See How They Run


Viewed – 26 September 2022 Cinema

I recall enjoying the revival of the classic whodunnit with the other year’s Knives Out. This follows a similar blueprint but sticks even closer to the Agatha Christie style by setting the story at a theatre production of one of the author’s plays, where an arrogant movie director (Adrian Brody) is murdered. A world weary inspector (Sam Rockwell) and his prodigy constable (Saoirse Ronan) are called in to investigate and unmask the killer.

The trailer for this has strong Wes Anderson vibes, which is no bad thing and the inclusion of Ronan in the cast made this an instant must see for me. Thankfully this didn’t disappoint. It’s a gently, quirky comedy with bags of style and that sort of caricature approach to the performances that I often find really enjoyable. At the heart of the movie is Rockwell & Roman’s double act that’s fun and charming throughout. Support from Adrian Brody, Reece Sheersmith amongst others is also decent, making for a personality-rich experience.

The final reveal is a bit weak, and few more star names amongst the ensemble cast would have been welcome. Yet I had a great time with this and it kept a smile on my face throughout.

Verdict: Recommended

Ambulance


Viewed – 10 August 2022 online rental

For some reason, people like to hate on Michael Bay. However I’ve enjoyed his movies, the ones I have seen – and consider movies like The Rock and Transformers classics. This latest is about a guy trying to get money for his wife’s operation who turns to his brother, and gets pulled into doing a bank robbery.

One of my favourites, Jake Gyllenhaal stars here as the career criminal brother who talks his brother into aiding him steal millions. Of course things don’t go to plan. This is every bit a Michael Bay movie, stylish and packed with action, explosions and a sun-drenched Los Angeles. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who I didn’t recognise is very good as the other brother just trying to do the right thing, and Eiza González as a straight-talking paramedic also proves decent. Gyllenhaal of course steals it though and is manically charismatic throughout.

This felt like Speed, being mostly a never ending chase sequence and is both exciting and rather intense. The action is slick and well executed, and the movie’s only real let down is a ton of overly stylish camera work, using I’m guessing drones to capture some shots. It gets a bit much after a while. It also felt a bit too long, due mainly to the intensity. Overall though this was great fun and had enough character and energy to give this an easy recommendation.

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

Top Gun: Maverick


Viewed – 26 May 2022 Cinema

The original 1986 Top Gun I recall never really appealed. I was only 11 at the time of its release and it’s setting of hot shot fighter jet pilots just wasn’t my thing. Flash-forward 35 years later and this almost gets the crown for longest period between movie and sequel. Tom Cruise returns as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, who is given the job of training up a group of highly skilled pilots to undertake a particularly dangerous mission. However amongst the pilots is the son of ‘Goose’ Maverick’s best friend who died in the original movie.

I feel the need….

Cruise is his usual charming self and in the mentor role offers up a commanding presence. Although like before the setting didn’t initially appeal I was still willing to give it a go. Thankfully the story is good enough and support cast do a decent job of becoming an appealing group faced with a life or death situation. The impending threat I felt was under-developed and there’s no actual bad guy just faceless enemy jets and the fact they have uranium hidden in an underground bunker.

That being said the star of the show is the cinematography and the many dizzying in-cockpit flying scenes. The final act is especially exhilarating and edge of your seat stuff. It also looked like Cruise was doing a lot of the fighter plane flying. The movie however pays a little too much homage to the more cheesy aspects of 80’s blockbuster cinema, and the love story between Cruise and Jennifer Connelly felt half baked. That said, I still enjoyed this, much more than expected.

Verdict: Good+

Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon


Viewed – 07 May 2022 Blu-ray

Generally, you can’t go wrong with a movie starring veteran action star Sammo Hung. He grew up with Jackie Chan, and although he has remained in Chan’s shadow, mostly due to not making his name in America – his movies and his Kung fu skills are clearly on the same level. This 1990 buddy cop movie has never had much fanfare outside its native Hong Kong, and after watching it … I’m surprised.

This is top-drawer Sammo Hung with some fun comedy and several quality Kung Fu fights. The plot is rather none-sensical though, serving more as an excuse from Hung and Karl Mak’s often funny squabbling banter. Karl Mak is comes across a tad misogynistic but still entertains, and proves a capable fighter in his own right. However as a vehicle for Hung, this showcases his comedy skills equally with his fighting, this time doing a spot-on Bruce Lee impression throughout – which I’d have liked a bit of explanation for, but it’s never explored.

Direction by kung Fu veteran Lau Kar-wing is decent with the fights well framed and delivered with often clever camera work (especially during the climactic warehouse scene). I’d say if you enjoy Hong Kong action cinema, this is one of the more immediate fun ones, with the action spread throughout the movie (not just at the end) with entertaining characters and decent comedy. Just a shame about that er… plot.

This new release from Eureka Classics boasts decent image quality. Not incredibly sharp but clear and detailed enough. The soundtrack offers up original Cantonese mono, or 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio English dub. Although this isn’t a showcase for your surround system. Dialogue is clear though and the English dub is surprisingly good. There are two audio commentaries, the first from Asian film expert Frank Djeng and martial artist / actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels. The second has action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema. Then there’s a collector’s booklet featuring an essay by James Oliver. Add to this interviews with crew and stunt co-ordinators. There is also a second disk covering the career of stuntman Mark Houghton. No interview or anything with Sammo himself though seems a strange oversight.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good+

(the Blu-ray) Recommended