Patriots Day


Viewed – 12 August 2017  Online rental

I don’t think it can be argued, that we live in scary times.  That also can’t be argued for world history either, but in our modern society, it’s still difficult to accept that such atrocities like 9/11 are even possible.  Aren’t we supposed to be more sophisticated than that?  Apparently not and one such terror incident, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing is another example of senseless violence in the name of extremist viewpoints and hate.  This latest from acclaimed director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon) once again stars his go-to actor Mark Wahlberg as a demoted Police officer on security detail at said marathon when a series of bombs are detonated.

Patriots Day

Wahlberg is probably one of the most likable and watchable A-list stars around and I for one enjoy his performances even if he’s not really going to give say, Tom Hanks cause for concern.  He’s the ideal everyman and well cast in this ensemble piece that gives us several characters to latch onto as events unfold (with appearances from Kevin Bacon, John Goodman and Michelle Monaghan).  Berg’s direction is slick and gritty, offering up a mix of traditional and hand-held camera work for added intensity, a pounding score and an unflinching eye for detail and tense moments.  The scene in the car involving a Chinese guy and a terrorist is particularly unbearable.  The movie itself is eye-opening to what went on and how things played out was fascinating, occasionally shocking and well… humbling.

I’ll never understand the evil that people can inflict on society in the name of their beliefs and it’s something that seemingly has no end or answer.  This was a suitably harrowing watch at times, even if it fails to have anything new to say (leaving the terrorists motives under-explored) … but in our current times, I’d still recommend this.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Handmaiden


Viewed – 06 August 2017  Blu-ray

Let me say straight away that I regard Korean director Park Chan-wook as one of the best around and his much acclaimed vengeance trilogy (which includes the famed ‘Oldboy’) speaks for itself.  Add to this his previous American debut ‘Stoker’ being an underrated gem and well to say I was looking forward to what came next, was an understatement.  Once I discovered it would be a period piece though, for a director more known for contemporary (and bloody) revenge thrillers … I did feel a little trepidation.

The Handmaiden

A seasoned crook (Ha Jung-woo) with his eye on a wealthy heiress (Kim Min-hee), sends a trusted young pick pocket (Kim Tae-ri) to pose as her handmaiden.  Once gaining the Heiress’s trust the crook himself poses as an eligible count in hope of marrying the heiress and gaining access to her fortune.  Once plan is set in motion however the pick-pocket/handmaiden finds herself drawn to the lonely heiress who has lived all her life in a secluded mansion, overseen by a controlling and perverted uncle.

This beautifully shot film is full of character and period atmosphere, complete with stunning costumes and spot-on performances.  It’s an intriguing premise that twists and turns, spread over three distinct parts, where we get to see the differing points of view of the various characters and gradually learn about each of their underlying plans and cunning manipulations.  Who will come out on top?  Think to some extent Dangerous Liaisons and you’ll have a good idea what this about.  It’s got a quirky sense of humour (especially during some explicit but not particularly erotic sex-scenes) and some of the Korean / Japanese traditions are fascinating.  For a film by Park Chan-wook however it lacks the showmanship he’s displayed in the past, going for a more sedate, realistic vibe that’s still eye-catching thanks to gorgeous cinematography and lavish locations / set design.  At over 2 and half hours, it’s a bit drawn out, but packs in a lot of personality.  Not as immediately essential as his best work … but still one to check out if your a fan or enjoy quality Korean cinema.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Girl on the Train


Viewed – 05 August 2017  DVD

This is the latest movie adaptation of a best selling novel that seems to be a bit of a trend lately, what with similar suburban-set books like Gone Girl previously getting the movie treatment.  With such things we get the usual, tired reports of ‘its not as good as the book’ yadda yadda.  I am not a big reader so approached this from generally favourable word of mouth and the fact it has Emily Blunt in it.

Girl on the Train

Blunt plays Rachel, an alcoholic who never got over the failure of her marriage and spends most of her life obsessing over her ex-husband’s new relationship and trying to deal with a growing jealousy.  Blunt is one of those dependable actresses, and is incredibly convincing here and after she suffers a black-out following an attack in a tunnel, starts to piece together a mystery involving her ex-husband’s missing nanny.  Offering up plenty of red herrings and clues as to what actually happened … with an alcoholic as the lead anything that is recalled is of course open to question.  So this made for a rather different take on the who-dunnit than I anticipated..  Add to this decent turns from The Hobbit’s Luke Evans and Justin Theroux and I found myself thoroughly entertainment.   Helps that I really felt for Rachel’s plight.

