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Revenge is a waste of time. It is an obvious redo of I Spit on Your Grave, about forty years later. The latter is a better film. A helicopter lands at a remote house in an unknown country. A young woman who is apparently the mistress of the owner, gets it on with him at the beginning. Two friends or associates; it is never explained, show up with rifles and shotguns without explanation. The main guy leaves for a while and one of his buddies has an encounter with the man's mistress. When he returns, she is very unhappy about her involuntary coupling. She wants to go home. The boyfriend has other ideas and it all leads up to a silly and predictable bloody conclusion. The acting is bad. The story is stupid, and there is no reason at all to watch this nonsense.
The Death of Stalin (2017)
Where is the publicity for this great movie. Steve Buscemi is Nikita Kruschev and a mostly English cast make it an awesome ensemble. Stalin becomes disabled by a stroke and the Russian cabinet battle for the leadership role in 1953. It is a black comedy in the vein of the Coen brothers. The script is brilliant and The Death of Stalin is one of the best films of the year. I lover The Shape of Water but this is even better. 7.2 is much to low a rating on IMDB. Rotten Tomatoes has a 100% rating.
La pazza gioia (2016)
Italian Cuckoos Nest
One of my top ten movies of all time is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It still holds up 48 years after its' release. Crazy Life is sort of a step child of Milos Forman's masterpiece. While not as good as Jack Nicholson's best film, it is one of my favorite foreign films of the last ten years. Donatella and Beatrice are a couple of emotionally unstable women who meet at a mental hospital. They click on a shared level of being outcasts from normal society. The misfits team up for a really wild adventure. The actresses are tremendous, with a screen chemistry as good as I have ever seen. The script is both sad and funny, with a completely unpredictable story which kept me guessing from beginning to end. One slight drawback is the rapid fire dialogue here. If you do not speak Italian; and I don't, be prepared to speed read for two hours. Even with that, I highly recommend Crazy Life.
Ni luo he nu er (1987)
I took a chance on this film based on the 7.0 rating here. I can only describe my viewing experience as the same as watching paint dry. If you need help in falling asleep, this movie may be just the answer. A beautiful twenty year-old girl is at the center of the story. She has an older brother who is a small time criminal who is always in trouble. Mom has died and so the girl must help raise a younger sister. The main actress is very attractive but her obsession with the Nile is never explained. I see no reason to recommend Daughter of the Nile.
Black Panther (2018)
Good Action Film
The Black Panther is a standard action movie with a predominantly black cast. Chadwick Boseman is the lead character and Lupita Nyongo the lead actress. They have good chemistry and the story is well written. It opens in Oakland, California and flashes back to a fictitious African nation with a super metal which has been hidden from the rest of the world for many years. Thhey fight with other countries and with themselves in this two hour and fourteen minute epic. The CGI is top notch but the film could have used some editing, as it feels a bit too long. Otherwise, just sit back and relax and enjoy an adventure in order to escape the every day realities of life.
Foy Carries it
Claire Foy pretty much carries Unsafe. She is a troubled young woman who may or may not have a stalker following her. A visit to a psychiatric hospital is a major mistake. When she mentions the fact that she has thought of suicide, it is enough after signing a consent form to keep her at the modern day cuckoo's nest for an unwanted stay. This is not any where near the 1975 masterpiece with Jack Nicholson, but it is good enough to recommend. A few plot holes are obvious. Claire Foy is definitely an actress to watch for in the future. Unsane is frightening and fun.
Here we go again with an evil killer clown. It has been done better and it has been done worse. Two college age girls stop at a pizza parlor to sober up after a night of drinking. At the place, they encounter a silly looking man in a clown outfit. The owner throws him out after he fouls the bathroom and it was a serious mistake. Buckets of blood ensue, with many innocent victims. They all wind up in a warehouse where more mayhem ensues. A woman is hung upside down and cut in half with a hacksaw, so if you are looking for a fun film, this ain't it. Overall, just some bad acting and a sub par script make for an average horror movie.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Good Horror Film
John Krasinski directed himself and his wife Emily Blunt as parents of two boys and a girl living in upstate NY not far from where I live in Westchester County. It is an end of the world kind of story with strange reptilian creatures on the prowl for human flesh. They cannot see and rely on super sensitive hearing to locate their prey. Most of the film uses sign language making subtitles a necessity. The settings are creepy and the acting top notch. I do not want to give away too much of the story but it is pretty good. The ending is satisfying and I highly recommend A Quiet Place.
