Body Double


Viewed – 23 February 2017  Blu-ray

A struggling actor (Craig Wasson – A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) finds himself looking for somewhere to crash following the discovery of his girlfriend’s affair, but soon descends into an underworld of voyeurism, sex and a who-dunnit murder mystery.

Body Double

I’ve always admired the movies of prolific film-maker Brian De Palma and consider some of his output all time classics (Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables).  He has a distinctive visual eye and can put his skills to a number of genres.  However it’s when his movies attract comparisons to the movies of Alfred Hitchcock and also Italian shock maestro Dario Argento that I become the most interested.  Body Double bares a strong resemblance to both film-maker’s works but also has a perfectly sleazy tone that references a different time and is very much a celebration of 80s excess and exploitation.  The story for what it is isn’t that well done and is fairly obvious and easy to predict especially if you’re at all familiar with any of the cast.  However what is fun is De Palma’s cinematic eye that can make even mundane sounding sequences, like a journey through a shopping mall or a beach front terrace, enthralling due to some clever camera work and genuine tension.  Craig Wasson is likeable if a rather unsympathetic character, and I’d forgotten just how much fun Melanie Griffith used to be and is adept here at delivering some great lines which are probably too explicit to repeat.  Yet the movie is on a whole, especially considering De Palma’s impressive catalogue; a bit of an oddity and takes some alarming shifts in tone and style leaving me wondering what was the grand plan here…it really does feel a little thrown together.  For a piece of 80s genre sleaze however, I’d still say give this a chance.

Body Double Blu-rayThe Blu-ray suffers from a few smudgy scenes, especially towards the end of the movie for some reason … but this 4k restoration is otherwise decent looking with strong colours and some nice detail both in close-up and in De Palma’s grand wide shots.  Dialogue is also crisp and free of lip-sync that I could see, and is delivered in the original stereo as well as a 5.1 soundtrack, which although not really making much use of surrounds is effective, especially in the lengthy ‘Relax’ sequence (spot the cameo by Holly Johnson).  This collector’s edition from Indicator boasts a 40 page booklet that has an in-depth interview taken from 1984 as well as a ‘Brian De Palma’s Guilty Pleasures’ segment exploring the director’s influences.  The Blu-ray itself comes with a series of featurettes with interviews with cast and crew, some archive, others more recent and proves invaluable for those interested in film-making and that of the movie itself and it’s legacy.  Surprisingly no commentary which would have rounded this release off superbly but as it stands this is above average treatment for probably one of De Palma’s lesser efforts that still makes for a worthy purchase.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

Nerve


Viewed – 21 July 2016  online rental

A high school senior decides to take part in an online game involving a series of dares, run by a group of anonymous ‘watchers’, after feeling pressured to be more bold and extrovert like her best friend.  However once embroiled into the game, it quickly becomes clear there’s more sinister motives at play.

Nerve

I liked the idea of this from the trailer and have found Emma Roberts more than just the niece of Julia Roberts whenever I’ve seen her in stuff.  Here she’s well cast as a likeable but somewhat shy teen who see’s the game as a way of coming out of her shell.  With the concept of the dares always becoming increasingly risky and dangerous It became quite exciting wondering what would happen next.  James Franco’s younger brother I’m guessing Dave Franco is onboard as another player that teams up with Roberts and the two of them become an unlikely pairing as the stakes grow higher and higher.  With a backdrop of a neon soaked New York by night, a pumping EDM soundtrack and plenty of energy I found this entertaining from beginning to end.  It’s also a scarily believable concept that people might get caught up in such risky online games via their phones, what with the allure of money and popularity and leader boards etc.

The movie comes a little undone in it’s closing moments with a conclusion that for me didn’t entirely make sense; with hacking used to gloss over a bit of a plot hole.  Yet up until that point I’d been having a ball.  It has a strong visual identity and bags of energy and at least kept the whole idea grounded in reality when it could have easily gone nuts.  One to check out.

Verdict:  4 /5

Yoga Hosers


Viewed – 18 February 2017  online-rental

Despite my liking of director Kevin Smith as a pop-culture icon and as a director, my expectations of this low budget indie comedy were considerably dialled back following Smith’s own admission of the movie’s less than stellar reception from critics.  However I was still willing to give it a chance and what I’d seen and heard still appealed.

Yoga Hozers

Two convenience store clerks (a Kevin Smith regular theme) both named Colleen (Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith) hate their jobs, wish they were singers in a band (and sort of are with their drummer Adam Brody) and long for something else in life, other than practicing Yoga and staring at their phones.  Then one night the store comes under attack from a race of miniature Nazis and the girls find themselves the only two people who can save the world from a Nazi uprising … in Canada at least.

