Update


Well what have I been up to lately? For starters I’m still really enjoying PlayStation 5, and am currently loving Immortals: Fenyx Rising, an unashamed, yet highly polished Breath of the Wild clone, that uses Greek mythology to give the game its own identity outside of comparisons to Nintendo’s masterpiece. I also got my hands on Hitman III, this time for Xbox One X, and had forgotten just how fun and absorbing that franchise can be.

Hitman III

TV-wise, I recently finished Tin Star, the crime drama starring Tim Roth, and although I feel season 1&2 were superior in story and depth, the Liverpool set final season was really enjoyable, rather bizarre ending aside. I’m also still watching The Fall with Gillian Anderson (who, by the way was great as Margaret Thatcher in the latest season of The Crown), and just finished season two. I’m also watching WandaVision, Cobra Kai (TV bliss!) and to a lesser extent The Handmaid’s Tale.

To make future posts a bit more varied, and to increase the movies I am watching without the need to review ‘everything’ … I’ll be grouping some opinions together in updates like this. Two movies I’ve seen recently, are The Philadelphia Story, the 1940’s comedy drama with James Stewart, Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn – a charming comedy of errors, revolving around a wealthy socialite’s impending wedding and how a local magazine want the scoop. The story wasn’t up to much but the banter and chemistry between the leads was fun, and child actress Virginia Weidler often stole the show. Verdict: Good.

The Birds

The other movie I watched recently was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, starring the lovely Tippi Hedren. I’d never seen this but of course I had heard a lot. Well… it was instantly likeable due to the characters and quirky interactions, that although goes on for a good hour before we get any ‘bird action’ … yet when things do occur, Hitchcock’s direction is first class and very effective – especially the climactic bird’s attack on the house. An acclaimed classic worthy of it’s reputation. Verdict: Recommended.

That’s all from me for now.

Craig.

Cat People


Viewed – 22 January 2021 Blu-ray

I’ve had a yearning to watch some older ‘classics’ of late and have been looking to The Criterion Collection to quench my thirst with a few titles that have caught my eye. This 1942 horror themed drama stars somewhat lesser known starlet Simone Simon as Irena, a woman who believes an ancient curse means that any physical intimacy with a man, means she’ll turn into a black panther and devour him. So naturally when she falls for a charming business man (Kent Smith) who convinces her to marry him … Irena fears her animal side will reveal itself.

The beast within…?

A simple tale with an intriguing premise, this flirts back and forth between the notion that Irena may be some carnivorous creature within, or she’s just sexually repressed. It certainly has something to say about female sexuality, which is bold considering when it was made. It’s also shot with atmosphere to spare, and has three enjoyable performances that drew me in. The story focuses on what becomes a love triangle, and the jealousy that builds especially in the final act made for some effective moments (the swimming pool scene). It’s not a horror in a traditional sense, there’s very little violence or creature effects, and is generally subtle and suggestive. Also despite a short run time, it was quite slow going. Yet I still found myself entertained.

The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection boasts a 2k restoration that’s detailed and pleasing with striking black & white photography, and an uncompressed mono soundtrack has clear dialogue and effective music cues that aid the often eerie mood. However the big bonus here is a lengthy documentary on famed producer Val Lewton which is narrated by Martin Scorsese and goes in-depth on the man’s career. Add to this a commentary from film historian Gregory Mark, interviews, a trailer and a booklet with an essay from film critic Geoffrey O’Brien. Quality treatment for a somewhat underrated classic. Worth checking out.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Serpico


Viewed – 16 January 2021 Blu-ray

This true story tells the story of street cop Frank Serpico, a man who idealistically joins the Police department in New York, but as time transpired learns that many of the cops around him take money to ‘look the other way’. As it goes against everything he believes a cop is, Frank chooses to investigate the corruption from the inside which at the same time puts a target on his back.

I fort the law and…

This gritty drama boasts a versatile and compelling turn from Al Pacino in a role that put his name on the map following his break out turn in The Godfather. Directed by Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon) with authenticity, using mostly no name actors to aid the realism, this was a little drawn out … yet I found the story gradually pulled me in and I became quite absorbed after a while. It’s certainly a fascinating and eye-opening tale that’s enhanced by Pacino and its 70s atmosphere.

However there are some weak support performances, with occasionally wooden line-delivery … and in these more politically correct times, having only black people portrayed as crooks is jarring – yet such things reflect the times the movie was made I suppose. The threat and danger Serpico was also meant to be experiencing didn’t come across that well either. Yet as another solid Pacino role and an absorbing true story – overall I still had a good time with this.

The Blu-ray on Eureka’s ‘Masters of Cinema’ label, boasts an impressive, restored image with intact grain that brings out no end of detail and depth. The movie is presented in both its original mono and a new 5.1 soundtrack, both of which are clear and effective. Extras consist of some behind the scenes featurettes, a photo gallery with a commentary by the director, a trailer and a nicely detailed booklet. I’d have appreciated a commentary, and the lack of any appearance from Al Pacino is disappointing. A mostly decent treatment for a well regarded movie that although not exactly a classic for me, this release makes it worth a look.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Tenet


Viewed – 26 December 2020. Bly-ray

I tend to approach a movie directed by Christopher Nolan with a degree of expectation. Over the years he has earned his place as one of the most skilled directors around, with acclaimed works such as Inception, Interstellar and of course The Dark Knight trilogy. This latest has him attempt the spy / espionage sub-genre and you do get the impression he’d make a helluva Bond movie – but this gives the genre Nolan’s own unique spin. So how does it fair?

Time, but not as we know it…

Before get to that let’s go into the plot. A CUA operative (John David Washington) gets embroiled in a complex plot to over throw a Russian arms dealer (Kenneth Branagh) who seems to have stumbled upon a top secret weapon that could mean the end of the world. This weapon has something to do with time inversion, where objects or people can be inverted so they work in reverse of perceived time, therefore manipulating the world as it see’s fit because it’s already happened. The movie has us grapple with this high-brow concept whilst delivering exhilarating, unique action set pieces (the freeway heist) I felt only a director of Christopher Nolan’s calibre could pull off. The plot is confusing at first as our protagonist tries to stop a mad man whilst grappling with the fabric of time itself. Yet it’s a time travel movie done in a way I don’t think we’ve seen before, … that’s head-scratching but also awe-inspiring, with all the necessary ‘aha’ moments when certain details fall into place. This is rather ingenious writing that I’ll admit to not really being clever enough to unravel on first viewing.

Beyond the complex ideas at play, there is also the matter of stunning IMAX photography, which is more plentiful here than in the director’s previous work aided by a reliance on large-scale stunt work, practical effects and grandeur. The movie globe trots from eye catching locale to eye catching locale and it all looks lush. Performances ranging from Washington’s cool as ice Protagonist to Brannagh’s scenery chewing villain are decent, even if plot exposition can get lost in line delivery that’s often mumbled (and occasionally drowned out by the movie’s score) The fact this movie is hard to follow is really it’s only failing. Otherwise it delivers action, scale and imagination that’s on a different level. Perhaps not Nolan’s best, but certainly up there with some of his other movies if given the attention it deserves.

Verdict: Recommended

Crash


Viewed – 12 December 2020 Blu-ray

Very few directors could deliver a movie with subject matter such as this and make it work, without it being exploitation trash, but in the hands of David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) what remains an uncomfortable viewing experience somehow still took hold of this viewer. James Spader plays a guy fascinated by car crashes and aroused by the thrill of injury, twisted metal and the sheer violence of it all. Aided by his girlfriend (The Game’s Deborah Unger) they pursue this unhealthy obsession until Spader ends up in hospital. There he meets fellow crash victim Holly Hunter who he discovers is a kindred spirit and before long he’s lead into an underworld of like-minded people who find sexual arousal in near death experiences.

Maybe next time, my darling…

Acted from the off by all involved like they’re on the brink of orgasm, this highly sexual drama is just plain weird and has an atmosphere I’ll admit was initially hard to get into. Cronenberg’s direction however makes everything eerie, borderline hypnotic and very dream-like. However not for a second is it sexy, as Cronenberg gives each sex scene an unnatural and animalistic vibe that’s closer to his brand of body horror than say, Basic Instinct … but it works.

James Spader is perfectly cast, as is Deborah Unger, actors both at ease with uneasy material. However one surprise was Holly Hunter who I’d never usually associate with this kind of thing. Elias Koteas (Zodiac) stands out as a rather freaky medical photographer obsessed with staging recreations of famous car crashes. We also get Rosanna Arquette as a woman in leg callipers who’s involved in a particularly infamous scene. Overall this was a difficult watch. I appreciated much of the atmosphere and the perverse subject was strangely alluring… but was I entertained? No. Worth seeing but definitely not for everyone.

Crash remains quite the controversial movie, and this new, fully uncut limited edition from Arrow Video explores it impressively. The restored 4K Ultra HD image is grainy and nicely detailed, with only occasional softness. However, despite mention of HDR this isn’t a showcase for your TV setup. The same goes for the 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that’s made up mostly of gentle dialogue and Howard Shore’s haunting score. The surrounds get a mild workout mostly in the various driving / highway scenes but nothing all that diverting. However it’s the extras where this release shines. There is a comprehensive booklet covering the making and legacy of the movie, various interviews, featuretts, some David Cronenberg short films, and a commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin. Add to this a double-sided poster and deluxe hardback slip case packaging and this is decent treatment for a polarising yet still worthwhile entry in Cronenberg’s back catalogue.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended