Fifty Shades of Grey


Viewed – 16 July 2017  Netflix

I was never going to actually watch this.  The largely negative media backlash to the books and the movies themselves were enough to put me off.  However I’m also someone who feels every movie should be given a day in court.  So with admittedly low expectations I sat down to watch this hyped, supposedly ‘erotic’ drama.

fifty-shades-of-grey

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) unwittingly finds herself smitten by the swarve business tycoon Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) after quite literally stumbling into an interview on behalf of her flatmate.  It’s a corny introduction but fun all the same and I got distinct Bridget Jones meets Patrick Bateman vibes, what with this suited mystery man hiding a dark side and Anastasia’s never-been-kissed girl next door persona.  Now there’s a movie I’d love to see.  Anyway back to this one and I’ll admit I found myself enjoying the subtle chemistry and battle of wits between these two characters.  Grey wanting Anastasia to become his submissive, revealing to her fairly quickly his other life, that of a dominant who likes to spank, whip and control the one he is involved with.  He lays it all out and I certainly enjoyed watching Anastasia slowly transform into someone she never knew she could be.  That being said, some dodgy dialogue (“Necrophilia isn’t my thing” – in reference to Grey touching Anastasia whilst she was sleeping?  Does the writer not know what necrophilia is?) and an ending that came off as ‘so what were you expecting?’ this ultimately promised more than it delivers and keeps events fairly light and safe rather than go as dark and intense as it should have.  We do get plenty of nudity, a couple of diverting, stylishly-filmed sex scenes that are probably only really sexy if s&m is your-thang (and if is, you’re probably into stuff more daring than what we see here).  However if like me you find Dakota Johnson appealing, have a thing for Jamie Dornan or ever enjoyed those late night ‘naughty’ movies … this may still press your buttons.

It’s over-long and a takes itself too seriously (in need of that black humour that worked so well in the similarly themed ‘Secretary’) but is certainly not as awful as I’d heard.  However it’s no erotic masterpiece either.  Yet on this evidence, I’d still like to see the follow-up.

Verdict: 3 /5

War for the Planet of the Apes


Viewed – 14 July 2017  Cinema

Following an invasion of their home by a military force, ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) vows revenge and sets off to hunt down Woody Harrelson’s ruthless Colonel with a small group of fellow apes.  Along the way they stumble upon a young mute girl who may be evidence of a mutated strain of the disease that has already killed off most of mankind.

war-planet-apes

A decidedly strange experience.  I went into this with very high expectations and have to say what I got was a different movie than I was anticipating.  It has the word ‘war’ in the title but it’s not the humans vs. apes smack down the last movie set us up for.  Instead it explores an on-going conflict set at ‘war time’ between said apposing military force and the still attempting to live in peace apes.  However what we do have is once again a movie with a great deal of heart, some very touching character moments, themes of loyalty, family and friendship as well as a little comic relief in the form of an ageing lone ape who turns up half way through.  We get a lengthy prisoner-of-war sequence that is brilliantly played out with echoes of The Great Escape, and some decent action although nothing on par with the last two movies.  This one’s less about explosions and spectacle and more about the search for a safe haven and a potential future, even if that future is hopeless for humans.  As a conclusion (?) to the trilogy, it feels a tad uneventful and drags in places, and that ending was rather a damp squib.

Yet for fans like myself this is still solid entertainment.  It’s superbly acted with again top marks going to Serkis, whilst Harrelson delivers a fine villain.  It’s also absolutely stunning to look at (can these apes get any more real?) aided by plenty of personality and bags of emotion.  I just suppose by a third movie, I was expecting more not … less.

