My self proposed challenge continues and is going fairly well. When going into this I didn’t intend it to be one of these movie marathons , generally taking a moderate pace to it whilst still intending to get it done well before my June 30th limit. I think I’ve done well so far and have reached letter F next, which is going to be one of three movies, depending on mood.
So for letter C I went with the underrated Al Pacino gangster thriller ‘Carlito’s Way’, a movie that offers up a rather romantic take on the crime thriller and boasts a solid turn from Pacino as well as Sean Penn. Director Brian De Palma is on fine form delivering his signature style, if somewhat toned down compared to other works, and a whimsical vibe aided by Pacino’s reflective narration. Next was D, and here I went for one of the less appreciated Die Hard sequels, namely ‘Die Hard 2’ which to be fair is a solid entry, with a similar tone to the first movie but on a bigger scale with Bruce Willis again on wise-cracking form. For E I went with the Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, a clever and particularly fun movie with a great central concept and good support from a badass Emily Blunt. Director Doug Liman takes the classic Groundhog Day premise and marries it perfectly with alien invasion battle sequences to deliver solid thrills.
So onto letter F which should be interesting. It’s been good rediscovering movies from my Blu-ray collection, but also see myself discovering some movies I happen to own but haven’t got around to watching. So there will be a few first-viewings during this challenge. I may write full reviews for those entries, we’ll see.
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.
I’d say I’m becoming a fan of director Wes Anderson. His movies are so much pleasure to simply ‘look at’ with his captivating and whimsical camera work, shot composition and a near-cartoonish approach to story telling. It’s a style that feels theatrical and obsessively planned out but retains a relaxed charm and personality that continues to draw me in.
This effort from 2012 follows the story of a young boy who runs away from a scout camp on a remote offshore island to embark on a back-to-nature adventure with the girl he loves. This causes the community including the girl’s parents Bill Murray & Francis McDormand as well as the local Police captain Bruce Willis to launch a search. This is a gentle, comical drama that has two strong turns from young actors Jated Gilman & Kara Hayward, perfectly supported by several recognisable faces including Edward Norton and Tilda Swindon. Although not the most compelling of plots, with a central love story that’s far from ‘deep’, Anderson’s direction is so charming that despite some slow moments I was still entertained.
It doesn’t have the infectious energy of say the more recent Grand Budapest Hotel, but with a fun setting and likeable performances this was another in the director’s back catalogue I’m very happy to have seen.
The Blu-ray release from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has a pleasing image quality that is vibrant if a little soft probably due to the movie’s exaggerated sepia colour pallet. There’s also a perfectly acceptable 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that showcases the regular, off-kilter music cues and good use of surrounds and sub woofer (especially in the climactic rainstorm). However it’s in the extras this release excels, with a fun archive commentary from 2015 with the director along with select members of crew and cast. Add to this plenty of behind the scenes footage including a brief set tour with Bill Murray as well as footage filmed by Edward Norton. The movie is also presented in attractive packaging using the movie’s scout-camp imagery for a booklet, postcard and map of the island. It’s not in my opinion one of Wes Anderson’s best movies but perfectly fits in with a style that fans will be familiar with and is well worth a watch.
I was on the fence about this. I liked but didn’t love Split, and having watched Unbreakable a while back and feeling mixed about it … I wasn’t exactly jumping to watch M Night Shyamalan’s somewhat forced-feeling shared world third entry.
This picks up not long after the end of Split and introduces us to a psychiatrist who brings the three main characters together in an institute to try and convince them that they’re not special or super human. The concept is certainly interesting and brings a realism to it that works well to explore the idea of superheroes in the real world. Unlike last time, James McAvoy’s multi-personality character is far more explored and I grew very impressed by the performance and when ‘the beast’ personality was in full-throttle I was getting Wolverine vibes from the guy who currently plays Doctor X! Bruce Willis is good but is a little overshadowed by McAvoy and of course Samuel L. Jackson who surprisingly steals the show for a character who doesn’t speak a word for a good portion of the movie.
There’s times when the world-building gets a bit convoluted and a final twist whilst welcome also threw up its own questions. Yet for me, this is certainly the best of the trilogy and creates plenty of potential for further movies if Shyamalan cares to pursue the idea. So I went from initially dismissive of this to actually surprised and impressed. Recommended.
I’m on a bit of a M Night Shyamalan binge of late and so we come to his acclaimed thriller blending comic book myths with mystery. Starring Bruce Willis as the soul survivor of a train crash who comes under the watchful eye of comic book aficionado Samuel L Jackson who believes Willis may have super powers. This one’s a strange beast and has a pretty weird vibe through out, with performances not unlike a David Lynch film. Everyone here apart from the principle leads talks to each other like they are under some hypnotic spell or in a dream.
Slow burning and certainly intriguing, with some imaginative camera work … yet this was more ‘er…what is going on?’ than ‘ooh…what’s going to happen?’, and what seems like a low budget lets this down when actually getting to see said train crash would have given this viewer something to latch on to. One scene especially felt off, with Willis’ son pointing a gun at his father in the belief he’s indestructible; it’s both over-acted and comes out of nowhere and makes the kid look a complete nutter. Add to this sleepy support from Robin Wright as Willis’ estranged wife and it’s left up to Jackson’s complex ‘Mister Glass’ to save the day. Here at least Jackson makes for a foreboding and fascinating presence with a tragic back-story, but comes off as a bit of a wack-job from the off with a series of crazy theories. Willis does manage to carry the film well and is emotional and for the most part convincing, but at times goes along with things a bit too easily.
M Night Shyamalan’s movie can’t escape the shadow of The Sixth Sense with a similar but less understandable weird atmosphere, and a twist towards the end that whilst a shock, also comes off as ‘why?’. With a bit more ambition this could have been a real gem as the idea has plenty of potential but fails to make the most of it, concluding with a solid final act that’s all too little too late.
The Blu-ray suffers from some smudgy black levels and a loss of detail to distant shots. Close up detail fairs better however and the blue-tinged colour palette still looks very effective. James Newton Howard’s eerie score is brought to life in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as uncompressed PCM 5.1 and dialogue is sharp and there’s decent ambient effects to the soundtrack, if a little subdued. Extras however make up for any shortcomings on the movie with two in-depth docs ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘comic books and superheroes’ as well as some shorter featurettes and a gimmicky multi-angle section. Again, like Sixth Sense no commentary from Shyamalan which would have been welcome. Overall, not a bad all-round package for a fun if rather overrated experience.
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