Operation Condor


Viewed – 03 April 2021 Blu-ray

Armour of God II

I’ve been a fan of Jackie Chan for years. Recently I’ve been collecting some of his movies newly released on Blu-ray. However I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed by certain movies that seem more about knockabout comedy and story than the action and stunt work that’s made him famous. However this release from 1991, a follow up to his famed Amour of God – feels to me like the definitive Chan experience. Chan plays adventurer ‘Condor’ who is given the job of travelling to the African desert to locate some buried gold left over from World War II. Along the way he gathers a trio of female friends who aid him in his mission, followed by murderous thugs out to steel the gold for themselves.

The story is nothing special and kind of nonsensical at times but it’s the pacing and energy that grabbed me. It jumps quickly from chases to fights to stunts to a climactic battle in an underground base, with barely a breather. Add to this Chan’s usual brand of character comedy, fun dialogue, awkwardness and slapstick … and this was just a riot of fun. This time the story, comedy and action all feel intertwined perfectly with no one element out staying it’s welcome. The three actresses making up Chan’s fellow adventurers all had their own personalities and were a lot of fun. Sometimes Chan comes off as a bit of a womaniser but no more than a dozen Bond movies – which this clearly borrows from along with obviously Indiana Jones.

The climactic fight in the underground base is classic Chan and features some of his best work – especially the sequence inside a wind tunnel. Fantastic stuff. One of Chan’s most consistently entertaining movies.

The Blu-ray I picked up from 88 Films is probably the best the movie has ever looked, boasting a new 2k restoration. There are two cuts of the movie here, the Hong Kong theatrical cut with a soundtrack in either 2.0 Cantonese or original mono dubbed. This version also has a commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert Mike Leeder and film maker Arne Venema. I watched the extended cut which is only available in Cantonese with subtitles. There is also a trailer and an interview with martial artists Bruce Fontaine. Unlike other 88 Films releases there’s no booklet but otherwise this is pretty decent.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recomended

(The Blu-ray) Recommended

To disturb… a top ten list.


Although from this list you’ll see I have seen my fair share of disturbing movies, I still haven’t seen some of those other big names like ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ or ‘Salo’, and probably never will. Yet what disturbs is subjective and a few titles here some may think are fairly lightweight. However below I count down the ten movies that have disturbed me the most.

10.

Creep

(2004, Director: Christopher Smith)

9.

Midsommar

(2019, Director: Ari Aster)

8.

Audition

(2001, Director: Takeshi Miike)

7.

Eden Lake

(2008, Director: James Watkins)

6.

Scum

(1979, Director: Alan Clark)

5.

Funny Games

(1997, Director: Michael Haneke)

4.

The House That Jack Built

(2018, Director: Lara Avon Trier)

3.

The Snowtown Murders

(2011, Director: Justin Kurzel)

2.

Martyrs

(2008, Director: Pascal Laugier)

1.

Irreversible

(2002, Director: Gaspar Noe)

There you have it. If you have the temperament for it, there’s something to recommend about each of these movies and I think their power to disturb is in their powerful, intense tones and unflinching brutality. Often this is aided by very strong performances, or raw, convincing direction. Whatever it is they all got under my skin and have stayed there.

The Snowtown Murders


Viewed – 13 March 2021 online rental

Aka ‘Snowtown’

Yeah I’ll admit it, I kinda like seeking out disturbing movies. I suppose I like to push my boundaries, and I’ve seen some seriously disturbing movies over the years. This one, from Australia tells the true story of one of the country’s worst serial killers. We are thrown into the lives of a family in a rundown suburban neighbourhood where the mother has a boyfriend who is sexually abusing the kids. He’s soon kicked out and the mother befriends a local man, John Bunting who rallies the neighbourhood together to discuss sorting out their peaedophile problem. Before long he’s convincing people to terrorise the offenders out of their homes. However scaring them off isn’t enough for this guy and soon he’s kidnapping, torturing and eventually killing. Yet his hatred of sex offenders isn’t enough and quickly he begins targeting anyone he doesn’t like the look of, including gays or drug addicts.

Murder in the suburbs…

This is disturbing for sure, shot in a bleak fly on the wall ultra-real style that makes it very convincing. Although 90% of the murders are off screen, the movie conveys the horrors with reactions from those involved and the playback of tape recordings of each victim to tell their families they’re leaving or running away. One such scene, in a bathroom was really hard to watch due to its unflinching brutality, so I’m kind of glad the other murders were not shown.

That being said it was easy to lose track of who was getting killed and who wasn’t. One victim looked quite similar to another guy at one stage that when that other guy turned up it threw me. Daniele Henshaw as John Bunting is charismatically unnerving, although most of the other cast were just ‘there’. Lucas Pittaway as Jamie Vlassakis didn’t say much but at least conveyed a great deal in his eyes. As a moment-in-time snapshot of the real life case, this doesn’t go into the investigation nor do you see anyone get caught, but regardless this was still effective and thoroughly unpleasant viewing. One for those that are into this kind of movie only.

Verdict: Good

Saint Maud


Viewed – 13 February 2021 online rental

A rather talked about British horror from newcomer Rose Glass that has been getting some good word of mouth lately. So of course I thought I’d check it out. This tells the story of Maud, a young woman who comes to work as a full time carer for retired former dancer Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) who is dying of cancer. It soon transpires that Maud is deeply religious and through caring for the woman, decides she may have finally found her ‘calling’.

Not your usual setup for a horror and initially I was wondering if I’d been sold the wrong movie. The portrayal of Maud and her beliefs is intriguing and as the story progresses, quite eye opening and unsettling. I personally am not religious although I believe in spirituality, and some of the things in this woman’s head are troubling. Such as how she self harms in an attempt to please God. Director Rose Glass transports is into Maud’s mind quite quickly and it’s a dark and disturbing place to be. She also fills the movie with a claustrophobic dread, using camera work, lighting and music effectively.

However, there’s only a hint of back story and the movie fails to even remotely explore why Maud is the way she is, which as her actions get crazier makes for a rather unsympathetic character. This is the movie’s only failing … it’s like we’re just getting a small part of the story, and I get it – a lot of what goes on is subjective. Yet performances are solid, especially Morfydd Clark as Maud and where the movie goes is quite shocking. Just a shame it’s mostly surface horror than anything deeper.

Verdict: Good

Top Ten movies 2020


2020 has been a very strange year, due to a global pandemic resulting in the pushing back of big names movies, closing cinemas or forcing some movies to get released on streaming platforms for a premium price. So watching movies hasn’t been as simple or as accessible as we’ve been used to. During the year I’ve found myself watching older catalogue titles on Blu-ray or focusing more on TV, gaming or doing challenges like my A-Z challenge during the summer.

However that doesn’t mean I missed out on some quality movies, and the count down that follows, showcases for me the cream of the crop. Please note these are movies i enjoyed the most during the year … but some may have been released earlier than 2020.

10

Birds of Prey

9

Knives Out

8

Tenet

7

Dark Waters

6

Midsommar

5

Parasite

4

Onward

3

Ford V Ferrari (aka Le Mans ‘66)

2

Fighting With My Family

drum roll……

1

Jo Jo Rabbit

Honourable mentions: Greyhound, Incident in a Ghostland

Well there you have it. Here’s to hoping 2021 goes a little more smoothly. Like 2020, I think we’re in for some treats as far as movies are concerned and of course I’ll try and watch and review as many as I can. Happy New Year folks!

Craig.