Update


Well what have I been up to lately? For starters I’m still really enjoying PlayStation 5, and am currently loving Immortals: Fenyx Rising, an unashamed, yet highly polished Breath of the Wild clone, that uses Greek mythology to give the game its own identity outside of comparisons to Nintendo’s masterpiece. I also got my hands on Hitman III, this time for Xbox One X, and had forgotten just how fun and absorbing that franchise can be.

Hitman III

TV-wise, I recently finished Tin Star, the crime drama starring Tim Roth, and although I feel season 1&2 were superior in story and depth, the Liverpool set final season was really enjoyable, rather bizarre ending aside. I’m also still watching The Fall with Gillian Anderson (who, by the way was great as Margaret Thatcher in the latest season of The Crown), and just finished season two. I’m also watching WandaVision, Cobra Kai (TV bliss!) and to a lesser extent The Handmaid’s Tale.

To make future posts a bit more varied, and to increase the movies I am watching without the need to review ‘everything’ … I’ll be grouping some opinions together in updates like this. Two movies I’ve seen recently, are The Philadelphia Story, the 1940’s comedy drama with James Stewart, Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn – a charming comedy of errors, revolving around a wealthy socialite’s impending wedding and how a local magazine want the scoop. The story wasn’t up to much but the banter and chemistry between the leads was fun, and child actress Virginia Weidler often stole the show. Verdict: Good.

The Birds

The other movie I watched recently was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, starring the lovely Tippi Hedren. I’d never seen this but of course I had heard a lot. Well… it was instantly likeable due to the characters and quirky interactions, that although goes on for a good hour before we get any ‘bird action’ … yet when things do occur, Hitchcock’s direction is first class and very effective – especially the climactic bird’s attack on the house. An acclaimed classic worthy of it’s reputation. Verdict: Recommended.

That’s all from me for now.

Craig.

Vertigo


Viewed 25 June 2020 (A-Z Collection Challenge)

Next to Psycho, this is probably one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most celebrated movies. Starring James Stewart (It’s A Wonderful Life) as a former cop turned private detective who is hired by an old friend to follow his wife Madeline around. Concerned with her strange behaviour, the friend believes she’s reliving her long dead grandmother’s life, who committed suicide at 26. So it’s up to Stewart to figure out the mystery whilst at the same time battling his own crippling Vertigo.

Hanging in there…

Hitchcock’s movie is bathed in a wealth of garish colours that really make it pop off the screen. The cinematography showcasing San Francisco as well as avant-gard restaurants and the like, is gorgeous and rather surreal looking, giving the movie that classic Hollywood sheen with a hint of creepiness. Stewart is great, likeable and fascinating, as is Kim Novak’s dangerously alluring Madeline. The atmosphere here is often haunting and a bit weird but works perfectly. I’ve not seen all that many Hitchcock movies but this one definitely has its own vibe even if the everyman in a bad situation and the femme fatale are typical tropes of the director from what I hear.

The ending came about a bit abruptly and the love story felt rather forced. What it was all about in the end wasn’t as interesting as the build up either. Overall though, with its haunting atmosphere, distinct look and solid performances … I still had a good time with this.

The Blu-ray image is very pleasing even if the darkest scenes seem to get a bit too murky. Detail on a whole is impressive though. The soundtrack is effective too, helped by Bernard Herman’s at times intense score. Extras consist of featurettes covering the movie’s restoration, Alfred Hitchcock’s collaborators, and a period of foreign censorship. However the highlight is a commentary by director William Friedkin (The Exorcist). Impressive stuff and overall a stellar package.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

A-Z Challenge – update 3


Well, this is becoming quite the challenge for me personally. I’ve now reached letter S having ploughed through 7 more movies. Revisiting La La Land for L was surprising in how much I enjoyed it and appreciated the story second time around, and would now rate it higher than my existing review. For M, Mission Impossible Fallout was an easy pick as I’d brought it on Blu-ray awhile back and not got around to watching it. Yes just as good if not better on second viewing.

La La Land

Reaching N … I chose another Alfred Hitchcock classic, North By Northwest … an exciting man-in-the-wrong-place mystery thriller with Cary Grant that was a lot of fun. O was one my most disappointing movie of last year, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and although I enjoyed it a little bit more, it overall didn’t work for me and I stand by my initial review.

I recently reviewed Parasite, my letter P and was overall impressed with it, despite a somewhat far-fetched ending. Q was the mostly reviled Bond outing Quantum of Solace, a movie I still think is ok but the story is weak and unengaging even though Daniel Craig is still good and some of the action is great. Then we came to R and I chose the Spanish found-footage horror [REC] a movie I really like even if subsequent viewings do dilute the experience for me.

Now will I get the remaining 8 movies watched by June 30th? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Frenzy


Viewed – 09 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

I have a confession. I have never really got that much into the movies of famed director Alfred Hitchcock, and my experiences with his work have been fleeting at best, with possibly only Rear Window being a movie I have watched all the way through. However I intend to rectify this and have recently purchased a couple of box sets that house many of his classics. This 1972 effort, made towards the end of his career may not have the word of mouth or notoriety of movies like Psycho or The Birds, but I’d say is still worthy of your time.

Following getting fired from his job as a bartender, a man becomes embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer, nicknamed the necktie killer due to the victims, all women being found strangled with a tie. Set in London and with a decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone, mostly shot in bright daylight, this like Psycho marries the mundanity of normal life and normal folk with the looming shadow of a killer. The movie isn’t a whodunnit as-such, more of a ‘how do I prove I didn’t do it?’, with the actual killer revealed early on. Filled with interesting, quirky characters, a very of-the-time acting style, some corny cor-blimey cockney dialogue and several recognisable faces from British television … this wasn’t like any serial killer thriller I’d seen, which made the movie more ‘fun’ than expected. Such a style at times sat uneasy with more shocking scenes including a rape and murder, with the killer particularly unnerving in his relative normality. Yet that all worked in the movie’s favour I’d say.

As an introduction to Hitchcock this might be a bit Hitchcock-lite from what I hear, although retains his famed visual flourishes and suspense. On its own merits, I found this unique and gripping … and I rather enjoyed it.

The Blu-ray, part of the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection has an impressively sharp and vibrant image, that has a look of technicolour. Grain is intact and detail very good throughout. Sound is also effective and clear in DTS Master Audio 2.0. Extras consist of a fascinating making of documentary as well as a trailer and production photographs.

Verdict:

(the movie). Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage


Viewed – 20 June 2017  Blu-ray

Cult Italian horror auteur Dario Argento’s 1970 debut, has all the trade marks that have distinguished his career right through to the present.  The black gloved killer, beautiful female victims, superb camera work, an effective, characteristically unnerving musical score, and grand set-piece murders.  Tony Musante plays an American writer travelling in Rome with his girlfriend (the gorgeously photogenic Suzy Kendall, who resembles like a young Suzanne George), when he witnesses an attempted murder on a local female gallery owner by a dark figure dressed in a black raincoat.  He quickly becomes amateur sleuth after the local detective takes away his passport, and soon further murders take place and he grows ever closer to unmasking the assailant.

Although by no means as graphic as the director’s other works, this well told murder mystery harks back to the classic films of Alfred Hitchcock in both the theme and iconic imagery.  Dario Argento has been often labelled the Italian Hitchcock, and with this thriller such a label is hard to deny.  Yet although his work has become more abstract and bizarre over the years, and such creating a style that is distinctly his own, with this effective film, the director made a mark in cinema that introduced the world to a bold and brilliant new visionary.  Engaging performances by its lead actors (especially Musante), several colourful, odd-ball characters and situations that really get your pulse racing create a distinctly classy thriller right up their with the director’s best.  

Bird with the Crytsal Plumage

This newly restored 4k transfer from the always dependable guys at Arrow Video comes in a deluxe box set that boasts a vintage poster, a detailed booklet and the movie itself on both Blu-ray and DVD complete with a plethora of extras.  We get an essential audio commentary by Argento expert Troy Howarth as well as a new interview with the director, featurettes, trailers and newly commissioned artwork with a reversible sleeve.  Add to this 6 art cards.  The movie itself is in great shape with a clean, grainy image that only suffers from somewhat garish colours (which I’ll admit suit the era the movie was made in).  The soundtrack may only be in it’s original mono audio but is still effective, especially with composer Ennio Morricone’s memorable, haunting score.  An impressive treatment for a genuine classic of the Italian giallo genre.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5