Jo Jo Rabbit


Viewed – 17 May 2020. Online rental

A young boy living in World War II Germany idolises Adolf Hitler to the point of having an imaginary friend who bares more than a passing resemblance to the Fuhrer. With dreams of joining the German Army and hopes of becoming a Nazi, one day he finds all he loves thrown into question upon discovering a Jewish girl hiding in the walls of his house.

Directed by Taika Waititi (Thor Rsgnorok) who also takes on the role of Hitler, this irreverent and unusual approach to the WWII conflict boldly blends satire and surrealism with a profound commentary on the innocence of youth during war time. Coming off as a bit of comedy at first seems rather bad taste but as the story unfolds it became clear that the viewpoint is solely that of a ten year old boy, who’s young mind has been overloaded with propaganda. However the murkier aspects of the Nazi regime lurk in the background, and despite many an absurd moment, still manages to have an impact. This is down to solid performances across the board, especially Roman Griffin Davis as Jo Jo and Thomason McKenzie as Elsa, although support from Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell are also memorable.

Waititi manages the inconceivable by delivering a light tone to the war without ‘making light’ of the war, leading to many effectively poignant moments such as when Elsa remarks about her parents ‘my parents went to a place they can’t come back from.’. A sharply written, brilliantly performed and unique approach to a difficult subject.

Verdict: Essential.

Betty Blue


Viewed – 02 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

This was one of those guilty pleasures for me as an adolescent, hormonal teenager. Yeah it’s one of those typically French movies that’s greatest appeal was scenes of rather explicit sex and a very frank approach to on screen nudity. However, as time went buy and subsequent viewings I began to see beyond the ‘naughty stuff’ and appreciate the rather touching, albeit tragic love story at the movie’s heart.

Jean-Hugues Anglade stars as Zorg, a handyman and would-be writer in a passionate relationship with free spirited Betty (Beatrice Dalle) who are drifting through life going from one situation to another, getting jobs, making friends and experiencing life. However it quickly transpires that Betty has more than a few psychological problems and as the story progresses, those problems take a turn for the worse.

Immediately its not hard to see why actress Beatrice Dalle was the iconic poster girl of many a bedroom wall in the 80’s … she’s undeniably sexy, incredibly photogenic and exudes French chic. Although shot in a realistic fashion, the cinematography perfectly captures that European exotic and historical beauty, be it with sun-drenched beach communities, rolling French countryside or quante villages. It makes the journey the couple go on particularly captivating. Anglade is very likeable and is the viewers anchor to the otherwise wild and unpredictable Dalle who delivers an equally likeable, fun and ultimately heart-breaking performance thats very convincing. A classic of French cinema that proves just as engaging and effective as it was over 30 years ago.

I picked up the Second Sight Blu-ray that boasts two cuts of the movie. I’d recommend the 3hr director’s cut over the 2hr theatrical version as although both versions are very similar, where the story goes is handled better and not as sudden as the shorter cut. The Blu-ray itself boasts a decent image that although not that sharp has strong colours, which are a big draw here. We also get a making of (featuring new interviews with cast and crew) and some Beatrice Dalle screen tests. So not amazing treatment but the movie is in decent shape, the somewhat soft look does suit the movie, and sound is adequate in 2.0 stereo.

Verdict:

(the movie)

Theatrical – Good

Directors Cut – Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Good

Motherless Brooklyn


Viewed – 18 April 2029. Online rental

I had been quite hyped for this. A period set crime drama starring Edward Norton in his directorial debut as a member of a detective agency investigation the events surrounding his boss’s mysterious death. However despite a constant battle with Tourette’s and OCD, he has a brilliant memory and so makes for a skilled investigator. At the heart of his investigation is a ruthless development commissioner and a gutsy female campaigner.

Norton carries this movie with a convincing portrayal of a man battling with himself, capturing all the nuances of someone with that affliction – which is at times funny, other times heart breaking. It was also good to see him back centre stage like he used to be. However his performance can’t disguise the fact the plot just isn’t that gripping and is overly cryptic even when it’s trying to explain itself. Alec Baldwin is decent as property developer ‘Moses’ as is Willem Dafoe. The 50’s New York setting is fairly well done, but occasionally sits uneasy between absolute realism and exaggerated Hollywood-noir style. There’s also a clear influence of the classic Chinatown here but can’t come close to that movie’s impact.

Almost worth it for Norton alone, but overall this can’t rise above it’s narrative shortcomings. Still, I’d like to see what Norton does next if he chooses to continue as a director.

Verdict: Poor

Ford v Ferrari


Viewed – 13 April 2020. Online rental

Aka Le Mans ‘66.

Although good casting does not guarantee a great movie, here we have two of Hollywood’s best as real-life motor racing icons Caroll Shelby and Ken Miles in the at-the-time unbelievable true story of how American motor company Ford went up against motor racing giants Ferrari in the epic 24hr Le Mans race.

Matt Damon plays retired racing champ and car designer Shelby who gets approached by the big wigs at Ford who see the potential to liven up their brand by entering the racing circuit. However they feel less appalled by the wild card that is Ken Miles, played by a brilliant Christian Bale. However Shelby is committed to Miles being the guy to race and plans on delivering a car that will beat Ferrari at their own game. This was absorbing and fascinating stuff. I can’t say I’m familiar with the events depicted but with assured direction and two solid performances, I found myself fully invested. The friendship between Shelby and Miles as well as the relationship between Miles and his son give this the emotional weight to aid the racing … and between exhilarating and viscerally-edited racing we get some great character moments that are both emotionally driven and at time’s comical.

I’d have liked a bit more detail on just how the iconic Ford GT40 came to be (it just sort of appears), and a significant moment towards the end is rather down-played, lacking the impact it deserved. However none of this detracted from what is a thoroughly engaging true story that I can easily say is a must-watch.

Verdict: Essential

Colour Out Of Space


Viewed – 07 March 2020. Online rental

I used to be quite the fan of Nicholas Cage and rank many of his movies as firm favourites. However in recent years his output has garnered little acclaim and although this sci-fi horror is far from a return to past glories it’s certainly an interesting and daring choice for the once Oscar winning actor.

Something strange in the garden…

Cage plays Nathan, a family man who lives out ‘in the sticks’ with his wife (Joely Richardson) daughter and two sons. However one night what at first appears to be a meteorite crash lands in their front garden, bringing with it a weird pink glow that soon begins to have a strange affect on the family.

Directed by Richard Stanley, a filmmaker I’m not familiar with but it’s clear he brings with him a distinct vision and style … with echoes of the much underrated Stewart Gordon gore-fest From Beyond and an atmosphere that’s Stranger Things meets The Twilight Zone. Only what feel like a restricted effects budget holds this back, but it runs with some pretty messed up ideas (especially towards the end). Not surprising when it’s based on a H.P. Lovecraft short story. Cage is decent as are the rest of the cast and as the metorite’s otherworldly presence takes its grip each character gets their moment, although not necessarily for the better.

What it lacks in ambition it makes up for in style, very trippy imagery and just plain ‘out there’ ideas that gives this its own feel like its birthing a whole new sub genre – hallucinogenic alien invasion? Whatever it was … I was up for it.

Verdict: Recommended