Everything, Everywhere, All At Once


Viewed – 08 June 2022 Cinema

I was quite hyped going into this. This tells the story of Evelyn, a middle aged Chinese woman who runs a laundromat with her husband and father, who is in spiralling debt and being leaned on by the local IRS. However during one meeting to work out her finances, another version of her husband contacts her and tells her he’s from another universe, explaining that there are many more multiverses where Evelyn’s life turned out differently and that he needs her to help him stop a looming threat.

We’re probably accustomed to the concept of the multiverse with movies like Doctor Strange and Spider-Man No Way Home. However this movie takes that idea to the extreme, creating a chaotic and quite bonkers experience. Hong Kong Cinema veteran Michelle Yeoh delivers a commendably demanding performance, that although her grasp of English isn’t great, physically she’s put through the ringer in many dazzling and intricately edited sequences. With all the multiverse stuff the movie jumps rapidly from place to place as Evelyn adopts various abilities, including Kung Fu. The various action scenes are imaginative, well choreographed and often hilarious. The ideas here clearly come from a pretty out-there mind as we get fights with dildos, and at one stage a Chihuahua used like a whip! Jamie Lee Curtis proves memorable as the IRS lady, and movie legend James Hong also makes an extended appearance.

I did feel this got a bit much after a while. The concept means that the possibilities are endless but doesn’t mean a movie need go that far. Also why things were happening got a bit muddled – at times it’s simply odd for the sake of being odd (a multiverse with everyone with hotdogs for fingers!). I was entertained though, just maybe a little restraint would have gone a long way.

Verdict: Good

Top Gun: Maverick


Viewed – 26 May 2022 Cinema

The original 1986 Top Gun I recall never really appealed. I was only 11 at the time of its release and it’s setting of hot shot fighter jet pilots just wasn’t my thing. Flash-forward 35 years later and this almost gets the crown for longest period between movie and sequel. Tom Cruise returns as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, who is given the job of training up a group of highly skilled pilots to undertake a particularly dangerous mission. However amongst the pilots is the son of ‘Goose’ Maverick’s best friend who died in the original movie.

I feel the need….

Cruise is his usual charming self and in the mentor role offers up a commanding presence. Although like before the setting didn’t initially appeal I was still willing to give it a go. Thankfully the story is good enough and support cast do a decent job of becoming an appealing group faced with a life or death situation. The impending threat I felt was under-developed and there’s no actual bad guy just faceless enemy jets and the fact they have uranium hidden in an underground bunker.

That being said the star of the show is the cinematography and the many dizzying in-cockpit flying scenes. The final act is especially exhilarating and edge of your seat stuff. It also looked like Cruise was doing a lot of the fighter plane flying. The movie however pays a little too much homage to the more cheesy aspects of 80’s blockbuster cinema, and the love story between Cruise and Jennifer Connelly felt half baked. That said, I still enjoyed this, much more than expected.

Verdict: Good+

Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness


Viewed – 17 May 2022 Cinema

It would be remiss of me not to say I’m kind of burnt out on these comic book movies. How many have there been now? Yet the quality is (mostly) always so high they’re an easy option when there’s not much else to watch. This sequel has Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finding his dreams invaded by a young girl called America Charvez, who it transpires can jump between other universes. When demons come chasing her though to claim her power, Strange has to step in to prevent a multiverse catastrophe.

Directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Evil Dead) this is energetic and chock full of imagination and at times jaw-dropping CGI. However, with its reliance on having a good knowledge of previous movies in the MCU, including TV show WandaVision, with its references and plot elements – this is not a movie for newcomers. Also America, a likeable new character felt under-developed. That being said the various set-pieces impress, mostly down to Raimi’s flamboyant style that he’s always been known for. He brings not only super-hero spectacle, but also his outlandish brand of horror, and it works. A stand-out Elizabeth Olsen also brings us a malevolent Wanda / Scarlett Witch more ferocious than we’ve ever seen before. Lastly, Cumberbatch is again great in his role and remains one of the most nuanced Marvel characters we’ve had.

Fans of MCU and Dr Strange will eat this up. It’s a great deal of fun. The plot is a bit simplistic and it’s too reliant on what came before. I also thought they could have gone much further with the multiverse concept than they do … but overall it was hard not to enjoy this.

Verdict: Good+

Licorice Pizza


Viewed – 15 May 2022 online rental

This got quite a bit of buzz towards the end of last year and from director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) and a setting of seventies America and young love, this sounded right up my alley. Gary is a child actor who becomes infatuated with an older woman, Alana who begins working at his school. With no end of confidence and charm he befriends her and soon brings her into his rather chaotic life.

This authentic recreation of seventies America is given a unique spin due to lead characters having an age gap. You could say it’s a unconventional love story. However as Gary leads Alana from one scheme to the next, for me he began to come off as a bit of an obnoxious dreamer. Alana fairs slightly better, seeming more level-headed and mature, even if she kept coming back to this guy. It made me think of La La Land at times with its pairing similarly not meant to be. However due to the movie jumping randomly from different events, such as Gary walking by a water bed shop, and next thing he’s staring up a water bed business (how’s he managed this, how’s he know anything about water beds?) …I began to feel a tad frustrated. Doesn’t help that none of his schemes are particularly engaging.

What the movie lacks in plot, it makes up for in two solid performances, especially singer turned actor Alana Haim (of the band ‘Haim’). I really liked her and she has many of the movie’s best scenes. There’s also two weird cameos, one by Sean Penn as a rather eccentric actor, and another by Bradley Cooper as one of Barbara Streisand’s husbands(?). Both of which come across like they’re in the wrong movie. Anderson’s direction is decent and atmospheric though, and the movie is often beautifully shot. However for a seventies set story, the music is mostly forgettable (apart from one scene using Bowie’s Life On Mars). Overall an interesting yet ultimately uninvolving comedy-drama that’s not as great as it thinks it is.

Verdict: Good

Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon


Viewed – 07 May 2022 Blu-ray

Generally, you can’t go wrong with a movie starring veteran action star Sammo Hung. He grew up with Jackie Chan, and although he has remained in Chan’s shadow, mostly due to not making his name in America – his movies and his Kung fu skills are clearly on the same level. This 1990 buddy cop movie has never had much fanfare outside its native Hong Kong, and after watching it … I’m surprised.

This is top-drawer Sammo Hung with some fun comedy and several quality Kung Fu fights. The plot is rather none-sensical though, serving more as an excuse from Hung and Karl Mak’s often funny squabbling banter. Karl Mak is comes across a tad misogynistic but still entertains, and proves a capable fighter in his own right. However as a vehicle for Hung, this showcases his comedy skills equally with his fighting, this time doing a spot-on Bruce Lee impression throughout – which I’d have liked a bit of explanation for, but it’s never explored.

Direction by kung Fu veteran Lau Kar-wing is decent with the fights well framed and delivered with often clever camera work (especially during the climactic warehouse scene). I’d say if you enjoy Hong Kong action cinema, this is one of the more immediate fun ones, with the action spread throughout the movie (not just at the end) with entertaining characters and decent comedy. Just a shame about that er… plot.

This new release from Eureka Classics boasts decent image quality. Not incredibly sharp but clear and detailed enough. The soundtrack offers up original Cantonese mono, or 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio English dub. Although this isn’t a showcase for your surround system. Dialogue is clear though and the English dub is surprisingly good. There are two audio commentaries, the first from Asian film expert Frank Djeng and martial artist / actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels. The second has action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema. Then there’s a collector’s booklet featuring an essay by James Oliver. Add to this interviews with crew and stunt co-ordinators. There is also a second disk covering the career of stuntman Mark Houghton. No interview or anything with Sammo himself though seems a strange oversight.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good+

(the Blu-ray) Recommended