The Irishman


Viewed – 28 November 2019. Netflix

There’s a moment early on in Martin Scorsese‘s 3hr + epic when Robert DeNiro meets with Joe Pesci‘s mobster. Could I hear The Godfather theme playing gently in the background? If so, nice nod to a genre you helped immortalise Scorsese.

I was hyped for this. A crime drama with some of the biggest names in crime dramas reuniting for the first time in years? Where do I sign? Based on true events, DeNiro plays Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman who gradually rises up the ladder, going from blue collar worker to petty thief to mob enforcer to right hand man of infamous politician Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). At the same time his story is told by an elderly Frank in a nursing home. One of the much talked about things with this movie was the ageing and especially de-ageing technology used to showcase various characters during different timelines. It’s clever stuff if not entirely successful and did take a bit of getting used to – especially when a (I’m guessing) 40-something Frank still carries himself like an awkward older guy at times, lacking the stature of the same actor in say Heat or Goodfellas. It’s a technology that I’m afraid struggles to hide the fact this movie should probably have been made years ago.

DeNiro is still great though and goes through a plethora of emotions to portray Frank, someone who’s not your everyday mob villain but a family man and a human being. In the closing scenes especially, portraying an elderly man with lots of memories and regrets, I’ll admit I came close to shedding a tear. It’s the ending that elevates this into the realms of potential ‘classic’ even if some sections in the middle revolving around Hoffa’s political dealings dragged and well, got a bit boring. Al Pacino is far from disappointing though, but I can’t say I was all that taken by the man he was portraying. On the other hand, Joe Pesci’s mobster is great and made me wish this guy still made movies and proved much more layered than the usual psycho routine he’s famous for.

It’s also a bit too long. The Jimmy Hoffa stuff, admittedly important to the story could have been trimmed down, and some scenes are drawn out. However this isn’t a zippy, snappy gangster movie but a thoughtful story of one man’s life, and for that it mostly succeeds. Martin Scorsese gives the movie a classy feel, with eye catching camera work, his trusted great choices in music and a great attention to detail. Overall, a must for fans of crime movies and for anyone wanting to see these screen legends deliver the goods one more time.

Verdict: 4 /5

Doctor Sleep


Viewed – 06 November 2019

I consider The Shining one of the best movies ever made, so this follow-up, based on Stephen King’s own best seller was something I never knew I wanted. King famously hated director Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation and so this movie interestingly brings King’s sequel to life as well as heavily referencing Kubrick’s movie.

Ewan McGregor plays Dan Torrance, the grown up version of that kid in the original, who has battled his ‘shining’ affliction to see the dead, with alcohol. However when a young girl named Abra begins communicating with him through her own psychic gift, Dan is drawn into a battle against a mysterious group of travellers (lead by Rebecca Ferguson) who pray on those that shine.

The way characters, separated for miles connect and come together during the story was what drew me into this. The movie uses imaginative ways of making the various locations and characters feel connected and only builds and gets more creative the closer they get to one another. The story also fleshes our the ‘shining’ ability as well as further exploring characters and moments from the first movie with spot-on re-creations and occasionally uncanny look-a-likes. Rebecca Ferguson is dangerously sexy as Rose The Hat and McGregor is also very good, even if he’s often outshined by Kyliegh Curran as Abra.

Although I’d have liked the movie to be less the supernatural drama it is and more a full-on horror, the story was (mostly) involving enough to make up for a lack of genuine frights. Director Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game) uses many creative visual flourishes to make what on paper could get a bit silly – highly entertaining and I found myself invested in Dan and Abra’s plight. This is how you do a sequel to such a legendary movie … build on a great concept yet take nothing away from the original.

Verdict: 4 /5

3 From Hell


Viewed – 02 November 2019 online-rental

Rocker turned director Rob Zombie has over the years carved out his own sub-genre that despite strong influences from grind house shockers like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left, delivers a style that’s all his own. It can be an acquired taste that’s for sure, and not much has changed since 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects that this is a direct follow up to. With a clear tip of the hat to Natural Born Killers, in the years since their incarceration, the Firefly gang have become celebrities. After one of them escapes, a violent home invasion ensues to convince a Prison warden to help crazy as-a-loon Baby Firefly (Sherry Moon Zombie) escape also.

Zombie’s direction attempts to add style and panache to a movie that’s neck deep in sleaze and grime. It’s characters carry a self-importance that doesn’t make them glamorous, but simply pompous, and with the lack of interesting adversaries, including a none existent police presence, there’s a distinct lack of tension or drama throughout.

If you’re here to find out if this delivers the required violence and gore then yeah, there’s several nasty scenes including a throat slit, stabbings and a (unconvincing) face removal – but almost all is watered down by what appears to be crappy CGI blood. Bill Mosely is the stand out as Otis, and Sherry Moon is equal parts entertaining and annoying – so the acting’s a mixed bag also. The under-use of Sid Haig (who recently passed away) as nutty clown Captain Spaulding is disappointing but in a movie this half-arsed, perhaps it wouldn’t have been his finest swan-song. For die hard Zombie fans only.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Terminator: Dark Fate


Viewed – 30 October 2019. Cinema

I genuinely don’t think there’s ever been a truly bad Terminator movie. I’m also happy to say that whilst this doesn’t break the mould, it doesn’t ruin that tradition either. A bad-ass female resistance soldier travels back in time from a ‘war against the machines’ future to protect a young Mexican woman who is the target of a new Terminator that may just be the deadliest yet. Lucky for them there is help from Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton).

James Cameron, producer and series creator has said this is the true follow up to T2 and ignores the other sequels. It certainly feels closer to his vision than any other and the inclusion of Hamilton’s Sarah Conner cannot be underestimated. However as it turns out she’s mostly here to link movies, and a jarring plot twist early on basically makes her involvement pointless. Natalia Reyes as Dani, the Terminator’s target is a little bland also. The saving grace then, ironically is Mackenzie Davis as Grace, the cybernetically-enhanced resistance soldier who proves this movie’s most compelling aspect.

Action is decent, the CGI impressive (if at times over done) and the pace relentless (occasionally to the movie’s detriment) but this concept has always been exciting and it’s no different here. Arnie turns up after a while and proves a real scene-stealer. Yet unlike the masterpiece that was T2 there’s little wow-factor here, and the sense of a franchise finally being milked dry. But for seasoned fans like myself, this still entertained.

Verdict: 3 /5

Wheels On Meals


Viewed – 15 September 2019 Blu-ray

I make no secret that I’m a big fan of martial arts icon Jackie Chan and over the years I have enjoyed many of his movies. There’s just something endlessly likeable about him that I feel not even names like Jet Li, Donnie Yen or even Bruce Lee come close. So sitting down to this 1984 kung fu caper, I had mixed emotions as I recalled not being its biggest fan back in the day. However at the time I was OD’ing on all things Hong Kong Cinema. Chan, teamed with frequent collaborator Yeun Biao play two mobile restaurant vendors who work out of a tricked-out hot dog van, who both fall for the same mysterious girl. At the same time a rookie private detective (another frequent collaborator Sammo Hung) has been given the case of tracking down said girl, whilst also a gang of bad guys are out to kidnap her. A bit of mystery then ensues bringing the three guys together to save the day.

This focuses heavily on interplay between the main characters with plenty of comical word-play that lends comparisons to The Marx Brothers or The Three Stooges, mixed with occasional action that throws in fights, a great car chase and a climactic series of encounters that make the long yet entertaining lead up well worth your patience. The inclusion of kick boxing champion Benny ‘the jet’ Urquidez is a particular highlight. Set unusually in what appears to be Spain the movie is filled with interesting locations and at times eye catching cinematography.

The overly-farcical nature of the plot, questionable depictions of mental patients and homeless people means it’s hard to get truly invested. Also Chan’s brand of stunt-work and Kung fu mostly takes a back seat … but its all done with such charm and sense of fun, I still had a great time.

The blu-ray from Eureka Classics has a pleasing, if generally soft image quality that although at its best during night time set sequences, is generally clean throughout… that bright yellow van especially pops. The soundtrack is presented in original mono and 5.1 Cantonese along with dubbed English in both mono and 5.1. Extras consist of outtakes, trailers and a few worthwhile interviews with key cast members. Not exhaustive but we do also get a detailed booklet with an essay by James Oliver. Solid treatment for what is for me a bit of a forgotten classic.

verdict:

(the movie) 3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5