Glass


Viewed – 11 June 2019 DVD

I was on the fence about this. I liked but didn’t love Split, and having watched Unbreakable a while back and feeling mixed about it … I wasn’t exactly jumping to watch M Night Shyamalan’s somewhat forced-feeling shared world third entry.

This picks up not long after the end of Split and introduces us to a psychiatrist who brings the three main characters together in an institute to try and convince them that they’re not special or super human. The concept is certainly interesting and brings a realism to it that works well to explore the idea of superheroes in the real world. Unlike last time, James McAvoy’s multi-personality character is far more explored and I grew very impressed by the performance and when ‘the beast’ personality was in full-throttle I was getting Wolverine vibes from the guy who currently plays Doctor X! Bruce Willis is good but is a little overshadowed by McAvoy and of course Samuel L. Jackson who surprisingly steals the show for a character who doesn’t speak a word for a good portion of the movie.

There’s times when the world-building gets a bit convoluted and a final twist whilst welcome also threw up its own questions. Yet for me, this is certainly the best of the trilogy and creates plenty of potential for further movies if Shyamalan cares to pursue the idea. So I went from initially dismissive of this to actually surprised and impressed. Recommended.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Badlands


Viewed – 25 May 2019. Blu-ray

When I heard this 1973 drama was getting a release on the UK division of The Criterion Collection, for a film I had always wanted to see in its entirety – I jumped at the chance. Loosely based on the true story of the state-to-state murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his 14 year old girlfriend Caril Anne Fugate … this changes the names and certain incidents to explore an unconventional love story between Martin Sheen’s Kit and Sissy Spacek’s Holly as they go on the run across the badlands of Montana.

Director Terence Malick, a celebrated auteur delivers an atmospheric, particularly artsy drama that’s never quite as exciting or eventful as it’s premise suggests, going more for a love letter to the American wilderness, some rather gorgeous vistas and an exploration of young love with the backdrop of gradually increasing violence. Spacek narrates like a love sick school kid and her reactions to Kit’s murderous ways are naive and dismissive, which creates a bit of a weird vibe. The influences this later had on movies like True Romance and Natural Born Killers are obvious, but its not quite as entertaining as those movies and is more a movie of ‘it’s time’ and should probably be appreciated as such.

Sheen & Spacek are both very watchable and Sheen has probably never been more iconic what with his James Dean swagger. The movie also has an enjoyably whimsical atmosphere, which I suppose gives the whole thing its own identity. Worth a watch then, but for me hardly essential.

The Criterion Collection once again delivers. The movie whilst often rather soft focus has had the full 4k restoration treatment, and looks great, showcasing the movies naturalistic photography well. The soundtrack whilst only in uncompressed mono is clear and effective-enough. Extras although nearly all archive are plentiful with a 42 minute making of, interviews and an episode of American Justice exploring the real-life crimes of Charles Starkweather. There’s also detailed booklet included, boasting an essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda. No audio commentary is a bit of a shame but this is otherwise solid treatment for a cult favourite that’s fascinating and enjoyable but not quite the ‘classic’ it’s often celebrated as.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

Summer of ‘84


Viewed – 23 April 2019 online-rental

Eighties nostalgia is really trendy right now and as someone who grew up in that decade I’m certainly in approval. In the wake of hit Netflix series Stranger Things, breakout horror It Follows and that recent IT remake, this has a similar group of teenage friends during a time when a series of children disappearing lead the Police to believe they have a serial killer on the loose. One kid, a nerdy conspiracy-theory obsessive jumps to the conclusion that the mysterious man on his paper round might be the killer.

This is very much Goonies meets Fright Night, and the likeable gang of kids certainly bring back memories of both movies … as we watch them stalk and investigate their neighbour and gather evidence. It’s not quite the horror the trailer has you believe, more a comedy-drama filled (likely intentionally) with cliches – the hot girl next door, the outcast kids, parents who don’t listen etc. The movie also rushes over smaller details that become important later on (sighting a kid in the man’s house – blink and you miss it). Yet the movie kept me guessing and with some clever use of red herrings and decent twists, I found myself really invested.

In its reliance on nostalgia it loses a bit of its own identity and characters beyond the main protagonist are wafer thin and under-explored. The ending however floored me. Recommended.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

The Fisher King


Viewed – 16 April 2019. Blu-ray

After the sad passing of gifted comedienne and actor Robin Williams in 2014, I think it’s taken me until now to watch one of his movies again. Yet having sat through this, everything I loved about him came flooding back. He certainly was one of the most likeable and versatile presences in anything he appeared in and this 1991 fantasy-drama is no exception.

Directed by master visionary Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys) this has Jeff Bridges as a shock-jock radio DJ who’s outspoken show inadvertently leads to a shooting in a local restaurant. Disgraced, Bridges falls on hard times and stumbles upon the plight of local ‘bum’ Perry (Williams) who comes to Bridges’ aid after some youths attack him. However, Perry isn’t playing with a full deck and believes the Holy Grail is held in some wealthy tycoon’s house in the middle of New York.

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This is quite mad-cap stuff with Gilliam at full tilt delivering fantastical yet captivating imagery (grand central station turning into a ballroom) and filling the movie with a wealth of oddball creations. Yet this is also a story of redemption and salvation and Williams delivers a laugh-out-loud zany performance that’s also filled to the brim with heart. Bridges is also on fine form (with hints of ‘the dude’ prior to The Big Lebowski) and goes on a real character journey.

At times Gilliam’s direction and emphasis of the weird and bizarre gets a bit ‘much’ and takes a little bit of adjustment to fully appreciate. However at its core the movie is equal parts magical, heart-breaking and feel-good making for a genuine cult classic.

The Blu-ray release from the U.K. division of Criterion boasts a pleasingly crisp and vibrant image. Although mostly filmed in a subdued style, various details make it look more expensive than its low budget origins, helped I’m guessing by Gilliam’s unique eye. A noticeable shimmer does rears it’s head now and then though. The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is also clear and effective-enough, if not particularly showy. Extras consist of several worthwhile featurettes, although none new for this release. A highlight though is Terry Gilliam’s commentary from the 90’s. There’s also a poster-like booklet with its own write ups on the movie. Solid treatment for a still very unique and enjoyable movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

Pet Sematary


Viewed – 10 April 2019. Cinema

I went into this with expectations dialled down mostly because I don’t consider the 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel all that great. However, a remake is a chance to improve upon a concept so there’s every reason to hope this one fairs better. A doctor (Jason Clarke) and his family move to a rural town and soon befriend the kind old man across the road (John Lithgow) who eventually introduced them to the Pet Cemetery in the woods, located on the family’s land. However following an unfortunate incident involving the pet cat and a lorry, the old neighbour suggests burying the animal beyond the pet cemetery. So of course, the cat comes back and sets in motion a spiral of increasingly macabre events.

Pet Sematary

The movie quickly resorts to cliches like ‘we should never have moved here’ way before that sort of thinking seems reasonable. Also, John Lithgow surprisingly fails to have the screen presence of the originals Fred Gwyn with delivery for such iconic lines as ‘the soil of a man’s heart…’ and ‘sometimes dead is better’ coming off rather half-arsed. However Jason Clarke is decent aided by a memorable turn from Jeta Laurence as his daughter. Flashbacks to the wife’s memories of twisted-spine sister ‘Zelda’ is also cranked up in the freakiness and jump-scares department and really, turns out to be the movie’s most disturbing aspect. Also changes to the final act help explain-away some of the more ludicrous developments of the original, but also come off as even sillier somehow.

So this remake wasn’t terrible and at times genuinely scary, but like the original … I can’t help but feel that the concept is overall flawed.

Verdict: 3 /5