Jo Jo Rabbit


Viewed – 17 May 2020. Online rental

A young boy living in World War II Germany idolises Adolf Hitler to the point of having an imaginary friend who bares more than a passing resemblance to the Fuhrer. With dreams of joining the German Army and hopes of becoming a Nazi, one day he finds all he loves thrown into question upon discovering a Jewish girl hiding in the walls of his house.

Directed by Taika Waititi (Thor Rsgnorok) who also takes on the role of Hitler, this irreverent and unusual approach to the WWII conflict boldly blends satire and surrealism with a profound commentary on the innocence of youth during war time. Coming off as a bit of comedy at first seems rather bad taste but as the story unfolds it became clear that the viewpoint is solely that of a ten year old boy, who’s young mind has been overloaded with propaganda. However the murkier aspects of the Nazi regime lurk in the background, and despite many an absurd moment, still manages to have an impact. This is down to solid performances across the board, especially Roman Griffin Davis as Jo Jo and Thomason McKenzie as Elsa, although support from Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are also memorable.

Waititi manages the inconceivable by delivering a light tone to the war without ‘making light’ of the war, leading to many effectively poignant moments such as when Elsa remarks about her parents ‘my parents went to a place they can’t come back from.’. A sharply written, brilliantly performed and unique approach to a difficult subject.

Verdict: Essential.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Viewed – 16 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

I had put the Harry Potter franchise on hold for a while now but having reached ‘H’ in my A-Z challenge I thought it was a good idea to pick up where I left off. This fifth entry in the celebrated saga has Harry returning to Hogwarts and facing a backlash following his involvement in Voldemort’s apparent return and the death of Cedric. With suspicion surrounding him and school headmaster Dumbledore, a new professor is brought on who proves a bit of a tyrant. However a secret society turns to Harry to investigate Voldemort’s plans and hopefully prevent a war.

The world of Harry Potter is again enchanting and imaginative. This entry reunites us with many likeable characters including Ron Weasley, Hermione and Hagrid. Imelda Staunton is also fun as villainous professor Delores Umbridge … however, the plot spends far too much time with this character wrecking havoc at the school and less on the Voldemort plot, leading to a deja-vu showdown against the dark lord that we’ve pretty much had in various guesses for five movies now. Despite the stakes raising each time, it’s on a whole a concept that feels stretched out and repetitive. With that said, production values, atmosphere and effects work are all still great, and that showdown familiar as it is, is pretty bad-ass.

Radcliffe is on a whole, likeable but far from a gifted actor (even at this stage), his line-delivery particularly lacking emotional weight. Co-stars fair better, especially Emma Watson and Michael Gambon. However like most of the movies thus far in this franchise, there’s little that propels the story forward and is bogged down in unnecessary world building and throw-away side plots. I like this world and these characters quite a bit, but whilst this entry was indeed fun in places it was also quite underwhelming.

Verdict: Good

Frenzy


Viewed – 09 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

I have a confession. I have never really got that much into the movies of famed director Alfred Hitchcock, and my experiences with his work have been fleeting at best, with possibly only Rear Window being a movie I have watched all the way through. However I intend to rectify this and have recently purchased a couple of box sets that house many of his classics. This 1972 effort, made towards the end of his career may not have the word of mouth or notoriety of movies like Psycho or The Birds, but I’d say is still worthy of your time.

Following getting fired from his job as a bartender, a man becomes embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer, nicknamed the necktie killer due to the victims, all women being found strangled with a tie. Set in London and with a decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone, mostly shot in bright daylight, this like Psycho marries the mundanity of normal life and normal folk with the looming shadow of a killer. The movie isn’t a whodunnit as-such, more of a ‘how do I prove I didn’t do it?’, with the actual killer revealed early on. Filled with interesting, quirky characters, a very of-the-time acting style, some corny cor-blimey cockney dialogue and several recognisable faces from British television … this wasn’t like any serial killer thriller I’d seen, which made the movie more ‘fun’ than expected. Such a style at times sat uneasy with more shocking scenes including a rape and murder, with the killer particularly unnerving in his relative normality. Yet that all worked in the movie’s favour I’d say.

