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Flick Clique: June 3-9

Boys of the City (1941). Silly, slight (60 minutes!) early vehicle for the East Side Kids, who were essentially the Dead End Kids with a few personnel changes – the whole saga of which is explained on their Wikipedia page. This one has the kids saddled with a delinquency charge and sent out to the country to keep them out of trouble. Their car breaks down and they end up staying in an old mansion belonging to a retired judge who is terrified that one of the ex-convicts who he sentenced to jail time is out to kill him. That would be enough to keep the boys on their toes, but the house also has a creepy housekeeper, a ghostly apparition and a secret, cobweb-strewn basement! It’s interesting to note the comparisons between this and Rebecca, including a scene in which the housekeeper (played by Minerva Urecal) compares the deceased lady of the house with the film’s pretty young heroine (Inna Guest). Another lightweight, dated/racist yet watchable offering from my Comedy Kings: 50 Movie Pack DVD set.
Tales That Witness Madness (1973). British horror-anthology film is one of the DVDs I’m reviewing for DVD Talk. This one has four stories of people who have gone mad under varied circumstances, with Donald Pleasence as a doctor who introduces each patient’s story in the film’s framing segments. The individual parts vary a lot in effectiveness, but that’s part of what makes movies like this cheesy and fun. The cast includes Joan Collins as a woman whose husband falls in lust with a dead tree, and Kim Novak as a horny literary agent whose latest client has devious plans for Novak’s ripe teenaged daughter. This film really reminded me of an old Night Gallery episode, complete with hideous fashions and cheeseball effects. My full review should be posted in a few days. Update: my review.
The Thirteenth Floor (1999). Ambitious, hugely flawed but fascinating time-travel sci-fi opus that we checked out on Netflix streaming. This one concerns a computer tycoon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who built a massive V.R. simulation of 1930s Los Angeles. When he is murdered, police detective Dennis Haysbert goes after the man’s protogé, Fuller (Craig Bierko) as suspect #1. Fuller knows, however, that the secrets surrounding his death might be revealed in a letter Mueller-Stahl wrote and left with someone in the ’30s L.A. world, the avatar of Fuller’s co-worker, Jason (Vincent D’Onofrio). Further wrinkles are added when a woman (Gretchen Mol) claiming to be the tycoon’s daughter shows up seeking an inheritance, a femme fatale type who physically resembles another woman in the ’30s world. Kind of muddled, kind of thought provoking … this one got unfairly compared with The Matrix upon its original release. I actually enjoyed it more than The Matrix, if only for the fact that the film’s nicely researched CGI version of 1937 Los Angeles is incredibly cool. The performers are a mixed bag and the ending felt like a cop-out, but overall I found it intriguing and well-done, a sleeper.
The Tillman Story (2010). One of the better documentaries I’ve seen recently is this one, which uncovers murky circumstances surrounding the death of Pat Tillman, exalted football star turned U.S. Army solder turned casualty to the jingoistic b.s. factory churned out by the military and the American news media. I’m grateful to director Amir Bar-Lev and the Tillman family for showing Pat as he really was and exposing the damaging lies/p.r. campaign that the military orchestrated following his tragic death by friendly fire. If only for the indignant speech that Pat’s mom delivered in the Congressional hearing looking into that military cover-up, this doc is gold. It just goes to show you that people are much, much more complex than the restrictive boxes that everyone wants to shove us into.
Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2010). Fast paced documentary on ’70s fashion icon Halston. I enjoyed parts of this (the many archival clips/interviews of Halston and his work are cool), but unfortunately the director, Whitney Sudler-Smith, decided to make it more about him than Halston. That idea would be problematic enough if the guy was likable, but throughout the film he comes across as uninformed, and the epitome of an arrogant hipster douche. See more in my DVD Talk review.
Vincent Wants To Sea (2010). This charming German comedy-drama was another DVD Talk disc, one of the offerings from their screener pool. I will reserve going into detail for my full-fledged review, but in short this was a funny, sweet film that is worth seeking out. It stars actor Florian David Fitz (who also wrote the screenplay) as a disaffected young man whose mother recently passed away. Afflicted with Tourette’s syndrome, the man’s father (Heino Ferch) sends him to a clinic to be treated under the watchful eye of a chain-smoking doctor (Kathanrina Müller-Elmau). There he is roomed with a fastidious young man with OCD (Johannes Allmayer) and is captivated by another patient named Marie (Karoline Herfurth), a woman with an eating disorder. The bulk of the film’s drama comes when Fitz’s character decides that he needs to get to Italy to deposit his mom’s ashes in the ocean, and impulsively decides to steal the doctor’s car with Marie and his roommate coming along. The script is pretty smart and knowing, filled with heart-warming vignettes and real characters. I will have more in my DVD Talk review, of course, but in short you should seek this one out. Update: my review.

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