Nobody


Viewed – 27 July 2021 online rental

Bob Odenkirk made his name primarily as the bumbling yet likeable lawyer Saul Goodman in acclaimed TV sensation Breaking Bad. However I’d have never imagined him as some badass former assassin, but that’s the premise we have here as he plays Hutch, a family man hiding a secret that gets unearthed after he pisses off a bunch of Russian mobsters.

No more Mr nice guy…

From the writers of the John Wick franchise, this also has vibes of Liam Neeson hit Taken mixed with Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, with a rapid pace and plenty of kick-ass violence, all shot with no end of style and wincing choreography. Odenkirk, playing against type is clearly having a ball and is surprisingly convincing. The story however is merely an excuse to show Odenkirk in such sequences and doesn’t add up to much. At around 92 minutes it also felt rushed and occasionally forced just to make things ‘happen’ (he beats up a group of guys on a bus, simply to prove he’s still got it). The main villain is also rather one-note and stereotypical. However it was really great to see the legendary Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s dad joining in with the mayhem.

For its style, some fun humour and quality action, this entertained well enough … but I couldn’t escape the feeling there was a bigger story here we were not seeing, lacking the world-building of the aforementioned Wick movies. Check this out if you’re an action fan, and as a vehicle for Odenkirk you’ll find this eye-opening. Yet for a fully fleshed out experience – I was still left wanting.

Verdict: Good

True Romance


Viewed – 21 July 2021 Blu-ray

In the early to mid nineties, one name seemed to reignite cinema as we know it and seemed to make movies exciting again. That name was Quentin Tarantino. At the time his movies, both those he directed and the ones he simply wrote, influenced me in my own writing. Most notably this lovers-on-the-run thriller from 1993. Directed by the late Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) this tells the story of Elvis-obsessed Clarence (Christian Slater) who after falling for newbie call girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) decides to confront her pimp, Drexel (Gary Oldman) to reclaim her belongings … yet after the meeting goes horribly wrong, Clarence comes into accidental possession of a suitcase full of cocaine.

This is shot with Scott’s distinct style; smokey interiors, sunsets, garish colours and soft focus. Something he put to great effect in movies such as Top Gun and The Last Boyscout. He’s also a great fit for Tarantino’s snappy, pop-culture filled script, helping to get the most out of a colourful cast, which also includes Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken and even a stoner cameo by Brad Pitt. There’s many stand-out scenes here, such as the now iconic Sicilian scene between Walken and Hopper, many quotable lines (“I like you Clarence, always have …always will!”), and even side characters seem to jump off the screen. However, I’ve always felt the movie is held back a tad by the fact Clarence comes across as a bit of an asshole sometimes. It also didn’t feel right how easily Alabama dismisses certain crazy things Clarence does. Yet as an unconventional love story, and despite their flaws, I still found myself liking these guys.

Like Natural Born Killers, Reservoir Dogs etc, at the time this came under fire by the censors for its violence, and yes it’s violent (especially the Tony Soprano vs Alabama scene) but it’s all larger than life, and by today’s standards – rather tame. Yet this is still one of Tarantino’s most entertaining scripts, and remains a nineties classic well worth your time.

The newly restored 4K release from Arrow Video is a difficult one to judge. Mostly due to Tony Scott’s directing style which delivers an overly soft, yet noticeably grainy image. The HDR implementation does seem to bring out the colours, and overall detail is good, if not exactly reference quality. Soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is crisp, and the various scenes involving music really deliver (Drexel’s club especially). Extras are plentiful, many of which are carried over from the previous Blu-ray, including deleted scenes, interviews and four commentaries, from Scott, Arquette & Slater, critic Tim Lucas and most notably one by Tarantino himself. New to this version are additional interviews with behind the scenes crew members, co-stars and fans of the movie. We also get art cards, a detailed 60 page booklet, double-sided poster and deluxe packaging.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended

Black Widow


Viewed – 10 July 2021 Disney+

I think few could argue that Scarlett Johansson is a real movie star and has proven herself more than capable in many types of roles. However many will know her as one part of Marvel’s Avengers alongside the likes of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. However unlike those characters, Scarlett’s Black Widow hadn’t until now got her stand alone origin story. This finds Natasha Romanova / Black Widow being hunted down by the shady organisation that turned her into an assassin, leading her to explore her own past and confront the broken relationships she thought she’d left behind.

Scarlett Fever…

Midsommar’s Florence Pugh plays Yelena, the estranged sister of Black Widow and it has to be said steals the show with her personality and sarcasm, and the banter that occurs not only between the two females but also with David Harbour’s Red Guardian proves this movie’s best aspect. Add to this some decent action, with a stand-out prison break sequence, and this was ticking my boxes.

Unfortunately the plot wasn’t very engaging with what was happening and why not pulling me in. Also Ray Winstone’s villain was rather forgettable. Although the mysterious henchman ‘Task Master’ was much more interesting. Yet as an origin story, this failed to delve into the character of Black Widow, only showing glimpses of her training or much of her upbringing. As a Marvel movie however, this still delivers the necessary spectacle, slick action and fun moments – but overall felt a bit under-developed with occasionally lazy writing. For fans of the MCU this is worth seeing, but adds so little to the whole narrative it’s far from essential.

Verdict: Good

Army of the Dead


Viewed – 25 May 2021 Netflix

Following a zombie outbreak on Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries are hired to venture into the quarantine zone to retrieve a stash of money hidden in an underground vault. Zack Snyder (Justice League) returns to the zombie genre he pretty much reinvented with his well received Dawn of the Dead remake, this time under the guise of a heist movie.

With the director’s brand of stylish visuals and frenetic action, whilst not breaking the mould … this proved a fun experience. Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista heads a mostly unknown cast in this action horror, and proves a likeable lead. A subplot revolving around Bautista’s daughter, who tags along on the heist to rescue the mother of two children … felt a bit forced just to create a father/daughter bonding angle which only complicates an already dangerous mission. Also a sequence involving an army convoy at the beginning, is left unexplained. At 2 and a half hours, this also felt padded out, with needless sequences such as a long bit inside a building sneaking past sleeping zombies.

However the movie does deliver great action, the zombie tiger seen in the trailer is awesome, and as for gore, whilst infrequent, there’s some stand-out moments. The band of mercenaries are also entertaining and have good banter. Overall, not quite the evolution of the zombie flick it’s marketed as, and it does get very silly – but I still came away entertained.

Verdict: Good

Memories of Murder


Viewed – 13 May 2021 Blu-ray

I had wanted to see Bong Joon-ho’s 2003 serial killer drama for a while but it had been hard to find on Blu-Ray. However with the recent release of a box set of the director’s movies, I finally got my wish. Based on true events and set in 1986, this follows a group of detectives as they investigate a series of murdered women.

The Police heading the case however seem particularly inept, their methods questionable to say the least; including torturing suspects to get confessions or planting evidence just to close the case. Yet when a more experienced detective from out of town joins the investigation, they begin to follow previously ignored leads. Korean cinema regular Kang Ho-Song is again decent and delivers a convincing portrayal of an arrogant detective clearly overwhelmed by the situation. However for me Kim Sang-kyung as the out of town detective stole the show in a more layered role, especially with how events change him.

Parasite Director Joon-ho delivers a solid drama. It’s not as stylish as he’s known for and more a character piece than anything all that grisly, I watched this twice and certainly got more out of it the second time around. Yet it’s focus on detectives being rather unprofessional and especially how they treat one suspect who has a learning disability seemed to bog down the narrative. So not a must see, but still another decent example of Korean cinema.

Unfortunately the Blu-ray from Curzon Artificial Eye is bare bones. The image quality is only serviceable, looking a bit soft generally and lacking fine detail. Sound fairs better with a punchy DTS 5.1 soundtrack that has clear dialogue and the moments when music kicks in are impactful. There’s only the original Korean language available and no English dub. Extras are non-existent but for a trailer. Disappointing treatment for an intriguing, if light-weight serial killer movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Poor