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

Ratings update


I thought I’d reiterate what my rating system means. At the start of 2020 I chose to do away with numbered ratings, feeling the differences between them, the half points some movies required, just got a bit messy. So below is a breakdown of what my ratings mean…

Essential – a must see, a rare movie, a score not given lightly. A movie does not have to be perfect to get this score, it just has to either entertain fully, really affect me or go beyond my expectations. Equivalent to 5/5.

Recommended – a movie that’s very nearly a must watch but has small issues somewhere or minor aspects that don’t entirely work. Quality movies can get this score but usually because they don’t stand up to repeat viewing as those that get an essential. Equivalent to 4/5.

Good – an enjoyable or memorable movie that can still fall short in key areas. Often these movies are average to above average, yet their flaws don’t fully ruin the overall experience. Equivalent to 3/5 or 3.5/5.

Poor – a movie that has its moments, but is often a good idea poorly executed. Movies that get this rating often prove disappointing despite their potential or have something in them that ruin an otherwise good experience. Equivalent to 2/5 or 2.5/5.

Avoid – I can’t say I come across movies I really dislike that often, but to get this score it has to be almost difficult to get through. This can be down to bad film-making, an un-engaging story or bad acting. Overall to get this score it has to fail in most areas. Equivalent to 1/5.

Booksmart


Viewed – 06 March 2021 Netflix

Two straight-laced best friends (Kaitlyn Dever & Lady Bird’s Bernie Feldstein) who have always put studying and grades before fun and games … decide to have a night to remember on the eve of graduation. However, they end up learning more about themselves and the world around them than they could have anticipated.

Imagine a woke version of Superbad. Yeah I said it and that’s ok. Although actress turned director Olivia Wild’s teen comedy might be quite obvious from the off, unlike that forced girl-power moment in Avengers: Endgame this manages to deliver a message more naturally through an engaging, occasionally touching story of friendship, high school and one wild night.

At first this was trying too hard to be hip and self-aware, and the two friends come across a bit obnoxious – yet as I eased into the movie’s style I began to relate to the friend’s outsider image and found myself pulled into their story. It fails to be as funny (or as quotable) as it clearly wants to be (except for an animated sequence that is great) but that can be forgiven as eventually the movie revealed a heart to it I wasn’t expecting and the closing moments worked well. Feldstein can’t escape comparisons as a female Jonah Hill yet proves entertaining regardless … but for me the star was Kaitlyn Dever, who first caught my eye in TV mini series Unbelievable and is just as watchable here. Overall quite effective stuff, flipping teen movie conventions on their heads whilst retaining what makes a teen movie work. One to check out.

Verdict: Good

Game Night


Viewed – 02 March 2021 online-rental

I must admit I like Jason Bateman. Other than his excellent turn in the Ozark tv series, he’s always enjoyable in most things he appears in. This comedy has him as one half of a couple who once a week get together with their friends for ‘game night’. However one such night, Bateman’s arrogant elder brother turns up to propose a new game that will involve a kidnapping and nobody will know what is real and what isn’t.

Just fun and games?

Co-starring the equally reliable Rachel McAdams, initially I wasn’t sure what to make of this. The characters are all drawn a little larger-than-life and could’ve got obnoxious until that is, the story kicks in and quickly the movie got really interesting. This is helped by a solid script with many funny lines and unexpected twists and turns. McAdams & Bateman are a good pairing and I was always invested in what was going on. Support comes from Kyle Chandler as the elder brother and the increasingly enjoyable Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) as the a creepy neighbour.

It gets a bit silly towards the end and I did get a bit lost amongst the plot twists at one stage, but overall this was still highly entertaining. Well worth a watch.

Verdict: Recommended

The Young Master


Viewed – 22 February 2021 Blu-ray

Hong Kong Theatrical Cut

It’s strange how one remembers some movies. It turns out this is a completely different movie than what I thought I’d watched a numbers of years back. That movie was Dragon Lord and not this 1980 break-out hit for Jackie Chan and his first with studio Golden Harvest. Despite my mistaken identity I chose to settle into this regardless. Chan plays a martial arts student who’s school is involved in a Chinese dragon dance contest and loses when his brother fakes an injury only to join the rival school and win the contest. Disgraced by his former master, Chan’s brother is outcast. Chan himself whilst attempting to locate his brother gets mistaken for a man who helps free a local criminal and has to prove his innocence. This leads on to a final confrontation with said criminal who turns out to be a martial arts master.

fight through the pain…

The story is rather convoluted, feeling patched together, like how scenes can follow on from one another and feel unconnected like there are bits missing. Yet coming to this I wasn’t expecting a great story, but was hoping for good action … and well, in this respect the movie delivers. There’s a decent bunch of kung-fu encounters, including a fun fight involving benches, a street brawl with Chan disguised as an old man, and an extended final encounter that’s particularly exhilarating. The kung-fu is shot expertly too, brilliantly edited and with great camera work that showcases the skill on display. It’s of the dance-like style of fight choreography but I still appreciated it. Casting, with an appearance by Chan regular Yuen Biao (Wheels On Meals) is good too with a few recognisable faces, and Hwang In-shik as the main villain is one hell of a fighter. Just a shame the plot is so all of the the place, as an easier to follow story would have added a great deal of substance. As it stands, watch this for the brilliant martial arts on display, not so much the story.

This special edition release from 88 films comes in deluxe packaging, has a detailed booklet, a poster, art cards, specially commissioned cover art, and several versions of the movie – the ‘theatrical Hong Kong cut’, a slightly shorter ‘export cut’, and a third version called the ‘extended export cut’ – with restored 2k transfers, restored audio in dubbed English or original language with subtitles (the export cut is English dub only). Add to this plenty of extras, with interviews, featurettes, alternate scenes and two commentaries. Great stuff for collectors. Maybe not one of Chan’s best – but still worthwhile for kung-fu fans.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended