COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

BLACK VENUS, IT, DETECTIVE BUREAU 2-3, THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY, OPERATION RED SEA, BULL DURHAM and DUCKMAN THE COMPLETE SERIES

Monday, July 16, 2018

I FEEL PRETTY: IT’S ALL IN YOUR MIND



I need to preface this review with a word about its star Any Schumer. I’m not a huge fan of hers. My first exposure to her was her Comedy Central special and I thought she was funny enough but nothing spectacular. I didn’t watch her show INSIDE AMY SCHUMER, mostly because I heard the type of comedy it was and that wasn’t my thing. Then her decision to weigh in on things political drove me from watching her. I tend to find celebrities who use their platform to speak on political things a turn off. I tell you this because you should know that going in to watch this my expectations were low. Thank goodness the movie exceeded any expectations I had. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Schumer stars as Renee Bennett, a young woman who works at compiling statistics for top notch make up company Lilly Leclair. Working out of a basement in Chinatown with one other co-worker, tech savvy and socially unskilled Mason (Adrian Martinez), Renee is problematic at best. Plagued with self-doubt and major insecurities, wishing she looked more like the models at the company who employs her, Renee exists with no boyfriend and spends plenty of time with her two girlfriends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Phillips).

Always dreaming of being beautiful and desired one rainy night Renee, after watching BIG and seeing the wish sequence, runs to a nearby fountain where she lives and tosses in a coin wishing to be the things she wants to be. When it doesn’t happen she’s left discouraged.

The next day while working out at Soul Cycle on a stationary bike, she falls off her bike and is knocked unconscious. When she wakes she looks down and sees herself as the beautiful object of all men’s dreams, completely changed from who and what she was. What she doesn’t know, but we the viewers do, is that this is all in her head. She still looks exactly the same. But with this altered appearance in her head it provides her with an overabundance of confidence. And it is that confidence that eventually pushes her forward.

She starts by getting the job of receptionist at Lilly Leclair, a major achievement since most look like they came off the front page of glamour magazines. Her positive attitude and self-assurance attract the notice of Avery Leclair (Michelle Williams) who seeks her advice on a new product line intended for customers who shop locations like Target. Lilly Leclair (Lauren Hutton) herself finds Renee refreshing.

A chance encounter with a man at the dry cleaner leads to romantic entanglement for Renee as well. Ethan (Rory Scovel) is stunned by her confidence and finds her attractive as she is, but she doesn’t realize that. The two become involved and spend time together. One of their dates, one of the funnier spots in the film, they end up at a bar with a bikini contest going on. Renee thinks she can win it hands down and Ethan tries to stop her but she enters. The result is better than you would expect.

Renee has a meteoric rise where she works as well as in her social life. Her newfound “beauty” also has a downside as she begins treating her friends the way they were treated by the model types before. With her newfound confidence also comes the self-indulgence and better than those beneath me attitude she once hated. As expected all of this will change at the worst possible moment as she reverts back to her old self. Will she be able to cope? Will things remain the same? Will she retain her self-confidence? Watch and see.

The main thing that lends itself to the humor here is Schumer herself. She’s not ugly which you would think the character as written would call for. She’s always been attractive but not that rail thin model type. That plays to good effect here. While it may sound sexist to say had she truly been ugly and playing this role it would have lost the humor and become an insulting joke to any actress in the part. The combination of Schumer’s looks and acting ability combine to make a character that we care about instead. You find yourself rooting for Renee’s success from the start of the film and hope that she will recall the treatment she once received as it progresses.

The laughs are plentiful in this film. After reviewing BLOCKERS I was afraid this one would also resort to the gross out or inappropriate style humor so prevalent these days. It never happened. The supporting casts excels here, in particular Scovel who is low key enough to let Schumer shine in their time together onscreen and Williams whose portrayal the beauty queen with the high pitched squeaky voice is hilarious.

