the USA. (A license plate does reveal that the actual state is Virginia, in case you're curious.) An attractive widow, Claire Amworth, moves into the neighborhood. Claire is elegant, sophisticated, and has traveled extensively. Her neighbors are charmed by her. Around the same time, young people start getting ill and unexpectedly die, only to come back to life shortly afterward. One would think that such horrible events would cause enormous panic in this town? Well, it does generate some interest with the local newspaper, which decides to investigate. But what about the police? The newspaperman learns that Mrs. Amworth, from all her experience, may be much older than she appears. There may be other dark secrets to uncover. Of course, it is not easy to get people to believe what the newspaperman says.

I found the story to be slow, and the characters doing things that I would not generally believe. I mean, I agree that the whole point of horror is watching people do things they should not do (going inside haunted houses or digging in graveyards, always at night) but this seemed worse.

The camera-work was great, and the characters seemed well-chosen for their roles. I think something much better could have been made.
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7/10
The Great Santo battles Evil yet again!
25 November 2012
This movie is a perfect representation of all the other Santo movies I have seen so far. It does not stand out, in other words. But this is just fine with me. I enjoyed watching it.

The story begins with a mad scientist (with a totally cool laboratory) who revives a female vampire. She is a countess, and of course stunning, and had been put in her grave two centuries ago. The scientist has unsavory plans of World Domination (don't they always?) and expects a partnership with the vampire to be in both of their interests. The vampire has her own desires to settle a long-standing family grudge against "Santo", the famous wrestler who is fighting evil wherever he can. Santo wears a silver mask that he never removes. He never loses a wrestling match, either!

The scientist has a couple of goons working for him, but needs more recruits for his evil cause. So, what to do? Visit a local go-go club and convert some exotic dancers into sexy vampires! Conveniently, the police also regularly visit this dance club. They quickly learn about the missing dancers and start investigating. Santo of course is there to help. Some pesky reporters also appear and start following Santo, because they see this as a juicy story as well as a whole lot of fun.

This has all the classic elements of Mexican Horror: misty graveyards, amazing laboratories, vampires, bad guys, and a mad scientist. Since this was shot in 1970, the period go-go club is an added bonus.

Santo, or "Saint", was in dozens of movies like this. (In some English translations, he is called "Samson"..) In real life, Santo was a genuine wrestler, and he did wear a silver mask all the time, so his fans did not know what he really looked like. He was about 50 years old when this movie was made, and he was still as strong as an ox.
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Across the Forest (2009 Video)
7/10
An Intriguing Documentary
24 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is not a movie. It is an 80-minute documentary, done using interweaving interviews with elderly Romanian villagers who describe their experiences with wolves, vampires, witches, and the like. Though they speak only Romanian, there are English subtitles. On occasion, some drawings are inserted showing forests and graveyards at night to match the stories currently being related.

These country folk clearly believe everything they tell us as fact. Ghosts, witches and vampires are all part of the folklore of this part of Europe, going back many centuries. These elder narrators reveal the stories in a matter-of-fact way.

This documentary had the feeling as if it were someone's pet project. They went off to Transylvania with a video camera and met some locals in different villages and asked them to tell some good ghost stories. Some editing and picture inserts came later.

I think this documentary was just long enough. Had it been longer, I would have lost interest. It seemed the countryside was beautiful, so I would not have minded a few more shots of it. I also am left wondering if any 'young' villagers believe in the supernatural? Everyone in the interview looks at least 70 years old! As the modern world encroaches upon all four corners of our world, is the old folklore of Transylvania disappearing?
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