Free Guy


Viewed – 05 October 2021 Disney+

Ryan Reynolds is quickly becoming my go-to actor for decent comedy these days, especially following his two hilarious turns as Deadpool. This latest outing has him as video game character ‘Guy’ who leads his life blissfully unaware he’s inside a game. However when a female character catches his eye, causing him to break free from his programming, he stumbles upon a programmers quest to uncover some stolen code hidden with the game world.

This vibrant and immediately enthralling concept really captures the wacky style of game worlds like Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto, whilst at the same time blending the concept of Ready Player One with The Truman Show. Reynolds is perfect as the loveable ‘Guy’ and is aided by a great pairing with Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer, as the real-world programmer and gamer who’s avatar in the game world is a gun wielding badass. Every second there’s something new to spot, references to music, games and pop-culture and although it may not be consistently funny, mostly down to a deliberate over-the-top approach, for me it’s was still a joy to sit through and take in.

Taika Waititi’s main villain does grate quickly and despite him being a character in the real world, his performance is very video-gamey. It is also a tad too sugar-coated as it ends, but these are small gripes in what is otherwise a genuinely fun time. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga


Viewed – 06 August 2021 Netflix

Browsing Netflix I wanted something fun to watch, so I stumbled upon this Will Farrell comedy that I’d heard had garnered some buzz. As a casual appreciator of the long-running song contest of the title, mostly for it’s wacky examples of European culture, I must say the subject appealed. This tells the story of Lars (Farrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), life-long friends who have always dreamt of one day competing in Eurovision just like their heroes Abba. However the small Icelandic town where they live have always mocked such hopes, finding the duo a bit of a laughing stock rather than anything to encourage, especially by Lars’ disapproving father (Pierce Brosnan).

Take a chance on… us?

For a Will Farrell comedy this seemed on the surface fairly typical, delivering his usual brand of buffoonery and slapstick. However his pairing with McAdams, an actress I’ve grown to like brings a bit more emotional depth to the story, delivering equal parts heart-warming moments as well as laugh out loud funny. At times Farrell’s antics threaten to destabilise things, even in some of the more meaningful moments, yet the often touching, feel good story quickly won me over.

A surprising experience then with a lot of heart. The music varies from intentionally cringe to rather show-stopping (that end song) and delivers a genuine celebration of all things Eurovision (including several cameos from real contestants). Farrell is fun but doesn’t do much here he hasn’t in the past. Overall though, this is McAdams’ movie, with her character having the strongest journey. She’s also just so damn likeable. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Drunken Master


Viewed – 01 August 2021 Blu-ray

As a fan of Jackie Chan, you’d think I’d have seen the movie that had a hand in launching him as a bankable star, after years under the shadow of Bruce Lee. Yet I’d never got around to it until now. This 1978 Kung-fu comedy has Chan as ‘Wong Fei Hung’ (the same Chinese folk hero played by Jet Li in Once Upon a Time In China), who as a martial arts student gets disgraced and thrown out of his school after bad behaviour. Soon he comes under the guidance of ‘Beggar Po’, a drunken master who teaches Chan a secret style of Kung Fu, leading him to face a hired killer who threatens his former master.

This energetic, knock about action-comedy is a lot of fun. There is a fight nearly every scene, and they’re all shot expertly and brilliantly choreographed showcasing genuine skill, ability and invention. The story may be simple but this benefits a movie with such a focus on fight after fight, and with famed kicker Hwang Jang-Lee as the central villain, I was having a ball.

The comedy is at times juvenile and only mildly amusing and sometimes can fall flat. Yet with some great martial arts on display, Chan proving a likeable lead and a simple story that just flows … I had a great time with this.

The Blu-Ray from Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema collection boasts a very sharp image that’s nicely detailed. The audio however in mono DTS Master Audio is rather basic with slightly echoey dialogue – but it’s clear enough. Extras include several interviews, one with Jackie Chan himself. There’s also a detailed booklet, commentary, a deleted scene and a trailer. Not too bad.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-Ray) Good

Safety Last!


Viewed – 03 July 2021 Blu-ray

I’ve not watched many movies of the classic ‘silent’ era, but have in the past year started taking an interest in the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. So I now come to Harold Lloyd. I remember catching some of his short films on TV as a kid, with the ‘Hurray For Harold Lloyd’ jingle that went with them sticking in my head. This 1923 feature is possibly his most famous, with the iconic dangling-from-a-clock-face image stuff of cinematic legend, which went on to influence Jackie Chan’s similar stunt in Project A.

don’t look down…

Lloyd plays a small town guy with dreams of making it big in the city. Leaving his fiancé behind with the promise of sending for her when he’s made it, Lloyd soon gets a small time job at a department store. However as time passes he sells the idea that he’s some big shot to his fiancé back home, leading to her turning up unexpectedly. This causes Lloyd to have to pretend he’s the manager of the store, which gets more and more complicated, leading to him to performing a stunt by climbing the outside of the twelve story building.

Gentle in its humour and with a rather typical set up, this still proved very entertaining. Lloyd’s relatable everyman persona is charming and fun, and the down-town Los Angeles setting is especially fascinating when you consider the age of this movie. Of course the second half, taken up almost entirely by the famous building climb is something to behold, and although it was mostly achieved with camera trickery, Lloyd’s physical skill sells the danger and the comedy brilliantly.

The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection is packed. Firstly the movie itself is given a new 2k restoration, with a musical score by composer Carl Davis, created in 1989. We also get an in-depth introduction from Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd, a fascinating audio commentary from critic Leonard Maltin and filmmaker Richard Correll. Add to this a 107 minute documentary about Harold Lloyd called ‘The Third Genius’ and three newly restored shorts … and along with a detailed booklet, interviews and a special effects featurette – this is a must for any fan of the era.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Essential

Cruella


Viewed – 08 June 2021 Disney+

There, I admit it … I have a bit of a crush on Emma Stone. As one of the most versatile, likeable and talented actresses around, it’s difficult not to fall for her charms. This latest vehicle, an origin story of notorious Disney villain Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmatian has Stone playing Estella, an orphaned girl with dreams of making it big in the fashion industry. However what starts out as a sort of ‘Devil Wears Prada’ tale turns into something else entirely when Estella finds herself pitting her wits against famed designer The Baroness who may or may not be linked to Estella’s mother’s untimely death.

You caught me on a bad day….

La La Land’s Emma Stone is clearly having a ball here, paired wonderfully with Emma Thompson’s Baroness, both of which chew up the scenery with their vivid characterisation. This has a throwback Disney setting with the cor-blimey-gov’nor of Mary Poppins London but given a dark Tim Burton-like twist. Stone’s journey from Estella’s street kid / thief to fashion rebel Cruella is an interesting one. Yet at times some of the one-upping and rivalry between the Baroness and Cruella gets a bit silly, and Stone’s forced upper-class English accent can grate.

However, with an engaging 70s soundtrack spanning everyone from The Clash to Nina Simone, plenty of energy and character (Cruella’s two sidekicks are great fun), and a wealth of fun dog moments (of course), this was still highly entertaining. It’s a bit long at almost 2hrs and 20 minutes but rarely drags and had enough story, twists and fun sequences to keep this viewer glued. One to watch.

Verdict: Recommended