The Mitchells Vs The Machines


Viewed – 15 May 2021 Netflix

A girl who dreams of making it in the film making industry, one day gets her wish when she is accepted to film school. However on the same day as she leaves to begin her new life, a megalomaniacal A.I. called ‘Pal’ decides to start a robot invasion after her creator chooses to discard her for a more advanced version. Think of it as if Apple’s Siri turned evil and suddenly wanted to rid the earth of mankind. Gulp.

“Mom, Dad … we’re mankind’s only hope!”

From the creative geniuses that brought us the acclaimed Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse, this is an energetic and highly entertaining experience, that blends family drama with a robot apocalypse action movie. Katie, our lead is a plucky, technology-obsessed, typical modern teenager and is reflective of the world we find ourselves in, where anyone with a bit of imagination can create movies and animation, on their phones or laptops. The animation style, like Spider-Man is sort of 2D art brought to life in 3D, is jam packed with ideas and detail and looks gorgeous. Occasionally I think it gets a bit over the top, with things popping up on screen to emphasis and over-emphasis moments … but mostly it works.

Although these kind of movies are not meant to be realistic, sometimes the action gets so crazy any hint of plausibility is thrown out of the window. Thankfully, a genuinely touching father and daughter sub-plot gives this its emotional crutch to rest all of the chaos upon. I get a feeling, being delivered as a Netflix original this could be over-looked, which is a shame because this has plenty of great moments, looks stunning, has real meaning and above all else is a ton of fun. 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

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

Booksmart


Viewed – 06 March 2021 Netflix

Two straight-laced best friends (Kaitlyn Dever & Lady Bird’s Bernie Feldstein) who have always put studying and grades before fun and games … decide to have a night to remember on the eve of graduation. However, they end up learning more about themselves and the world around them than they could have anticipated.

Imagine a woke version of Superbad. Yeah I said it and that’s ok. Although actress turned director Olivia Wild’s teen comedy might be quite obvious from the off, unlike that forced girl-power moment in Avengers: Endgame this manages to deliver a message more naturally through an engaging, occasionally touching story of friendship, high school and one wild night.

At first this was trying too hard to be hip and self-aware, and the two friends come across a bit obnoxious – yet as I eased into the movie’s style I began to relate to the friend’s outsider image and found myself pulled into their story. It fails to be as funny (or as quotable) as it clearly wants to be (except for an animated sequence that is great) but that can be forgiven as eventually the movie revealed a heart to it I wasn’t expecting and the closing moments worked well. Feldstein can’t escape comparisons as a female Jonah Hill yet proves entertaining regardless … but for me the star was Kaitlyn Dever, who first caught my eye in TV mini series Unbelievable and is just as watchable here. Overall quite effective stuff, flipping teen movie conventions on their heads whilst retaining what makes a teen movie work. One to check out.

Verdict: Good

Game Night


Viewed – 02 March 2021 online-rental

I must admit I like Jason Bateman. Other than his excellent turn in the Ozark tv series, he’s always enjoyable in most things he appears in. This comedy has him as one half of a couple who once a week get together with their friends for ‘game night’. However one such night, Bateman’s arrogant elder brother turns up to propose a new game that will involve a kidnapping and nobody will know what is real and what isn’t.

Just fun and games?

Co-starring the equally reliable Rachel McAdams, initially I wasn’t sure what to make of this. The characters are all drawn a little larger-than-life and could’ve got obnoxious until that is, the story kicks in and quickly the movie got really interesting. This is helped by a solid script with many funny lines and unexpected twists and turns. McAdams & Bateman are a good pairing and I was always invested in what was going on. Support comes from Kyle Chandler as the elder brother and the increasingly enjoyable Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) as the a creepy neighbour.

It gets a bit silly towards the end and I did get a bit lost amongst the plot twists at one stage, but overall this was still highly entertaining. Well worth a watch.

Verdict: Recommended