Parasite


Viewed – 13 June 2020 (A-Z Collection Challenge)

A family that has fallen on hard times discover an answer to their cash flow problems in the form of a local wealthy family. The eldest son is introduced to the idea of conning his way into being an English tutor to the wealthy family’s daughter. So begins a series of manipulations that gradually spiral out of control.

Class warfare….

Bong Joon-ho’s multiple Oscar winning drama is at first an unusual sell. It’s an odd idea but one I quickly felt engaged by as the various situations played out. The way the poor family work as a unit to deceive and stay one step ahead of the wealthy family is engrossing and makes for a rather unique and surprisingly gripping experience. The clever, if not exactly subtle commentary on social class and envy / jealousy also works well. The movie also throws in some unexpected twists that prove quite impactful. It’s hard to go into specific details as the journey is part of the appeal here so I’ll leave it there as far as plot.

Korean acting veteran Kang Ho Song (The Host) is great as always aided by a solid ensemble cast who all deliver. The (mostly) one location setting is also very much a character, a striking art-deco house that the cinematography shows off wonderfully. This is a very visually captivating movie, aided by a strong, at times striking orchestral soundtracks. I’m not sure the movie deserves quite the accolades it’s had, as some character actions and plot elements feel a bit far-fetched (with especially a scene revolving around morse-code a particular stretch). Yet overall this was still highly entertaining, bold and surprising. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

The Favourite


Viewed – 23 January 2020 Blu-ray

Sometimes a movie peaks one’s interest for no particular reason. I guess I wanted to see this just because of its intriguing concept and the fact it had good word of mouth. That Olivia Coleman Oscar nod didn’t go ignored either. So what’s it about? In the early 18th century, Queen Anne (Coleman) reigns during a war with the French, and is dutifully aided by Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). However when a maiden, Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace, the equilibrium is upset as she begins to court the Queen’s favour and a fierce rivalry ensues.

This reminded me of that other costume drama classic Dangerous Liaisons, with its similarly mean-spirited characters and manipulative behaviour. Similarly this is also rather sexy and interwoven some strong language amongst its often entertaining, quirky dialogue. Olivia Coleman may have got all the attention for her performance but I found her portrayal overly pathetic and silly, that whilst fascinating was far from award-winning in my opinion. Weisz is suitably bitchy, sexually-ambiguous and enjoyable but next to Emma Stone’s more interesting, conniving character she comes off second best. Yes, Stone is the stand out here, subtle, layered and just fun to watch with more of a character ark than those that surround her.

With expected lavish production and costumes, despite occasional bizarre camera techniques (were those fish-eye lenses entirely necessary?) this was a joy to look at. The movie’s not quite as daring or provocative as it could have been and where it goes is rather disappointing … whereas I had expected a dramatic, possibly shocking conclusion. Worth checking out though.

Verdict: Good

The 2010s – a decade in movies


The 2010’s has been an interesting decade. I think the popularity of superhero movies has dominated and we also got the return of Star Wars so yes, Disney were raking it in these past ten years. The decade has also further cemented the popularity of streaming services and how Hollywood has looked to these services with a greater amount of seriousness than previously and that is why big name directors like Martin Scorsese and The Coen Brothers to name but two, have launched big budget movies on these platforms. Add to this major Hollywood talent taking TV and streaming exclusive rolls, and the future looks bright for these services. That’s not to take anything away from the big screen cinema experience which I still feels has a great deal to offer, and although gimmicks like 3D have begun to fall off, nothing can beat what is still such an immersive form of entertainment.

Looking back over the decade and the numerous top tens I’ve done at the end of each year (look out for my 2019 top ten tomorrow), it’s also clear there’s been many top quality movies released, some that have gone on to become firm all time favourites. Black Swan and The Revenant especially are two of my favourites of the decade. Alongside these movies I’d also place the much underrated Stoker, as well as Shutter Island and Nightcrawler, all movies with stand out central performances and directors with a unique vision.

When it comes to the massive onslaught of comic book adaptations I’d call the first Avengers movie as well as Avengers Infinity War, the brooding (and brutal) Logan and the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie all solid gold entertainment. Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Wonder Woman can also join that list. It’s a shame then that DC on a whole couldn’t live up to Marvel’s consistency with Batman V Superman and Justice League both disappointing.

Horror, so stuck in a rut for longer than I can remember began to finally discover a new lease of life with directors like Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and Fede Alverez delivering breath-of-fresh air experiences like Us, Hereditary and Don’t Breathe, and even remakes like Evil Dead and IT didn’t feel as stale as they could have done. Add to this Far Eastern gems like I Saw the Devil and Train to Busan delivered a high level of quality to the genre.

If I was to pick my personal favourite movies of the decade, I’d have to choose Christopher Nolan‘s mind-bending Inception, Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s utterly unique Birdman, the aforementioned Black Swan from Darren Arronofsky and Wes Anderson‘s captivating Grand Budapest Hotel, although the fan-boy in me might also place J J AbramsStar Wars: The Force Awakens on that list just because…

So yes the 2010’s has been a great decade. It further pioneered special effects, unique approaches to story telling and proved the blockbuster still could have depth beyond the avalanches of CGI. It also gave us career defining performances. We also have it better than ever for home entertainment. What the next decade has waiting for us I can only dream but know that the much delayed but highly anticipated Avatar sequels will be a good start.

Roll on 2020 and beyond…

La La Land


Viewed – 20 May 2017  Blu-ray

Probably the most celebrated movie of the last twelve months that swept up at each award ceremony, gaining Oscars, Baftas and Golden Globes a plenty.  I must admit I was intrigued and have always enjoyed a good musical.  This stars Emma Stone as a young woman with a dream of becoming an actress who waits tables at a cafe on the Warner Brothers studio back lot.  At the same time we have Ryan Gosling’s talented Jazz pianist trying to make a name for himself with dreams of opening his own, old-school Jazz bar.   These two strangers it seems, are destined to meet and so we have what appears to be a classic Hollywood love story, peppered with the occasional grand song and dance routine.

La La Land

A nostalgic homage to Hollywood of old, ala Rogers & Hammerstein or Doris Day musicals but with a contemporary setting.  Should work wonders, huh?  Well … the problem here is, these two actors lacked chemistry and their central love story, going from disliking, to tolerating, to falling in love etc. just didn’t engage … I just didn’t really get caught up in any of it.  Every time you’d expect some convincing emotion or actual depth to their relationship, they’d break into a dance routine or a song instead.  I’m sure it’s all meant to be symbolic but it just made their relationship ‘meh’ at best.  This is not helped by some very vague story details and forgettable supporting characters (Stone has a boyfriend at one stage…not that you’d remember him).  Thankfully the movie is packed with eye-catching dance routines, at times stunning visuals, great choreography and colourful costumes.  However along with forgettable actual songs (nothing really stands out) and principle leads you feel are better off not being together … something has gone horribly wrong. 

The movie saves itself somewhat in the closing moments and the final interactions between Gosling and Stone are quite touching.  Both stars are also very good, proving themselves capable singers (with Stone especially having a fantastic solo moment) … however with such a focus on re-creating a bygone era and less focus on delivering an engaging story, I felt this ultimately failed.  Worth watching for Gosling and Stone and some great dance numbers, just don’t fall for the hype.

Verdict:  3 /5

Oscars 2016 – a few thoughts


DiCaprio OScars

Well the big night came and went.  I’ll admit I’m increasingly disinterested in awards ceremonies these days, be it movies or music or any kind as usually it’s more about money and big companies backing certain nominees and much less about actual deserving talent.  The Oscars is no different.  However, it was good to see that finally after years of being snubbed, Leonardo DiCaprio got his gong.  Did The Revenant  give him that role that finally deserved an Oscar?  Not necessarily in my opinion as his turns in such movies as The Departed, The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can and even Wolf of Wall Street have all been superior I’d say especially from an acting point of view.  The Revenant was more a physical performance and less showy or obvious, but maybe that’s what it takes – or like many Oscar winner who have been widely snubbed in the past … it was simply DiCaprio’s turn.

Surprised to see Spotlight get Best Picture considering the controversial subject matter, but glad it did and with a strong cast it’s one for my must see list.

Sam Smith’s The Writings On The Wall got Best Original Song?  My only theory is it must have been a limp list of nominees, because although I enjoyed Spectre quite a bit, that was one of the most cringe-worthy Bond themes I’ve ever heard.  But it’s Sam Smith and it’s Bond so we all know the movie studio and the record label paid big bucks to get it on every Academy judge’s list.Alejandro Inarritu

Again Alejandro González Iñárritu’s direction for The Revenant was probably the real star of that movie however and he is much deserving of Best Director.  Is that two years in a row now?  Impressive.

For once I agree with Inside Out getting the Oscar.  Too many years have Pixar been the go-to studio for the awards, an easy and honestly lazy nod whilst movies from less prominent, less famed studios get ignored (Studio Ghibli especially deserve more recognition).  But at least this time it was a particularly good Pixar effort.

Not surprised to see Mad Max: Fury Road sweep up in the technical and make-up/costume stakes…if it was for the look alone I’d have awarded that movie a 5, but it didn’t impress me as much as other reviewers beyond it’s incredible visuals.

Full details of who won what can be found HERE.