Us


Viewed – 20 August 2019. Online rental

Director Jordan Peele has made quite a name for himself after the Oscar winning racial-tension thriller Get Out. He’s certainly a bold new voice in a largely stale genre filled with sequels and remakes. In this, his second effort, a woman along with her husband and kids head to a beach community for a holiday, where when she was a child a bizarre incident happened that has haunted her all her life. However after meeting up with some friends, as night draws in a weird group of strangers turn up outside the house who look exactly like them.

Initially I thought this was very much like a copy of The Strangers mixed with Funny Games., but as it progressed it became so much more. Firstly, Peele’s direction is slick, visually interesting and coats the movie in a thick unnerving atmosphere. Moments of humour only slightly eleveate the tension but work well to create a surprisingly relatable tone with characters I quickly grew to care about. One joke involving an Alexa-like device was just brilliant. Performances, especially considering the cast are mostly playing two parts are decent with a special mention going to Lupita Nyong’o who delivers a very layered duel-performance that’s at times quite chilling..

The overall concept is clever on paper, but as the movie drew to a close I felt it got a bit confused, causing an avalanche of questions in my head that begged me to re-evaluate what I had been watching. That can be great but in reflection, I’m not sure if it entirely works. However for such a visually captivating, well acted and often thrilling experience this remains one of the most purely entertaining horrors I’ve seen in a while.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Police Story 2


Viewed – 16 August 2019. Blu-ray

I don’t think you can really go wrong with a Jackie Chan movie. Over several decades the kung fu star has perfected his brand of slapstick action-comedy which is showcased well in the long running Police Story series. This 1987 sequel to the now legendary original picks up shortly after the events of that movie and has Chan relegated to traffic duty. However the mobster from the last movie is out of prison on compassionate grounds following a terminal illness diagnosis and goes about harassing Chan and his girlfriend May (the lovely Maggie Cheung). Yet when a bomb scare at a shopping centre brings about a new threat to the city, Chan’s superiors call on him to help out again.

This movie isn’t quite as talked about as the original and it’s fairly clear to see why. It once again gets bogged down in investigative police procedure, mixed with Chan’s often quaint style of comedy which I’ll admit did bring a few chuckles. However this occasionally feels even more long-winded, with the subplot of the mobster seeking revenge needing to be significantly trimmed. Thankfully then when the action comes it’s still superb, lightening-fast, expertly choreographed and amazing to witness – if a bit low key compared to the last movie. Yet the playground fight especially is a stand out. The climax also boasts some impressive stunt work and a great, if brief fight against Hapkido expert Benny Lai.

Chan’s direction overall is slick. The camerawork, especially for its time is stylish and well, he totally understands how to present action in a way Hollywood failed to grasp for years. Just a shame a wafer-thin plot and too much padding stops this just short of another Chan classic.

The recent Blu-ray from Eureka Classics has a decent if slightly soft image quality, but the soundtrack is at least delivered in several options including a dubbed, subtitled mono and and all new subtitled 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio. The movie also gets three cuts, the UK video version, the shorter and I’m guessing better-paced Hong Kong version as well as the full, uncut version I watched. I’d be interested in checking out these other versions I must admit. Extras consist of trailers, an episode of the ‘Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show’ hosted by Jonathan Ross, outtakes, an interview with Benny Lai as well as a commentary by stuntmen Miles Wood and Jude Poyer. The Blu-ray, as part of a deluxe set that also includes Police Story 1, also comes with a detailed booklet. Very impressive treatment overall for a still fun entry in Jackie Chan’s career thats worth checking out.

Verdict:

(the movie). 3 /5

(the Blu-ray). 5 /5

Creed II


Viewed – 03 August 2019. Netflix

I had mixed emotions whether I was going to watch this sequel to the sort-of spin-off / reboot to the famed Rocky franchise. I really liked but didn’t love the first movie but after hearing about the setup this time around, I’ll admit I was very much intrigued. After becoming world heavyweight champion, Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) the son of former champ Apollo Creed gets an offer from a new boxer hailing from Russia – Victor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) the man who killed his Dad in the ring back in 1985 (Rocky IV). With Ivan on hand as Victor’s trainer also, it quickly brings back painful memories for Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) who doesn’t approve of Creed taking on the fight, believing old wounds shouldn’t be re-opened.

