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22. Back to Bosnia (2005) B

A solid documentary about a family of Bosnian Muslims (including the filmmaker) return from their Florida home to where they grew up. There's some chilling sequences as we visit morticians who are trying to sort out the corpses of those killed in the ethnic cleansing. And there's some touching moments as their family meets the family who have chosen to squat at their home.

Was a bit harsh on this on first review, but after going over things with others who've seen it, I'm giving it the new and improved grade you see in front of you.
I'm glad you mention this. To be honest, I think I had a similar reaction at first, only for it to sink in towards the last act. It's not perfect, but there's some stuff to unpack there.
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Check out my podcast: Thief's Monthly Movie Loot!



2. Sweet Smell of Success (1957) A-

This has all the bite of an arsenic cookie.

Small time publicist Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is desperate to get his clients the attention from big time newspaper columnist JJ Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster). To get his approval, Sidney will have to break up Hunsecker's sister Susan (Susan Harrison) with jazz musician Steve (Martin Milner) through any means necessary.

Lancaster oozes menace as Hunsecker who can make or break many people in New York City and is more than willing to do so. As Sidney, Curtis comes across as an opportunistic snake willing to do what it takes to move up the ladder. It's clear that they see something in each other, but Sidney appears to have something that JJ does not.

Film is well written and directed and it feels like a bad car accident that you can't look away from but you feel compelled to watch. But thanks to the run time and the wonderful way they shot New York City, Sweet Smell of Success does end up being quite successful indeed.

1. M (1931) A

Berlin cops desperately search for a man who murders children. As it turns out, this also draws the attention of the criminal element who wants him brought to justice due to the police putting pressure on them during their search.

Fritz Lang draws a compelling yarn of the underbelly of Berlin as he uses tracking shots to amp up the tension. Peter Lorre makes a memorable turn as Hans who is a big fan of In the Hall of the Mountain King. The whistling of the tune proves to be chilling. Hans goes on a roller coaster ride throughout M's running time, moving from menacing to pathetic. The film raises questions with no easy answers about who is ultimately responsible for the children of society.

To correct an earlier review of mine, this is now my fourth Lang film (Metropolis, Destiny, The Big Heat, M) and three of them have been very good to excellent. This joins Metropolis as a masterpiece.
This 1-2 punch is excellent. I'm pretty sure you know Sweet Smell of Success was my #1 first-time watch of 2020, but M (which I saw the year before, I think) is excellent as well.



Glad you enjoyed those films, Thief. I've come around some on Back to Bosnia which I found underwhelming at first, but thought about it and it did go up.

Why bring this up now? Because I got a new film to dive into!

Make a Wish (1937)

Chip Winters (Bobby Breen) is an ordinary kid with a big singing voice who ends up in this camp in Maine. Along the way, he meets British composer Johnny Selden (Basil Rathbone) who's struggling to write a musical for Broadway due in the fall. But he finds inspiration in the letters that Chip's single mom (Marion Claire) sends him. And it appears that they click once they meet during family weekend (where she shows her abilities as a singer as well). But a problem develops that she's with Walter (Ralph Forbes) who wants her to give up music in exchange for a family life. Will there be a happy ending to this story or will Chip and his mom settle for what's in front of them?

Because it's a musical and it's practically a B-picture, it's predictable what happens with both this plot and a subplot involving Selden's butler and two wanna be composers. Not helping is the film insisting on turning to one composer's vague grasp of the English language for laughs.

But the music turns out fine here. Breen has a nice soprano voice that comes through loud and clear here. Claire's voice is strong as well. And Rathbone ably pulls off comedy and drama with aplomb.

It may only be a B-picture, but there's enough entertainment value here and the film doesn't wear out its welcome at a brisk 82 minutes. Thumbs marginally up on my end.



Back tomorrow with not one, but two films to add to my list for this year.

Both made the 2021 challenge, but only one of them is good.



She Goes to War (1929)

I can appreciate the sentiments of this film that try to prove that women can handle combat just as well as men. The story of a spoiled woman who comes to take the place of her drunk, cowardly lover on the combat fields of WW1 might have worked in better hands.

But what went wrong? Try taking a silent film which took about 87 minutes or so and turning it into a talkie by taking out all the cards that explains what's going on. The first half of the film seems to have lost most of the story and character development as a result. I had to piece things together using articles from the Internet which is always a bad sign.

The second half is where the film does pick things up some where she's literally thrown into the fire of war. The fire effects are well done and there's a harrowing sequence featuring a tank in flames as it tries to dodge German explosives.

But even there, problems keep the film from fulfilling its potential. Lighting issues made the film difficult to tell what was going on at times. And more critically, her character tries to keep her identity under wraps but

WARNING: "" spoilers below
when one of her cohorts finds out that he's with a female soldier, he turns from joking around with her to trying to have his way with her. It doesn't help that this felt like this was being played for laughs.


Where the editing is killed is when it comes to the characters. Joan (Emily Boardman) is able to come up with daring feats of bravery one minute and faints the next because it's too much for her to handle. We get no explanation why Reggie (Edmund Burns) turns from being gung ho about the war to being a drunken coward. And as for the third person Tom (John Holland)

WARNING: "" spoilers below
He goes from being the other man that she's into to turning her down due to her being frivolous and spoiled to being her commanding officer during the war scenes.
Not that any of that would make sense without the intercards or the cut footage.


It works best as a curio, but it does not hold up.