The Untouchables (1987)
Somehow, I just got around to this film after over thirty years. Kevin Costner plays the federal agent Elliot Ness. He pursues Al Capone during Prohibition. His main partner is Sean Connery as a Beat cop in 1930 Chicago. Robert DeNiro is Capone and all three are great. Connery won an Oscar. Ironically, it was tax evasion that was Capone's downfall. This is not a spoiler, as everyone knows the old story. Even so, the Untouchables is a violent and funny adventure. The script is precise and Brian DePalma's direction is as good as expected; never a dull moment. The two hours just flies by.
Gangster Squad (2013)
Sean Penn Kicks Ass
Sean Penn plays 1940's mobster Mickey Cohen. It is set in Los Angeles and Penn scowls and spews venom for almost two hours. Josh Brolin is an honest cop who is drafted to make life miserable for Mickey. He recruits fellow cops to work off the record, doing whatever it takes to beat the bad guys. Ryan Gosling is one of them and Emma Stone is his and Cohen's squeeze in a dangerous love triangle. The lines are a bit cliche, but the acting is awesome. Sean Penn can do anything on screen and be totally believable. Gangsters is a fun diversion for a couple of hours.
The Best Man (1964)
The Best Man is from 1964 and it could have been made today. Gore Vidal first wrote it as a play which he later adapted for the screen. Vidal had real life experience as an insider in politics. He was on a first name basis with JFK. Henry Fonda stars as an idealistic politician running for president. Cliff Robertson is his opponent in a primary before the election. The man has no scruples and will do anything to win the election. The wheeling and dealing are shown in a very realistic manner. Vidal's script cuts like a razor sharp scalpel. More then fifty years later and nothing has changed. We need more Gore Vidal's today to cut through all the BS.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Joaquin Phoenix plays a brooding, violent war vet who rescues young girls from white slavery. Flashbacks show him with a plastic bag over his head as he hyperventilates. He takes care of his old mother and is hired to find a 12 year-old runaway. His weapon of choice is a hammer, which he uses quite proficiently. The script is beyond belief, and the style brings back memories of Taxi Driver. The gritty New York City backdrop is good, but the story does not make sense. You Were Never Really Here could have been a contender.
The makers of Lowlife have obviously seen Reservoir Dogs. The non linear style and over the top violence are the similarities. What is missing here is Tarantino's genius. The main character is a Mexican wrestler in a Zorro mask. He has the funniest lines and they are in Spanish. The problem is the confused story line. The acting is competent but overall , Lowlife is a miss.
Das Versprechen (2016)
Here is a real life murder mystery of the Haysom's in Virginia back in the 80's. Elizabeth was a troubled college student with a drug problem.She met a German student named Jens Soring and her parents ended up hacked to death. They escaped to England but were brought back to the U.S. for trial. She pled guilty and through Jens under the bus. The courtroom footage is riveting, as the two tell very different stories of what happened that night. We all see things through our own personal viewpoints. As a true crime reader for over 30 years(The Stranger Beside Me), I was absorbed by this documentary. The only drawback is the missing Elizabeth, as she refused to be interviewed, but Jens loves to talk, and he makes for a great subject.
What About Bob? (1991)
Murray is great
Bill Murray is a genius capable of both comedy or drama. Bob is an obsessive compulsive lunatic who finds a self absorbed shrink played by Richard Dreyfuss. The pair have perfect timing with a very strange doctor patient relationship. The doctor has just released a book and is spending his month long vacation on a peaceful lake with his family. Bob shows up and will not leave. The family just love the eccentric Bob, but the doctor-author is driven to insanity by the unwanted guest. The script is tight and the two actors mug for the camera and are terrific in this really funny film.
Mirren as a lady in black
The great Helen Mirren is dressed in black for the entire run of Winchester. She was the widow of the founder of the weapons company and felt guilty for all of the deaths caused by the arms. To atone for her sins she built a massive house of over 100 rooms. The purpose was to allow the spirits of the dead to somehow receive redemption in the house. It is supposed to be based on a true story. Mirren is great, but the material is beneath her talents. The house is awesome and the scenery exquisite. The atmosphere is sufficiently spooky but the movie is just an average thriller.
Il grande silenzio (1968)
Wow. I had never heard of this film until reading about its' re-release in a recent NY Times article by A.O. Scott. A 50th anniversary theater release gave me a reason to find it. I was not disappointed. Klaus Kinski is the villain and an unknown actor, at least to me, is a man with no name in the tradition of Clint Eastwood. The story is a familiar one with nasty bounty hunters gunning down everyone in their path. The violence is vicious and the tale told without any sentimentality. Do not expect a Disney fairly tale with a feel good resolution. The Great Silence is one of the best westerns out there.
The Commuter (2018)
Liam is reason to watch
Liam Neeson is the main reason to watch this action packed thriller. It was filmed partially along the Hudson River train lines not far from where I live in Westchester County. Liam is an ex-cop who has been selling life insurance for ten years. He rides the train every day while reading classic novels to kill the boredom. Of course, the daily routine changes one fine day as he becomes involved in a death defying mystery where he has to find a witness in a large scale cover up before he reaches the end of the line. Along the way, Liam delivers his lines in his usual, caustic manner. The big Irishman is the reason to watch The Commuter.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
Female John Wick
Charlize Theron stars here as an MI5 agent sent to Germany before the wall was torn down. She is on a mission to recover a top secret list of undercover agents taken from a fellow spy. She is a female version of John Wick, as the Fighting woman beats up and kills scores of bad guys. James McEvoy and John Goodman are the costars and both are as good as expected. The script is comic book funny and the action is relentless. Theron carries the film well for almost two hours. Take the ride and enjoy the adventure.
Funny and Campy
I first saw this film in 1971 and just watched it again 47 years later. The only line I remembered was tear him up. I will not explain the line. A young man working in an office and living with his mother in a grand old California house is befriended by some rats who he feeds every day. Of course, he is treated badly by his boss and eventually gets revenge by using his rodent buddies. Ernest Borgnine is the bad guy and he is hilarious. The movie is quite campy and it is highly entertaining. This ain't high art but it is worth it for a few laughs.
Screen Two: The Snapper (1993)
Noisy and Annoying
I recently watched The Guard for a second time and was in the mood for another Irish comedy. The Snapper was a poor choice. A twenty year old girl living with her mother, father and four fellow siblings becomes pregnant and will not name the dad. Most of the film takes place in pubs with the expectant mother drinking heavily with three other girls. This is not funny, and I do not understand the 7+ rating on IMDB. Stay away from this noisy mess and instead check out The Guard for Brendan Gleeson's brilliant performance.
A Korean Willard
I recall watching the American movie Willard more than thirty years ago. Roddy McDowell was the star. He befriended a bunch of rats who obeyed him like trained dogs. This time around, a man travelling with his ten year-old son through the Korean countryside, stops at a remote village where the people are hiding from the war. They have a major rat infestation and the stranger agrees to rid them of the rodents for the price of a pig. He uses an ingenious method to extract the vermin. Betrayal follows soon after and that is when the fun begins. Revenge is sweet and I will leave it at that. The film is a bit too long but it is a fun ride nonetheless.
Waking Ned (1998)
Waking Ned Devine is a light comedy with some terrific performances throughout. The lottery is won by a man named Ned Devine. As no one has claimed the prize, a couple of the village people do a full scale investigation to find out who amongst the 50 or so towns people has won. Ned Devine has died of a heart attack and the two men work out a means to collect the money. It involves the entire town and a plot of precision. I will not spoil the outcome, so just sit back and enjoy the rollicking ride with the beautiful scenery of the Isle of Man.
This is yet another remake of the Honeymoon Killers. It is very loosely based on the infamous Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez lonely hearts murderers. The real life killers would answer ads and Ray would seduce widows with Beck posing as his sister. They would take the money and run after killing the old ladies. This Belgian version changes the tale dramatically with the pair seducing younger women. The acting is good but I was not thrilled with the story line. I recommend The Honeymoon Killers as a much better movie. Tony Lobianco and Shirley Stoler are perfectly cast as the murderous pair.
Profundo carmesí (1996)
Remake of Honeymoon Killers
This is a remake of the Honeymoon Killers from 1969. Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck were a couple who were a perfectly matched couple. They met through a lonely hearts club and it was kismet. Ray was able to seduce lonely older women and brought along Martha posing as his sister. The American version is better, with a Smiling young Tony LoBianco as Ray and Shirley Stoler as Martha. The Mexican version also features fine actors and it is a decent remake. The true story is amazing and viewers should read it before seeing the films based on the tale. Deep Crimson has a made up ending, but it works anyway. The true story ended in my childhood hometown of Ossining NY. I do recommend it to fellow true crime aficionados.