The Best of Enemies


Viewed – 17 April 2021 Netflix

It’s unfortunate that the awful history of racism in America can make for such riveting movies. Set in North Carolina in 1971, this explores the story of a female black activist who gets pitted against a leader of the local Klu Klux Klan. When forced to work together to pass a bill about racial integration in schools, the two rivals find themselves forming an unusual friendship.

This is the type of movie that really gets one thinking and questioning the world we live in. Immediately the setting and time period, aided by a great soundtrack pulled me in. This was also brilliantly acted, with the stand out being Taraji P Hensen (Hidden Figures), who delivers a powerhouse performance as Ann Atwater. Sam Rockwell as KKK leader C P Ellis is also excellent and delivers possibly one of his best turns in a challenging portrayal. Although the story might seem familiar and there’s certainly comparisons to be had with the acclaimed Green Book, this still really grabbed me. Direction from first-timer Robin Bissell was authentic and engrossing, and delivered a powerful, feel good ending that really made the movie for me.

For such material it glosses over some of the worst the KKK were known for, although I’m guessing this was more a character piece focusing on how people can learn from one another … and in that respect it’s pretty damn great. A must watch.

Verdict: Essential

Unhinged


Viewed – 13 April 2021 online rental

I’ve always liked Russell Crowe, and who can argue he was amazing in Gladiator. However I’ve always appreciated his more edgy characters like in L A Confidential or his earlier role in the controversial Romper Stomper. So it was interesting to see him return to such a role where he’s not exactly the good guy. This has him as a man who begins a brutal vendetta against a woman who honks her horn at him at a set of traffic lights.

Yes this is a movie about road rage taken to the absolute extreme. For about 90 minutes this intense thriller sent me on a wild ride of ever increasing intensity and brutality. Really, this just doesn’t hold back as we watch Crowe’s rampage consume the screen. Think Falling Down meets The Terminator and you’ll get what this one’s going for. There were times I was basically shouting at the screen.

Caren Pistorius as the woman who is the object of Crowes vendetta is excellent, coming across convincingly as a woman in a terrible situation. I’d have liked a bit more back story on Crowe’s character … but overall I really got a kick out of this. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Operation Condor


Viewed – 03 April 2021 Blu-ray

Armour of God II

I’ve been a fan of Jackie Chan for years. Recently I’ve been collecting some of his movies newly released on Blu-ray. However I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed by certain movies that seem more about knockabout comedy and story than the action and stunt work that’s made him famous. However this release from 1991, a follow up to his famed Amour of God – feels to me like the definitive Chan experience. Chan plays adventurer ‘Condor’ who is given the job of travelling to the African desert to locate some buried gold left over from World War II. Along the way he gathers a trio of female friends who aid him in his mission, followed by murderous thugs out to steel the gold for themselves.

The story is nothing special and kind of nonsensical at times but it’s the pacing and energy that grabbed me. It jumps quickly from chases to fights to stunts to a climactic battle in an underground base, with barely a breather. Add to this Chan’s usual brand of character comedy, fun dialogue, awkwardness and slapstick … and this was just a riot of fun. This time the story, comedy and action all feel intertwined perfectly with no one element out staying it’s welcome. The three actresses making up Chan’s fellow adventurers all had their own personalities and were a lot of fun. Sometimes Chan comes off as a bit of a womaniser but no more than a dozen Bond movies – which this clearly borrows from along with obviously Indiana Jones.

The climactic fight in the underground base is classic Chan and features some of his best work – especially the sequence inside a wind tunnel. Fantastic stuff. One of Chan’s most consistently entertaining movies.

The Blu-ray I picked up from 88 Films is probably the best the movie has ever looked, boasting a new 2k restoration. There are two cuts of the movie here, the Hong Kong theatrical cut with a soundtrack in either 2.0 Cantonese or original mono dubbed. This version also has a commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert Mike Leeder and film maker Arne Venema. I watched the extended cut which is only available in Cantonese with subtitles. There is also a trailer and an interview with martial artists Bruce Fontaine. Unlike other 88 Films releases there’s no booklet but otherwise this is pretty decent.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recomended

(The Blu-ray) Recommended

Wonder Woman 1984


Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman, working as an archaeologist in 1984, stumbles upon a magical crystal that can grant wishes, and inadvertently brings back her dead former lover, just as the crystal falls into the hands of a power hungry oil tycoon and a nerdy colleague.

A lot of the negativity surrounding this has been a bit much. Granted, the writing can seem rushed, at least initially, forcing plot threads to develop rather lazily and convenient (Kristen Wiig’s Barbara / The Cheetah at first discovers she’s developing powers – because she can suddenly walk in heels?!). There’s also forced wokeness (because, of course), supposedly pointing out ‘toxic masculinity’ in two blatant scenes involving a woman walking alone and getting approached by leering men. Yet when the movie steps away from such elements, it’s actually a lot of fun. Gal Gadot is great, and continues to be a wonderful find as Wonder Woman – she just exudes charisma and presence every second she’s on screen. Pedro Pascal is also enjoyably nutty as villain Maxwell Lord. I’m also a fan of Kristen Wiig who again proves very watchable, even if her character takes a little too long to get going.

Patty Jenkins’ sequel struggles to live up to the first movie and the story is rather silly and not exactly grounded, but still entertained me and as wishes are granted and the world started to fall into anarchy … I was glued. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine again have good chemistry, and the action is decent, even if for my liking there was too much swinging around and flying (similar to the first movie). Yet it was exciting in places (with a stand out White House sequence) and with a message about being careful what you wish for – the closing moments had a lot of heart. Yeah it’s a bit cheesy at times and a touch over the top – but I still had a good time. Worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

Spenser: Confidential


Viewed – 23 March 2021 Netflix

An ex-cop who has been serving time in prison gets paroled and stumbles upon a mystery revolving around the murder of a corrupt Police Captain. Although wanting to lead a quiet life the ex-cop chooses to begin an investigation into the Police department he was once a part of.

Mark Wahlberg has always been a likeable presence and he’s no different here. However this has a bit of a strange tone throughout, part gritty thriller, part Beverly Hills Cop style comedy. Yes, Wahlberg is adept at both genres but here they don’t mesh together all that well. Once again teaming up with Director Peter Berg (Patriot’s Day, Deepwater Horizon) this is a fairly typical knock-about thriller with little to make it stand out. Even the main villain I figured out as soon as they appeared.

Support from Winston Duke (Black Panther) and screen veteran Alan Arkin along with Wahlberg, make for a fun trio, but an overly convoluted script isn’t funny enough, or thrilling enough to deliver on any potential. This overall was by the numbers and rather forgettable. You get the impression this might be the start of a franchise involving Wahlberg’s character – but on this evidence it’d be better off as a short run tv show.

Verdict: Poor