It goes out of it’s way to cleverly fool the viewer and mislead, which was initially confusing, but came together effectively even if I felt rather stupid for not guessing the outcome.  An easy  recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

Dunkirk


Viewed – 26 July 2017  Cinema

In 1940 WWII, allied troops stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk are slowly and methodically evacuated using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. … whilst at the same time fearing an imminent attack.

dunkirk

Now I can’t say I am all that familiar with the historical aspects of this based-on-true-events depiction, so came into this blind with only the prospect of it being directed by Christopher Nolan getting me all that excited.  I’d say at this stage he is one of the best directors around and for me has crafted some incredible cinematic experiences.  So trying his hand at a war movie … well, someone take my money!  So we get the expected awe-inspiring photography and Nolan’s usual reliance on actual practical effects where clearly no expense seems to have been spared … and when we have areal dog fights or capsized ships it’s a sight to behold I can tell you.  Sad then that the surrounding events didn’t engage me as expected, not help by strangely bland characterisation  that even names like Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy fail to elevate.

Told through the eyes of several characters; a young lad who jumps aboard a boat setting sale to bring aid to the stranded soldiers at Dunkirk beach, a wet-behind-the-ears soldier at the beach who finds himself in a group of scared soldiers trying to find safety, and Tom Hardy’s spitfire pilot … this delivered a few powerful moments of dread and excitement but is ultimately let down by a trying to be clever, non-linear structure that’s at first not apparent – resulting in confusion.  Add to this a relentless over-dose of orchestral music that is tie-one’s-stomach-in-a-not intense even during relatively mundane moments and I began to think Nolan was trying to hide the fact he didn’t really have much to say.  It’s an event in WWII history that was significant, but the depiction we get here made it feel like just another day in the war (apparently thousands lost their lives, not that you see much of that).

WWII caused a horrific time in world history and several movies have brought that home and showcased courage under impossible odds much better (Saving Private Ryan).  So… maybe go see this for a bit of a history lesson and some admittedly stunning visuals.  Stay at home if you’re expecting much else.

Verdict:  3 /5

Fifty Shades of Grey


Viewed – 16 July 2017  Netflix

I was never going to actually watch this.  The largely negative media backlash to the books and the movies themselves were enough to put me off.  However I’m also someone who feels every movie should be given a day in court.  So with admittedly low expectations I sat down to watch this hyped, supposedly ‘erotic’ drama.

fifty-shades-of-grey

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) unwittingly finds herself smitten by the swarve business tycoon Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) after quite literally stumbling into an interview on behalf of her flatmate.  It’s a corny introduction but fun all the same and I got distinct Bridget Jones meets Patrick Bateman vibes, what with this suited mystery man hiding a dark side and Anastasia’s never-been-kissed girl next door persona.  Now there’s a movie I’d love to see.  Anyway back to this one and I’ll admit I found myself enjoying the subtle chemistry and battle of wits between these two characters.  Grey wanting Anastasia to become his submissive, revealing to her fairly quickly his other life, that of a dominant who likes to spank, whip and control the one he is involved with.  He lays it all out and I certainly enjoyed watching Anastasia slowly transform into someone she never knew she could be.  That being said, some dodgy dialogue (“Necrophilia isn’t my thing” – in reference to Grey touching Anastasia whilst she was sleeping?  Does the writer not know what necrophilia is?) and an ending that came off as ‘so what were you expecting?’ this ultimately promised more than it delivers and keeps events fairly light and safe rather than go as dark and intense as it should have.  We do get plenty of nudity, a couple of diverting, stylishly-filmed sex scenes that are probably only really sexy if s&m is your-thang (and if is, you’re probably into stuff more daring than what we see here).  However if like me you find Dakota Johnson appealing, have a thing for Jamie Dornan or ever enjoyed those late night ‘naughty’ movies … this may still press your buttons.

It’s over-long and a takes itself too seriously (in need of that black humour that worked so well in the similarly themed ‘Secretary’) but is certainly not as awful as I’d heard.  However it’s no erotic masterpiece either.  Yet on this evidence, I’d still like to see the follow-up.

Verdict: 3 /5