A challenge begins…


So last night began this fun little challenge of mine to watch one movie each in my collection of Blu-rays for each letter of the alphabet. I have devised a working list that I may swap and change as I progress, but I plan to write weekly blog posts detailing what movies I have got though in this endeavour.

So where did I begin? Well there were a few choices for A, but eventually I landed on the rather under-appreciated Studio Ghibli movie ‘Arriety’. I’ve now watched it about 3 times inclusive of last night’s viewing and stand firm on my opinion it’s one of Ghibli’s best. The take on the classic Borrowers story is well done and pretty much sticks to source material and that theme song by Cecile Corbel is utterly enchanting. I still find the sickly kid a bit annoying but everything else, the gorgeous hand-drawn animation and scenery, the characterisation, different moments (the escapade to steal a sugar cube) and sound-design are all utter class.

As you’ll now be aware I chose 80’s French drama ‘Betty Blue’ for B and have chosen to do a full review for that which I’ll leave you to check out. Now onto letter C and beyond. I’ll report back how it all goes soon!

Betty Blue


Viewed – 02 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

This was one of those guilty pleasures for me as an adolescent, hormonal teenager. Yeah it’s one of those typically French movies that’s greatest appeal was scenes of rather explicit sex and a very frank approach to on screen nudity. However, as time went buy and subsequent viewings I began to see beyond the ‘naughty stuff’ and appreciate the rather touching, albeit tragic love story at the movie’s heart.

Jean-Hugues Anglade stars as Zorg, a handyman and would-be writer in a passionate relationship with free spirited Betty (Beatrice Dalle) who are drifting through life going from one situation to another, getting jobs, making friends and experiencing life. However it quickly transpires that Betty has more than a few psychological problems and as the story progresses, those problems take a turn for the worse.

Immediately its not hard to see why actress Beatrice Dalle was the iconic poster girl of many a bedroom wall in the 80’s … she’s undeniably sexy, incredibly photogenic and exudes French chic. Although shot in a realistic fashion, the cinematography perfectly captures that European exotic and historical beauty, be it with sun-drenched beach communities, rolling French countryside or quante villages. It makes the journey the couple go on particularly captivating. Anglade is very likeable and is the viewers anchor to the otherwise wild and unpredictable Dalle who delivers an equally likeable, fun and ultimately heart-breaking performance thats very convincing. A classic of French cinema that proves just as engaging and effective as it was over 30 years ago.

I picked up the Second Sight Blu-ray that boasts two cuts of the movie. I’d recommend the 3hr director’s cut over the 2hr theatrical version as although both versions are very similar, where the story goes is handled better and not as sudden as the shorter cut. The Blu-ray itself boasts a decent image that although not that sharp has strong colours, which are a big draw here. We also get a making of (featuring new interviews with cast and crew) and some Beatrice Dalle screen tests. So not amazing treatment but the movie is in decent shape, the somewhat soft look does suit the movie, and sound is adequate in 2.0 stereo.

Verdict:

(the movie)

Theatrical – Good

Directors Cut – Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Good

The A-Z challenge (revisited)


Announcement!

A few years ago I attempted and later abandoned a self imposed challenge to watch and review Netflix movies from A-Z. I may actually revisit that challenge one day, picking up where I left off. But for now I’ve come up with the idea of revisiting my collection of Blu-ray movies and picking one movie each for every letter of the alphabet. I have given myself a 2 month parameter to achieve this starting May 1 and ending June 30. It may end before that date, we’ll see how I go.

During this time I’ll be watching 26 movies (obviously) and occasionally giving some movies full reviews, whilst others I’ll compile in semi-regular blog posts with brief opinions. Should be fun. There will be no restriction to what movies I see, and will include a wide variety of styles and genres from thriller, horror, action, comedy to martial arts, animation and world cinema.

Watch this space.

Craig.

Knives Out


Viewed – 25 April 2020. Online rental

Despite what my opinion may be of the choices made by director Rian Johnson with The Last Jedi, I remain a fan of his earlier movie ‘Looper’ and so sat down to this latest offering with optimism. The trailer certainly name dropped a few famous faces and add to this a Cluedo-esque murder mystery premise and positive word of mouth. A wealthy family are brought together following the apatent suicide of the eldest member, famed crime novelist Harlen Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). So enters renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who suspects there may be foul play at hand.

A strong cast and an immediately intriguing set up quickly drew me into this. It’s put together expertly by Johnson who free from the restraints of a franchise can really show off his directing chops – aided by eye-catching cinematography, great atmosphere and a tongue-in cheek tone. The story, initially a who-dunnit which gradually develops into a back stabbing family drama … is full of twists and turns, but with good use of flashbacks never felt confusing like similar movies can. Daniel Craig is great, camping it up as the Southern speaking slueth, but the real star here is Blade Runner 2049’s Ana de Armas, who delivers the most complex and layered performance as Harlen’s nurse, and carries the movie.

Support cast such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Don Johnson are a bit wasted, and because the movie doesn’t exactly play by the who-dunnit rule book, it loses a little bit of it’s momentum around the middle (but hits its stride again in the final act). Clever and highly entertaining. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Motherless Brooklyn


Viewed – 18 April 2029. Online rental

I had been quite hyped for this. A period set crime drama starring Edward Norton in his directorial debut as a member of a detective agency investigation the events surrounding his boss’s mysterious death. However despite a constant battle with Tourette’s and OCD, he has a brilliant memory and so makes for a skilled investigator. At the heart of his investigation is a ruthless development commissioner and a gutsy female campaigner.

Norton carries this movie with a convincing portrayal of a man battling with himself, capturing all the nuances of someone with that affliction – which is at times funny, other times heart breaking. It was also good to see him back centre stage like he used to be. However his performance can’t disguise the fact the plot just isn’t that gripping and is overly cryptic even when it’s trying to explain itself. Alec Baldwin is decent as property developer ‘Moses’ as is Willem Dafoe. The 50’s New York setting is fairly well done, but occasionally sits uneasy between absolute realism and exaggerated Hollywood-noir style. There’s also a clear influence of the classic Chinatown here but can’t come close to that movie’s impact.

Almost worth it for Norton alone, but overall this can’t rise above it’s narrative shortcomings. Still, I’d like to see what Norton does next if he chooses to continue as a director.

Verdict: Poor