As an introduction to Hitchcock this might be a bit Hitchcock-lite from what I hear, although retains his famed visual flourishes and suspense. On its own merits, I found this unique and gripping … and I rather enjoyed it.

The Blu-ray, part of the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection has an impressively sharp and vibrant image, that has a look of technicolour. Grain is intact and detail very good throughout. Sound is also effective and clear in DTS Master Audio 2.0. Extras consist of a fascinating making of documentary as well as a trailer and production photographs.

Verdict:

(the movie). Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Betty Blue


Viewed – 02 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

This was one of those guilty pleasures for me as an adolescent, hormonal teenager. Yeah it’s one of those typically French movies that’s greatest appeal was scenes of rather explicit sex and a very frank approach to on screen nudity. However, as time went buy and subsequent viewings I began to see beyond the ‘naughty stuff’ and appreciate the rather touching, albeit tragic love story at the movie’s heart.

Jean-Hugues Anglade stars as Zorg, a handyman and would-be writer in a passionate relationship with free spirited Betty (Beatrice Dalle) who are drifting through life going from one situation to another, getting jobs, making friends and experiencing life. However it quickly transpires that Betty has more than a few psychological problems and as the story progresses, those problems take a turn for the worse.

Immediately its not hard to see why actress Beatrice Dalle was the iconic poster girl of many a bedroom wall in the 80’s … she’s undeniably sexy, incredibly photogenic and exudes French chic. Although shot in a realistic fashion, the cinematography perfectly captures that European exotic and historical beauty, be it with sun-drenched beach communities, rolling French countryside or quante villages. It makes the journey the couple go on particularly captivating. Anglade is very likeable and is the viewers anchor to the otherwise wild and unpredictable Dalle who delivers an equally likeable, fun and ultimately heart-breaking performance thats very convincing. A classic of French cinema that proves just as engaging and effective as it was over 30 years ago.

I picked up the Second Sight Blu-ray that boasts two cuts of the movie. I’d recommend the 3hr director’s cut over the 2hr theatrical version as although both versions are very similar, where the story goes is handled better and not as sudden as the shorter cut. The Blu-ray itself boasts a decent image that although not that sharp has strong colours, which are a big draw here. We also get a making of (featuring new interviews with cast and crew) and some Beatrice Dalle screen tests. So not amazing treatment but the movie is in decent shape, the somewhat soft look does suit the movie, and sound is adequate in 2.0 stereo.

Verdict:

(the movie)

Theatrical – Good

Directors Cut – Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Good

Motherless Brooklyn


Viewed – 18 April 2029. Online rental

I had been quite hyped for this. A period set crime drama starring Edward Norton in his directorial debut as a member of a detective agency investigation the events surrounding his boss’s mysterious death. However despite a constant battle with Tourette’s and OCD, he has a brilliant memory and so makes for a skilled investigator. At the heart of his investigation is a ruthless development commissioner and a gutsy female campaigner.

Norton carries this movie with a convincing portrayal of a man battling with himself, capturing all the nuances of someone with that affliction – which is at times funny, other times heart breaking. It was also good to see him back centre stage like he used to be. However his performance can’t disguise the fact the plot just isn’t that gripping and is overly cryptic even when it’s trying to explain itself. Alec Baldwin is decent as property developer ‘Moses’ as is Willem Dafoe. The 50’s New York setting is fairly well done, but occasionally sits uneasy between absolute realism and exaggerated Hollywood-noir style. There’s also a clear influence of the classic Chinatown here but can’t come close to that movie’s impact.

Almost worth it for Norton alone, but overall this can’t rise above it’s narrative shortcomings. Still, I’d like to see what Norton does next if he chooses to continue as a director.

Verdict: Poor