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Old 01-02-15, 09:30 PM   #1
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European Cinema

The Worricker Trilogy
Page Eight (2011 - U.K.)
- Spy games in the world of British intelligence agencies and their government, PAGE EIGHT is the first of three made-for-TV movies that come under the umbrella of THE WORRICKER TRILOGY (with Bill Nighy starring as agent Johnny Worricker). If you are looking for a snack to keep your belly full until the next James Bond movie, then you might be better served with a stroll through the junk food aisle at your local grocery store. PAGE EIGHT is exclusively a dialogue-driven entry...characters mostly sitting around and talking...and you know what...it was wonderful! The writing in terms of dialogue would rate out at A+. The plot is rather conventional...though being a U.K. entry it was interesting to see a different perspective when it comes to the U.S. and even moreso Israel (aka the British don't follow the current Hollywood Production Code). I'd gladly watch PAGE EIGHT all over again just to listen to the performers deliver the dialogue. In addition to PAGE EIGHT, 2011 also gave us a comparable effort with a theatrical version of TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY starring Gary Oldman...I found that movie to be quite disappointing and thoroughly dull. PAGE EIGHT, on the other hand, delivered everything I might have hoped for from its big screen counterpart. The runtime was a briskly-paced 99-minutes and I found it consistently engaging throughout. Watched via the U.K. DVD boxset release - THE WORRICKER TRILOGY.
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Old 01-03-15, 09:14 PM   #2
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Turks & Caicos (2014 - U.K.) - Second entry in THE WORRICKER TRILOGY, I had a gut feeling going in that this wouldn't be to the standard of the first movie...and I was right. While the first movie felt like cinema, this entry felt far more like a TV-movie...and the 95-minute runtime had too much breathing room. I was also disappointed in that for far too long...about two-thirds of the runtime - this entry felt much more like a British cozy mystery than an effort from the spy genre. Also, the impressive snappy dialogue from the first movie was noticeably less present this time around. The big name supporting cast - Christopher Walker, Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter - didn't register as impressively either...instead it felt like guest casting on an episode of MURDER, SHE WROTE. With regard to both movies, I'm not really buying into the Bill Nighy as a ladies' man aspect of things. Once the story comes into clarity in the final half-hour it becomes tighter and more compelling. All said, this was mid-grade fare...watchable but not really impressive in any regard.

For those considering a pick-up, do some research with regard to the aspect ratio. By that I mean, it appears the U.S. Blu-ray is cropped from 2:35:1 to 1:78:1...with information clearly cut from both sides of the screen. This also applies to the Blu for the first movie. The framing/composition of the shots is rather formal...so the cropping on the U.S. Blu releases should be deemed as unacceptable. Both movies are presented in 2:35:1 via the U.K. DVD.
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Old 01-04-15, 09:19 PM   #3
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Salting the Battlefield (2014 - U.K.) - Events of the first two films are capped off in this third chapter centered on political intrigue involving the British government...thus concluding THE WORRICKER TRILOGY. This entry was a notch better than the previous effort...yet nowhere in the league of the first movie. I could have done without the romantic interest this time around, but I guess they needed something to fill out the 92-minute runtime. Also, the light and airy jazz music score was somewhat more grating in this third installment...Worricker is shown to be a fan of jazz and it works acceptably enough in the first movie...but comes across as more poorly fitting as the series continued. The general tone of the trilogy, well it was fine for the first movie, but it felt a little light for my tastes...when it comes to tales of politics and spies, I prefer things a little more gritty...you know like the difference between a caper film and a heist film...the final two chapters of the trilogy were a little too caperesque. Another aspect I found somewhat curious is the lack of effort by seasoned spies to better conceal themselves...but again maybe that ties in with my feeling of it being too caperesque.
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Old 01-06-15, 08:51 PM   #4
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Panzehir (2014 - Turkey) - A heading-into-retirement hitman is betrayed - and poisoned - by his bosses, as they want him to eliminate their rivals before he rides off into the sunset...with his blind girlfriend. Yeah, it brings to mind John Woo's THE KILLER, with a pinch of D.O.A...and they also work in an homage to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST...and a wink at BASIC INSTINCT...so original this movie isn't, but by Turkish mainstream cinema standards it certainly felt somewhat pathbreaking. The movie feels very Hollywood, and has the gloss and polish that one might expect. In tone it plays action/comedy...and there is a cop sidekick (also poisoned) along for the ride so it has a buddy cop movie feel to things too. It isn't a hard-hitting crime film but instead it has a graphic novel vibe going on. As most of the movie takes place at night, the visual presentation is interestingly dark. Looking at it as popcorn munching entertainment...the two-hour runtime was quickly-paced and the movie was quite enjoyable. Maybe of interest to those who like stuff like Mel Gibson's PAYBACK. Watched via the English-friendly Turkish DVD...the movie is on youtube for those who wish to sample it.
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Old 01-08-15, 03:59 PM   #5
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Michael Kohlhaas (2013 - France) - The visage - at least from an international marketing perspective - seemed to be going for BRAVEHEART's twin...and in execution perhaps it can be described as derivative of BRAVEHEART but for the arthouse crowd. When I took a break about halfway through the 122-minute runtime, my thought process was more along the lines of this being a French spin on something closer to Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN...not in terms of story/plot but in terms of "feel"...while the protagonist played by Mads Mikkelsen had me thinking some of Burt Lancaster's character in VALDEZ IS COMING. Towards the latter stages I was thinking a little of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES too. Well, in watching the extras, a lot of what I thought was confirmed as there was talk of the influence of American Westerns on this movie. I liked the film a great deal and found it highly captivating...I'd rate it out as "very good"...the reason for holding back on a higher grade is mainly because of that sort of fog that hung over the movie, meaning it being so highly influenced by earlier films. Still, that rating of "very good" certainly ranks it among the better films I've seen these past couple of years. Watched via the U.S. Blu-ray.



Chalk it up to coincidence, but following on these last two posts, two soon-to-come European viewings will be another hitman and blind woman story - Italy's SALVO....and another European Western - Germany's DAS FINSTERE TAL.
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Old 01-08-15, 04:15 PM   #6
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Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi (2013 - Spain) - The latest from Director Alex de la Iglesia. It is a comedy/action/horror-fantasy that delivers on the high energy and zaniness I might have expected from the director. At the same time, somewhere early in the second half of the film 114-minute runtime, while things did continue to entertain more than not, it gave me a feeling of consuming too many empty calories. Basically, the effort felt too slight for that runtime...again things did move along quickly throughout that time...but for me that is a rather lengthy run for a comedy that didn't have much to offer in terms of substance...entertaining it was, but nothing that sticks once the end credits roll. I was pleased that the climax was somewhat eye-opening and certainly offered more in terms of grand spectacle than I might have expected. Watched via the U.S. DVD under the title WITCHING AND BITCHING, I would grade the movie out at average/watchable/entertaining...maybe an on-par effort from Alex de la Iglesia.
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Old 01-09-15, 08:57 PM   #7
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Das Finstere Tal (2014 - Austria) - Directed by Andreas Prochaska - who should be familiar to most from his earlier teen horror entries, the two DEAD IN 3 DAYS movies - this effort in the Western genre was Austria's submission to this year's Oscars. As the DEAD IN 3 DAYS movies were basically Austrian versions of Hollywood teen horror films, DAS FINSTERE TAL is an Austrian rendition of the American Western.

A mysterious rider arrives in a small town high in the Alps...you needn't be Sigmund Freud to know he ain't there to frolic in the hills while singing The Sound of Music. Similar to PALE RIDER, the tale is seen through the eyes of a young woman. There is also a HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER vibe going on. And the snowy Winter setting will recall any of a number of efforts such as THE GREAT SILENCE and THE CLAIM. There is a definite air of mystery as to why the stranger has come to the town, though most should have things figured out about a third of the way in. Ultimately, in a broad sense, the basic plot is one common to classic Westerns. After watching the extras and seeing the thought process of the filmmakers, this movie did remind me very much of MICHAEL KOHLHAAS...and one point I would again apply to this movie is that like MICHAEL KOHLHAAS this too felt a little too studied perhaps...I believe both directors mention they spent quite a bit of time watching Westerns in preparation for their respective films. Interesting too is that MICHAEL KOHLHAAS was sort of a medieval Western, and while DAS FINSTERE TAL is set in the late 1800's, on some occasion it does have a medieval air about it.

Anyway, while nothing new under the sun, DAS FINSTERE TAL was a solid effort and one - as a big fan of Westerns - I thoroughly savored. While it did pretty much everything right, I do have a couple of points with regard to it coming up short. First...the music...too anachronistic...they use a rendition of that song Sinnerman (which by the way is turning up too often in recent times)...so the use of too modern English-language songs during the opening credits, a point during the climactic section, and again while they head to the end credits just didn't work and was a curiously poor decision. And a second minor comment would be that during the climactic section of the movie - in a couple of brief instances - things were a little "overdone". Still, I'd certainly rate this out as "recommended" as the film was otherwise a praiseworthy 114-minute experience.

Watched under the title THE DARK VALLEY via the just-released R1 DVD from Film Movement. In addition to the original audio, there is an English dub soundtrack for those who don't like subtitles. One thing I do enjoy about Film Movement DVDs is their inclusion of a short film - at least loosely related to the main feature - as an extra. In this particular case that means it is an eight-plus minute Western, and I found it to be a very amusing palate cleanser...actually it would have been perfect to include as an extra on the release of A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST.
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Old 01-12-15, 04:10 PM   #8
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Shetland - Series 1 (2013 - U.K.) - Acknowledging its atmospheric Scottish Isles setting permits this Celtic noir to slipstream smoothly behind its trendy Nordic noir leaders. In actual execution though, it is ordinary TV detective/mystery fare. To its credit, it is a pleasing experience, with a likeable central character, an engaging enough mystery, all delivered in goes-down-easy fashion over the course of its 113-minute runtime (it was presented as two separate episodes during its initial television broadcast). There really isn't anything of particular merit or interest that would call for a label such as "transcendent", but for genre enthusiasts it makes for comfortable viewing. Watched via the U.K. DVD under the title SHETLAND THE COMPLETE SERIES 1 & 2. The subsequent Series 2 consisted of six episodes and is similarly presented as three movies on the DVD release. Each movie is based on a novel from British writer Ann Cleeves. SHETLAND is slated for a third series to air sometime later this year.
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Old 01-12-15, 09:43 PM   #9
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Eve Donus: Sarikamis 1915 (2013 - Turkey) - Taking place after WWI's The Battle of Sarikamis in which Ottoman troops were defeated by the Russians, this is a bleak survival drama done in a style that should appeal to those already familiar with the ways of Turkish arthouse cinema. The 109-minute runtime passes as dry but compelling, while the wintry and mountainous landscape is beautifully presented in terms of cinematography and technical values. Most of the opening twenty-plus minutes has you following a Turkish noblewoman, her young daughter, and their senior attache as they attempt to flee the region...they struggle through the snow before eventually finding refuge in an abandoned, battle-ravaged, mountain village. As they settle in to rest and attempt to scavenge whatever may be of use, they are joined by a couple of displaced villagers, a severely wounded officer, and two Ottoman soldiers also attempting to make their way back home. A few days pass with them holed up in the village, and then some group dynamics begin to come into play as their food supply diminishes and as they find themselves at odds over when the group should continue on with their escape. In terms of being a survival drama it is fairly conventional in most regards and you will anticipate some of the events that will transpire. I could say that there were some logic issues for me, but perhaps the movie is more about mood and feel and "experience" versus being a clear-headed narrative. I'd grade the movie out as better-than-average primarily because I enjoyed the outdoors setting and the representation of such in terms of technical and production values. The story itself was rather run-of-the-mill, but was enhanced by its Turkish arthouse aesthetic which I generally enjoy. The English title at IMDb is THE LONG WAY HOME. Watched via the English-friendly Turkish DVD.
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Old 01-15-15, 09:42 PM   #10
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Salvo (2013 - Italy) - In retaliation for an attempted hit on his boss, a hitman seeks to eliminate the man responsible...in going to the man's house, the hitman comes across the man's blind sister...a rather routine plot for this genre...you can guess how this will play out. Outside of an opening action scene, the rest of the action in this film is off-screen, though you do hear the action...and that is one area where this film earns a great deal of credit...in terms of sound design, not only for these scenes but also throughout the film. I'd label the movie as low-key character piece meets minimalist crime drama (think maybe a more plain and less penetrating version of Clooney's THE AMERICAN)...the standout portion - after the first maybe three short scenes (the opening one reminding me of Martin Sheen's first scene in APOCALYPSE NOW) - is a maybe seventeen minute long setpiece where the hitman goes to the rival's house and comes across the blind sister...you follow him around the house and you follow her (nicely done in terms of sound design)...and it is a virtually dialogue-free segment...actually, in the first forty minutes (110-minute total runtime), there were maybe only twenty lines of dialogue. Dialogue picks up some over the rest of the movie but it again is more a story based on observation (and sound too)...you spend a lot of time with the hitman in his apartment, etc. Though a seemingly low-budget effort, it still impresses in terms of technical values. I quite enjoyed SALVO...it is quite modest and well-worn territory in terms of story, but it was executed with a well-done simplicity.

Watched via the R1 Film Movement DVD. The short film extra is also from the same directing duo and runs twenty minutes, and the short also is about a blind girl and an intruder...as you might expect, a lot of similar ideas carried over from the short to the main feature film. There is also a U.K. DVD release.
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Old 03-05-15, 03:24 PM   #11
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Belyy Tigr (2012 - Russia) - If the best recent WWII tank movie you've seen is FURY (which I didn't much care for), then that's because you haven't seen this one. To note, this isn't a straightforward war film...it comes with a heavy dose of mysticism, and even beyond that it has greater ambitions. I had expected to provide a more detailed description, but as the film went on it pushed in some unexpected directions as well...thus maybe it is best to discover it on your own.

Well, maybe I will say that early on it played a little like Charles Bronson's THE WHITE BUFFALO...except without the horror aspect. So in BELYY TIGR you've got a mythic and "unbreakable" Russian tank driver (tank whisperer...or he hears dead tanks) going up against a ghostly, hell-born, mystical German super-tank.

Watched via the U.S. DVD release under the title WHITE TIGER...the film runs 108-minutes. I give the movie a strong recommendation!
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Old 03-06-15, 09:09 PM   #12
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El Infierno (2010 - Mexico) - A grand 149-minute, serio-comic masterpiece that functions as a scathing indictment of modern day Mexico while never once failing to perform as supreme entertainment. Should I go there...yeah, why not, I'll call it a Mexican BREAKING BAD. Now that I've oversold it, I'll dampen expectations by saying that the story does follow a run-of-the-mill gangster movie template, and the critique of Mexico is hardly revelatory or in any way pro-active. But, EL INFIERNO was delivered so darned well...it was a winner from the opening scene. I'd rank it well as both "best" and "favorite"...excellent and highly recommended!

The movie also goes by the alternate title of EL NARCO at IMDb. Trivia note: the lead actor - Damian Alcazar - later played the role of Tuco Salamanco on METASTASIS (the Colombian remake of BREAKING BAD).

Watched via the U.S. DVD from Distrimax...currently $8 at Amazon (don't confuse it with the unsubbed Mexican release). Even better, wait for a Deep Discount coupon and pick it up even cheaper...you have to search just "infierno" at Deep Discount, make sure to leave out the "el".



Relatedly, also watched SALVANDO AL SOLDADO PEREZ (2011 - Mexico) aka SAVING PRIVATE PEREZ...a comedy about a a Mexican drug lord who has to rescue his brother...a U.S. soldier being held captive in Iraq. It was just fair...a really great concept for a movie...and it was amusing at times...but it had potential to be something far more special than what it turned out to be.




Note: yeah, so perhaps I should have held on to my National Geographic subscription a little bit longer.
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Old 03-24-15, 11:30 AM   #13
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Re: European Cinema

Letter to America (2001 - Bulgaria)- Ivan’s best friend, Kamen, is dying in an American hospital. Since he’s denied a visa to the USA and can’t stay by his side in his last moments, he decides to set off for Bulgaria countryside, taking the camera Kamen has given him. After some time, he writes her a very special letter, telling all about the places and characters he meets on his way, witnesses to a time which is bound to be forgotten. Whilst by no means a a masterpiece the film is an interesting study of death and spirituality.
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Old 03-26-15, 03:44 PM   #14
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Bulgaria...off the top of my head I can only think of one that I've seen...ZIFT from a few years ago.

Matar A Un Hombre (2014 - Chile) - Yeah, I know, geography again...the real reason...had intended to start a Spain/Latin America thread back in January but never got around to it. Anyway, if you head into this movie with expectations seeded by the trailer, you will end up greatly disappointed. The trailer markets it as an intense and violent, vengeance/exploitation type effort. While you can categorize it as a vengeance flick, it really isn't the best description. The film's English title is TO KILL A MAN and this movie is basically a character study of what might (and actually did) happen when an average joe, family man is pushed to his wits' end by a local bully. The runtime is only eighty-two minutes, but even that was a bit of a slog...though it runs better over the second half. Trimming away ten minutes would have been ideal...for instance there is a scene where two characters are talking and each exits the frame and then the static camera just holds on the empty frame, and you are looking at a wall...and it doesn't serve any purpose in terms of mood or atmosphere...again it makes it feel unnecessarily padded (a feature that should have been a short film maybe). There is a degree of quality cinematography too...mostly in terms of outdoor landscapes which are a presented both naturally and at times stylized a bit. The movie falls in the category of low-budget, indie...so you have to be receptive to that style...even within that category it is still down the scale when compared to something like BLUE RUIN for instance. Ultimately, in terms of story it is interesting enough...basically if you want something a little different...to sample a full spectrum of what the vengeance genre could offer...but don't expect a visceral thriller...it is slow and given the story quite low-key...though again based-on-a-true-incident.

Watched via the R1 Film Movement disc...the short film extra didn't grab my interest whatsoever.
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Old 03-26-15, 09:46 PM   #15
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Spurred on by my recent viewing of Russia's BELYY TIGR...

Proverka Na Dorogakh (1971 - Russia) - a Russian soldier with vacillating loyalties - he also fought with the Germans - is put to the test when he falls in with the local Russian militia...while some in his new company find him untrustworthy, a sympathetic commander wants to give him the opportunity to prove himself by having him lead a raid against his former German unit. This is a quality entry in the WWII genre from the acclaimed Aleksey German. My recall is hazy with regard to the other Russian WWII films I've seen over the years, so I can't put this movie in much of a context in that regard, but it is a solid movie that should satisfy genre enthusiasts. The presentation is 2.35:1 and black-and-white, and it is very pleasing in that regard. There's a nice shot of German soldiers emerging from a morning fog. The English title is TRIAL ON THE ROAD or CHECK-UP ON THE ROADS, and there is a nice little setpiece around the middle of the movie that reflects the title of the film. Though generally a character-based tale, all of it builds nicely to a modest but crackerjack action finale.

