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Weapons of Death (1977)
aka Napoli Spara!

An Italian crime action that has some issues with bloat in the story, and as a result, it feels rushed. It has its charms, though, and Henry Silva is always good.

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Quite a pleasant 80s throwback that rightfully ignores the previous travesty in the franchise. There's nothing new or innovative here, but it's an easy enough watch. I even considered half a point higher rating, but the fan service, in the end, was a bit too cringe. I also learned that McKenna Grace can sing and write music, and quite well too.

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The Wasteland (2021)
aka El Páramo

A Spanish pseudo-horror that's marketed as a monster movie. It looks good, but that's about the extent of my praise. The film is dull and thinks way too highly of itself. With all the invincibility and geniuses of youth and debut director, it boldly walks the well-trodden paths always taking them for the untamed wilderness.
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Welcome to the human race...
The King's Man -


Fool me thrice...
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I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.



Through the Glass Darkly (2020)

Pretty decent story about a lesbian woman who's daughter disappeared and then when another young girl goes years later missing comes under scrutiny from the local police. She is still determined to find out what happened to her daughter. Bit of a potboiler but watchable enough. Lots of flash-backery but it *does* fit in with the films story.




Sorcerer (1977, William Friedkin)

I haven't seen Wages of Fear yet, which is supposedly a classic, but I imagine this one wouldn't be a slouch in comparison.
First of all (and this is probably the standout for me), visually it's just great, with eye-popping colors and different camerawork techniques used effectively to convey different moods (some sequences are almost documentary in style). The overall tone and vibe of the film was spot on, even though the suspense may not have been quite as gripping as I expected.
All in all, a great '70s thriller, expertly directed, acted and shot - enjoyed it a lot.




Sorcerer (1977, William Friedkin)

I haven't seen Wages of Fear yet, which is supposedly a classic, but I imagine this one wouldn't be a slouch in comparison.
First of all (and this is probably the standout for me), visually it's just great, with eye-popping colors and different camerawork techniques used effectively to convey different moods (some sequences are almost documentary in style). The overall tone and vibe of the film was spot on, even though the suspense may not have been quite as gripping as I expected.
All in all, a great '70s thriller, expertly directed, acted and shot - enjoyed it a lot.
My humble opinion is that Friedkin's maximalism serves the material better than Clouzot's precision. Also, the incompetence of the Charles Vanel character in the Clouzot is borderline comical and grinds the movie to a halt anytime he's onscreen.



2001 Monolith spotted at McDonald's Drive Thru
Alpha
7.5/10.
A thrilling adventure and a hypothetical beginning of humans' close relationship with dogs.
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2001 monolith recently seen at McDonald's Drive Thru



Conviction

This was adequate but I didn’t think it ever really elevates from what it has to do, Rockwell and Swank are good, as the brother/sister and I had no idea Carl from “ghost” now directed movies..





La Bete Humaine (The Human Beast), 1938

Lantier (Jean Gabin) is a train engineer who suffers severe mood swings and violent spells, especially badly when he drinks. Lantier crosses paths with a woman named Severine (Simone Simon) who has just helped her husband (Fernand Ledoux) kill her lover. A spark between Lantier and Severine at first works to her advantage, but their relationship seems clearly headed for tragedy.

I really loved some of the stark and stunning images in this film, a work whose visuals made the strongest impression on me. There's a real range of visual strategies on display here, everything from framing a sequence under a passing train to having a character's face suddenly illuminated with a spotlight. It's a film full of characters with strong passions and the visual style is a perfect match for their dramatic encounters.

On a character level, the film is an exploration of the darkest side of passion and desire. In a lot of the staging of sequences with Lantier, the movie steps right up against sequences from werewolf or vampire films. The "spells" of violence from Lantier are truly frightening, especially because they are provoked by either positive or negative feelings. Before he even meets Severine, Lantier goes from kissing a former flame to choking her beside a set of train tracks. The murder is driven by Severine's husband's jealousy.

One of my favorite sequences in the film is one between Severine and Lantier. In bed together (cuddling, because 1930s), Severine recounts a physical attack she suffered at the hands of her husband, concluding that she doesn't want a lover. She wants a friend. This is a woman who has seen the ugly side of "passion" and she wants out. Unfortunately, neither she nor Lantier is able to safely extricate themselves from a doomed relationship.

One aspect that I did question a bit was the sequence of events immediately following the murder. It was really unclear to me whether Lantier was aware that an innocent man was put on the hook for the murder in its immediate aftermath. I was already grappling a bit with sympathy for his character, and this really didn't help.

Overall it was a solid watch with some really excellent visual moments.






Made You Look, 2020

This documentary follows a scandal that rocked the art world, in which several works purportedly by high profile artists were revealed to be clever fakes. The film centers its narrative on the art dealer named Anne Freedman who sold the fakes, and the question of what she knew and when she knew it.

There are a few levels to this documentary, and if you're like me, your mileage may vary depending on how sympathetic you are to the problems of very, very rich people.

The part that I found most engaging was simply the way that the culture around these fake paintings was built and then collapsed. What the entire incident exposes is just how far people are willing to go to preserve their egos. In the case of Freedman, that includes believing in the fake paintings well past the point that she should have been very suspicious. (I kind of come down on the side that she really dug herself in and was in denial, but if someone thinks she was totally in on it from the beginning, I don't blame them). This comes out most strongly when the whole incident finally goes to trial and suddenly people who had verified the works as authentic claim that they didn't.

Something that is really missing from the film is the point of view of a woman named Glafira Rosales, the woman who brought the paintings to Freedman and served as the middleman between the forger (a Chinese painter named Pei-Shen Qian). She is not interviewed in the film, and is seen only in "no comment!" style new footage. Paperwork shows that she claims to have been trapped in an abusive relationship with a super-shady Spanish wheeler-and-dealer. This guy does appear in the film---under the VERY watchful eye of his lawyer---and, yeah, I find myself inclined to believe that things were weird between them. Or maybe she was a conniving schemer!! Either way, she feels like a critical missing piece.

For better or worse, the documentary hinges on Freedman's experience at the center of things, and what it feels like to be put on the hook for a scam that included about a dozen people. Also missing from the film is her boss, a man named Michael Heller, who seems pretty shady himself. Anne comes across as very self-centered (never seeming to consider the feelings of people who bought the fake works), but I did find myself somewhat sympathetic to the way that she is left high and dry by the people around her. Like it or not, she has paperwork from experts verifying the paintings. Like it or not, her boss knew that her deals were bringing in millions of dollars of profit. And like it or not, she was certainly not the origin point of the overall scam.

But to go back to what I wrote in the beginning, this whole film is very much about rich people's problems. If you have millions of dollars to spend on art, and you are not an actual art museum, please don't tell me about how "emotional" and sensitive you were when you learned that one of the things you own that is worth millions is not worth millions. As a thriller, the film works well. But there is no real sense of peril here. All of these people are going to be fine. Rosales--who apparently now works as a waitress--is the only person who even really pulls at my sympathies, but that might be because I never got to actually hear her talk!

The experts interviewed range in their use. Some are incredibly strong in their opinions, which is really easy when you are looking at a situation in retrospect. I maybe most appreciated Marjorie Cohn, a conservator from Harvard who seems to have the best grasp on the human dynamics at play in the whole thing.

An entertaining look at a scandalous event.




But to go back to what I wrote in the beginning, this whole film is very much about rich people's problems. If you have millions of dollars to spend on art, and you are not an actual art museum, please don't tell me about how "emotional" and sensitive you were when you learned that one of the things you own that is worth millions is not worth millions. As a thriller, the film works well. But there is no real sense of peril here. All of these people are going to be fine. Rosales--who apparently now works as a waitress--is the only person who even really pulls at my sympathies, but that might be because I never got to actually hear her talk!

An entertaining look at a scandalous event.
Interesting that you call it “scandalous”, but you don’t empathize at all with the people who were conned. Suggesting that rich people’s problems are not real problems.
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I’m here only on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. That’s why I’m here now.




Frankly, I love stories where the grossly wealthy get conned by this beast of their own creation (the over inflated prices of the fine art market). It's hilarious.



The trick is not minding
Yeah, they are.
While I’m not so sympathetic to the rich, they are still deserving of some sympathy when it call for it, don’t you think?






1st Re-watch...I think this is the first time I've ever re-watched an entire mini-series, but because the subject matter is fascinating and it is so imaginatively mounted and well acted (with the possible exception of Margaret Qualley as Ann Reinking). Anyone who saw Fosse's 1979 film All that Jazz, probably expected this to be a re-hash of that film but it's anything but. This mini-series is written with Gwen Verdon being the villain in their relationship, which I didn't see coming. The late Broadway icon is not painted in a flattering light here. It brilliantly comes to a boil in ep 5 called "Where Am I Going" where Verdon fights Fosse tooth and nail about making Lenny so that he can direct Chicago, a show that Fosse felt Verdon was too old for and made no bones about it. I may never be able to listen to my Chicago soundtrack again because, according to this mini-series, it was the mounting of that show that really destroyed their relationship, though they never really stopped loving each other. Michelle Williams was the darling of award season for her gutsy and unapologetic performance as Gwen Verdon which, at times, makes you want to slap her...this performance is something that should be studied by acting students. And Sam Rockwell completely loses himself in Bob Fosse. Loved the attention paid to Fosse's relationship with Paddy Chayevsky and had totally forgotten that Lin-Manuel Miranda played Roy Scheider. It's a time commitment but it's so worth it.