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

Moonrise Kingdom


Viewed – 04 January 2020. Blu-ray

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.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

The Bourne Legacy


Viewed – 04 October 2016  Blu-ray

It would seem in the advent of the latest Jason Bourne movie hitting cinemas, some would like to forget this little off-shoot of the franchise that doesn’t star Matt Damson but rather has Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner as agent Aaron Kross and therefore offers up an alternative viewpoint to the events depicted in the original trilogy.  Renner finds himself on the run after fellow agents start getting bumped off as a fall out from Jason Bourne’s actions and the shady government organisation responsible trying to cover everything up.  Edward Norton is on hand as the government guy trying to sort everything out, and Renner is perfect as a tough agent in the middle of a training exercise forced to question who he works for whilst teaming up with a female scientist played by Rachel Weisz.

Jeremy-Renner

I think this would have been a hard sell to anyone not very familiar with the other movies, but as I had not that long sat through the last three movies, I found this still interesting and familiar with several nods and references to the Matt Damon escapades and for the most part it’s quite well done and compliments the franchise nicely.  The action, important in these movies is also top notch and with more assured, lesser rapidly-edited direction from Tony Gilroy it’s all a lot easier to follow too.  Helps that there is a superb bike chase towards the end that is every bit up there with the best of the series.  I also found myself wanting a smack down between Renner’s character and Matt Damon…but that’s probably a movie we’ll never see.

Rachel WeiszI can see why this was mostly ignored in the series.  There’s little here that warrants the movie really needing to exist and serves more as an entertaining spin off aimed at Bourne fans rather than the general movie going audience.  Shame then as as it stands this was thrilling, competently acted and well directed, if largely unnecessary.

The Blu-ray is very pleasing with above average image quality and punchy sound that really rocks a 5.1. system.  Extras-wise we get several featurettes and behind the scenes footage and also a commentary from the director.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)   4 /5

Birdman


Viewed – 05 May 2015  Online Rental

It’s nice to go into a movie with no other expectation than the thought it might be good.  This Oscar winning drama stars (where has he been?) Michael Keaton as a former super hero movie actor turned has-been struggling to make a name for himself in Theatre.  As opening night looms, he is plagued with various problems and misfortunes, such as a recovered drug addict daughter (Emma Stone), actors butting heads with each other (Naomi Watts & Edward Norton) as well as his own issues with being haunted by the presence of his Birdman alter-ego who is constantly telling him to get back to what he was famous for.

Birdman_2014-8

This is very much a come back vehicle for Keaton who’s own career seems to be purposely imitated here and he is superb, complex and bonkers in all the ways that made him a perfect Beetlejuice or Bruce Wayne.  Aided well by a solid supporting cast who all get their moment, with an almost-upstaging Norton and a believably fragile Watts, not to mention a decent turn by the ever likeable Stone.  Yet beyond the decent performances, this is also about the trials and tribulations of being a star, being a has-been or trying to stay relevant without making a fool of yourself.  It’s scarily convincing.  Add to this a script that juggles realism with fantastical surrealism (has Keaton’s character really got super powers?) and excellent direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu backed up by highly creative ‘how did they do that?’ camera work – and I’d say this is one of the most thought-provoking studies of celebrity and celeb-culture I’ve seen in a long time.

This is also a movie that should get people talking.  The ending will get you talking.  The whole fly-on-a-wall structuring leads you to certain conclusions and then still makes you question things (at least it did me).  And I love that sort thing; clever but doesn’t try and be pretentious about it.  Oh and yes, I’d love to see Keaton play Batman again.

Verdict:  5 /5

The Grand Budapest Hotel


Viewed – 21 February 2015  online-rental

I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this.  I had heard that director Wes Anderson had his own unique style, that it starred one of my favourite actors, Ralph Fiennes and had been widely acclaimed and nominated for several Oscars.  So I thought … it has to be worth checking out.

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel

Narrated by an ageing hotel owner recanting his exploits as a bell boy taken under the wing of a charismatic and respected concierge, Mr Gustave (Fiennes) who following a wealthy woman’s mysterious death, comes into possession of a priceless painting and the disdain of her greedy family, headed by a snarling Adrian Brody.  So follows a very entertaining ‘caper’ comedy as we follow an unlikely duo through various adventures.

Wes Anderson has presented here a real spectacle of a movie… it’s shot with a style that echoes the avant-garde look of French cinema ala Jean-Pierre Jaunet (Amelie, Delicatessen) mixed with the flourishes of Baz Lurhman (Moulin Rouge) via the technical perfection of Stanley Kubrick to create one of the best looking movies I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s also for the most part presented in old-school 4:3 ratio, like that Oscar magnet The Artist and it works very well indeed.  There is more character and personality in any five minutes here than most movies have in their entire running time.  Also we get a wealth of famous faces all doing their bit in small but enjoyable roles from Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Saoirse Ronan to Bill Murray.  Add to this a great villainous turn by Willem Defoe … and this has it all.  The story is fun and energetic and held together by a brilliant where-has-he-been Ralph Fiennes as the camp, poetic and lovable Mr Gustave – surely one of the most memorable characters in a while.

I had a great time with this, and it’s made me an instant fan of Wes Anderson – I love directors with such visionary appeal.  Essential viewing.

Verdict:  5 /5