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

The Father


Viewed – 11 September 2021 online rental

The subject of Alzheimer’s disease is certainly going to be difficult viewing. This awfully cruel illness is hard to explore but in the hands of French novelist turned Director Florian Zeller and an actor of the calibre of Anthony Hopkins … I found myself heavily drawn into this powerful drama.

Hopkins plays ‘Anthony’ an ageing man who is looked after by his daughter (The Crown’s Olivia Coleman). The approach here is at first hard to follow as the setting and characters keep changing with no explanation, and even the time line jumps back and forth. Yet when it clicks and you realise such a confusing narrative is purposely due to Anthony’s perspective, you realise you’re witnessing what it might be like to suffer from this disease. It’s very cleverly done and I recommend just going with it until it’s final scenes – because trust me, it’s worth it.

Olivia Coleman is very good like always, convincingly playing a daughter struggling to care for her father. There’s also appearances from Mark Gattis, Rufus Sewell and Olivia Williams. However at the centre of it all is an incredibly layered and it has to be said, heart-breaking performance from Hopkins, who deserves every inch of that Oscar. A powerful, surprisingly amusing at times yet also very authentic drama that gripped me as much as it got me teary eyed. A must watch.

Verdict: Essential

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

Candyman


Viewed – 31 August 2021 Cinema

I revisited the original Candyman a while back, and although I still liked it I did find some the acting a bit poor. Yet it’s concept was certainly ripe for a new instalment and this re-imagining-come-sequel, which dismisses the other sequels, follows a struggling artist who stumbles upon the urban legend. Deciding to base his new exhibition on the myth, the artist unwittingly summons the ghetto ghoul in the process.

Say my name…

Produced and co-written by Jordan Peele (Get Out), this new instalment stays faithful to the events of the first movie whilst adding plenty ideas of its own. I especially liked how it explores the idea that Candyman is not just one person but several who had all died in horrible ways, the latest being a victim of Police brutality. Yes, clearly there’s a Black Lives Matter message here as well as an exploration of racism from both sides. Direction is very atmospheric and at times quite creepy but not all that chilling, yet this is offset by several well-executed kills (including a particularly shocking school bathroom scene).

The fact that only white people get killed in this however, feels problematic, and despite exploring similar themes to the first movie, it does seem to have an axe to grind. It also never really goes for it in the gore department. However such things don’t ruin what is generally an effective and imaginative follow up that has enough personality and stand out sequences to be worthy of your time.

Verdict: Good

Night of the Hunter


Viewed – 24 August 2021 Blu-ray

After a man is arrested for murder, he befriends a petty crook in prison who discovers that the man has hidden $10,000 in cash. After being released and intent on finding the money, the crook, played by Robert Mitchum, swoops down on the man’s family, posing as a preacher.

This 1955 drama has quite the classic status, and the menacing portrayal of evil from Mitchum is effective, as is the often gothic, black & white photography, giving the movie a very eerie and iconic atmosphere. Directed by actor turned one-time Director Charles Laughton, this seems on the surface, choppily put together, with performances (with the exception of Mitchum) ranging from awful to amateurish. Even Shelley Winters gets little more to do than fawn over Mitchum due to her character’s god-fearing beliefs.

The frequent songs being sung (although not a musical) also vary from cringe to creepy, yet add to a rather strange mood. By the second half however, I found myself getting caught up in what was happening, especially with the focus being on two young children being stalked by a crazy preacher. There’s just something really haunting about it all, and I must say it kind of freaked me out – in a good way. Maybe not the masterpiece it’s lauded as, but worthwhile nonetheless.

I picked up the Criterion Blu-ray of this and must admit found the image quality a little underwhelming. For a movie of its time I’ve definitely seen sharper, with an overly grainy image. However the soundtrack was clear enough in uncompressed mono audio. Yet it’s in the extras where this release impresses most. We have a commentary from an ensemble comprising of the second unit director, a film critic and an author of a book about the making of the movie. There’s also interviews, clips from chat shows, archival documentary, a 2 and a half hour behind the scenes compilation and plenty more. To top it off there’s also a detailed booklet featuring several write ups on the movie. Impressive stuff.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended