Apex Predator's Reviews

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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.
Check out my podcast: The 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.

Had some plans to start my YouTube channel...but I think I'm having some issues of nerves. I do have a logo now and everything's set...all I have to do is record.

List of films I'm going to get into in the next couple of weeks:

Short Term 12
Scandal in Sorrento
Enter the Dragon
On the Way to School (Finally!)
One Night in Miami
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Short Term 12 (2013)

It took me a while to see this due to some of the issues they covered. But it was worth it in the end.

Grace (Brie Larson) is the lead counselor at a group home for troubled teens. She's showing the newest counselor (Rami Malek) the ropes with the help of co-worker/boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). She learns that they're getting Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a teen with a history of self harm who doesn't plan to stay long as her father will pick her up. But the more Grace learns about her, the more she reminds her of Grace in her past.

The cast is solid, including LaKeith Stanfield as an aspiring rapper who is worried what will happen as he approaches his 18th birthday. The film blended humorous moments with the more serious subject matter...until maybe the last 15 minutes or so. Larson is the film's beating, flawed heart and I could see her deserving an Oscar nomination for her performance.

A few scenes felt a bit off towards the end, but this solid film is worth watching and telling others about.

And now for something completely different...

In part of the hype for the non-starter Sophia Loren Oscar wannabe The Life Ahead, Netflix decided to give us two films from her distant past. And considering I needed something light after Short Term 12 (and the fact it's set in Italy works just fine for the 2021 list, please don't ask me how many films I've seen so far, thanks!), Scandal in Sorrento felt like it'd be an easy win.

And from the opening notes, one can easily see what Sophia Loren can bring into a movie. She's equally enchanting getting into it with a rival fishmonger or sweet talk the new police chief in Sorrento to convince him not to kick her out on the street and move into her home.

Which leads into the plot. After retiring as a marshal, Carotenuto (Vittorio De Sica) settles into Sorrento to take over the police chief role. His brother Don Matteo (Mario Carotenuto) and his assistant Caramella (Tina Pica) warn him to focus on the job and not worry about love. But when he meets Sofia (Loren), it's easier said than done. Of course, she's got a boyfriend Nicolino (Antonio Cifariello) who is aspiring to make a better life for the two of them. But she's not above using Carotenuto to make him jealous...and to keep the roof over her head. But then again, Donna Violante (Lea Padovani) who is the new landlord for the chief of police might have fallen for him as well?

The plot is kinda slight and almost sitcommy at times. But still, the charms of the Italian countryside (and Loren) and some decent physical comedy as the two of them elude the mayor and some reporters as they end up on the same distant beach/cave as them means that it's not a waste of time.

This was a pleasant watch, but it was also a bit thin.

Next: MKS may be proud of me?