No Time To Die


Viewed – 13 October 2021 Cinema

The latest outing for Ian Fleming’s famed spy, Daniel Craig reprises his role as the iconic James Bond for the fifth and reportedly final time. Following on from the last movie, Spectre – this finds a now retired Bond living life with new wife Madeline. However after choosing to help out old CIA friend Felix – Bond unexpectedly uncovers a new threat to the world.

Shaken, not stirred…

What we get here certainly follows the usual blueprint … the tricked out car, gunfights, beautiful women, stunning locales. However we also get a great deal of character moments, with Daniel Craig impressing in not only the role of the hero, but as a human being. It’s probably his most layered performance as the character. He’s also aided well by a very good Lea Seydoux as Madeline, Ralph Feinnes’ M and a scene-stealing Ana De Armas as a plucky fellow agent. However a particular stand out is Rami Malek’s very creepy villain.

The main plot is fairly typical and Malek’s motives not all that interesting – and certain bold plot developments didn’t sit right with me. Also Billie Eilish’s theme song is just awful. Yet with a greater focus on character and emotion than I think there’s ever been previously, as well as a fun subplot surrounding a rival female agent… this delivered a great deal of heart and personality amongst the pyrotechnics. A worthy swan-song for Craig as the famed spy and a highly enjoyable, often surprising Bond movie at same time. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Blow Out


Viewed – 10 October 2021 Blu-ray

A sound engineer named Jack, working for a small time movie company stumbles upon a conspiracy after witnessing what at first looks to be a freak car accident whilst out recording sounds. However after rescuing a woman he finds in the crashed car, he reviews his recording and realises someone must have shot the vehicle’s tire, and it wasn’t simply a ‘blow out’.

John Travolta stars as Jack, in this thriller directed by Brian De Palma (The Untouchables, Dressed To Kill). This was an absorbing story, with a very good Travolta, aided by De Palma regular Nancy Allen. What grabbed me instantly was De Palma’s direction – he uses split screen, imaginative camera work and clever editing to their fullest to deliver a very unique look and feel. Alongside movies like Carrie this is probably up their with the director’s best. The murder-mystery plot is also a fascinating one, but does get a bit silly at times, with a slightly uneven tone. An extended chase towards the end, whilst creative and visually impressive, also stretches plausibility.

However this was above all else really entertaining, aided by solid performances (including a memorable John Lithgow) and pacey, stylish direction that makes for a firm recommendation from me.

The Blu-ray from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has a newly restored image that has plenty of detail. It’s a bit overly dark in night scenes and there’s a lot of grain, but for a movie released in 1981 it’s in great shape. The soundtrack in DTS HD Master Audio is very clear with only occasional echoing in certain dialogue scenes. The soundtrack, one of the movies highlights is very effective throughout. Extras consist of several interviews, consisting of new and archive material. There’s also a behind the scenes photo gallery and a detailed booklet with an essay by critic Michael Sragow. I’d have loved a commentary but sadly there isn’t one. Other that that this is a great package and a must for fans.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Kate


Viewed – 14 September 2021 Netflix

I admit it, Mary Elizabeth Winstead just does it for me. She always plays cool characters, is a capable actor and exudes a subtle sexiness that’s very appealing. This latest vehicle, playing a character not too dissimilar to one she played in Birds of Prey has her as Kate, a professional assassin who following a hit that goes wrong, discovers she’s been infected with a deadly poison. With about a day to live she races against time to find out the culprit and eliminate them.

Co-starring Woody Harrelson as her mentor, this is very much the female take on John Wick and yes, Winstead is a badass. Set in Tokyo, of course this is stylish, full of neon, fast cars and plenty of gun-fu. Shame then that unlike that Keanu Reeves franchise, the direction here isn’t as slick, and action can occasionally feel stilted, with some uninspired camera work and sloppy editing – add to this an over reliance on (poor) CGI. The plot is still effective if simple, serving up some good twists, and the subplot of a teenage girl who Kate has to reluctantly team up with, proved interesting.

If you like your action fast and colourful, this is still the movie for you. Winstead is great, portraying her pending death well, but much of the plot was quite predictable. Harrelson also is also just ok, clearly capable of delivering this kind of character in his sleep. So no, not quite an action classic, but worth seeing regardless.

Verdict: Good

Till Death


Viewed – 04 September 2021 online rental

Other than how gorgeous she is, I can’t say I’ve taken much interest in Megan Fox. She was fine in Transformers and the last movie I saw her in was the rather underrated Jennifer’s Body. So coming to this thriller, her name wasn’t an immediate pull. However the concept was interesting. Fox plays a woman in a loveless marriage to a controlling husband. In an attempt to rekindle their love however, the husband takes her to a lakeside cabin. Following morning she wakes up to witness his suicide, and finds herself handcuffed to him just as two men break into the cabin.

A tense situation leads to several nail-biting moments, and as events progressed I did find myself getting absorbed. Fox does a good turn as a woman in an impossible situation and goes through hell and back in her attempt to survive. However the movie stumbles due to some alarming moments of implausibility … especially during the bits where she’s dragging her husbands corpse around. Yes it takes a promising concept and gets very silly very fast, which is a shame. Also the moment Fox’s husband off’s himself just didn’t ring true – honestly, she takes it rather well!

The closing moments got quit thrilling however and there’s certainly some good ideas – the car alarm sequence for one – but overall the initial promise was let down by sloppy direction. Worth a rental though.

Verdict: Good

Night of the Hunter


Viewed – 24 August 2021 Blu-ray

After a man is arrested for murder, he befriends a petty crook in prison who discovers that the man has hidden $10,000 in cash. After being released and intent on finding the money, the crook, played by Robert Mitchum, swoops down on the man’s family, posing as a preacher.

This 1955 drama has quite the classic status, and the menacing portrayal of evil from Mitchum is effective, as is the often gothic, black & white photography, giving the movie a very eerie and iconic atmosphere. Directed by actor turned one-time Director Charles Laughton, this seems on the surface, choppily put together, with performances (with the exception of Mitchum) ranging from awful to amateurish. Even Shelley Winters gets little more to do than fawn over Mitchum due to her character’s god-fearing beliefs.

The frequent songs being sung (although not a musical) also vary from cringe to creepy, yet add to a rather strange mood. By the second half however, I found myself getting caught up in what was happening, especially with the focus being on two young children being stalked by a crazy preacher. There’s just something really haunting about it all, and I must say it kind of freaked me out – in a good way. Maybe not the masterpiece it’s lauded as, but worthwhile nonetheless.

I picked up the Criterion Blu-ray of this and must admit found the image quality a little underwhelming. For a movie of its time I’ve definitely seen sharper, with an overly grainy image. However the soundtrack was clear enough in uncompressed mono audio. Yet it’s in the extras where this release impresses most. We have a commentary from an ensemble comprising of the second unit director, a film critic and an author of a book about the making of the movie. There’s also interviews, clips from chat shows, archival documentary, a 2 and a half hour behind the scenes compilation and plenty more. To top it off there’s also a detailed booklet featuring several write ups on the movie. Impressive stuff.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended