Us


Viewed – 20 August 2019. Online rental

Director Jordan Peele has made quite a name for himself after the Oscar winning racial-tension thriller Get Out. He’s certainly a bold new voice in a largely stale genre filled with sequels and remakes. In this, his second effort, a woman along with her husband and kids head to a beach community for a holiday, where when she was a child a bizarre incident happened that has haunted her all her life. However after meeting up with some friends, as night draws in a weird group of strangers turn up outside the house who look exactly like them.

Initially I thought this was very much like a copy of The Strangers mixed with Funny Games., but as it progressed it became so much more. Firstly, Peele’s direction is slick, visually interesting and coats the movie in a thick unnerving atmosphere. Moments of humour only slightly eleveate the tension but work well to create a surprisingly relatable tone with characters I quickly grew to care about. One joke involving an Alexa-like device was just brilliant. Performances, especially considering the cast are mostly playing two parts are decent with a special mention going to Lupita Nyong’o who delivers a very layered duel-performance that’s at times quite chilling..

The overall concept is clever on paper, but as the movie drew to a close I felt it got a bit confused, causing an avalanche of questions in my head that begged me to re-evaluate what I had been watching. That can be great but in reflection, I’m not sure if it entirely works. However for such a visually captivating, well acted and often thrilling experience this remains one of the most purely entertaining horrors I’ve seen in a while.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Police Story 2


Viewed – 16 August 2019. Blu-ray

I don’t think you can really go wrong with a Jackie Chan movie. Over several decades the kung fu star has perfected his brand of slapstick action-comedy which is showcased well in the long running Police Story series. This 1987 sequel to the now legendary original picks up shortly after the events of that movie and has Chan relegated to traffic duty. However the mobster from the last movie is out of prison on compassionate grounds following a terminal illness diagnosis and goes about harassing Chan and his girlfriend May (the lovely Maggie Cheung). Yet when a bomb scare at a shopping centre brings about a new threat to the city, Chan’s superiors call on him to help out again.

This movie isn’t quite as talked about as the original and it’s fairly clear to see why. It once again gets bogged down in investigative police procedure, mixed with Chan’s often quaint style of comedy which I’ll admit did bring a few chuckles. However this occasionally feels even more long-winded, with the subplot of the mobster seeking revenge needing to be significantly trimmed. Thankfully then when the action comes it’s still superb, lightening-fast, expertly choreographed and amazing to witness – if a bit low key compared to the last movie. Yet the playground fight especially is a stand out. The climax also boasts some impressive stunt work and a great, if brief fight against Hapkido expert Benny Lai.

Chan’s direction overall is slick. The camerawork, especially for its time is stylish and well, he totally understands how to present action in a way Hollywood failed to grasp for years. Just a shame a wafer-thin plot and too much padding stops this just short of another Chan classic.

The recent Blu-ray from Eureka Classics has a decent if slightly soft image quality, but the soundtrack is at least delivered in several options including a dubbed, subtitled mono and and all new subtitled 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio. The movie also gets three cuts, the UK video version, the shorter and I’m guessing better-paced Hong Kong version as well as the full, uncut version I watched. I’d be interested in checking out these other versions I must admit. Extras consist of trailers, an episode of the ‘Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show’ hosted by Jonathan Ross, outtakes, an interview with Benny Lai as well as a commentary by stuntmen Miles Wood and Jude Poyer. The Blu-ray, as part of a deluxe set that also includes Police Story 1, also comes with a detailed booklet. Very impressive treatment overall for a still fun entry in Jackie Chan’s career thats worth checking out.

Verdict:

(the movie). 3 /5

(the Blu-ray). 5 /5

Look Away


Viewed – 06 July 2019. Online rental

Occasionally a concept will grab my attention immediately and this eerie thriller is one such example. A bullied, introverted schoolgirl finds herself turning to her own reflection who’s sinister intentions gradually start to take control.

A story about a teenage girl, fitting in at high school , bullies and going to the prom whilst hiding a potentially deadly secret. Yep this certainly has echoes of Carrie but also brings in a few other elements such as the doppelgänger / alter-ego, peer pressure and a surprising amount of (attempted) eroticism. However as sexy as the movie tries to be, even when blended with the supernatural … a rather pubescent-looking lead actress made for, occasionally uncomfortable viewing. It’s also a movie that wastes potential on a clearly undeveloped script.

Which is a shame, as the dual performance (with some clever camera trickery) by relative unknown India Esley is decent and support from Mira Sorvino and especially Jason Isaacs means this isn’t quite the straight to VOD it otherwise appears to be. Yet the ending was unsatisfying with the movie giving too many hints at a larger story that’s ultimately left to the viewers imagination. In other hands that may have worked but here … it just doesn’t.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Glass


Viewed – 11 June 2019 DVD

I was on the fence about this. I liked but didn’t love Split, and having watched Unbreakable a while back and feeling mixed about it … I wasn’t exactly jumping to watch M Night Shyamalan’s somewhat forced-feeling shared world third entry.

This picks up not long after the end of Split and introduces us to a psychiatrist who brings the three main characters together in an institute to try and convince them that they’re not special or super human. The concept is certainly interesting and brings a realism to it that works well to explore the idea of superheroes in the real world. Unlike last time, James McAvoy’s multi-personality character is far more explored and I grew very impressed by the performance and when ‘the beast’ personality was in full-throttle I was getting Wolverine vibes from the guy who currently plays Doctor X! Bruce Willis is good but is a little overshadowed by McAvoy and of course Samuel L. Jackson who surprisingly steals the show for a character who doesn’t speak a word for a good portion of the movie.

There’s times when the world-building gets a bit convoluted and a final twist whilst welcome also threw up its own questions. Yet for me, this is certainly the best of the trilogy and creates plenty of potential for further movies if Shyamalan cares to pursue the idea. So I went from initially dismissive of this to actually surprised and impressed. Recommended.

Verdict: 4 /5

John Wick 3: Parabellum


Viewed – 15 May 2019. Cinema

Everyone’s out to kill John Wick (Keanu Reeves) following the events of the last movie and the former safe zone of The Continental has ex-communicated him. So a price is put on our favourite assassin and now it’s just a matter of survival.

Once any franchise reaches its third instalment you’d be forgiven for expecting the stakes to be raised and they certainly are here leading to several violent, immaculately choreographed and particularly brutal confrontations. This is certainly a visceral, pulse pounding experience yet this time around any plausibility and believability occasionally leap out the window in favour of increasingly thrilling, but at times ludicrous set pieces. The violence takes on a near cartoonish quality at times and when you consider scenes of public fights where the public don’t batter an eye lid or run away screaming, it’s clear the movie exists in its own version of reality, not unlike that scene in The Matrix with the woman in red.

So despite these obvious gripes, how come I still managed to get a real kick out of this? It’s edited and presented with such a visual sheen with so much energy and personality that coming away from this not entertained means you either hate action movies or are a bit dead inside. Smatterings of humour are a welcome addition, and memorable support from Lawrence Fishburne, Ian McShane and especially Halle Berry as a dog-loving fellow assassin still managed to make this sequel worthy despite it all feeling a bit deja at this stage. And no, I haven’t a clue what ‘Parabellum’ means.

Verdict: 3.5 /5