The Guilty


Viewed – 26 October 2021 Netflix

Jake Gyllenhaal is probably my favourite actor at the moment, so anything he stars in will grab my attention. This latest has him as a troubled LAPD cop doing a night shift at a 911 call centre. When he receives a call from a frightened sounding woman giving the impression she’s been abducted, he decides to make it his mission to save her.

Your call is important to us…

This is one of those single location movies, and I have often felt despite the limitations of the concept, these can be more engrossing that you might expect. The same can be said here, with a focused, intense script cleverly putting the viewer into various situations where they have to picture a scene or characters only going by a voice or how Gyllenhaal’s character interacts with them. It’s very effective and I’m guessing will be different for each viewer, with them having different ideas of what certain characters look like etc. It’s a way of telling a story that lives or dies based on how much attention you pay and how you picture events you don’t get to see. Thankfully, Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) squeezes every ounce of tension and drama out of the idea, so that the your efforts are worth it.

Jake Gyllenhaal is very convincing, delivering a character with more than a few problems of his own. I certainly sympathised with him even if some of his actions were occasionally questionable. So I came away from this rather impressed … and quite emotionally exhausted. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Blow Out


Viewed – 10 October 2021 Blu-ray

A sound engineer named Jack, working for a small time movie company stumbles upon a conspiracy after witnessing what at first looks to be a freak car accident whilst out recording sounds. However after rescuing a woman he finds in the crashed car, he reviews his recording and realises someone must have shot the vehicle’s tire, and it wasn’t simply a ‘blow out’.

John Travolta stars as Jack, in this thriller directed by Brian De Palma (The Untouchables, Dressed To Kill). This was an absorbing story, with a very good Travolta, aided by De Palma regular Nancy Allen. What grabbed me instantly was De Palma’s direction – he uses split screen, imaginative camera work and clever editing to their fullest to deliver a very unique look and feel. Alongside movies like Carrie this is probably up their with the director’s best. The murder-mystery plot is also a fascinating one, but does get a bit silly at times, with a slightly uneven tone. An extended chase towards the end, whilst creative and visually impressive, also stretches plausibility.

However this was above all else really entertaining, aided by solid performances (including a memorable John Lithgow) and pacey, stylish direction that makes for a firm recommendation from me.

The Blu-ray from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has a newly restored image that has plenty of detail. It’s a bit overly dark in night scenes and there’s a lot of grain, but for a movie released in 1981 it’s in great shape. The soundtrack in DTS HD Master Audio is very clear with only occasional echoing in certain dialogue scenes. The soundtrack, one of the movies highlights is very effective throughout. Extras consist of several interviews amongst new and archive material. There’s also a behind the scenes photo gallery and a detailed booklet with an essay by critic Michael Sragow. I’d have loved a commentary but sadly there isn’t one. Other that that this is a great package and a must for fans.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Free Guy


Viewed – 05 October 2021 Disney+

Ryan Reynolds is quickly becoming my go-to actor for decent comedy these days, especially following his two hilarious turns as Deadpool. This latest outing has him as video game character ‘Guy’ who leads his life blissfully unaware he’s inside a game. However when a female character catches his eye, causing him to break free from his programming, he stumbles upon a programmers quest to uncover some stolen code hidden with the game world.

This vibrant and immediately enthralling concept really captures the wacky style of game worlds like Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto, whilst at the same time blending the concept of Ready Player One with The Truman Show. Reynolds is perfect as the loveable ‘Guy’ and is aided by a great pairing with Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer, as the real-world programmer and gamer who’s avatar in the game world is a gun wielding badass. Every second there’s something new to spot, references to music, games and pop-culture and although it may not be consistently funny, mostly down to a deliberate over-the-top approach, for me it’s was still a joy to sit through and take in.

Taika Waititi’s main villain does grate quickly and despite him being a character in the real world, his performance is very video-gamey. It is also a tad too sugar-coated as it ends, but these are small gripes in what is otherwise a genuinely fun time. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Kate


Viewed – 14 September 2021 Netflix

I admit it, Mary Elizabeth Winstead just does it for me. She always plays cool characters, is a capable actor and exudes a subtle sexiness that’s very appealing. This latest vehicle, playing a character not too dissimilar to one she played in Birds of Prey has her as Kate, a professional assassin who following a hit that goes wrong, discovers she’s been infected with a deadly poison. With about a day to live she races against time to find out the culprit and eliminate them.

Co-starring Woody Harrelson as her mentor, this is very much the female take on John Wick and yes, Winstead is a badass. Set in Tokyo, of course this is stylish, full of neon, fast cars and plenty of gun-fu. Shame then that unlike that Keanu Reeves franchise, the direction here isn’t as slick, and action can occasionally feel stilted, with some uninspired camera work and sloppy editing – add to this an over reliance on (poor) CGI. The plot is still effective if simple, serving up some good twists, and the subplot of a teenage girl who Kate has to reluctantly team up with, proved interesting.

If you like your action fast and colourful, this is still the movie for you. Winstead is great, portraying her pending death well, but much of the plot was quite predictable. Harrelson also is also just ok, clearly capable of delivering this kind of character in his sleep. So no, not quite an action classic, but worth seeing regardless.

Verdict: Good

Till Death


Viewed – 04 September 2021 online rental

Other than how gorgeous she is, I can’t say I’ve taken much interest in Megan Fox. She was fine in Transformers and the last movie I saw her in was the rather underrated Jennifer’s Body. So coming to this thriller, her name wasn’t an immediate pull. However the concept was interesting. Fox plays a woman in a loveless marriage to a controlling husband. In an attempt to rekindle their love however, the husband takes her to a lakeside cabin. Following morning she wakes up to witness his suicide, and finds herself handcuffed to him just as two men break into the cabin.

A tense situation leads to several nail-biting moments, and as events progressed I did find myself getting absorbed. Fox does a good turn as a woman in an impossible situation and goes through hell and back in her attempt to survive. However the movie stumbles due to some alarming moments of implausibility … especially during the bits where she’s dragging her husbands corpse around. Yes it takes a promising concept and gets very silly very fast, which is a shame. Also the moment Fox’s husband off’s himself just didn’t ring true – honestly, she takes it rather well!

The closing moments got quit thrilling however and there’s certainly some good ideas – the car alarm sequence for one – but overall the initial promise was let down by sloppy direction. Worth a rental though.

Verdict: Good