Underwater


Viewed – 11 July 2020.

Although Kristen Stewart has appeared in some big name movies, including Twilight and Snow White and the Huntsman, she’s often overshadowed by either co-stars or the movies themselves. She can be an actress that seems a bit one dimensional but regardless I’ve always felt there’s potential. This latest effort puts her front and centre so let’s hope it delivers.

This has Stewart, as part of a deep-sea mining crew that following a disaster have to journey to another facility, crossing the sea bed along the way. Only problem is there seems to be a group of deadly creatures hunting them. So a battle for survival commenced in the depths of the ocean. I got a distinct The Abyss meets Alien vibe with this and it didn’t go unnoticed that Stewart is rather Ripley-like even if she’s no Sigourney Weaver. Despite lacking the ambition of either of those titles, the movie does deliver an at times intense and claustrophobic experience that’s often quite unnerving. With a disaster right at the start it’s a movie that hits the ground running and barely let’s up ‘till the credits roll. The sea creatures are more freaky than scary and unfortunately the horror is a tad watered down (pun intended). The beginning also suggests the plot might explore the psychological effects of being so deep under the sea, but this gets abandoned almost instantly.

Stewart is decent though, proving both gutsy and vulnerable at all the right moments. Support comes from the dependable Vincent Cassell and T J Miller (who’s predictably the comic relief) and direction throughout is focused and atmospheric. This is a good looking movie with some stylish sequences but ultimately is let down by under-developed characters and an over-resemblance to better movies. Solid entertainment, but lacking its own personality.

Verdict: Good

Repo Man


Viewed – 08 July 2020 Blu-ray

For some reason I have always wanted to see this early eighties oddity. Directed by British cult filmmaker Alex Cox (Sid & Nancy) this is pure low budget gorilla film-making with an almost throw-away plot revolving around street punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) who gets involved with a group of ‘repo men’ who steel / reclaim cars when debts fail to get paid. However one such car doing the rounds has a very unusual package in its trunk that may just be extra terrestrial.

This was a bit nuts. It’s clear Cox was going for a rather surreal vibe with sprinklings of social commentary and not so subtle send ups of shady FBI, street culture and sci-fi b-movies. It doesn’t really make much sense, it’s never explained why the car with the alien in its trunk is just driving around constantly – where is it going? Or how one girl seems to be connected. Acting from Estevez as well as the late Harry Dean Stanton varies from passable to bad all the time too. There’s also some pretty dodgy edits along the way that add some confusion.

Yet somehow it’s still kinda fun, and every now and then I can appreciate something stripped down, experimental and different. A soundtrack featuring Iggy Pop is a bonus and some of the film-making, as awkwardly cheap looking as it is, has a certain charm to it. I’m glad I’ve seen it now and I had a good time, but it remains far from essential viewing.

The Blu-ray, part of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series is rather packed however. It boasts a clean and fairly detailed restored image as well as a DTS HD mono soundtrack (although dialogue can get a bit echoey). We get an archive commentary from the director, producer etc and an 11 minute intro from Alex Cox, shot in 2011. Add to this a wealth of deleted footage, a TV version, trailers, a retrospective making-of and a detailed booklet. For collectors, this makes up for many shortcomings with the actual movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) Poor

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

The Invisible Man


Viewed – 04 July 2020 online rental

There have been many interpretations of the Invisible Man story, from old black and white incarnations to John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven movies. There was also a proposed Universal monsters outing starring Johnny Depp that never came to be. So we come to this latest that has The Handmaid Tale’s Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia, a woman who in the opening scene escapes an abusive relationship with wealthy scientist Adrian. However after her ex’s apparent suicide, Cecilia still feels someone is taunting and messing with her. Has Adrian come back from the dead, or is something else going on?

Director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) delivers a clever twist on the stalker thriller, borrowing the blue print of The Invisible Man concept and bringing it bang up to date. It proves for a decidedly unnerving and gripping watch, and plays about with the idea well to really crank up the tension. There are certainly echoes of Hollow Man here with the idea of the enemy being something that can’t be seen, although it’s not quite as visceral as Verhoevan’s underrated entry. It also made me think of Candyman, especially in the second half. Elizabeth Moss is great, as she often is and proves a mesmerising heroine.

Plot-wise its a bit underdeveloped as we learn very little about Adrian, what makes him tick etc. Also the ending is a bit stupid with at least one major lapse in logic. Not helped when the plot raises far more questions than it bothers to answer. That being said this was still thrilling in places with several stand out moments (the restaurant, the attic), aided by decent effects and stunt work. Not quite the full package but worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

A-Z Challenge – conclusion


Starting this challenge on May 1st, I guessed there would be times it would get quite challenging (duh), as in order to keep on track I would sometimes have to watch a movie from my Blu-ray collection that I wasn’t in the mood for. As the weeks went by, I would swap and change titles to better support what mood I found myself in, and to explore a variety of genres and sometimes titles different countries.

… in support of physical media

I think on a whole the final list of 26 movies is a nice and varied one. Below you can take a look at the list in full (complete with my verdicts) and draw your own conclusions … and maybe feel inspired to attempt something similar yourself?

Arietty – Recommended

Betty Blue – Good

Carlito’s Way – Recommended

Die Hard 2 – Recommended

Edge of Tomorrow – Recommended

Frenzy – Good

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Essential

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Poor

Interstellar – Recommended

Jurassic Park – Essential

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – Good

La La Land – Recommended

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Recommended

North By Northwest – Good

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Good

Parasite – Recommended

Quantum of Solace – Good

[REC] – Recommended

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance – Recommended

Time Bandits – Recommended

Unforgiven – Good

Vertigo – Good

The World Is Not Enough – Good

X-Men Days of Future Past – Recommended

Your Name – Essential

Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain – Poor

I’m really proud to have completed this challenge in the time frame i gave myself (ending on June 30th) and hope to attempt something similar again in the future. If I was to pick a highlight from the movies I saw, it’d probably be Parasite, although watching Time Bandits again was great fun too. I also enjoyed discovering some Hitchcock movies. Disappointments? Unforgiven, which I found quite boring, and Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain which wasn’t as good as I remembered. Otherwise I had a good time with the majority of my choices. Now though it’s back to normal and high-time I got onto checking out some newer movies that I can review.

Craig.

Vertigo


Viewed 25 June 2020 (A-Z Collection Challenge)

Next to Psycho, this is probably one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most celebrated movies. Starring James Stewart (It’s A Wonderful Life) as a former cop turned private detective who is hired by an old friend to follow his wife Madeline around. Concerned with her strange behaviour, the friend believes she’s reliving her long dead grandmother’s life, who committed suicide at 26. So it’s up to Stewart to figure out the mystery whilst at the same time battling his own crippling Vertigo.

Hanging in there…

Hitchcock’s movie is bathed in a wealth of garish colours that really make it pop off the screen. The cinematography showcasing San Francisco as well as avant-gard restaurants and the like, is gorgeous and rather surreal looking, giving the movie that classic Hollywood sheen with a hint of creepiness. Stewart is great, likeable and fascinating, as is Kim Novak’s dangerously alluring Madeline. The atmosphere here is often haunting and a bit weird but works perfectly. I’ve not seen all that many Hitchcock movies but this one definitely has its own vibe even if the everyman in a bad situation and the femme fatale are typical tropes of the director from what I hear.

The ending came about a bit abruptly and the love story felt rather forced. What it was all about in the end wasn’t as interesting as the build up either. Overall though, with its haunting atmosphere, distinct look and solid performances … I still had a good time with this.

The Blu-ray image is very pleasing even if the darkest scenes seem to get a bit too murky. Detail on a whole is impressive though. The soundtrack is effective too, helped by Bernard Herman’s at times intense score. Extras consist of featurettes covering the movie’s restoration, Alfred Hitchcock’s collaborators, and a period of foreign censorship. However the highlight is a commentary by director William Friedkin (The Exorcist). Impressive stuff and overall a stellar package.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended