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7/10
Lighthearted yet philosophical (at times), and cleverly constructed
20 October 2019
A trifling and predictable story, but cleverly presented in non-linear fashion (the gradual revelation of the identity of the female train passenger is ingenious), and further elevated by Bergman's silky direction and the dazzling, lively Eva Dahlbeck (her face is perfection). *** out of 4.
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Survivor South Africa: Episode #6.1 (2018)
Season 6, Episode 1
8/10
IMDb should list all the episodes of this great season! (and they should add season 7 while they're at it)
18 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Survivor South Africa seasons 6 & 7 are both terrific and all of their episodes should be listed here. They are the perfect mixture of old-school character-driven narrative and new-school fast-paced gameplay. They are also more evenly edited and more artfully made than most other versions of Survivor. Season 6 is close to a masterpiece, marred only by a finale twist that specifically hurts one player. Season 7 is not quite as great, but it does contain two of the most flawless games ever played on Survivor - by two different players! You could say they advance Survivor strategy. Both highly recommended.
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Redemption (1930)
5/10
Ironically titled early talkie
16 October 2019
"Redemption" is well-paced, competently directed, attractively cast, makes good use of off-screen sound (rain, birds, clock, singing, etc.) - but the story itself is slight and trite; one can only imagine that the Leo Tolstoy play on which it was based had more substance to it. Watchable. ** out of 4.
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Pepe (1960)
5/10
Unfunny, overlong, racist and sexist, but a couple of sequences are worth catching
13 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Pepe" deserved to flop: it's not funny, it's too long, the character of Cantinflas is a total stereotype, and the story resolution reeks of 1950's Hollywood casual racism AND sexism (the young, initially "tough" Shirley Jones apologizes (!) to the dreary, obnoxious and middle-aged Dan Dailey who had been insulting both her and Cantinflas throughout the movie, and agrees to marry him, because of course in a 1960 movie a woman a) must always be wrong because the man must always right, b) cannot possibly have an interracial marriage). Most of the guest stars add little; only a few, like Maurice Chevalier and Janet Leigh, make significant contributions. Don Juan the Horse probably gives the best performance in the film. But there are three sequences which are worth seeing: the nightclub dance / martial arts "fight" number is impressively intricately choreographed and executed, the miniaturized Debbie Reynolds & Cantinflas sequence is great fun, and the tap dancing number with Chevalier, Cantinflas and Dailey is the only sequence in which Dailey is bearable. Other than that, "Pepe" is interesting today only as another one in a line of Big Studio flops like "Cleopatra". ** out of 4.
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Survivor: Honesty Would Be Chill (2019)
Season 39, Episode 3
7/10
You guys may suck at puzzles....
10 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
....but you're really good at blindsides! Strong episode with an excellent massive fakeout edit, weakened only by the silly and bizarre Island of the Idols segment; you know something is wrong when Boston Rob gets more confessionals than half the cast! The winner continues to be very obvious to me (I swear I know NO spoilers, but it's gotta be the guy who was presented in this episode as making the calls - even when there weren't even any calls to be made!), but maybe (hopefully) I'm wrong. *** out of 4.
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5/10
Flat thriller
10 October 2019
"Ministry of Fear" has some masterly use of sound and silence by Fritz Lang, but as a thriller it's lacking in thrills; the romance between Ray Milland and Marjorie Reynolds is also unconvincingly quick. Hitchcock, and maybe Lang himself. have done better in this vein; this is a minor-league topical programmer. ** out of 4.
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5/10
Hot title for lukewarm movie
9 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Forgettable boxing melodrama (with Tony Curtis too skinny for a champion boxer, but agile enough) crossed with a predictable love triangle. The movie gets interesting near the end when it seems for a while like Curtis might have been better off deaf, but of course we must have a 100% happy ending so he wins the championship match, gets the good girl (and makes the bad girl lose her bet against him, to boot), AND re-re-gains his hearing. I ticked the spoilers box, but I probably needn't have. ** out of 4.
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6/10
Agatha Christie tackles on the supernatural (again)
8 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Based on one of Agatha Christie's lesser-known (but more sinister) stories, "Le Cheval Pâle" is a fairly good entry which manages to bring together such disparate elements as a slain priest, a satanic psychic, a young heiress whom Alice befriends, a murder-for-hire oganization and magic filters into a mostly coherent package. In the midst of it all, Laurence has to deal with the prospect of losing the woman he has started to love, to a promotion in Washington; his characterization continues to be much more well-rounded than in the early stages of the series. **1/2 out of 4.
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Fear Factor: Hip Hop Battle (2018)
Season 2, Episode 11
5/10
This is where it all went wrong
7 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
OK, so this comment is actually more about the next episode, Hip Hop Siblings Smackdown or something inane like that, but IMDb does not allow for reviews and ratings on that episode - or on any that followed! Gee, I wonder why....Maybe the Fear Factor producers themselves asked them to after the embarrassment of the next hip hop episode especially, which is the worst FF episode I have ever seen. Not only are these pseudo-"celebrities" known only to a very specific group of Youtube/Instagram fanatics, but they can barely form an English sentence, and most of them are pathetic contestants to boot (there is a pair that quits....twice!). Janice is the sole bright spot. It's a pity because the Ludacris reboot was actually going pretty well, until they decided to ruin it with this "celebrity" nonsense. * out of 4.
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7/10
A unique and bold experiment - largely successful on its own terms
6 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This one-room, six-character (all of them female) drama will seem dreary and talky if you're not in the right (patient and introspective) mood for it, but if you are, you'll probably find it riveting and moving. The first half hour is a little hard to get through, but gradually Fassbinder transcends the inherent staginess with his expressive camera angles; Petra's first breakdown after Karin has left and she waits for her call is painful and real and a great piece of cinema. The ending is cruelly funny. Margit Carstensen gives an impressive, all-out performance as Petra; sexy Hanna Schygulla and entirely wordless (!) Irm Hermann are also impressive. *** out of 4.
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Survivor: YOLO, Let's Play! (2019)
Season 39, Episode 2
8/10
Second brutal blindside in a row
3 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers - you've been warned!

The editing of this episode was refreshingly offbeat, right from the opening seconds where, instead of "Previously on....Survivor" we got a recap of the preview at the end of the first episode! Touches like these (or like Chelsea's idol find) help keep the show non-formulaic. The Island of the Idols segment was more enjoyable this time - primarily because it was shorter. And the vote was BRUTAL; even Rob and Sandra looked blindsided! This is fast developing into one of the most cutthroat seasons ever. Personally I'd rather see Jamal or Jason go instead of Molly, but at least she went out as a major threat ("Parvati 2.0") and not as a "weak woman". The winner is starting to look obvious (hint: this person was portrayed as the all-important "swing vote", even though this person actually wasn't), but hopefully I'm wrong. *** out of 4.
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4/10
Will probably diappoint comedy as well as science fiction fans
3 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Technically atrocious (almost all of Buster Keaton's dialogue sounds canned, as if he recorded it inside an empty room after the shooting had finished) and disastrously unfunny, "Boom In The Moon" is still worth a look, I suppose, by sci-fi movie fans for its prophetic concept of humans traveling to the moon - though the film takes the cheap way out even there and the promised trip to the moon never materializes; the rocket IS launched but it crash-lands back on earth. *1/2 out of 4.
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6/10
Not Agatha Christie's, or this series', finest hour
2 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly" is one of the weakest Agatha Christie yarns; at least one of the guilty parties is painfully obvious. The Poirot series with David Suchet did a short 50-minute version of the story in its very first season, but here it gets the bloated 90-minute treatment, and it doesn't have enough content for 90 minutes. There is an unusual introduction, and one striking, sinister sequence in which Laurence is confronted by a person with a gun and what looks like a Gremlin (!) mask, but other than that this episode is, like the story itself, one of the weakest of the series. **1/2 out of 4.
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7/10
Maybe a minor work, but a major acting showcase
30 September 2019
Engrossing (if slightly overlong - the first 30 minutes are essentially just a dress rehearsal for the rest) little thriller with an award-caliber chameleonic performance by Mathieu Kassovitz; this must be one of the acting highlights of his career. Smartly presented ending. *** out of 4.
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5/10
Audacious concept, but time has taken a lot of the edge off the result
29 September 2019
Scandalous in 1973 (it got an X rating), today it wouldn't raise much of an eyebrow (it would be a soft R). Dramatically it's flawed - stagnant and superficial. But it retains some of its morbid curiosity value, especially as you get to watch a top-shelf European cast engage in uncommonly (and, in some cases, extraordinarily) crude material. Andrea Ferreol is sexily plump. ** out of 4.
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Survivor: I Vote You Out and That's It (2019)
Season 39, Episode 1
8/10
Extremely questionable gimmick but FANTASTIC first vote
26 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Most Survivor fans didn't like the Edge of Extinction / "I Vote You Out and That's NOT It" twist, but this Island of the Idols thingy has every potential to be so much worse: not only does it take away VALUABLE time from getting to know the characters and their strategies, but it seems to exist primarily to hammer into our heads how awesome, legendary, great and amazing Sandra and ESPECIALLY Boston Rob are. You know Boston Rob; the guy who went out PRE-MERGE 2 out of the 3 times he played (in humiliating fashion at the hands of Russell in Heroes vs. Villains) and finally won against an all-newbie cast in his FOURTH try. What's worse, it seems like they will be sitting and observing (hidden from the players) at every tribal council, which means they will probably try to help the players they like, which is an extremely unfair advantage if you ask me. Let me put it in another way: neither Rob nor Sandra are needed, or wanted, in this season (especially if you know the theme of the next one).