I’ve gone on record in the past as saying, for as much as Michael B Jordan always looks good in movies, especially in the first movie, his acting skills have never quite been up to the task. Here though he fairs better and is given much more depth thanks to fleshed out relationships, not just with Stallone but also his girlfriend and mother, and is given a bigger, more emotional journey too. Add to this great support from Stallone who may take more of a back seat to give Jordan the spotlight – but still delivers. I was also surprised and pleased to see that, although very subtle, Victor Drago and his father Ivan’s relationship was given much more than the one-dimensional bad guys treatment.

Every story-beat and character moment was well done too that even if the material and the structure is far from new, it’s the way it was directed, with skill and care by relative unknown Steven Caple Jr. Oh and its a boxing movie so what about the fights? Superbly filmed and visceral that every punch had genuine impact. Some of the most effective fight footage I’ve seen in a long time. Yeah, not really much to criticise here. It dabbles in a few cliches, has a couple of corny tugging-on-heart-strings moments, but comes together to make one of the best Rocky movies that’s not strictly a Rocky movie. A must see.

Verdict: 5 /5

Garbage thrills at Leeds


Well, there was such anticipation and nervous excitement for me leading up to my fourth time seeing my favourite band. You see, Garbage remain the only band I’ll make the effort to actually go and see live even if it means travelling miles to get to them. Accompanied by a good friend as well as meeting up with another fellow Garbage fan, even before the show we hung around by the stage door and the band’s tour bus for the hope of a chance encounter. I wasn’t disappointed … guitarist Duke Erikson came out to say hello as well as touring bass player Eric Avery and stand-in drummer Matt Walker (standing in for Butch Vig who had to stay at home due to a recent shoulder injury). They were all so nice and down-to-earth.

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The concert itself was amazing. Fourth time seeing them I was slightly wondering if they would be as impressive as previously … suffice to say this was one of the best performances I’ve witnessed yet. Lead singer, Edinburgh born Shirley Manson was on fantastic form with plenty of charisma and energy and belted out hits like ‘Stupid Girl’ and ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’ as well as lesser known tracks like the haunting ‘On Fire’ … to a very appreciative crowd that were constantly jumping about and singing along. It was intense, adrenaline-fuelled and for me a genuine, life-affirming treat. Words can barely describe what it meant to this long-time fan but as the show ended I was on cloud nine.

My friends and I then decided to hang out by the stage door again and after a while, low and behold Shirley Manson came out to say hello, sign autographs and have pictures taken. She is simply the best. Even now, two days afterwards I can’t believe my luck and am pinching myself that it wasn’t just a very vivid dream.

A fan shot video of the band performing ‘Push It’ to a very energetic crowd.

To me, Garbage are and always will be a fantastic band to be into and I feel so proud to call myself a fan and a darkling.

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Shirley and myself after the show.

Green Book


Viewed- 09 July 2019. Online rental

After seeing the trailer for this drama I had a strong feeling it would be good. Viggo Mortensen, an actor I feel I haven’t seen in anything for a while, plays Tony Lip a bouncer who after a stint at the coppacabana comes to an end finds himself out of work with a wife and kids to provide for. As an Italian, Tony tries to avoid working for the local mob and instead gets a job chauffeuring former child prodigy and pianist Dr Don Shirley who happens to be African-American. So begins an unlikely pairing and a journey of self discovery for both men.

This entertaining and engrossing drama boasts two strong performances aided by a story inspired by true events. The mismatched pairing mixed with a road trip may be familiar fair but it’s the gravitas of the real-world spot light it puts not only on racism and prejudice in 60s America but also that of different classes and how throwing such people together can change otherwise narrow-minded opinions. The movie is often funny with Mortensen brilliant as a loveable wise-guy type and the gradual bonding and chemistry that is formed between the characters is heart-warming and particularly thought-provoking.

Yes the story doesn’t quite tackle the real ugliness of racism and offers up a more palatable take on the subject but I’d say that works in the movie’s favour and makes this a must watch.

Verdict: 5 /5