Something Wild


Viewed – 16 June 2018  Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection

Nostalgia is a funny thing.  When I saw that this had been given the prestigious Criterion treatment, I immediately was transported back to when I saw this one night on TV many years ago and remember really liking it.  Sitting down now with much more jaded eyes, it transpires it’s not quite the classic I thought it was, even though there’s still fun to be had.  Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumber) plays Charles, a straight laced office worker who one day has a chance encounter with free-spirited Lulu (Melanie Griffith) who takes Charles on a road trip straight out of his comfort zone that awakens a side to him he never knew he had.  Everything is going great until they bump into Lulu’s jail bird husband (Ray Liotta) who seems hell-bent on winning Lulu back.

something wild

Its a good concept and one I quickly felt engaged by, but once the ‘wild’ element of Lulu’s nature falls away and reveals who she really is, the movie stops dead, with a very awkward ‘lets go visit my mom’ scene and a drawn out high school reunion sequence.  Thankfully once Liotta turns up the movie is cranked up several levels and transforms into more of a thriller.  Liotta is brilliant, channelling that dangerous-charm he later honed to perfection in Goodfellas.  Also Daniel’s proves much more than simply an every man for the audience to latch onto.  Griffiths is also highly watchable and further proves why she was the go-to actress of the 80’s and has presence and personality to spare.  The movie never really hits it’s stride though, suffering from a bit of an identity crisis and is neither funny enough to be a comedy, exciting enough to be a thriller or charming enough to be a love story.  Like a lot of the other also-ran movies of the 80’s this one’s a bit of an oddity, but certainly retains a quirky appeal.

criterionThis UK Criterion release is rather underwhelming.  The image quality, whilst showing off some vibrancy to it’s colour palette is marred by a lot of smudgy shots.  There’s generally a soft look and lack of detail to the whole presentation.  The 2 channel DTS HD soundtrack doesn’t exactly wow either, but dialogue is sharp even if music cues seem to lack punch.  Extras consist of a detailed booklet that includes an essay by film critic David Thompson.  On the Blu-ray itself there’s an archive interview with director Jonathan Demme and the screenwriter, and we also get a trailer.  Not exactly the exhaustive treatment one might expect from Criterion.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5.

(the Blu-ray)  2.5 /5

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The Post


Viewed – 29 May 2018  online-rental

It’s easy to gravitate towards a movie starring Oscar-magnet powerhouses Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks even if the setting and plot didn’t make it for me, a must see.  That being said, add legendary director Steven Spielberg and well, how could I refuse?

The Post

This at times eye-catching movie tells the story of the political controversy surrounding the Vietnam War in the early 70s and how one ailing newspaper helped expose years of cover-ups and lies. I found this intriguing from a world history stand point, aided by solid turns from not just Hanks & Streep but a plethora of recognisable faces.   Although I  have only a vague knowledge of what was going on at the time, and more familiarity with Hollywood’s somewhat glossy obsession with the war during the 80s, this proved a thought-provoking and in it’s second half, rather thrilling story.  Spielberg again proves himself a great director of actors as well as showcasing a keen eye for period-detail and atmosphere, making this a story very easy to get swept up in.

However, the movie takes a bit of time to get going, seriously glosses over many details on what really transpired back then, and I felt failed to fully explore the real-life figures played by Hanks & Streep.  Oh, and distant through-a-window silhouetted shots of President Richard Nixon just felt cheap.  So not Spielberg at his best, but still worth your time if the true story the movie is based on intrigues.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Molly’s Game


Viewed – 15 May 2018  online-rental

The true story of a former Olympic class skier who went onto run the worlds most exclusive, high stakes poker game, attracting celebrity names along with the interest of the FBI in the process.  Jessica Chastain plays Molly as an ambitious, if initially naive woman who see’s a chance for fortune and infamy after an accident ended her hopes of becoming a skiing champion. 

mollys-game

Initially this movie had a feel of the Scorsese hit The Wolf Of Wall Street with it’s regular person rising to riches through not-entirely-legal activities, but director Aaron Sorkin lacks the flair to truly pull it off.  Instead we get a simple tale of someone getting way out of their depth fast and failing to check one’s ego at the door.  Molly throughout is a rather unsympathetic character and even when she turns to Lawyer Idris Elba who tries every trick in the book to reduce the heat on her back, that lust for power and credit for herself constantly wins out.  Chastain is gorgeous and pretty damn sexy despite a flawed character and the movie knows it, showcasing her obvious ‘charms’ every chance it gets – which is all the time.  Thankfully a back story involving an effective, if clichéd pushy-father-under-loved daughter relationship at least gives Molly some depth.  Yet Idris Elba’s questionable American accent fails to showcase Sorkin’s complex but brilliantly written dialogue the way I’m guessing the director intended. 

Overall this is a fascinating true story but lacks a degree of sensationalism that may have upped the entertainment, due to a reliance on discretion when having the opportunity to name drop any famous faces (player x for anyone interested, was rumoured to be Toby Maguire).  So from what I hear this remains somewhat a missed opportunity compared to the more warts and all book the movie is based on.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Age of Shadows


Viewed – 05 May 2018  Blu-ray

I’m certainly a fan of Korean cinema.  Over the years I’ve discovered some real gems and found myself liking certain directors and actors the more I see their movies.  This critically acclaimed thriller follows Police captain Lee Jung‑Chool (Kang Ho-song) who infiltrates a group of resistance fighters who are reportedly planning a series of bombings on Japanese establishments during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1920s.  As a Korean born man, Lee Jung finds himself questioning his allegiance when a charismatic resistance fighter befriends him and lets him in on their plans.

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This tale of loyalty, double crosses and war time espionage is shot with no end of style and class.  The set design and photography here is simply breath-taking and further cements director Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil) as one of the best the country has to offer.  Although at times overly-complicated, this was gripping stuff with some brilliantly executed set-pieces including a tense sequence aboard a train and an exhilarating finally set to the music of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero.  Add to this two strong turns from Kang-Ho Song (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, The Host) and Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) and even though occasional shoot-outs got a tad repetitive … it was the battle of wits at the centre of the story that came across the strongest.

Not one of those Korean movies I’d leap to recommend over so many others, but if you’re a fan of well-made world cinema, this is definitely worth your time.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Disaster Artist


As a movie fan I have stumbled upon the general infamy of the low budget cult movie ‘The Room’ and the absurd celebrity status of it’s director and star Tommy Wiseau. However the attention such an ill-conceived endeavour has garnered has me somewhat puzzling, but not overly surprised when these days we give a spot light to some of the biggest idiots on the planet and help them become celebrities.  However when I heard the rave reviews this tongue-in-cheek dramatisation of the true story behind said film had been getting … I’ll admit I was curious.

the-disaster-artist

James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau and his younger brother Dave Franco plays Greg Sestero, two hapless wannabe actors chasing the Hollywood dream.  Despite a rather oddball personality, Greg is drawn to Tommy following a rather unconventional acting class routine, and soon an uneasy friendship is formed.  Tommy is a mystery, keeps his age and where he originates a secret but is able to put his hand to seemingly endless funds, especially once the two decide to make a movie following little to no luck landing an acting job.  As a snapshot of indie film-making and the acting scene in Hollywood, I was fascinated even if we’re following two guys who probably need to consider totally different career paths.  Wiseau is unhinged and a bit creepy but played well by Franco who is doing a spot on performance of a very strange person.  Dave proves the likable lead for the audience to anchor themselves to and I ended up sympathising with Greg much more than Wiseau.  Yet ultimately this is cringy and bizarre, just like the man it portrays and the movie that came out of the experience, with little to say other than being rubbish at something can still make you famous.

There’s more fun here spotting the various celebrity cameos than what’s actually going on, and you do wonder what the point is other than seeing two guys spectacularly make utter shite.  Is it fun watch?  Definitely.  Is it a story that needed to be told?  Not really.

Verdict:  3 /5