Last Night in Soho


Viewed – 27 December 2021

I’ve kept an eye on the careers of both Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy in recent years, both having impressed in ‘Jo Jo Rabbit’ and Netflix show ‘The Queens Gambit’ respectively. So when I heard that the latest from director Edgar Wright starred both of these talents, I was certainly appealed. McKenzie plays Eloise, an aspiring fashion designer who moves to London. There she finds her love for the sixties era come to life when she experiences visions that follow the escapades of a young wannabe singer named Sandy (Taylor-Joy). Somehow the two girls lives become entwined as the glitz and glamour take a sinister turn.

Edgar Wright has always been one of the more inventive and stylish directors, first coming to fame with zombie-rom-com Shaun of the Dead, and that creativity is on fine form here, inventively jumping back and forth from past to present, whilst bringing to life sixties London with a top notch soundtrack. Both lead actresses deliver great performances but this is especially a showcase for McKenzie who carries the movie in a demanding yet effective turn.

This just held my internet throughout. For what on paper is a sort of horror thriller, this wasn’t as scary as it might have intended but was still a joy to watch and get mesmerised by the atmosphere, the twisty-turny plot and visuals. Is it Wright’s best movie to date? Possibly, and also proves a great showcase for two of the most watchable and talented young actresses currently working. A must see.

Verdict: Essential

The Guilty


Viewed – 26 October 2021 Netflix

Jake Gyllenhaal is probably my favourite actor at the moment, so anything he stars in will grab my attention. This latest has him as a troubled LAPD cop doing a night shift at a 911 call centre. When he receives a call from a frightened sounding woman giving the impression she’s been abducted, he decides to make it his mission to save her.

Your call is important to us…

This is one of those single location movies, and I have often felt despite the limitations of the concept, these can be more engrossing that you might expect. The same can be said here, with a focused, intense script cleverly putting the viewer into various situations where they have to picture a scene or characters only going by a voice or how Gyllenhaal’s character interacts with them. It’s very effective and I’m guessing will be different for each viewer, with them having different ideas of what certain characters look like etc. It’s a way of telling a story that lives or dies based on how much attention you pay and how you picture events you don’t get to see. Thankfully, Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) squeezes every ounce of tension and drama out of the idea, so that the your efforts are worth it.

Jake Gyllenhaal is very convincing, delivering a character with more than a few problems of his own. I certainly sympathised with him even if some of his actions were occasionally questionable. So I came away from this rather impressed … and quite emotionally exhausted. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

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 amongst 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