As I said I was pleasantly surprised by the film. It had no political motives, encouraged women to gain confidence in themselves and who they are and will have you laughing while it accomplishes that task. There isn’t much more one could hope for in a comedy. I have a feeling I’ll be watching this one again every so often. I had that much fun. 



THE CASE OF THE SCORPION’S TAIL: GENEROUS GIALLO



Arrow Video has allowed fans of the giallo genre the chance to finally see movies that most of us never had the chance to when they were initially released. Sure major cities might have offered these films at the time but widespread release across the county was unheard of. The invention of home video changed that and DVD has increased the offerings. But few companies have taken the genre to the levels that Arrow Video has. This shows once more with their release of THE CASE OF THE SCORPION’S TAIL.

In London Lisa Baumer (Ida Galli) is an unfaithful wife meeting with her lover whose wealthy husband Kurt dies in an exploding plane on his way to Japan. She becomes the sole beneficiary of his insurance policy of $1 million dollars and problems begin. They start with an ex-love and junkie who blackmails her with the threat of exposing her to the insurance company for wishing her husband dead. Meeting him later to pay him off she finds him murdered.

Heading to Greece to avoid problems she followed by Peter Lynch (George Hilton), an investigator for the insurance company following up any loose ends on the case. While thinking she left behind her problems in London it isn’t long before Lisa finds more in Greece. They begin with Lara Florakis (Janine Reynaud), a woman who claims to be Kurt’s mistress who he planned on leaving Lisa for. She demands that Lisa split to money with her or she’ll contest his will. To help convince Lisa she has a stiletto carrying “lawyer” named Sharif on hand. Lisa escapes with the help of Peter who was following her.

Attempting to avoid any more confrontations Lisa asks for the settlement in cash and then books a flight to Tokyo. Before she can fly out a mysterious masked killer complete with trademark giallo black gloves enters her hotel room, kills her and takes the money. Enter Police Inspector Stavros (Luigi Pistilli) and Interpol agent John Stanley (Alberto De Mendoza) who’d been watching Lisa since her arrival. As they begin to investigate her murder their main suspect is Peter.

Covering the story of the murder is reporter Cléo Dupont (Anita Strindberg). Meeting with Peter she tries to find out what he knows and it isn’t long before the pair fall into bed together and become lovers. But more bodies begin to turn up. First off is Lara who is attacked by the same gloved figure that killed Lisa. Her “lawyer” also falls to the hands of the killer. As the bodies begin to pile up suspicion remains on Peter in spite of the fact there could be others behind it all. And an attack on Cléo seems to clear Peter.  What of the boyfriend Lisa had in London? Or could her husband have faked his own death?

What makes this movie work so well is less the typical giallo staples like the gloved hand, the knife wielding killer or the murderous intent of seemingly everyone involved. It works well as a mystery first and foremost with clues provided throughout to direct the viewer to the films conclusion. Each is meticulously placed in a well written screenplay that doesn’t get caught up in pop culture like some in the genre tend to, instead sticking with story.

For once the acting on display loses nothing in translation. All involved perform for the camera and for the written word they were provided. No flamboyant gestures or wasted words here, everything in its place and adhered to. Each one makes their character believable and no one attempts taking over the screen are seen here.

The cinematography is also well done with beautiful locations shots coupled with well-lit interiors and street shots throughout. The composition of shot also works well and shows that director Sergio Martino and cinematographer Giorgio Bertolini worked well together to focus on the story visually as well as through the written word provided by Eduardo Manzanos, Ernesto Gastaldi and Sauro Scavolini.

As I said at the start, Arrow has been bringing a number of these well know and not so well known giallo films to blu-ray and every time a new one is announced I find myself waiting with anticipation. It’s not just the fact that they’re becoming available but that Arrow is the one bringing them out. They continue to offer the films with not just the best looking versions of them found but with plenty of extras on hand that add to the film rather than interfere with it. I’m not one to watch a lot of extras finding most to be little more than promotional pieces put together by corporate entities that want to increase sales by adding the standard Q&A with the stars. Arrow goes far beyond that making their extras as interesting to watch as the film itself.

So let’s look at what they’re offering here. To begin with the disc is a new 4k restoration of the film from the original camera negative. This provides viewers with that exceptional look that I discussed earlier. Extras abound with the following: an audio commentary track with writer Ernesto Gastaldi moderated by filmmaker Federico Caddeo in Italian with English subtitles, a new interview with George Hilton, a new interview with director Sergio Martino, a new analysis of the Sergio Martino’s films by Mikel J. Koven who wrote “La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film”, a new video essay by Troy Howarth the author of “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films”, the theatrical trailer, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon and for the first pressing only an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Rachael Nisbet and Howard Hughes and a biography of star Anita Strindberg by Peter Jilmstad. As I said, Arrow continues to give more than expected.

Some might think that the only people who would find this film worth watching are fans of European films and giallo films in particular. They’d be completely wrong. The movie works on so many levels and those who love a good mystery would be well served by seeing this one. Martino is hailed as one of the masters of the giallo genre and it’s easy to see why. For those unexposed to the genre they couldn’t pick a better place to start and this Arrow version is the best way to do so.

DON’T GROW UP: TWIST ON A 60'S CHANT

  

Back in the 60s the youth in revolt had a saying, “Never trust anyone over 30”. The movie DON’T GROW UP takes that thought, drops the age bracket down to 18 and adds zombies to the mix. What more fun could you expect than that as a premise?

A group of six teens at a juvenile detention center on an island in England, Bastian (Fergus Riordan), Pearl (Madeleine Kelly), Liam (McKell David), Shawn (Darren Evans), May (Natifa Mai) and Thomas (Diego Mendez), wake to find no adult supervisors in the building. One of them is about to turn 18 and they celebrate having fun seemingly being the only ones in charge of the place. But after a while the novelty of that wears off and they begin wondering where everyone is. To find out they leave the center and head to town.

What they discover surprises and shocks them. Something has gone terribly wrong and adults are now little more than psychotic killers driven mad by a virus that has them killing the children that they find. The only ones unaffected are young people like themselves who they find as they go through town. Deciding the safest thing to do is get off the island they head for the nearest sea port they can find.

Along the way they meet up with other survivors who are less than trusting, especially since a few of the group seem to be on the verge of becoming older and potentially infected. They also fall prey to attacks with one of them wounded early on and others taken out one by one. The question remains from the start, will any of them be able to survive and the nagging question of whether it is just the island or the entire world weighs heavy throughout.

The movie works on so many levels and for horror fans and especially those who love the zombie genre there is a lot to be enjoyed here. It also works as a metaphor for the problems teens face when confronted by adults as well as a coming of age film where reaching adulthood not only deprives you of your youth but of your sanity as well. Some adults would say that becoming an adult truly does result in loss of your mind.

For a movie like this to work you have to believe the actors in their portrayal of the situation they’ve been thrown in. All involved here do an admirable job when it comes to that requirement. That some are older than the others with the potential of turning at a moment’s notice also works well with not only the performance on display but the threat that exists in the story as well.

The frightening aspect of an adult driven mad for whatever reason adds to the tension seen here. Adults are supposed to be the ones in charge, the protectors of the innocent. Here they are little more than killing machines seeking out the young. And these are not the lumbering zombies that we’ve seen in decades past but the fast running zombies that have some semblance of thought process still raging in their rabid frenzied minds. That only increases the fear factor here.

The further the group gets from town and the fewer the group dwindles down to decreases the pace of the film as it moves forward but it doesn’t stop the story. It’s still thought provoking and scary at moments, enough so to keep fans awake and watching. If this is the type of programming that Shudder, the streaming network responsible for the film, is presenting my guess is it will make fans of horror decide their monthly rate is worth investing in. If not at least fans can watch this film and enjoy a new twist on an old genre that is entertaining and frightening as well.

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