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 Posted:   Nov 13, 2023 - 7:06 PM   
 By:   Viscount Bark   (Member)


Director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, The Descendants, et al) makes a comeback with this tale, set in Massachusetts during the Christmas holiday season of 1970-71. Paul Giamatti excels as a sad sack character (as he did nearly 20 years ago in Sideways), a classics professor for decades at a boys' school. He is assigned/punished, due to his integrity in not passing a poor student who is the son of a powerful politician, to stay at the school over the holidays being a guardian for "holdovers" - students who have nowhere else to go for the 2-week break. He has an especially adversarial relationship with one particularly undisciplined boy. Also staying over is the school's cook - a grieving mother of a former student recently killed over in Vietnam.

Yes, there is the expected exploration of these characters through their interactions and confessions. This might all be predictable, but Payne beautifully crafts the entire movie and takes the time (this small-scale drama runs nearly 2 hours 15 minutes) to let the viewer live side by side with these lonely, albeit defensive people. I don't want to make it sound too serious or sweet; there's plenty of dry humor and heated confrontations. This is a great melancholy Christmas film - a Christmas party at the house of one of the school's secretaries is so real in its awkwardness and crushed hopes that it twinges.

There is some playfulness to the opening credits taking advantage of the early 1970s setting. They open with the old "R" rating white and blue logo and the Focus Features and Miramax logos are given a time-appropriate look. (Unfortunately, with the cliche of crackling sound over them. If we're to get into the right period mood, the soundtrack from 50 years ago would not be in used, beat-up shape. But I'm nitpicking.) My favorite bit is the Roman numeral year for this film given as MCMLXXI, as though this really is a movie from 1971.

 Posted:   Nov 14, 2023 - 4:11 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

FINGERNAILS (2023) – 7/10

It’s sometime in the near future, and science has developed a test to prove whether two people will be compatible in love. All it takes is a little piece of oneself—a fingernail to be exact. A whole fingernail. “Anna” (Jessie Buckley) and “Ryan” (Jeremy Allen White) have found true love, and the test proves it. There's just one problem. Anna still isn't sure. She decides to take a job at a love testing institute, where she meets “Amir” (Riz Ahmed).

This drama has both sci-fi elements and squeamish moments as it explores the boundaries of how far we’re willing to let science dictate the vagaries of the human heart. The film doesn’t make it clear how long this scientific love affirmation procedure has been around, but it’s long enough that people have come to accept it as a viable predictor of human compatibility. If some people have doubts about wanting to undergo the test at all, or if someone wants to reaffirm their love by going through the test again, while their partner does not, what does that say about each party? Can you truly trust that person?

This is director and co-writer Christos Nikou’s second feature film. Christopher Stracey provides a quiet, contemplative, and sparsely orchestrated score, available as a download.

 Posted:   Nov 15, 2023 - 7:52 AM   
 By:   Spinmeister   (Member)

Nuovo Olimpo (2023)

Decades spanning, long-lost-love romance set amidst golden hued Rome limps along on a shallow, humourless script attempting to evoke the charm(s) of "classic" cinema (and most assuredly failing). Not helping is some unconvincing old-age makeups.

Andrea Guerra provides pleasant, better than average, orchestral backing, and all three leading men are lookers (in or out of wardrobe).


 Posted:   Nov 15, 2023 - 9:39 AM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

House of Mortal Sin (1976) ... 5-/10

I watched this with grave smile doubts, not expecting much. But it was better than that, albeit somewhat tedious at times, overlong by 15-20 mins.

It was interesting to see so many UK TV actors and the story which develops in a very standard way ends unexpectedly. I had thought we'd be kept guessing who the villain is but this is obvious very early on so the story concentrates on the stupidity of the innocent characters. With several deaths one wonders why no police ever appear and the sideline story of the housekeeper is too silly ... it hardly impacts on the main story until the final, deadly, act.

Lead Anthony Sharp dominates the film and regretfully his character's obsession - Susan Penhaligon - almost disappears from the story for the last act, her place taken by co-star Stephanie Beacham. As this character has now discovered the truth, her actions defy belief.

A nice w/s print, good colours, good sound and an enjoyable score from Stanley Myers ... the main title gives way to some eerie sounds which work well (e.g. when boyfriend Terry goes to recover the cassette recording).

 Posted:   Nov 16, 2023 - 11:44 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

THE MARVELS (2023) – 7/10

THE MARVELS is as good as three of the other live-action superhero films I saw this year—ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA, SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS, and THE FLASH. (It’s not quite as good as GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 3.) If that causes a sigh of relief, so be it. If it confirms your worse fears, that’s OK too. As has been noted by more than one commentator recently, superhero films are a glut on the market, and are no longer essential viewing.

As is usual for these super-sequels, the film takes for granted that you remember what happened in the last film (in this case, from 2019) and also that you have been keeping up with the Marvel Universe on television (I haven’t). In addition to “Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel” (Brie Larson), the film drags in the lead character from the television series “Ms. Marvel,” i.e., “Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel” played by Iman Vellani. Kamala is a Pakistani-American who gains the ability to harness cosmic energy and create hard light constructs from a magical bangle. Also appearing is the character “Maria Rambeau” (Teyonah Parris). Maria met Carol Danvers as a child and was inspired by her. Maria has a whole backstory (that I don’t pretend to understand), but by adulthood, she has attained superpowers after being bombarded by extra-dimensional energy produced by an energy disruptor weapon. These three superwomen join forces to defeat yet another superwoman—"Dar-Benn” (Zawe Ashton), the new leader of the Kree. (Carol Danvers is a human-Kree hybrid, due to a massive blood transfusion.)

The resultant film is another exercise in superbeings fighting each other with energy blasts and a little mixed martial arts thrown in for good measure. “Nick Fury” (Samuel L. Jackson), the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., also gets into the fray occasionally, as his space station comes under attack. Naturally, there is a MacGuffin, in this case a power wristband. Both Kamala and Dar-Benn have one, and seek to obtain the other’s, so that they have a more powerful matched pair. A note for animal lovers: there are a lot of cats in the film. The film benefits from running only 105 minutes, reportedly the shortest Marvel feature ever.

Unless you are someone who really gets wrapped up in the mythology of these characters, this is pretty standard superhero stuff, except for it being so female-driven. Laura Karpman provides a decent score. The $220 million production has grossed just $116 million worldwide in its first nine days.

 Posted:   Nov 17, 2023 - 2:59 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

Tombstone (1993) ... 3/10

I recall listening to Kurt Russell being interviewed on BBC Radio 2 at the time of the film's UK release, saying that in this film they tried to be as realistic as possible and, unlike earlier portrayals, sought to tell the story: what happened after the infamous gunfight (he'd not seen or purposely ignored John Sturges' 1967 telling).

I didn't see the film for many years and when I did I thought it was poor. Many positive comments about the film since told me it was time to re-assess the film: this was a good clean w/s print with decent sound, i.e. I could hear the mumbling dialogue better than previously smile

I've watched several interpretations of the legend including recently: My Darling Clementine (1946) and Wyatt Earp (1994) in the last 12 months or so. It's been many years since I've seen either Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) or Hour of the Gun (1967) and I'm lost as to the validity of any of the depictions. Perhaps this is the most accurate. It's certainly the least entertaining.

I liked Sam Elliot as Virgil and Michael Biehn as Johnny Ringo but Kurt Russell is no Henry Fonda, Burt Lancaster, James Garner or Kevin Costner; and Val Kilmer pales against Kirk Douglas and Jason Robards (I was never taken with Victor Mature - despite his excellent performance as Doc - whilst Dennis Quaid is even more intense). But the film's many faults start with the script which is mundane leading to the first half, pre-gunfight, being tedious ... almost boring ... and post Morgan's killing akin to comic book literature. The opening sequence with Powers Boothe and Michael Biehn showing how violent and evil the cowboys are is a nod to the starts of far superior westerns, e.g. The Magnificent Seven (1960) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and has little relevance to the story which unfolds. As it's the only major action sequence pre-gunfight it looks to be an after-thought to liven the script.

