I tend to approach a movie directed by Christopher Nolan with a degree of expectation. Over the years he has earned his place as one of the most skilled directors around, with acclaimed works such as Inception, Interstellar and of course The Dark Knight trilogy. This latest has him attempt the spy / espionage sub-genre and you do get the impression he’d make a helluva Bond movie – but this gives the genre Nolan’s own unique spin. So how does it fair?
Before get to that let’s go into the plot. A CUA operative (John David Washington) gets embroiled in a complex plot to over throw a Russian arms dealer (Kenneth Branagh) who seems to have stumbled upon a top secret weapon that could mean the end of the world. This weapon has something to do with time inversion, where objects or people can be inverted so they work in reverse of perceived time, therefore manipulating the world as it see’s fit because it’s already happened. The movie has us grapple with this high-brow concept whilst delivering exhilarating, unique action set pieces (the freeway heist) I felt only a director of Christopher Nolan’s calibre could pull off. The plot is confusing at first as our protagonist tries to stop a mad man whilst grappling with the fabric of time itself. Yet it’s a time travel movie done in a way I don’t think we’ve seen before, … that’s head-scratching but also awe-inspiring, with all the necessary ‘aha’ moments when certain details fall into place. This is rather ingenious writing that I’ll admit to not really being clever enough to unravel on first viewing.
Beyond the complex ideas at play, there is also the matter of stunning IMAX photography, which is more plentiful here than in the director’s previous work aided by a reliance on large-scale stunt work, practical effects and grandeur. The movie globe trots from eye catching locale to eye catching locale and it all looks lush. Performances ranging from Washington’s cool as ice Protagonist to Brannagh’s scenery chewing villain are decent, even if plot exposition can get lost in line delivery that’s often mumbled (and occasionally drowned out by the movie’s score) The fact this movie is hard to follow is really it’s only failing. Otherwise it delivers action, scale and imagination that’s on a different level. Perhaps not Nolan’s best, but certainly up there with some of his other movies if given the attention it deserves.
Well I realise I skipped a year, as I wasn’t well last Christmas. This year I’m in much better health and can post my usual Yuletide blog post. This year I got some lovely prezzies, my usual Scarlett Johansson calendar, the Criterion release of The Irishman, Tenet in 4K UHD, the official guide to Cyberpunk 2077, two framed movie prints (Taxi Driver & Pulp Fiction) with signatures, a FunkoPOP of The Mandelorian’s The Child, … as well as clothing, smellies, chocolate etc. Very very nice.
I hope everyone I got prezzies for liked what I got them, and I send my Christmas thank yous to all the visitors of this blog and hope you have a great Christmas and a happy New Year (let’s hope 2021 is a vast improvement on 2020).
The sport of Wrestling has ever really appealed. The most exposure I ever had to it was seeing Big Daddy lay the smack down on World of Sport when I was a kid. However it has to be said, the sports movie has often been surprisingly great, and this little gem is no exception. The true story of the rise to fame of female wrestler Paige, who from humble beginnings with her wrestling obsessed family in Norwich, gets plucked by a coach who sees something special in her and gives her a chance to try out for a place in the WWE.
Florence Pugh, who first caught my eye in the unsettling Midsommer is great here as is her support cast including Vince Vaughn and Nick Frost. I especially enjoyed the bond Paige has with her brother and how it gets tested through the course of the story, leading to some quite heart-wrenching moments. It’s also laugh out loud funny in places, helped by a sharp script from Stephen Merchant (who also directs).
As a rise-to-fame journey, yeah it’s cliched with a believing in one self ark and a coach / mentor who’s tough yet secretly a nice guy … but that’s not always bad if it’s handled as well as this. A highly entertaining, well acted and feel good experience I couldn’t wait to talk about. A must see.
Very few directors could deliver a movie with subject matter such as this and make it work, without it being exploitation trash, but in the hands of David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) what remains an uncomfortable viewing experience somehow still took hold of this viewer. James Spader plays a guy fascinated by car crashes and aroused by the thrill of injury, twisted metal and the sheer violence of it all. Aided by his girlfriend (The Game’s Deborah Unger) they pursue this unhealthy obsession until Spader ends up in hospital. There he meets fellow crash victim Holly Hunter who he discovers is a kindred spirit and before long he’s lead into an underworld of like-minded people who find sexual arousal in near death experiences.
Acted from the off by all involved like they’re on the brink of orgasm, this highly sexual drama is just plain weird and has an atmosphere I’ll admit was initially hard to get into. Cronenberg’s direction however makes everything eerie, borderline hypnotic and very dream-like. However not for a second is it sexy, as Cronenberg gives each sex scene an unnatural and animalistic vibe that’s closer to his brand of body horror than say, Basic Instinct … but it works.
James Spader is perfectly cast, as is Deborah Unger, actors both at ease with uneasy material. However one surprise was Holly Hunter who I’d never usually associate with this kind of thing. Elias Koteas (Zodiac) stands out as a rather freaky medical photographer obsessed with staging recreations of famous car crashes. We also get Rosanna Arquette as a woman in leg callipers who’s involved in a particularly infamous scene. Overall this was a difficult watch. I appreciated much of the atmosphere and the perverse subject was strangely alluring… but was I entertained? No. Worth seeing but definitely not for everyone.
Crash remains quite the controversial movie, and this new, fully uncut limited edition from Arrow Video explores it impressively. The restored 4K Ultra HD image is grainy and nicely detailed, with only occasional softness. However, despite mention of HDR this isn’t a showcase for your TV setup. The same goes for the 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that’s made up mostly of gentle dialogue and Howard Shore’s haunting score. The surrounds get a mild workout mostly in the various driving / highway scenes but nothing all that diverting. However it’s the extras where this release shines. There is a comprehensive booklet covering the making and legacy of the movie, various interviews, featuretts, some David Cronenberg short films, and a commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin. Add to this a double-sided poster and deluxe hardback slip case packaging and this is decent treatment for a polarising yet still worthwhile entry in Cronenberg’s back catalogue.
I’ve been a long time fan of director David Cronenberg, and came to this unusual thriller blind, unaware at first that it’s directed by his son Brandon. However shortly into this I began to get those unsettling Cronenberg vibes, with its emphasis on the psychological effects of technology, not unlike Videodrome. This has a woman, Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) who works for a secret organisation who by using a device can transport herself into another person’s body in order to carry out an assassination.
Shot with a visual aesthetic that’s both beautiful and creepy, I was initially gripped by this concept and intrigued how it would play out. We learn early on that Tasya is in a relationship and has a young son, but is away on ‘business’ a lot so finds it hard to relate to them naturally, almost playing a part whenever she’s with them. Therefore she dives into her role as an assassin, mentored by Jennifer Jason Leigh’s agency figure.
However the is let down by a lack of meaning to Tasya’s increasingly brutal kills, seeming to lose control whenever she has to complete her mission. The violence here is drawn out, incredibly graphic and I’ll say … unnecessary. The themes the movie explores of identity, sanity, technology etc are interesting but they get overwhelmed by the gore. This leads to an ending that just didn’t make sense. Director Brandon Cronenberg has many of his father’s sensibilities but little of his depth going by this example. Disappointing.
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