The Father


Viewed – 11 September 2021 online rental

The subject of Alzheimer’s disease is certainly going to be difficult viewing. This awfully cruel illness is hard to explore but in the hands of French novelist turned Director Florian Zeller and an actor of the calibre of Anthony Hopkins … I found myself heavily drawn into this powerful drama.

Hopkins plays ‘Anthony’ an ageing man who is looked after by his daughter (The Crown’s Olivia Coleman). The approach here is at first hard to follow as the setting and characters keep changing with no explanation, and even the time line jumps back and forth. Yet when it clicks and you realise such a confusing narrative is purposely due to Anthony’s perspective, you realise you’re witnessing what it might be like to suffer from this disease. It’s very cleverly done and I recommend just going with it until it’s final scenes – because trust me, it’s worth it.

Olivia Coleman is very good like always, convincingly playing a daughter struggling to care for her father. There’s also appearances from Mark Gattis, Rufus Sewell and Olivia Williams. However at the centre of it all is an incredibly layered and it has to be said, heart-breaking performance from Hopkins, who deserves every inch of that Oscar. A powerful, surprisingly amusing at times yet also very authentic drama that gripped me as much as it got me teary eyed. A must watch.

Verdict: Essential

Candyman


Viewed – 31 August 2021 Cinema

I revisited the original Candyman a while back, and although I still liked it I did find some the acting a bit poor. Yet it’s concept was certainly ripe for a new instalment and this re-imagining-come-sequel, which dismisses the other sequels, follows a struggling artist who stumbles upon the urban legend. Deciding to base his new exhibition on the myth, the artist unwittingly summons the ghetto ghoul in the process.

Say my name…

Produced and co-written by Jordan Peele (Get Out), this new instalment stays faithful to the events of the first movie whilst adding plenty ideas of its own. I especially liked how it explores the idea that Candyman is not just one person but several who had all died in horrible ways, the latest being a victim of Police brutality. Yes, clearly there’s a Black Lives Matter message here as well as an exploration of racism from both sides. Direction is very atmospheric and at times quite creepy but not all that chilling, yet this is offset by several well-executed kills (including a particularly shocking school bathroom scene).

The fact that only white people get killed in this however, feels problematic, and despite exploring similar themes to the first movie, it does seem to have an axe to grind. It also never really goes for it in the gore department. However such things don’t ruin what is generally an effective and imaginative follow up that has enough personality and stand out sequences to be worthy of your time.

Verdict: Good

Night of the Hunter


Viewed – 24 August 2021 Blu-ray

After a man is arrested for murder, he befriends a petty crook in prison who discovers that the man has hidden $10,000 in cash. After being released and intent on finding the money, the crook, played by Robert Mitchum, swoops down on the man’s family, posing as a preacher.

This 1955 drama has quite the classic status, and the menacing portrayal of evil from Mitchum is effective, as is the often gothic, black & white photography, giving the movie a very eerie and iconic atmosphere. Directed by actor turned one-time Director Charles Laughton, this seems on the surface, choppily put together, with performances (with the exception of Mitchum) ranging from awful to amateurish. Even Shelley Winters gets little more to do than fawn over Mitchum due to her character’s god-fearing beliefs.

The frequent songs being sung (although not a musical) also vary from cringe to creepy, yet add to a rather strange mood. By the second half however, I found myself getting caught up in what was happening, especially with the focus being on two young children being stalked by a crazy preacher. There’s just something really haunting about it all, and I must say it kind of freaked me out – in a good way. Maybe not the masterpiece it’s lauded as, but worthwhile nonetheless.

I picked up the Criterion Blu-ray of this and must admit found the image quality a little underwhelming. For a movie of its time I’ve definitely seen sharper, with an overly grainy image. However the soundtrack was clear enough in uncompressed mono audio. Yet it’s in the extras where this release impresses most. We have a commentary from an ensemble comprising of the second unit director, a film critic and an author of a book about the making of the movie. There’s also interviews, clips from chat shows, archival documentary, a 2 and a half hour behind the scenes compilation and plenty more. To top it off there’s also a detailed booklet featuring several write ups on the movie. Impressive stuff.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

The Dig


Viewed – 17 August 2021 Netflix

I’ve always been an admirer of actor Ralph Fiennes … with his often chameleon-like performances enriching many a movie. This gentle and meaningful drama set in 1939 on the eve of World War II has him as quietly spoken archeologist Basil, who is hired by ‘lady of the manor’ Edith (Carey Mulligan) who wants him to dig up some prominent mounds existing on her land. This leads to an incredible discovery.

Based on a true story this was an effective drama. Mulligan who I enjoyed in Promising Young Woman is again very good, as is Feinnes in an understated but convincing turn. The bond the unlikely friends form is quite captivating, especially as the story evolves. The backdrop of the archeological find is also fascinating, especially if you have even a passing interest in history. Also, the threat of the war starting is quite unnerving and portrayed realistically. It was the character bits that made this though, not just with the two leads, and the story proves moving and absorbing, despite a laid back tone.

Director Simon Stone has delivered an authentic and fascinating drama that wisely focuses on character as much as an historical discovery, and along with some attractive cinematography that showcases the English countryside and a moving story – I came away rather affected by this.

Verdict: Recommended

Promising Young Woman


Viewed – 07 August 2021 online rental

I love going into a movie blind. Not knowing anything about it other than seeing it keep popping up in my YouTube feed. I also like female lead stories, and so I settled down to this with anticipation. Telling the tale of Cassie, a drop out medical student who by day works in a cafe and by night frequents clubs pretending to be drunk just to see if once again some scum bag will try to take advantage of her. However, when she finally appears to have met Mr Right, a tragic past that has haunted her, rears its head once again.

Me Too…?

Carey Mulligan, an actress I’m not overly familiar with, eats up the screen as the bitter and vengeful Cassie. The scenes where she tracks down and manipulates figures from her past are highly entertaining. It’s fun watching and waiting for who will be next and where the story will go. Ryan, the love interest also proves interesting, especially with how he plays off Cassie’s cautious personality to show he’s not the same as ‘those guys’. This all leads to a gut-punch of a twist that truly left my jaw dropped.

Shame then that the ending relies so heavily on certain things falling perfectly into place, which as it turns out is utterly implausible. This kind of ruins what is otherwise a really good movie, with memorable moments, a great soundtrack and a great turn from Mulligan. For all it’s other merits then, I’d still say give this a watch.

Verdict: Good