Bruce Broughton's score is nothing to celebrate, if compared with the Tiomkin and Goldsmith masterpieces, and at times is poor (e.g. the gunfight sequence) but it's far from being the film's major failing even if it fails to involve the viewer.

 Posted:   Nov 17, 2023 - 3:58 PM   
 By:   Indy1981   (Member)

I've read a number of MusicMad's film reviews, which are often "hot takes" of otherwise beloved films, but he is dead-on with his evaluation of TOMBSTONE.

 Posted:   Nov 17, 2023 - 10:17 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Opinions should be respected, but I have to say that I absolutely love Broughton's score for Tombstone.

 Posted:   Nov 18, 2023 - 4:58 AM   
 By:   Bill Carson, Earl of Poncey   (Member)

Mitch you need to watch Stacy Keach and Harris Yulin in Doc.

 Posted:   Nov 18, 2023 - 8:28 AM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

Mitch you need to watch Stacy Keach and Harris Yulin in Doc.

I don't think I've seen 'Doc' (1971) and these days I think I'd struggle accepting Harris Yulin as Wyatt Earp smile but I'll retain the thought and watch out for a broadcast. The IMDb scenario suggests a different take on the story which I suppose is why Keach (the obvious choice for Earp) plays the titular character.

And Joan: I might appreciate the score more away from the visuals but with both the Tiomkin and Goldsmith efforts well ingrained (and the lyrically dominant Mockridge work, too) I'm afraid both Broughton and Howard were at a major disadvantage. I found both of these modern tellings less interesting than the earlier ones and neither composer has made much impression on me ... to date.

 Posted:   Nov 18, 2023 - 8:31 AM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

I've read a number of MusicMad's film reviews, which are often "hot takes" of otherwise beloved films, but he is dead-on with his evaluation of TOMBSTONE.

You join a select group ... there are few who agree with me! smile

 Posted:   Nov 18, 2023 - 1:59 PM   
 By:   Prince Damian   (Member)

With Alfie Bass
Bindle (Bass) and Ginger are furniture removal men. The type that use a pair of lovely shire horses to pull a large wagon. He often gets moaned at for taking furniture to the wrong addresses or getting lost and other failings. The bulk of the film is todl in one big flashback- as to how he lost his job and his wife ( this is left a little vague). During a job he manages to lose the horses and cart- hence the job loss .
It was ok and Bass was fine carrying the bulk. It seemed like a half hours worth stretched to an hour. Apparently it was the pilot to a series that never materialised. I can see why. Favourite line is when Bass reads newspaper headline - ' missionary eats two cannibals' , made me chuckle. The music, by Alfred Elms was a bit Steptoe like. Though the first piece sounded like a cross between The Godfather and Open All Hours.

 Posted:   Nov 18, 2023 - 7:53 PM   
 By:   Solium   (Member)

Empire of the Ants 0-5

Starring Joan Collins and Robert Lansing who interesting enough both guest starred on Star Trek! The film is absolute garbage. It's not even a good "B" movie. Not even a "its so bad, its good" kinda film. Boring characters, awful editing, cheap special effects. It has one of the weirdest plot twists Ive ever seen in a film. I'm a hard critic but a score of zero from me is saying something!

Kingdom of the Spiders 2-5

Starring William Shatner also of Star Trek! (of course) This film isn't very good but its competently filmed. Starts out pretty awful but builds some steam. There's some scary moments with real creepy crawlers and the death scenes look pretty cool.

 Posted:   Nov 18, 2023 - 11:27 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

THE QUEEN OF SPAIN (2016) – 6/10

I didn’t know it while I was watching this film, but it is a sequel to a 1998 Spanish film called THE GIRL OF YOUR DREAMS. That film, which went straight to DVD in the U.S., was set in the middle of the Spanish Civil War. As one more way to strengthen ties between Franco's Spain and Hitler's Germany, a Spanish film company is invited to the famous Ufa studios in Berlin to film the German and Hispanic version of a folkloric film to be titled “The Girl of Your Dreams.”

That first film followed the love adventures of the different members of the group: the director, “Blas Fontiveros” (Antonio Resines ), married, has an affair with his main actress, the charming “Macarena Granada” (Penélope Cruz). “Julián Torralba” (Jorge Sanz ) is the prototype of the Iberian macho (he gets involved with the wife of the Spanish ambassador), who will mature when, being mistaken for a gypsy, he learns how the Nazis do things. And so, each character (the funny Jesús Bonilla, Neus Asensi, Santiago Segura, Loles León, Rosa Maria Sardá...) has his story.

The film was nominated for 18 Spanish Goya awards, winning 7, including Best Film and Best Actress for Penelope Cruz. That brings us to THE QUEEN OF SPAIN. It is now 18 years later, in the 1950s, and many of the same film company are now working in Spain to film a blockbuster about Queen Isabella I of Castile. Macarena is now a Hollywood star, and has been hired by the American producer “Sam Spiegelman” (Arturo Ripstein)—who is only making the film because he has money tied up in Spain—as the lead actress.

Also on set is the writer “Jordan Berman” (Mandy Patinkin), who is working in Europe because he is blacklisted in America, and the crusty, eye-patch-wearing director “John Scott” (Clive Revill), a John Ford parody, who spends most of the shoot sleeping in his director’s chair. Leading man “Gary Jones” (Cary Elwes) is gay, and spends his time pursuing various males on set.

The film starts with “Blas Fontiveros” (Resines) showing up for no discernable reason—mainly to jump start the plot. He has been out of the film business for many years and is warmly welcomed by his old friends, and it is intimated that he and lead actress Macarena had been married and divorced. When producer Spiegelman decides to replace his ineffective second-unit director, Fontiveros signs on to the company to shoot backgrounds and action scenes. But it seems that Fontiveros has been out of the film business because of his political activities, and Franco’s secret police soon hustle him off to a work camp. So, interspersed with a couple of romances on the set—one involving Macarena and the head grip (Chino Darín)—the company decides to spring Fontiveros from captivity.

Despite the multitude of characters and plotlines, this is a pretty tepid comedy-drama. Cruz barely has any funny lines at all, with her dresser (Ana Belén) getting all the laughs. The gay jokes involving Elwes are mostly lame, and most of the scenes with the secondary characters can be termed backstage gossiping.

Director Fernando Trueba returns from the first film, as do numerous secondary cast members. The film is well shot by José Luis Alcaine, who photographed 2007’s VOLVER with Cruz for director Pedro Almodóvar. The film does have a couple of interesting, all-too-quick shots showing how matte paintings are used to enhance scenes.

Zbigniew Preisner’s score alternates between comic beats, suspense music for the camp escape, and regal cues for the film-within-a-film. It was released by Quartet. Although the film received 5 Goya nominations, it won no awards. It was barely released in the U.S., and the $11 million production grossed just $1.2 million worldwide.

 Posted:   Nov 24, 2023 - 2:23 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

The Left Hand of God (1955) ... 5-/10

I'm a late convert to the films of Humphrey Bogart and I did enjoy his low-key performance in this typical Hollywood melodrama ... it's a shame the script didn't warrant his talents. His co-star, Gene Tierney, was wasted in a support role - I see from her IMDb listing that this was her last film for several years - had her heyday passed?

I usually like to watch Lee J. Cobb but thought his casting very inappropriate; the lack of any strong Chinese character was probably typical at the time.

Whilst some scenery was nice, much looked fake studio sets. But it was the lack of story development which failed the film: the opening scene showing a priest with an automatic pistol raised so many possibilities and yet the most action our hero encounters is when he slaps a man who spits at his feet. Instead of weapons ... we have dice!

A strong incentive to continue watching was provided by Victor Young with a gorgeous love theme dominating the score. I've had a recording of this (Charles Gerhardt/NPO) for 30+ years ... I'll appreciate it a lot more now.

 Posted:   Nov 24, 2023 - 2:32 PM   
 By:   Indy1981   (Member)

I've read a number of MusicMad's film reviews, which are often "hot takes" of otherwise beloved films, but he is dead-on with his evaluation of TOMBSTONE.

You join a select group ... there are few who agree with me! smile

I empathize with your plight..I am that one person who preferred WYATT EARP (1994) to TOMBSTONE!

 Posted:   Nov 24, 2023 - 2:48 PM   
 By:   Rameau   (Member)

I haven't seen The Left Hand Of God for many years, I remember enjoying it, but Humphrey Bogart looks far too old for the roll, Lee J. Cobb as the Chinese Warlord is just bonkers. Gene Tierney suffered from manic depression & was ill during filming (she looks really fragile), she later had electro conversion therapy against her will. Great score by Victor Young, I have the Varese CD of it somewhere (I haven't listened to that for years either).

I remember quite enjoying Tombstone the last time I saw it (Val Kilmer is great in it), I've tried to watch Wyatt Earp a few times, but I've never finished it, I got bored.

 Posted:   Nov 24, 2023 - 6:28 PM   
 By:   Solium   (Member)

McFarland, USA- 3.5-5

A competently made sports drama that hits all the usual beats. Pretty standard story but that in itself doesn't make it a bad film, just rather unremarkable and vanilla. Costner does Costner and the rest of the cast are underdeveloped. Outside of the typical "troubled" character and "slow and fat" character the cross-country team members are indistinguishable from one another. Costner's family are generic. The film plays it safe and family friendly. The score doesn't help the drama all that much.

 Posted:   Nov 25, 2023 - 1:51 PM   
 By:   Spinmeister   (Member)

Topaz (1969) 143 min.

Hitchcock's third to last is a stodgy, Cold War spy slog sunk by a swollen, scatterbrained screenplay, and a moth-eaten, "Old Hollywood" aesthetic. Where Roscoe Lee Brown and Philipe Noiret put in eccentric supporting appearances (which briefly enliven events), the gauzy-lensed, leading ladies mope, whimper and weep in stylish couture over a 6'2' plank of wood essayed by one Frederick Stafford.

Music score is an enigma: vast swaths of this sluggish feature go un-scored (when it desperately needed musical support), while certain attempts by Jarre to lend gravitas or enliven action register as misjudged.


 Posted:   Nov 25, 2023 - 4:21 PM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

Rossini – oder die mörderische Frage, wer mit wem schlief (Helmut Dietl, 1997) 8/10

Thinly disguised farce about the inner workings of Munich's movie industry, wonderfully acted and sometimes sharp on the point. Almost the entire movie takes place in the name giving restaurant "Rossini". Great looking movie, but I had forgotten how entertaining it was. Dario Farina's music in the context of the film was excellent, though he obviously had Ennio Morricone as a template (which was fitting).
The plot concerns an internationally successful author who rejects the idea of his novel being filmed, while everyone around him (in the high-society restaurant Rossini) basically just wants have stakes in the movie version of the novel. Kudos to recluse co-screenwriter Patrick Süskind to poke fun at himself and his surroundings, as the movie mirrors his attempts to prevent his novel (Das Parfum) from being adapted into a movie. Which eventually became a movie, produced by Oskar Reiter. Er, I mean Bernd Eichinger.

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