This isn’t a movie you go and see for the plot, as it’s bizarre and stupid and really just an excuse for Smith to throw in a lot of Canadian satire of Mounties, hockey, beavers and people saying ‘sorry aboot that’ all the time.  It’s mildly-amusing but also a bit of an oddity not helped by mostly poor, cartoonish acting.  Smith’s daughter is watchable but lacking and the same can be said of Johnny Depp’s daughter, and well neither of them can sing but I’m guessing that was intentional.  Also Johnny Depp himself has an extended, near-unrecognisable appearance that’s typically caricature for the actor these days and certainly one of his least memorable.  Much of the entertainment here comes from the Canadian in-jokes so if you’re not familiar with any of that a great deal of this will go over your head.  The combination of Canadian and Nazi imagery certainly proved curiously intriguing and well, the Bratzi’s are so ridiculous they’re actually fun … and the climax involving a big monster is a lot of fun too.  Yet it remains a movie that feels stitched together from ideas that should have either been fleshed out or left alone entirely, because really – who comes up with this material and were they smoking something at the time?  However, this wasn’t as awful as I was lead to believe but certainly wasn’t that great either.  Smith can and has done a lot better.  One for the curious or die-hard Smith fans only.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

The Equalizer


Viewed – 14 February 2017  Netflix

I really don’t know what’s taken me so long to get around to this.  It’s Denzel Washington in a remake of the much loved cult TV show that starred the late Edward Woodward.  Now, I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the show, but Denzel killing bad guys never gets old.  So here he plays a mundane blue collar guy who works in a hardware store and by night frequents a diner to read books and swap small talk with the local troubled young prostitute (Chloe Grace Meretz).  Now before you make the leap that I did that this was more Taxi Driver than anything else, firstly you wouldn’t be far wrong but said blue collar guy also possesses mad skills as demonstrated when he goes up against a gang of Russian mobsters after said prostitute winds up in hospital.  So less the social commentary and more a strong case of picking on the wrong guy, ala John Wick, Leon etc.

The-Equalizer

What this lacks in originality it more than makes up for with several solid performances and well choreographed action and some brutal violence that makes every stabbing, every punch and every broken bone really hit home.  Denzel is on great form, charismatic and deadly and plays the duel ‘everyman’ and ‘trained killer’ personas effortlessly.  This is aided well my a scenery chewing, stand out turn from Marton Csokas as the man called in to solve the problems Denzel creates.  Moretz is also good if a little underused for a large portion of the movie, but every scene she’s in is decent, with clear echoes of Jodie Foster.

Sad then that in the final act, a very stupid decision by the supposedly intelligent bad guy lets the show down and plausibility is stretched as the movie tries to tie everything up in a neat bow, regardless if it rings true or not.  Which is a shame because Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is otherwise stylish, thrilling and confident … and a helluva lot of fun.  If this was the 80’s and it was Arnie or Stallone, I could forgive such developments, but cemented in a fairly believable world, I didn’t think the ending worked in the context of what had come before.  That said, this is still worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Denzel Washington.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Lego Movie


Viewed – 11 February 2017  online rental

I thought I’d finally get around to this popular and highly regarded animated movie following the current hype for the newly released Lego Batman Movie.  Now I must say despite being a big fan of animation, the style and concept of animated Lego characters didn’t exactly appeal and I think I only played with Lego bricks fleetingly as a child.  However having played bits of various Lego videogames and hearing a lot of good things about this movie – I thought I’d give it a chance.

Emmet and Batman

A nobody construction worker named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) dreams of fitting in, having friends and enjoying life, but quickly realises most of his fellow workers ignore him because there’s nothing ‘special’ about his personality.  One day following an incident at the construction site, Emmet stumbles upon a mysterious girl who catches his eye, then discovers a grand scheme involving a sacred relic and a megalomaniac President that might be his chance to become a ‘somebody’.  This is fun, energetic and entertaining from the off and a clear satire of our growing superficial, social-media obsessed society and it’s focus on annoying EDM music as well as an obvious stab at our current political climate (with an eerie prediction of Trump).  It’s not quite as sharp or as funny as I was expecting and is surprisingly light on pop-culture jokes or references other than appearances from various comic book and movie characters.  Therefore, there’s not a great deal here for adults, unlike other animations.  That being said it zips along at an almost exhaustive pace and throws plenty of action and spectacle meaning I was far from bored.  A twist towards the end also turned the movie into a more heart-warming experience than up to that point I’d been lead to believe.

With memorable voice work from Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and Will Ferrell amongst others … this was still fun, but for me no animated classic.

Verdict:  3 /5