There's a rather amusing Hitler joke in the movie too...maybe skip this paragraph if you plan on watching the movie...but it is something to the effect...there's a parade for Hitler in Berlin...but no one is offering up the Nazi salute...but then Hitler catches the eye of a solitary soldier in salute...so Hitler stops...the soldier tells Hitler that he just got back from the Eastern Front...but he wasn't actually saluting...he was just trying to communicate to the Fuhrer...by raising his hand above his head...it was to indicate how deep in shit they were in Russia.

Watched via the Russian disc...a perhaps important issue to note is that - unless there is some sort of finicky setting - the disc appears to be non-anamorphic.



Also recently watched the beloved Russian WWII espionage series Seventeen Moments of Spring (1973). It runs twelve episodes that average 69-minutes per episode. The tale follows a Russian agent deeply embedded within Germany's SD - their intelligence wing. He is tasked by his superiors back in Russia to gum up the works when the Russians learn that Germany might be trying to secure a peace treaty with their Western front enemies (American and England). At the same time, the Gestapo become suspect that someone in the SS might be a mole. Now keep in mind this is "Russian"...meaning most would label it slow and dry...and it is in some respects...but, though it did sag in pace a tad after the first two episodes, the final half of the series played out as a quickly-moving slow...because it was interesting and involving. Again, this isn't James Bond spy thrills...there is a lot of narration as the narrator serves to relate what the Russian protagonist is thinking...the realism of espionage is perhaps mundane, though the battle of wits also plays as tension-filled as a high-stakes chess match. The title song is wonderful and the series incorporates documentary war footage from time-to-time. These surrender talks and the persons involved were real, so this show is akin to historical fiction in literature. I came away thoroughly pleased with the time I invested in watching the show...it was a rewarding experience...if you have some zeal for spy shows and WWII then it should be of interest. I believe the episodes are up on youtube if you wish to sample them.

Now I really miss Pro-B and toddly...they were good to have around when talking Russian stuff.
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Old 03-30-15, 09:07 PM   #16
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Khleb, Zoloto, Nagan (1981 - Russia) - the English title is BREAD, GOLD, GUN and if you are thinking it sounds like a Spaghetti Western title, there is a reason, as this Russian Western most certainly feels inspired by the Mexican Revolution sub-genre of Italian Westerns (and of course the work of Sergio Leone). Being Russian, that translates to this being set during the Russian Civil War. The story concerns a group of four Red Army supporters as they seek to transport a small shipment of grain (bread for an orphanage) and gold back to officials in Moscow...along the way they must contend with White Army personnel and a group of bandits. As a great enthusiast of the Western genre, I certainly enjoyed this viewing. In terms of lasting impression, I would single out the quite impressive stuntwork...especially during some of the horse fall and car chase action scenes...it really was eye-opening work...bravo. The DVD has a nice extra where one of the stunt guys talks about the film. A couple of things that didn't play as well...the way the characters handled the gold bars aka as if the bars didn't weigh much more than a carton of cigarettes...and every once in a while the background score had a little too much of a 1980s music vibe. The runtime is a lean sixty-three minutes.

Watched via the Russian DVD. As is often the case with Ruscico DVD releases, there is an English dub option. I mentioned this once some years back when I watched THE SAVAGE HUNT OF KING STAKH...and I'll mention it again here too. I know we are all big on original language with subtitles, but I will say these English dubs are really well done. I had forgotten that so I watched this movie in Russian, but in any future viewings I will definitely go with the English dub option. I said the same about THE SAVAGE HUNT OF KING STAKH...that the English dub was my preferred choice.




Random comment...Korean films are making me grumpy...the same old same old, done not as well...CONFESSION, THE DIVINE MOVE, A GIRL AT MY DOOR, KUNDO, MAN ON HIGH HEELS, NO TEARS FOR THE DEAD, SCARLET INNOCENCE, TAZZA THE HIDDEN CARD...and not a single one rates a recommendation on my scorecard...not saying they aren't average/watchable/entertaining/not-without-merit just that that is all they are...and because of that they feel tired...same old same old.
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Old 04-04-15, 09:13 PM   #17
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Matroesjka's (Belgium - 2005) - watched the ten-episode Season 1 (total two seasons) of this show which also goes by the title MATRIOSHKI, and, well...okay...the English title is RUSSIAN DOLLS: SEX TRADE. It follows around a dozen female characters - mostly Russian and Lithuanian - as they first get recruited and then brought to Belgium to work in a strip club...rounding out the cast are a half-dozen bad-guy types...a reporter...and a couple of cops. Now again we have to keep in mind this first season was done ten years ago...prior to TAKEN and lots of other stuff which covered sex trafficking in the years that followed. In that sense, I believe the makers of the show were not without some honorable intent...in trying to shed light and warn of the dangers to young women from Eastern Europe/Russia. At the same time, the (pleasing) opening credits - lasting nearly three minutes - are set to pole dancers at the strip club...so, yeah, viewing it in the present-day don't expect highbrow fare...again more like FX channel entertainment than rarified HBO programming. Naturally the show has a crime genre element to it, though it perhaps more accurately is a trials and tribulations type affair...and that goes both for the women as well as the bad-guys. It certainly does have an exploitation vibe quite often as the women are subjected to some rough handling, and again given the subject matter (and accompanying strip club setting) there is a steady stream of female flesh on display (and presented in an intended-for-you-to-ogle manner). I thought they did quite a fine job in casting the series. Actually, I very much enjoyed the bad guys...while they are dastardly, they are often quite amusing. As a matter of fact, while my sympathies were certainly with the female characters...I have to fess up and say that towards some of the later episodes I also felt some sympathy towards the bad guys...because of them having to deal with all the issues created by the Russian girls...a case of the women being more trouble than they were worth perhaps (be careful what you wish for I suppose). Again, the main point of the show was to function as easy-viewing, entertainment...and in that regard it was super-quick viewing and highly entertaining...the type of show you get tempted to blow through in a marathon viewing session. I'm certainly eager to watch Season 2.

Watched via the English-friendly, Netherlands 8-DVD boxset (contains both seasons...Season 2 was done three years after S1). If you are in the U.S., perhaps your best purchase option is to get it from one of the Amazon UK marketplace sellers...the current price is near the low. Again, it is a fast-viewing experience as a number of the episodes run as short as forty-two minutes...and approximately six of those minutes are comprised of previous-episode recap (which you will likely fast-forward through) and then opening credits.

Trivia note: the lovely actress who played the character of Kalinka went on - in the following year - to marry Russian director Valeriy Todorovskiy. Director Todorovskiy should be familiar to readers of this forum because of his 2008 effort STILYAGI aka HIPSTERS (there is an old thread in this forum for that movie).
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Old 04-09-15, 09:47 PM   #18
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Mesto Vstrechi Izmenit Nelzya (1979 - Russia) - the English title is THE MEETING PLACE CAN'T BE CHANGED, and it also has an alternative English title THE AGE OF MERCY.

Following on my viewing of the recently mentioned SEVENTEEN MOMENTS OF SPRING, this too is considered another seminal work of 1970s Soviet television. It is a five-part, six-hour miniseries. Set in Moscow at the end of WWII, it follows an investigation conducted by a unit of the Moscow Criminal Police. The two main protagonists are a rough-and-tumble detective and his younger, just-returned-from-the-war protege. The story concerns a murdered woman and how the investigation of her death eventually ties in to a notorious gang with a lengthy criminal record in the city. So, again, to repeat, this is "Russian" and by that I mean "classic Russian" often equates to slow-paced...which isn't a bad thing at all if things keep you interested. Here...well...this was S-L-O-W...viewing this was far from a perky experience...it was a challenge to sit through as things just weren't all that engaging...lengthy scenes with talk-talk-talk and when the rough-and-tumble detective started rambling on it was tough not to zone out. Perhaps whatever charms this series had are just lost in translation.

To its credit, the fifth and final episode - featuring the longest runtime of 84-minutes - was quite solid and engaging...enough so that it pretty much raised to neutral what had been a negative experience up till that point. Rather curiously, the final episode can almost function as a standalone experience...not entirely of course, but in a way it functions as a complete experience in a long, multiple setpiece sort of way.

Watched via the Russian DVD.

I guess given my recent viewing schedule, I'm now all prepped to go hang out with a bunch of Russian old folks.

Some notes: the actor who played the rough-and-tumble detective died the year after this series aired...he was only 42 and was a beloved singer/actor...but it seems his fast lifestyle did him in.

The actor who played the protege - in terms of physical appearance - totally reminded me of Timothy Olyphant from JUSTIFIED.



To counter the slow-viewing experience of the aforementioned series, I jumped in earlier than anticipated on S2 of the previously mentioned Belgian series Matroesjka's...three episodes in (out of ten)...and I'm again finding it highly enjoyable. I won't comment in detail as I don't want to spoil things for those who haven't watched S1 yet (okay, that might be pretty much everyone), but the writers did a great job in keeping things fresh in S2...at least so far. I'm surprised this show hasn't received more attention...especially when you consider it against more known - and not even good - fare such as BRAQUO and ENGRENAGES (to be candid - still haven't developed the fortitude to advance beyond S1 of this latter show)...and...just a note on BRAQUO....there is going to be a fourth season.
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Old 04-13-15, 08:43 AM   #19
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Final report after having now finished S2 of Matroesjka's (2008). S2 takes place three years after S1 and features a handful of characters returning from S1 (as well as new cast members). In terms of my rating for the show, no change from my previous comments...found it quite entertaining and quick, easy viewing. Again, they did a nice job keeping things fresh in S2, and I sense the storytelling focused a shade bit more on the bad guys/business aspects in S2. I was curious if things would wrap up in S2 or if it left things open for a possible S3, in that regard they do seem to wrap everything up in S2...mainly closing out the character arcs with regard to the characters who were also in S1, while also wrapping things up with regard to the new characters...in other words watching both seasons is a complete experience. S1 was a complete experience, while S2 was a logical extension from S1, but after two seasons everything was complete.

All said and done, forget about warning away young women, heck, MATROESJKA'S might be more a cautionary tale to men...to stay away from sex trafficking as a career choice...haha.

MATROESJKA'S would pair up well with something like Mexico's CAPADOCIA...you could do all three seasons of CAPADOCIA and break it up with the two seasons of MATROESJKA'S in between.

To close...too bad they didn't include some sort of CD Soundtrack bonus disc...would have been good for the main title song, etc.,..oh well. On a number of episodes, they scaled down the too-long previous episode recaps by nearly half so that was good.
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Old 04-14-15, 11:35 AM   #20
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Amazon Spain has a 2 for the price of 1 deal going on for a small selection of Warner Blu-rays...84 in all but mostly English-language movies...thankfully there are some Spanish selections.

The best deal could be RELATOS SALVAJES (2014) aka WILD TALES paired up with LA ISLA MINIMA (2014) aka MARSHLAND. The Spain VAT is 21%...so shipped to the U.S. should be around $31 U.S.,...both releases are Blu/DVD combo-packs.

Although both titles are significantly higher than their previous low prices, you still save about 8 Euro now (because of the 2 for 1 offer) as compared to when they were at their lowest price.

RELATOS SALVAJES is coming to U.S. and U.K. Blu-ray in June. LA ISLA MINIMA seems slated for U.K. DVD as of now...and maybe too early for a U.S. announcement.
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Old 04-28-15, 08:43 PM   #21
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Sen Aydinlatirsin Geceyi (2013 - Turkey) - creative excellence from writer/director Onur Unlu! I generally don't warm to the charms of "quirky" movies as much as some other viewers do, but this one - and the English title is THOU GILD'ST THE EVEN - this one I loved. I want to write more about it yet at the same time I don't want to divulge its secrets...it is better to just go in cold...provided of course my recommendation inspires any level of blind-buy confidence...hmm, maybe I need to do better than that...so, maybe, if retired (at least from here) vets like Pro-B, toddly, and TheDoug were still around I'd bet the movie would rate quite well with them too...at the least I'm confident they would have done blind-buys (aka even before my stamp of approval). The movie incorporates assorted genres to great success...there's a little bit of lots going on (keeping in mind it is Turkish arthouse)...primarily I suppose I'd go with the label of fantasy/character-study/romance. And the movie is another entry in the recent mini-trend of modern films being in black-and-white.

On that note, I did also watch A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT...I quite liked it...more than ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE...though after about two-thirds of the runtime, I did think that A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT started to feel like it was overstaying its welcome. A more significant criticism is that I really wish - given all the elements it had to work with - that the story had opted for a more stick-to-your-ribs climax. Anyway, I just mention it because - both being in black-and-white (and for other comparable reasons too) - THOU GILD'ST THE EVEN and A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT would make for a solid double-feature (while the latter is more known, the former is actually the better of the two).

Ranking as strongly recommended, SEN AYDINLATIRSIN GECEYI was viewed via the English-friendly Turkish DVD.
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Old 04-29-15, 01:25 AM   #22
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Re: European Cinema

Quote:
Originally Posted by flixtime View Post
Amazon Spain has a 2 for the price of 1 deal going on for a small selection of Warner Blu-rays...84 in all but mostly English-language movies...thankfully there are some Spanish selections.

The best deal could be RELATOS SALVAJES (2014) aka WILD TALES paired up with LA ISLA MINIMA (2014) aka MARSHLAND. The Spain VAT is 21%...so shipped to the U.S. should be around $31 U.S.,...both releases are Blu/DVD combo-packs.

Although both titles are significantly higher than their previous low prices, you still save about 8 Euro now (because of the 2 for 1 offer) as compared to when they were at their lowest price.

RELATOS SALVAJES is coming to U.S. and U.K. Blu-ray in June. LA ISLA MINIMA seems slated for U.K. DVD as of now...and maybe too early for a U.S. announcement.
Hope you are doing well flixtime. I have an actual review since you mentioned the film.

RELATOS SALVAJES (2014). A really funny anthology film that deals with death and Argentina's political/cultural system. Most of the tales themselves are really funny and engaging. The only one I found slightly long was the last one "Hasta que la muerte nos separe"(Until Death Do Us Part). I just felt that one didn't really have anything that interesting to say. The other flaw I felt was that the first two tales (Pasternak and "Las Ratas) could have been longer. Maybe it's because I enjoy black humor but I found this really entertaining and the time flew by when I saw it at the cinema a few weeks ago. There is a certain amount of energy in this film that I found rather infectious so this comes highly recommended.

Flixtime, have you seen MARSHLAND? I have it and was just wondering what your thoughts were.
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Old 04-29-15, 08:54 AM   #23
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Hey sleepyhead, good to see you again.

Appreciate your chiming in on RELATOS SALVAJES. I haven't yet picked up MARSHLAND. At first glance it does seem to give off a MEMORIES OF MURDER vibe. I will be placing an order for both RELATOS SALVAJES and MARSHLAND sometime (sooner rather than later) before the 2-for-1 deal expires in mid-May. I'll post when I do watch it.
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Old 05-05-15, 11:31 PM   #24
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Re: European Cinema

Watched another European film today:

Anatomy (2000) Really boring and derivative film. The premise is actually interesting but the execution is all wrong. The soundtrack is pretty bad here. As a rule, I almost never comment on soundtracks unless I notice them. But this one was bad and dated and contained a lot of late 90s German pop or techno tunes. Back to the film, the characters act pretty dumb for the most part and the second half is just predictable and you usually know what's going to happen. I like conspiracy films that are scientific based if they are at least fun, like say The Crimson Rivers. This just felt like a bad horror film.

I also have the second one to watch but I'm not really looking forward to that one. I got the films for cheap so I can't complain that much about price. But I expected more based on the reviews.
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Old 05-09-15, 11:29 AM   #25
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Never watched ANATOMY...based on your comments it seems I'm not missing out on much. A few German crime entries I did generally like...ANTIKORPER aka ANTIBODIES (2005)...DAS LETZTE SCHWEIGEN aka THE SILENCE (2010)...and IM SCHATTEN aka IN THE SHADOWS (2010). I believe I've mentioned all three before...but maybe no harm in doing so again.

La Ley De Herodes (1999 - Mexico) - also known via the English title - HEROD'S LAW. After being so impressed by EL INFIERNO (mentioned earlier in this thread), I felt obliged - and I really do mean that - to further sample the director/actor pair of Luis Estrada/Damian Alcazar by taking in two of their previous efforts. I watched 2006's UN MUNDO MARAVILLOSO and it was just okay. As to this one - LA LEY DE HERODES - I did quite like it. While the pair definitely hit dead center on the bullseye with EL INFIERNO, you can clearly see that they were at least on-target with this entry done eleven years earlier...you can easily pick up on a similar vibe to what appears in EL INFIERNO. Actually, placing the film in the context of the year it was made, it was quite a brazen effort when you consider the state of Mexican politics at that time. Although the movie is set in 1949, it is an audacious attack on Mexico's ruling PRI party (note: in 2000 - the year after the movie was released - PRI was defeated when Vicente Fox won the election). While EL INFIERNO is the masterwork, the earlier LA LEY DE HERODES is also a solid effort and is certainly worth checking out if you enjoyed EL INFIERNO. Now I have to hope that Estrada and Alacazar's latest - LA DICTADURA PERFECTA (2014) - also gets an English-friendly release sometime sooner rather than later (the Mexican DVD/Blu does not have English subtitles).

LA LEY DE HERODES was viewed via the English-friendly U.S. DVD...the original release is out-of-print but can be still be found...the movie is also readily available in an inexpensive 2-for-1 single disc release (the other movie is TODO EL PODER (2000)).

A couple of casting notes of interest with regard to LA LEY DE HERODES...Alex Cox appears as the "Gringo" in a supporting role, while Isela Vega (aka the female lead from BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA) also features in a supporting role.



To follow on the earlier mention of LA ISLA MINIMA, I'm also going to pick up the Spanish release of NO HABRA PAZ PARA LOS MALVADOS aka NO REST FOR THE WICKED (2011)...and a third Spanish crime film I want to get is EL NINO (2014)...but that'll have to be via the U.K. DVD as the Spanish release was not English-subbed.



I'm giving some thought to the Swedish sci-fi television series REAL HUMANS...only S1 seems available right now with English subtitles.



On the TV front, I'm currently early in S2 of the U.S. version of HOUSE OF CARDS. I hadn't really paid much attention to it because I don't have great interest in political drama type shows. However, I'm glad I gave it a shot...in terms of genre it really is more Shakespearean crime drama...then political thriller...and lastly political drama. It has been a very pleasant surprise in that sense, and of course I'm enjoying Kevin Spacey doing something back close to his early-career Mel Profitt character...hope we get a Joan Severance and/or William Russ guest appearance at some point.
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