The Dig


Viewed – 17 August 2021 Netflix

I’ve always been an admirer of actor Ralph Fiennes … with his often chameleon-like performances enriching many a movie. This gentle and meaningful drama set in 1939 on the eve of World War II has him as quietly spoken archeologist Basil, who is hired by ‘lady of the manor’ Edith (Carey Mulligan) who wants him to dig up some prominent mounds existing on her land. This leads to an incredible discovery.

Based on a true story this was an effective drama. Mulligan who I enjoyed in Promising Young Woman is again very good, as is Feinnes in an understated but convincing turn. The bond the unlikely friends form is quite captivating, especially as the story evolves. The backdrop of the archeological find is also fascinating, especially if you have even a passing interest in history. Also, the threat of the war starting is quite unnerving and portrayed realistically. It was the character bits that made this though, not just with the two leads, and the story proves moving and absorbing, despite a laid back tone.

Director Simon Stone has delivered an authentic and fascinating drama that wisely focuses on character as much as an historical discovery, and along with some attractive cinematography that showcases the English countryside and a moving story – I came away rather affected by this.

Verdict: Recommended

Promising Young Woman


Viewed – 07 August 2021 online rental

I love going into a movie blind. Not knowing anything about it other than seeing it keep popping up in my YouTube feed. I also like female lead stories, and so I settled down to this with anticipation. Telling the tale of Cassie, a drop out medical student who by day works in a cafe and by night frequents clubs pretending to be drunk just to see if once again some scum bag will try to take advantage of her. However, when she finally appears to have met Mr Right, a tragic past that has haunted her, rears its head once again.

Me Too…?

Carey Mulligan, an actress I’m not overly familiar with, eats up the screen as the bitter and vengeful Cassie. The scenes where she tracks down and manipulates figures from her past are highly entertaining. It’s fun watching and waiting for who will be next and where the story will go. Ryan, the love interest also proves interesting, especially with how he plays off Cassie’s cautious personality to show he’s not the same as ‘those guys’. This all leads to a gut-punch of a twist that truly left my jaw dropped.

Shame then that the ending relies so heavily on certain things falling perfectly into place, which as it turns out is utterly implausible. This kind of ruins what is otherwise a really good movie, with memorable moments, a great soundtrack and a great turn from Mulligan. For all it’s other merits then, I’d still say give this a watch.

Verdict: Good

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga


Viewed – 06 August 2021 Netflix

Browsing Netflix I wanted something fun to watch, so I stumbled upon this Will Farrell comedy that I’d heard had garnered some buzz. As a casual appreciator of the long-running song contest of the title, mostly for it’s wacky examples of European culture, I must say the subject appealed. This tells the story of Lars (Farrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), life-long friends who have always dreamt of one day competing in Eurovision just like their heroes Abba. However the small Icelandic town where they live have always mocked such hopes, finding the duo a bit of a laughing stock rather than anything to encourage, especially by Lars’ disapproving father (Pierce Brosnan).

Take a chance on… us?

For a Will Farrell comedy this seemed on the surface fairly typical, delivering his usual brand of buffoonery and slapstick. However his pairing with McAdams, an actress I’ve grown to like brings a bit more emotional depth to the story, delivering equal parts heart-warming moments as well as laugh out loud funny. At times Farrell’s antics threaten to destabilise things, even in some of the more meaningful moments, yet the often touching, feel good story quickly won me over.

A surprising experience then with a lot of heart. The music varies from intentionally cringe to rather show-stopping (that end song) and delivers a genuine celebration of all things Eurovision (including several cameos from real contestants). Farrell is fun but doesn’t do much here he hasn’t in the past. Overall though, this is McAdams’ movie, with her character having the strongest journey. She’s also just so damn likeable. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Drunken Master


Viewed – 01 August 2021 Blu-ray

As a fan of Jackie Chan, you’d think I’d have seen the movie that had a hand in launching him as a bankable star, after years under the shadow of Bruce Lee. Yet I’d never got around to it until now. This 1978 Kung-fu comedy has Chan as ‘Wong Fei Hung’ (the same Chinese folk hero played by Jet Li in Once Upon a Time In China), who as a martial arts student gets disgraced and thrown out of his school after bad behaviour. Soon he comes under the guidance of ‘Beggar Po’, a drunken master who teaches Chan a secret style of Kung Fu, leading him to face a hired killer who threatens his former master.

This energetic, knock about action-comedy is a lot of fun. There is a fight nearly every scene, and they’re all shot expertly and brilliantly choreographed showcasing genuine skill, ability and invention. The story may be simple but this benefits a movie with such a focus on fight after fight, and with famed kicker Hwang Jang-Lee as the central villain, I was having a ball.

The comedy is at times juvenile and only mildly amusing and sometimes can fall flat. Yet with some great martial arts on display, Chan proving a likeable lead and a simple story that just flows … I had a great time with this.

The Blu-Ray from Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema collection boasts a very sharp image that’s nicely detailed. The audio however in mono DTS Master Audio is rather basic with slightly echoey dialogue – but it’s clear enough. Extras include several interviews, one with Jackie Chan himself. There’s also a detailed booklet, commentary, a deleted scene and a trailer. Not too bad.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-Ray) Good

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 left wanting.

Verdict: Good