Where The Crawdads Sing


Viewed – 30 October 2022 online rental

When a popular local guy is found dead under mysterious circumstances, the towns folk quickly point the finger at a girl who lives in seclusion in the marshland. Through a series of flashbacks we learn her origin and whether or not she’s as guilty as people suspect.

Based on a best selling novel by Delia Owens, this was a very absorbing drama. With a stand out performance from Daisy Edgar-Jones who reminded me of a young Holly Hunter, I was drawn in by this girl’s story, the backdrop of 50s / 60s North Carolina and exploration of prejudice. The courtroom drama aspects were very much a cross between To Kill a Mockingbird and Twelve Angry Men. There was also some eye-catching cinematography, showcasing the beauty and the eerie atmosphere of the setting.

Some of the support cast are a bit stereotypical and the ending was slightly predictable. But overall I was gripped by the story and very much found myself caught up in the girl’s situation. Emotional and powerful stuff.

Verdict: Recommended

Blonde


Viewed – 01 October 2022 Netflix

I won’t say I’m an expert on the career or life of legendary Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, yet I approached this movie with some caution as I’d heard it was more an ‘Inspired by true events’ take than a full on biopic. However it wasn’t long until I began to get a feel for the woman and her image as actress Ana De Armas (Knives Out) stepped into her shoes and truly became the iconic sex symbol.

Charting the life of Norma Jean Baker, who would eventually transform into Marilyn Monroe, this details a troubled childhood with a mentally ill mother, through to her attempts to become an actress and eventually super-stardom. Along the way we have Hollywood producers sleazing over her and making her do ‘things’ just to get a part, a ménage a trois relationship with Charlie Chaplin jr, through to her marriages with ex-baseball star Joe DiMaggio & play-write Arthur Miller (even though names are changed here).

Having read up on the life of the actress since, in many ways, this gives a good interpretation of Marilyn’s life (with some deviations), and other than sections detailing abortions and sexual abuse, both of which are not exactly stretches to imagine happening, I came away feeling I’d had an education. Director Andrew Dominik has delivered a haunting yet absorbing experience with a stunning & uncanny central performance from Ana De Armas (who surely deserves an Oscar nom). His creative approach to editing, camera work, the use of various types of film stock, aspect ratios and camera lenses all helped convey the fragile psychology and tragedy of Marilyn – and for me raised this movie into something rather mesmerising. It doesn’t cover everything, and I’d have preferred some of the more gratuitous aspects were toned down, as it can get quite graphic … but overall this was powerful viewing.

Verdict: Recommended

Monster


Viewed – 13 August 2022 Blu-ray

I can’t believe I never watched this movie until now. Telling the true story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, this follows Aileen (Charlie Theron) during the period in her life where she worked as a prostitute and befriended a girl at a bar (Christina Ricci) who she develops a relationship with. However as they struggle to get by, Aileen descends into serial murder after life kicks her down one too many times.

Hooker with a heart of…

A fascinating story is brought to life by Patty Jenkins’ gritty, authentic direction and especially an amazing performance by an unrecognisable Theron, who makes Aileen sympathetic, sad and chilling. How she portrays a likeable if rather trouble woman who becomes incredibly unhinged is powerhouse acting. She every bit deserved the Oscar. Christina Ricci is also layered and interesting, in one of her finest roles.

The story of Aileen Wuornos is a unique one, as she was not a typically ‘evil’ killer, more a victim of society, upbringing and likely mental illness. This captures all that, along with a powerfully tragic love story. Although I never condoned Aileen’s actions, especially as the murders progressed, I did come away feeling sorry for her. A must see.

The newly released collector’s edition from Second Sight is something to behold. Packaged in a hard back case, it comes with a nicely detailed booklet with essays by Anton Bitel, Hannah Strong & Shelagh Rowan-Legg. You also get 6 art cards. On the Blu-ray the movie is presented in fine shape. It’s often a dark, grainy movie but detail is very good throughout. The soundtrack is in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio and although a mostly tally movie, dialogue is very clear. The occasional music cues also sound decent. Extras consist of several featurettes and documentaries exploring the making of and the real life person. There’s also a (very enjoyable) commentary from Director Patty Jenkins, Charlize Theron and producer Clark Peterson. An essential purchase for fans of the movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) Essential

(the Blu-ray) Essential

The Northman


Viewed – 30 July 2022 online rental

The last Robert Eggers movie I saw was The Witch, a movie that took two viewings before I could fully appreciate it. This latest effort follows a young Prince who grows up to become a Viking warrior, out to avenge his father’s murder at the hands of a ruthless uncle.

A simple set up is given a very (I’m guessing) authentic approach similar to The Witch, meaning that at first this could alienate some viewers used to the more Hollywood interpretations of history. However if you can get past some of the dialect and more unusual aspects, what Eggers has delivered here is a visually powerful, at times brutal and engrossing revenge tale. Camera-work is particularly effective and how shots are framed really impress with their other-worldly beauty. Performances are decent, including memorable (if brief) turns from Ethan Hawk and Willem Dafoe. Nicole Kidman is quite good too. Also as is often the case, Anya Taylor-Joy is again great. Yet the star here is Alexander Skarsgard in an uncompromising, animalistic performance.

At times some of the Nors mythology and weirder aspects went a bit over my head, and some of the rituals like howling like a wolf were a bit too theatrical – but overall this was gripping and a treat to simple take in.

Verdict: Recommended

The Princess


Viewed – 09 July 2022 Disney+

This turned up on Disney+ so I thought I’d give it a go. This tells the story of a young princess (Joey King) who has been locked away in a tower after refusing to marry a powerful lord who wishes to become king. After her refusal however he’s chosen to attack the kingdom and imprison the current king and his family.

This was a fun and energetic movie. The story is very simple but the concept of the princess having to battle her way down the floors of the tower is an interesting one, paving the way for plenty of action. Joey King shows off some skilful sword fighting too and overall it’s a physically demanding role. I also appreciated that the violence wasn’t watered down, and although not graphic, it still packed a punch.

Support is mostly just ok, with the stand out being Dominic Cooper’s evil lord. Also a reliance on exaggerated style and fancy camera work for some of the fighting felt a little out of place – in addition some CGI moments looked a bit silly. That said, King is the star and delivers a convincing badass heroine. Worth watching even if this had potential to be even better had more been put into its story and also the world it inhabits.

Verdict: Good