BUT.....I'm still giving an 8/10 to the first episode. Why? Because it has one of the GREATEST first vote-outs in the history of Survivor (possibly THE greatest). An absolutely shocking boot, of the kind of player who usually, if not wins, at least easily makes the merge. Too often the women on Survivor fall into the trap of voting other women for the first few rounds to "keep the tribe strong", handing over control of the game to the men and ending up as goats at the end. Not this group; the women of the losing tribe vote in admirable unison and instantly take charge of the game. This is exactly, exactly, EXACTLY how women should play the first vote on Survivor - and yet, it very rarely happens.

In short, I have high hopes for the cast of this season, especially on the female front; I just wish Rob's and Sandra's involvement will be kept to an absolute minimum.
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4/10
Robert Altman does Porky's; not as good as that sounds
25 September 2019
A strong candidate for Robert Altman's worst film ever; plotless, pointless, and unfunny. Although it does have his anti-authoritarian spirit, the humor is either broad or cryptic (or both); half the time you feel as if you're not in on the joke, the other half you WISH you weren't. Not surprising - or unwarranted - that it took the studio 3 years to release this to theaters. *1/2 out of 4.
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Fear Factor: Summer Vacation From Hell (2018)
Season 2, Episode 5
8/10
True Girl Power
24 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The only girl-girl team obliterates the (mixed) competition in this one (they come up first in every stunt by a comfortable margin). And they are gorgeous to boot. The final stunt looks absolutely exhilarating - the kind of stunt that gives you motivation to get through the gross stuff for a chance to do it. *** out of 4.
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6/10
Inspector Laurence meets his match (in more ways than one)
23 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Good production values, but the side stories are more compelling than the central plot in this adequate retelling of Agatha Christie's "A Murder Is Announced". Docteur E. Maillol is a promising new character, and I'm glad that, according to IMDb, they brought her back a couple of times; her strong and outspoken feminist disposition expectedly clashes with Laurence's chauvinistic demeanor, and when he falls in love with her and asks Alice's help to "change", it goes a long way towards humanizing his character. As for the central plot, all the major details I remember from earlier (Miss Marple!) versions of the story are there, and I actually liked the change of the murder attempt on one half of the homosexual couple being unsuccessful. **1/2 out 4.
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6/10
Alice looks stunning in this lesser series entry
22 September 2019
This is the second episode of "Les Petits Meurtres" with a big French name as a guest star; it works a little better than it did the first time (with Dominique Pinon, in "Murder On The Links"), because his role is at least much more relevant to the story, but he still gets the lion's share of the screen time, and none of the other guest characters seem to matter. There is also zero tension in this episode. Alice looks stunning after her "aristocratic" makeover, but it is definitely one of the lesser entries in this series. **1/2 out of 4.
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7/10
Disquieting psychological thriller
18 September 2019
This very well-made, very well-acted little thriller is reminiscent of Brian De Palma at his prime, except it's less flashy and more psychologically sound. Olivier Masset Depasse successfully maintains the ambiguity around Alice (is she losing her grip on reality, or is she sensing the truth?), and the ending is unexpectedly bleak and disturbing. This movie sends you out a little shaken. *** out of 4.
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7/10
Darker and more engaging than usual; Elodie Frenck is a revelation
16 September 2019
Without a doubt one of the best films in the series. It is darker and more engaging fare than usual; the mystery (based on Agatha Christie's underrated "Hickory Dickory Dock") keeps you guessing, and the film plays almost like a giallo at times. Labarthe gives one of his most rounded - comedic AND dramatic - performances in the role of Laurence, but it's Elodie Frenck who really proves her acting credentials here, with her absolutely amazing transformation in her second role, that of Marlene's sister; she is SO unrecognizable that you can't believe it's the same actress, even upon close inspection, and even though you know she is! Bravo, Elodie. *** out of 4.
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6/10
OK version of "Halloween Party"
15 September 2019
Pedestrian re-telling of a good Agatha Christie Poirot tale ("Halloween Party", also adapted for the David Suchet series in 2010). The gimmick here is Laurence's temporary psychosomatic blindness, which makes for some funny moments in the first half. Alice is also cute in a sequence impersonating a late-1950s "bad girl". **1/2 out of 4.
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Wanda (1970)
6/10
Minimalism and masochism
12 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Wanda" is an interesting exercise in cinematic minimalism, a telling portrayal of alienation and loneliness....and what seems to be a deliberate attack (by a woman, no less!) on the emerging feminism of the 1970s. The heroine's passivity, relatable at first, becomes off-putting; much like Claude Chabrol in the previous year's "Le Boucher", Barbara Loden fails to make her attraction to the ugly, violent and insulting to her man she meets believable. She wrote and directed herself in a peculiarly masochistic role. **1/2 out of 4.
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5/10
🎵 I wanna be....anything you want me to be....just let me be....outta control 🎵
10 September 2019
Fairly entertaining low-budget teen action pic, set on a deserted (almost....) island. Rather amateurishly made, but it has some surprisingly tender moments. The characters are stereotypical, but also believable. Best thing about it: the catchy title theme that is SO wonderfully mid-1980s. ** out of 4.
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