Verdict:  4 /5

Henry – Portrait of a Serial Killer


Viewed – 09 July 2017  Blu-ray

I remember watching this on VHS rental a number of years ago and deciding it was one of the more disturbing serial killer movies I’d seen.  Of course over the years it’s shock value will have diluted.  These days the boundaries of what is allowed to be seen on screen has been pushed to a much harder degree than what would have been banned back in the eighties.  Henry was censored heavily back in the day and now we have a fully uncut version hitting Blu-ray for the first time.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) Directed by John McNaughton Shown: Michael Rooker

Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) plays sociopath and killer Henry – loosely based on real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas who kills at random and without motive, drifting from town to town.  After befriending Otis (Tom Towles) and moving into his run-down apartment they are soon joined by Otis’ younger sister Becky and their simple dynamic is complicated once Henry begins involving Otis in his murderous ‘hobby’.

Directed my John McNaughton (Wild Things, Candyman) with a cold, semi-documentary style this is a movie that doesn’t offer explanation or back story but simply explores a week in the life of a killer.  Rooker is unnervingly convincing, aided well by his co-stars and McNaughton’s ominous tone.  It doesn’t offer answers and is all that more powerful for it, offering some still-to-this-day shocking scenes (the home invasion).  The acting isn’t Silence of the Lambs Oscar stuff by any stretch and some scenes are a bit amateurish, not helped by a low budget and filmed-on-the-fly locations.  Yet it still packs a punch even all these years later, so fans of this type of stuff need to see this.

Henry SteelbookThe Blu-ray release is a mixed bag.  The picture quality is more serviceable and at times rather poor, which goes hand in hand with the 2 channel sound mix, with some scenes (including the under the bridge scene) having particularly poor audio.  Extras fair better but are all archive; a making of, interviews, deleted scenes and censorship history – but well worth dipping into.  An audio-commentary by the director is the icing on the cake.  The Steelbook I picked is very nice also.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

Garbage back on the road


My favourite band in the world ‘Garbage’ fronted by the enigmatic Shirley Manson, hit the road this week for their co-headline ‘Rage and Rapture’ tour with the industry-icons Blondie.  Their first stop?  The Mountain Winery, Saratoga CA.  The band seemed to be on blistering form and even dusted off a few classics they hadn’t played in a while, including their famed James Bond theme ‘The World is Not Enough’ which showcased Manson on brilliant vocal form (see below). Video courtesy of: YouTuber kyocarmesi

The tour spans various venues across the states as shown below, and I myself, as someone who can’t get to the shows themselves, am looking forward to some great footage.  From this evidence, Shirley and the boys are not going to let themselves get upstaged all that easily by Debbie Harry and her Blondie band-mates.

rage-rapture

Baby Driver


Viewed – 29 June 2017  Cinema

I went into this fairly blind.  I knew it was directed by Edgar Wright, who’s style had impressed me with movies like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Shaun of the Dead, and well… who doesn’t enjoy a good car chase movie?

baby-driver

Relative new-comer Ansel Elgort plays a young guy who works as a getaway driver for Kevin Spacey’s heist planner, and has to work with a variety of violent crims along the way.  The thing is, he happens to have a bad case of tinnitus following an accident and resorts to playing his iPod to drown out the ringing (good way to make it worse, mate).  This unusual spin on a tired formula has a likeable lead performance, a gentle slow burning love story involving a (very) cute waitress and several heart-in-mouth action sequences involving some damn fancy driving.  So this delivers as a fast, fun and frantic ride but what does it bring to the table we haven’t seen before?  The inclusion of music ranging from Motown to jazz is an interesting idea and has some of the action and gun fights even playing along to the tunes – albeit only marginally successfully.  Thing is the music itself isn’t that memorable and when it really should have stood out, the other sounds, like gunfire and tires screeching, drowned out what is actually being played (including a near inaudible ‘Brighton Rock’ by Queen).

Thankfully the script is sharp and often funny, and the central love story is engaging with Ansel good as the lead (although his frequent dancing and bopping gets a little silly).  Also turns from John Hamm, a scene-stealing Jamie Foxx and of course Spacey are all on-par.  Oh and Edgar Wright sure can film action, with lots of clever, ultra-stylish imagery making every sequence explode.  So all in all this was a fun …ride, but what originality it tries to inject ultimately left this feeling overly familiar instead.  One to check out though.

Verdict:  3.5 /5