The Snowtown Murders


Viewed – 13 March 2021 online rental

Aka ‘Snowtown’

Yeah I’ll admit it, I kinda like seeking out disturbing movies. I suppose I like to push my boundaries, and I’ve seen some seriously disturbing movies over the years. This one, from Australia tells the true story of one of the country’s worst serial killers. We are thrown into the lives of a family in a rundown suburban neighbourhood where the mother has a boyfriend who is sexually abusing the kids. He’s soon kicked out and the mother befriends a local man, John Bunting who rallies the neighbourhood together to discuss sorting out their peaedophile problem. Before long he’s convincing people to terrorise the offenders out of their homes. However scaring them off isn’t enough for this guy and soon he’s kidnapping, torturing and eventually killing. Yet his hatred of sex offenders isn’t enough and quickly he begins targeting anyone he doesn’t like the look of, including gays or drug addicts.

Murder in the suburbs…

This is disturbing for sure, shot in a bleak fly on the wall ultra-real style that makes it very convincing. Although 90% of the murders are off screen, the movie conveys the horrors with reactions from those involved and the playback of tape recordings of each victim to tell their families they’re leaving or running away. One such scene, in a bathroom was really hard to watch due to its unflinching brutality, so I’m kind of glad the other murders were not shown.

That being said it was easy to lose track of who was getting killed and who wasn’t. One victim looked quite similar to another guy at one stage that when that other guy turned up it threw me. Daniele Henshaw as John Bunting is charismatically unnerving, although most of the other cast were just ‘there’. Lucas Pittaway as Jamie Vlassakis didn’t say much but at least conveyed a great deal in his eyes. As a moment-in-time snapshot of the real life case, this doesn’t go into the investigation nor do you see anyone get caught, but regardless this was still effective and thoroughly unpleasant viewing. One for those that are into this kind of movie only.

Verdict: Good

News of the World


Viewed – 16 February 2021 Netflix

Following Apple TV’s Greyhound, actor Tom Hanks once again embraces the streaming platforms, this time Netflix and like that earlier battleship thriller, there’s little dip in quality compared to his usual, reliable output. This eighteenth century set western has him as a retired army veteran who now travels from town to town reading news articles to paying audiences. However one day he stumbles upon an orphaned young girl and decides to help return her to her family.

Directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Identity) based on the novel by Paulette Jiles, this boasts eye catching cinematography that brings the setting and time period to life. Although slow burning, the gradual bond that forms between Hanks and the girl is of course the heart of the movie … this is a very simple tale but one that’s done with a lot of feeling and authenticity.

At times some details of the girl’s background can be a bit too vague (not helped by a language barrier) and where Hanks was heading to lost me at one stage. The movie also feels a little too understated at times. Yet with some nail biting scenes, including a tense shoot out and a sand storm, this was still quite gripping. Again Hanks is great, conveying all the necessary emotions and brings the character to life. Helena Zengel as the little girl is also memorable. That ending really got me too. Worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

Update


Well what have I been up to lately? For starters I’m still really enjoying PlayStation 5, and am currently loving Immortals: Fenyx Rising, an unashamed, yet highly polished Breath of the Wild clone, that uses Greek mythology to give the game its own identity outside of comparisons to Nintendo’s masterpiece. I also got my hands on Hitman III, this time for Xbox One X, and had forgotten just how fun and absorbing that franchise can be.

Hitman III

TV-wise, I recently finished Tin Star, the crime drama starring Tim Roth, and although I feel season 1&2 were superior in story and depth, the Liverpool set final season was really enjoyable, rather bizarre ending aside. I’m also still watching The Fall with Gillian Anderson (who, by the way was great as Margaret Thatcher in the latest season of The Crown), and just finished season two. I’m also watching WandaVision, Cobra Kai (TV bliss!) and to a lesser extent The Handmaid’s Tale.

To make future posts a bit more varied, and to increase the movies I am watching without the need to review ‘everything’ … I’ll be grouping some opinions together in updates like this. Two movies I’ve seen recently, are The Philadelphia Story, the 1940’s comedy drama with James Stewart, Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn – a charming comedy of errors, revolving around a wealthy socialite’s impending wedding and how a local magazine want the scoop. The story wasn’t up to much but the banter and chemistry between the leads was fun, and child actress Virginia Weidler often stole the show. Verdict: Good.

The Birds

The other movie I watched recently was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, starring the lovely Tippi Hedren. I’d never seen this but of course I had heard a lot. Well… it was instantly likeable due to the characters and quirky interactions, that although goes on for a good hour before we get any ‘bird action’ … yet when things do occur, Hitchcock’s direction is first class and very effective – especially the climactic bird’s attack on the house. An acclaimed classic worthy of it’s reputation. Verdict: Recommended.

That’s all from me for now.

Craig.

Cat People


Viewed – 22 January 2021 Blu-ray

I’ve had a yearning to watch some older ‘classics’ of late and have been looking to The Criterion Collection to quench my thirst with a few titles that have caught my eye. This 1942 horror themed drama stars somewhat lesser known starlet Simone Simon as Irena, a woman who believes an ancient curse means that any physical intimacy with a man, means she’ll turn into a black panther and devour him. So naturally when she falls for a charming business man (Kent Smith) who convinces her to marry him … Irena fears her animal side will reveal itself.

The beast within…?

A simple tale with an intriguing premise, this flirts back and forth between the notion that Irena may be some carnivorous creature within, or she’s just sexually repressed. It certainly has something to say about female sexuality, which is bold considering when it was made. It’s also shot with atmosphere to spare, and has three enjoyable performances that drew me in. The story focuses on what becomes a love triangle, and the jealousy that builds especially in the final act made for some effective moments (the swimming pool scene). It’s not a horror in a traditional sense, there’s very little violence or creature effects, and is generally subtle and suggestive. Also despite a short run time, it was quite slow going. Yet I still found myself entertained.

The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection boasts a 2k restoration that’s detailed and pleasing with striking black & white photography, and an uncompressed mono soundtrack has clear dialogue and effective music cues that aid the often eerie mood. However the big bonus here is a lengthy documentary on famed producer Val Lewton which is narrated by Martin Scorsese and goes in-depth on the man’s career. Add to this a commentary from film historian Gregory Mark, interviews, a trailer and a booklet with an essay from film critic Geoffrey O’Brien. Quality treatment for a somewhat underrated classic. Worth checking out.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Serpico


Viewed – 16 January 2021 Blu-ray

This true story tells the story of street cop Frank Serpico, a man who idealistically joins the Police department in New York, but as time transpired learns that many of the cops around him take money to ‘look the other way’. As it goes against everything he believes a cop is, Frank chooses to investigate the corruption from the inside which at the same time puts a target on his back.

I fort the law and…

This gritty drama boasts a versatile and compelling turn from Al Pacino in a role that put his name on the map following his break out turn in The Godfather. Directed by Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon) with authenticity, using mostly no name actors to aid the realism, this was a little drawn out … yet I found the story gradually pulled me in and I became quite absorbed after a while. It’s certainly a fascinating and eye-opening tale that’s enhanced by Pacino and its 70s atmosphere.

However there are some weak support performances, with occasionally wooden line-delivery … and in these more politically correct times, having only black people portrayed as crooks is jarring – yet such things reflect the times the movie was made I suppose. The threat and danger Serpico was also meant to be experiencing didn’t come across that well either. Yet as another solid Pacino role and an absorbing true story – overall I still had a good time with this.

The Blu-ray on Eureka’s ‘Masters of Cinema’ label, boasts an impressive, restored image with intact grain that brings out no end of detail and depth. The movie is presented in both its original mono and a new 5.1 soundtrack, both of which are clear and effective. Extras consist of some behind the scenes featurettes, a photo gallery with a commentary by the director, a trailer and a nicely detailed booklet. I’d have appreciated a commentary, and the lack of any appearance from Al Pacino is disappointing. A mostly decent treatment for a well regarded movie that although not exactly a classic for me, this release makes it worth a look.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended