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Friday, 27 June 2014

Not a lot to write home about...

I did not watch any films yesterday or the day before, which is not exactly headline news, but a little unusual for PPP, when I haven't been away in exotic climes like New York or Newcastle. However checking my list for the week since I wrote last Friday, I find that I have in fact seen sixteen films or compilations; so there should be something that makes me want to put pen to paper as it were. They were of variable quality, ranging in age from 1923 to 2014, and a few I can even admit to having enjoyed, but none of them have worked their way to the top of the pile to be raved about.. So, let's have a look at the selection of what is actually a very typical week's mix:

First there were the not so golden oldies: a dreary Norma Shearer (unrecognizable) silent from 1923 called "A Clouded Name"; a Ronald Coleman rarity from 1933 "The Unholy Garden" with his being about the only good thing in it as a roguish gentleman thief; from my list of things to see I was able to delete "Dillinger" from 1945, with gorgeous Gene Tierney's considerably less handsome brother Lawrence making his screen debut in the title role (a pretty blah version of the tale); the best of the four was the pre-code "Jewel Robbery" from 1932, with William Powell playing an even more roguish and appealing gentleman thief, with a rather more able supporting cast. I've seen that one before and it remains good fun.

Next we shall quickly dismiss Sky's weekly premieres (only three since I had seen the fourth at last year's FrightFest -- and thought it pretty feeble). The big 'treat' for Sky subscribers was "Wolverine", Hugh Jackman's second spin-off flick from the X-Men series, which was slam-bam enough entertainment as the muscle-bound hero devastated half of the baddies in Japan, but nothing that I would care to see again. I had to double-check what "Cold Comes the Night" was actually about since I drew a blank trying to remember it; it's comely Alice Eve running a sleazy motel when she is taken hostage by flavour of the year Bryan Cranston, searching for a missing stash of money. (I probably won't remember it next week either). Finally for completeness sake, I sat through "Reef 2 - High Tide" a fishy animation with absolutely nothing special about it.

I shall quickly dismiss the two television movies I watched, although "The Right to Remain Silent" from 1996 was actually a superior one with a surprisingly starry cast; the more recent "The Girl He met Online" was the usual dismissible fare as boy meets psycho.

Then there were the three foreign-language movies, all OK in their way, but nothing that I can honestly recommend. The foremost of these was the Russian version of Don Quixote from 1957, strongly acted by one of the Russian 'greats' and winningly photographed; but the Hallmark version with John Lithgow is actually more entertaining! "The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh" (1971) is an Italian giallo from my DVD backlog, starring sexy Edwige Fenech as a blood fetishist with some bad boyfriend choices, an overly complicated and in the end totally unbelievable thriller of sorts. Finally there was the French horror "Livid" from 2011 which was, yes, French and horrible.

Two documentaries: "The Legend of Billy Jean King - Battle of the Sexes", the oft-told tale of when 'Billy beat Bobby', with the focus on how this was a feminist triumph. "Corman's World" also came from the DVD stockpile, a winning examination of the charming Roger, King of the B Movies, 'who made a 100 movies' (actually many more) and 'never lost a penny' (not quite true). He gave many actors and directors their first crack at stardom, so there were lots of talking heads singing his praises, including Jack Nicholson who was actually reduced to tears.

Off terrestrial television there was the multi-story "What to Expect when You're Expecting" which was available some while back on Sky's pay-per-view Box Office, but which they never chose to show later on to us hard-done subscribers. No big loss however with lots of soppy tales from the all-star cast.

My final contribution to the week's entertainment was another DVD which I imported from the States, "Labyrinth of Darkness" a selection of shortish films from Czech master animator Jiri Barta. I hadn't seen any of his films previously and still prefer those of Jan Svankmajer, but they were pretty dark and disturbing. His so-called masterpiece is a 55-minute version of the Pied Piper fairy-tale, but in his telling the piper doesn't lead the children from the town when the greedy burghers refuse to pay him, but rather turns them all into rats to jump to their watery deaths. Glad to have seen this disc...

OK, it probably was a more attractive week than I made out when I started writing today, and given a different frame of mind, I probably could have gone into a great deal more detail on many of the above films. But there you go -- I didn't want to. So there!  
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