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Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
A true story of faith, devotion and undying love.
Director: Lasse Hallström
Drama
Family

A drama based on the true story of a college professor's bond with the abandoned dog he takes into his home.

Multiple Watchers I don’t know the original Japanese film on which this is based, but of course I do know the real life story. I watched this with 3 and ten year olds, and watched them squirm with the slow, very slow pacing. I found it not...


Published February 5, 2024
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Phantom of Chinatown (1940)
A Slight Case Of Murder... Solved by Jimmy Wong!
Director: Phil Rosen
Crime
Mystery
Thriller

In the middle of a pictorial lecture on his recent expedition to the Mongolian Desert, Dr. John Benton,the famous explorer, drinks from the water bottle on his lecture table, collapses and dies. His last words "Eternal Fire" are the only clue Chinese detective Jimmy Wong and Captain Street of the police department have to work on.

Conspiratorial Filmmaking I maintain that some very important conventions were worked out in 30s mysteries. The Charlie Chan series was instrumental in some of these, and this is the last of them. It incidentally has Charlie‘s son as the detective, the first Asian playing the character....


Published February 5, 2024
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The House of Fear (1939)
Crime
Drama
Mystery
Thriller

A detective goes undercover as a producer to investigate an actor's murder, which occurred during the performance of a play...

Triple Staged I watch these old mysteries not because I expect to find a good one. They rarely are, but often you can see a free art experimenting with different cinematic tricks while no one yet had a settled cinematic vocabulary. And here is a good...


Published February 5, 2024
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Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)
Love Honour Revenge.
Director: Takashi Miike
Drama
History

A tale of revenge, honor and disgrace, centering on a poverty-stricken samurai who discovers the fate of his ronin son-in-law, setting in motion a tense showdown of vengeance against the house of a feudal lord.

Bamboozled What a lesson in filmmaking! More or less the same script, but radically different films. And insofar as viewers want a moral, these work on two different aspects of society. The original was in the tradition of Ozu: flat, stationary camera and balanced greys. It had...


Published February 5, 2024
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Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox (2006)
A documentary about obsession, compassion and all-purpose soap.
Director: Sara Lamm
Documentary

A human story about a socially responsible company, “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox” documents the complicated family legacy behind the counterculture’s favorite cleaning product — Bronner’s son, 68-year-old Ralph, endured over 15 orphanages and foster homes as a child, but despite difficult memories, is his father’s most ardent fan.

Legacy, Chemistry Documentaries are hard to do. Nearly always what the filmmaker encounters is the complexity of life, from which they try to pull a narrative. Most often, that narrative is refined, abstracted from the world to match expectations. The best of these instead challenge our...


Published February 5, 2024
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Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Live. Die. Repeat.
Director: Doug Liman
Action
Science Fiction

Major Bill Cage is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously demoted and dropped into combat. Cage is killed within minutes, managing to take an alpha alien down with him. He awakens back at the beginning of the same day and is forced to fight and die again... and again - as physical contact with the alien has thrown him into a time loop.

Combat with Explicit Watchers Superficially, this has what it needs to be a financial success: novel aliens, lots of combat, competence all around and the smile. But it also has advanced interesting, structure. This structure did not originate in the movie community, it should be noted. The...


Published February 5, 2024
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Catfish (2010)
Don't let anyone tell you what it is.
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Documentary

Nev, a 24-year-old New York-based photographer, has no idea what he's in for when Abby, an eight-year-old girl from rural Michigan, contacts him on Facebook, seeking permission to paint one of his photographs. When he receives her remarkable painting, Nev begins a friendship and correspondence with Abby's family. But things really get interesting when he develops a cyber-romance with Abby's attractive older sister, Megan, a musician and model. Prompted by some startling revelations about Megan, Nev and his buddies embark on a road trip in search of the truth.

Dual Deceptions Taken at face value, this is a documentary about how a young photographer was deceived by a lonely housewife...


Published February 5, 2024
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The House of the Yellow Carpet (1983)
Thriller
Horror

Franca and her husband Antonio decide to sell a yellow rug which was a gift of Franca's stepfather. One day, while Antonio is out, a strange man rings saying he wishes to buy the rug. But the man's visit begins a twisted a nightmare.

Encounters with Others in One Body For the first 4/5s, this is a cheaply done version of a few similar films, where a husband concocts a drama to fool his wife. In this case, it is validate a perceived infatuation with another (albeit deceased) man. But as...


Published February 5, 2024
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I, Frankenstein (2014)
In the battle between good and evil, an immortal holds the key
Horror
Thriller

200 years after his shocking creation, Dr. Frankenstein's creature, Adam, still walks the earth. But when he finds himself in the middle of a war over the fate of humanity, Adam discovers he holds the key that could destroy humankind.

Evil Residents We are awash in kiddie films that have the battle between good and evil made explicit in armies on each side. We will have to endure this for a while because such embodiment means we can have cinematic combat and reduction of good and...


Published February 5, 2024
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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
Revenge is sweeter than candy.
Fantasy
Horror
Action

After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel and Gretel have become the ultimate vigilantes, hell-bent on retribution. Now, unbeknownst to them, Hansel and Gretel have become the hunted, and must face an evil far greater than witches... their past.

Children's Dreams It has been some time since I was exposed to how these things work. A clever writer can start with anything and extend it toward a known formula so that it animates that formula with a new disguise. In this world, the writers are...


Published February 5, 2024
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