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

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga


Viewed – 06 August 2021 Netflix

Browsing Netflix I wanted something fun to watch, so I stumbled upon this Will Farrell comedy that I’d heard had garnered some buzz. As a casual appreciator of the long-running song contest of the title, mostly for it’s wacky examples of European culture, I must say the subject appealed. This tells the story of Lars (Farrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), life-long friends who have always dreamt of one day competing in Eurovision just like their heroes Abba. However the small Icelandic town where they live have always mocked such hopes, finding the duo a bit of a laughing stock rather than anything to encourage, especially by Lars’ disapproving father (Pierce Brosnan).

Take a chance on… us?

For a Will Farrell comedy this seemed on the surface fairly typical, delivering his usual brand of buffoonery and slapstick. However his pairing with McAdams, an actress I’ve grown to like brings a bit more emotional depth to the story, delivering equal parts heart-warming moments as well as laugh out loud funny. At times Farrell’s antics threaten to destabilise things, even in some of the more meaningful moments, yet the often touching, feel good story quickly won me over.

A surprising experience then with a lot of heart. The music varies from intentionally cringe to rather show-stopping (that end song) and delivers a genuine celebration of all things Eurovision (including several cameos from real contestants). Farrell is fun but doesn’t do much here he hasn’t in the past. Overall though, this is McAdams’ movie, with her character having the strongest journey. She’s also just so damn likeable. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Nobody


Viewed – 27 July 2021 online rental

Bob Odenkirk made his name primarily as the bumbling yet likeable lawyer Saul Goodman in acclaimed TV sensation Breaking Bad. However I’d have never imagined him as some badass former assassin, but that’s the premise we have here as he plays Hutch, a family man hiding a secret that gets unearthed after he pisses off a bunch of Russian mobsters.

No more Mr nice guy…

From the writers of the John Wick franchise, this also has vibes of Liam Neeson hit Taken mixed with Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, with a rapid pace and plenty of kick-ass violence, all shot with no end of style and wincing choreography. Odenkirk, playing against type is clearly having a ball and is surprisingly convincing. The story however is merely an excuse to show Odenkirk in such sequences and doesn’t add up to much. At around 92 minutes it also felt rushed and occasionally forced just to make things ‘happen’ (he beats up a group of guys on a bus, simply to prove he’s still got it). The main villain is also rather one-note and stereotypical. However it was really great to see the legendary Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s dad joining in with the mayhem.

For its style, some fun humour and quality action, this entertained well enough … but I couldn’t escape the feeling there was a bigger story here we were not seeing, lacking the world-building of the aforementioned Wick movies. Check this out if you’re an action fan, and as a vehicle for Odenkirk you’ll find this eye-opening. Yet for a fully fleshed out experience – I was left wanting.

Verdict: Good

True Romance


Viewed – 21 July 2021 Blu-ray

In the early to mid nineties, one name seemed to reignite cinema as we know it and seemed to make movies exciting again. That name was Quentin Tarantino. At the time his movies, both those he directed and the ones he simply wrote, influenced me in my own writing. Most notably this lovers-on-the-run thriller from 1993. Directed by the late Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) this tells the story of Elvis-obsessed Clarence (Christian Slater) who after falling for newbie call girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) decides to confront her pimp, Drexel (Gary Oldman) to reclaim her belongings … yet after the meeting goes horribly wrong, Clarence comes into accidental possession of a suitcase full of cocaine.

This is shot with Scott’s distinct style; smokey interiors, sunsets, garish colours and soft focus. Something he put to great effect in movies such as Top Gun and The Last Boyscout. He’s also a great fit for Tarantino’s snappy, pop-culture filled script, helping to get the most out of a colourful cast, which also includes Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken and even a stoner cameo by Brad Pitt. There’s many stand-out scenes here, such as the now iconic Sicilian scene between Walken and Hopper, many quotable lines (“I like you Clarence, always have …always will!”), and even side characters seem to jump off the screen. However, I’ve always felt the movie is held back a tad by the fact Clarence comes across as a bit of an asshole sometimes. It also didn’t feel right how easily Alabama dismisses certain crazy things Clarence does. Yet as an unconventional love story, and despite their flaws, I still found myself liking these guys.

Like Natural Born Killers, Reservoir Dogs etc, at the time this came under fire by the censors for its violence, and yes it’s violent (especially the Tony Soprano vs Alabama scene) but it’s all larger than life, and by today’s standards – rather tame. Yet this is still one of Tarantino’s most entertaining scripts, and remains a nineties classic well worth your time.

The newly restored 4K release from Arrow Video is a difficult one to judge. Mostly due to Tony Scott’s directing style which delivers an overly soft, yet noticeably grainy image. The HDR implementation does seem to bring out the colours, and overall detail is good, if not exactly reference quality. Soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is crisp, and the various scenes involving music really deliver (Drexel’s club especially). Extras are plentiful, many of which are carried over from the previous Blu-ray, including deleted scenes, interviews and four commentaries, from Scott, Arquette & Slater, critic Tim Lucas and most notably one by Tarantino himself. New to this version are additional interviews with behind the scenes crew members, co-stars and fans of the movie. We also get art cards, a detailed 60 page booklet, double-sided poster and deluxe packaging.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended