Tootsie


Viewed – 05 September 2020 Blu-ray

I have vague memory of enjoying this, catching it on TV many years ago. However following rediscovering Dustin Hoffman recently with his memorable turn in Midnight Cowboy … when I saw this 1982 movie had been given the Criterion treatment, I thought I’d give it a go. Hoffman plays a struggling actor, who despite obvious talent can’t seem to land a job. However when he decides to disguise himself as a woman in order to land a role on a daytime soap opera, he realises his troubles are only just starting.

Directed by the late Sidney Pollack (Out of Africa) this is an enjoyable, charming and at times quite touching comedy-drama. Hoffman pulls off a surprisingly convincing woman in the form of ‘Dorothy’ and makes for an entertaining character. The movies shares similarities with Mrs Doubtfire but isn’t as zany, preferring a more earnest story over comedy set pieces. Although it’s still funny in places. Teri Garr is on hand as a ditsy friend and sort of love interest and resembles very much Jennifer Anniston in her personality. Bill Murray is also here but doesn’t add much. Jessica Lang, an actress I’ve always found creepy, however is very likeable here, and her scenes with Hoffman are some of the best in the movie.

At times it’s look and feel is a bit ‘TV movie’ and I can’t say I like the title or that cheesy theme … but it still throws an ahead-of-its-time spotlight on female empowerment, exploring misogyny and sexism that’s shockingly, still relevant. It’s also just a fun story with solid performances.

The Blu-Ray from the U.K. branch of The Criterion Collection boasts a nicely detailed and colourful image from a new 4K restoration. The sound, whilst only in its original uncompressed mono is very clear and does a good enough job. Extras are of course plentiful with a commentary from director Sidney Pollack as well as an archive making of and a newer making of from 2007 with interviews from both cast and crew. There’s also deleted scenes, test footage and an interview with Hoffman in-character as Dorothy. The included fold-out poster also has a new essay from critic Michael Sragow. Solid treatment for an 80’s comedy well worth re-visiting.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended

Frozen II


Viewed – 25 August 2020 Disney+

I can’t say I had any intention of watching this. I enjoyed but wasn’t blown away from the (at the time) heavily lauded first movie, and guess a sequel was inevitable – although was surprised to see it receive very little hype at release. However I spotted it on Disney+ and as starved as we are of new, worthwhile movies of late … I thought what the hell.

Call of the Wild…

Magical Ice Queen ‘Elsa’ is haunted by a voice that calls to her. It seems strangely linked to a story her late father told her and her sister Anna when they were children, of an enchanted forest covered in mist. Eager to find out what it all means, Elsa sets out on an adventure, along with her sister as well as snowman Olaf and other friends.

This musical fantasy of course looks great. Frozen’s animation style may not be as visually dazzling as say, something from Pixar but it suits the throwback, classic style and is still beautifully done. The story is fun even if it felt a little forced initially with the whole ‘calling’ having little reason to ‘suddenly’ occur. The songs are entertaining, even if there’s nothing to rival the first movie’s ‘let it go’. Snowman Olaf also proved a bit irritating early on but I’ll admit I warmed to him as the movie progressed. Despite such issues however, I still found this really enjoyable. It’s quite funny and the characters (especially Anna) really had some great moments. Also that ending was feel-good perfection that I found quite touching. Not exactly another Disney Classic, but still well worth checking out.

Verdict: Good

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.

Zombieland: Double Tap


Viewed – 25 February 2020. Online rental

I really liked the first Zombieland. It felt like America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead,, and although it wasn’t quite as clever as that Simon Pegg vehicle, it had tons of personality and a great cast. This sequel, which I’d never expected but was hyped for none the less reunites us with our American-state-named survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) etc. during the zombie apocalypse following the discovery of a mutated, even deadlier version of the creatures they’ve become a little too relaxed with despatching.

The gang’s back together…

Clearly the story is a fairly basic excuse to do another Zombieland and although this fails to further build on what came before or flesh out the setting, with barely any exploration of the zombie threat … just being in the company of these chatacters again was good enough. Harrelson, Stone and Eisenberg still have great chemistry and their frequently comical banter is pure joy. Honestly, I dont think i could ever get bored of these characters. Harrelson is especially on brilliant form and steals many of the best scenes. Although, less said about a tiresomely pouty Abigail Breslin as Little Rock and that incrdibly annoying millenial bimbo that turns up, the better.

A shortage of new ideas makes this sequel a bit lazy, but the comedy, some decent zombie killing action and just plain fun characters all sparking off each other, made for solid entertainment regardless – and yeah, I’d welcome a part three with open arms.

Verdict: Good

Project A


Viewed – 23 February 2020. Blu-ray

For some reason in the nineties when I was heavily into Hong Kong Cinema and the movies of Jackie Chan, this famed 1983 outing passed me by, even though I caught the sequel. Sitting down to this now, in pristine HD on a great Blu-ray from the fine folks at Eureka … I was both impressed at the action and stunt work but left cold by a rather messy plot. Chan plays Dragon Ma, a coast guard captain during the turn of the century, who gets embroiled in a series of weapons thefts by invading pirates. Along with a police lieutenant (Yeun Biao) and a petty crook (Sammo Hung) Chan turns out to be the best choice to save the day.

The story is a bit naff, disjointed and complicated by Chan’s usual brand of bumbling, squabbling and slapstick, although it’s a treat to see him teamed with fellow kung-fu stars Hung & Biao. The stunt work is at times wince-inducing crazy (especially the famous clock tower fall) and the fights frantic and brilliantly choreographed … but when the structure and plotting is this poor, it can spoil the fun. Thankfully then production values, set design and costumes are all top-notch. Chan also proves likeable as is much of the colourful cast, and when the villain is revealed he’s also quite formidable. As ever there’s also plenty of often silent-comedy influenced comedy and although quaint is more hit than miss.

For fans this is certainly one to check out, and the action still impressed even if it’s not Chan’s best.

The blu-ray from Eureka boasts great image quality sourced from a new 2k restoration. It’s generally sharp and colours really pop. We get the soundtrack presented in its original mono Cantonese as well as 5.1 Dts HD Master Audio which proves effective even if surrounds are not really showcased. The movie is similarly available in dubbed English. Extras consist mainly of talking-head interviews with cast and crew, but Chan is absent although we do get Yeun Biao. There’s also outtakes (a highlight with any Jackie Chan movie) and deleted scenes. We also get a detailed booklet. No commentary is a disappointment but overall this is great treatment for one of Chan’s most famous if in my opinion slightly overrated movies.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended