Relic


Viewed – 07 November 2020 online rental

A woman gets word that nobody has heard from her mother in a while, so concerned she decides to pay a visit, bringing her daughter along with her. However upon arriving at the elderly woman’s house, it transpires she is missing. As the elderly woman appears to be suffering memory loss and possible dementia going by reminder notes pinned around the house, concern for her safety quickly materialises.

This drama at first seems like a study of a family and the horrible effects of old age. However as it progresses, it appears something more supernatural could be occurring. This is a slow burner but well acted throughout, especially the often dependable Emily Mortimer. It takes its time to get going and much of the ‘horror’ aspects are in the final act, where things turn very weird. However it has a rather tense and creepy tone from the start, isn’t reliant on cheap jump scares to make the viewer uneasy, and plays with one’s imagination effectively.

However a lack of ‘answers’ is frustrating and what that ending is meant to mean, I couldn’t say. Yet as a debut feature, there’s enough promise here to make director Natalie Erika James one to watch.

Verdict: Good

Mary Poppins Returns


Viewed – 28 March 2020. Disney+

The original Mary Poppins was one of my favourite movies of my childhood, and even though I haven’t watched it in years, those songs and routines have stayed embedded in me. Chim-Chimney’s enchanting melody has always been a fave. So we come to this unexpected but welcome follow-up set a number of years after that last movie and has the Banks children grown up and facing the re-possession of the family house, due to mounting debts. So it’s time for the magical Nanny to return and put things right.

Nanny Mc…who?

Emily Blunt is perfectly cast. A decent, British actress and it turns out a very capable song and dance performer … but most importantly she delivers a perfect rendition of Poppins that would make Dame Julie Andrews proud. Although the many musical numbers can’t quite compare to the original, songs like ‘can you imagine that?’ and ‘trip a little light fantastic’ are solid numbers with fantastic set pieces sequences. The China bowl sequence especially was dripping with artistic flair. The story is pretty much a remake though but that’s not a bad thing when the mood, the charm and the atmosphere of the original are so brilliantly recreated. Support casting is also spot on with Bond’s Q, Ben Wishaw great as the grown up Michael as is Emily Mortimer as Jane, and the child actors playing Michael’s kids are decent also. A stand out, like Dick Van Dyke in the original is Lin-Manuel Miranda who occasionally steals the show as lantern-lighter Jack.

Production values, animation, effects and most importantly fun factor are all quality and if the original didn’t exist this could be placed in classic status … but sadly remains in that movie’s shadow, not helped by less memorable songs. On it’s own merits though, this was great entertainment from start to finish.

Verdict: Recommended

Howl’s Moving Castle


Viewed – 02 February 2013. Blu-ray

I am not sure why I’ve taken so long to see this acclaimed entry in famed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli’s cannon.  Telling the story of a young woman who is cursed by a witch and turned into an elderly lady.  As a war ravages the city where she lives, she takes refuge in wizard Howl’s legendary moving castle.  Can she lift the curse, or are Howl’s own problems more pressing?

Howl-s-Moving-Castle-howls-moving-castle-4919316-853-480

Directed by studio head Hayao Myazaki (Ponyo, Princess Mononoke) and boasting quite boundless imagination and visual beauty, this is one of those movies that you can easily lose yourself in.  The story is utterly charming, told gracefully and packed with ideas.  Voice acting from Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer and Billy Crystal (as a lovable fire demon) amongst others is also enjoyable and although at nearly two hours it can feel a bit hard going, this remained classic fantasy storytelling that kept me glued throughout.

I think compared to similar Ghibli movie Spirited Away; being based on the children’s novel by British writer Diana Wynne Jones helps it break free from the studio’s otherwise very Japanese style.  Sometimes the bizarreness of Ghibli can leave me cold, but that wasn’t the case here.  Although, what was that war about? Never the less, an enchanting, very well made and totally gorgeous evening’s entertainment.

The blu-ray from Optimum is very pleasing. The image is vibrant and sharp. Some slight juddering during fast movement seems evident occasionally but not very noticeable. The soundtrack in DTS HD Master Audio is immersive and full of little details, with the music and quality voice acting all impressing. Extras consist of several featurettes, including Myazaki’s visit to Pixar as well as behind the scenes voice over footage. Sadly many are in 1:33:1 format so we get ugly black boarders either side of the screen.

Verdict:

(the movie) 5 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

Harry Brown


Viewed – 08 May 2010  Blu-ray

Michael Caine is a British institution.  Probably the most celebrated actor to come out of ol’ blighty, he has, over a long career been in some of the most iconic movies ever made and played some of the most memorable characters to ever grace the screen.  Although these days I find it a shame he’s playing second fiddle to Christian Bale in the Batman franchise, at least it takes a British movie to put him back where he belongs.

Harry Brown is a retired ex-marine living out his remaining years on a crime infested housing estate overrun by thugs, with a high drugs & murder rate.  Recently widowed, his only friend is an elderly man called Lennard, who himself is constantly in fear of his life from increasingly dangerous pranks.  Before long though, Harry realises that the Police are not going to change things and he must take the law into his own hands, even if it gets him killed in the process.  Caine is mesmerizing and believable as a man who has lost everything and faces up to the hoodie threat with vulnerability and convincing menace, obviously out of his depth and way past his prime, but with the willpower to take them on.  Supporting him is a strong performance from Emily Mortimer as the Police Detective heading up the investigation who sympathises with Caine’s plight if not entirely condoning his actions.  The cast members playing the hoodie thugs are less impressive, one-note scum bags with no real depth or personality, and I felt this was a missed opportunity to delve deeper into their lives and motives, and the remaining Police are portrayed as bumbling out-dated suits with little regard for public safety and more interest in ticking boxes and filing reports.

Daniel Barber’s movie has been compared to Clint Eastwood hit Gran Torino, but I feel this does both movies a disservice as they are about very different things, and although Harry Brown has a similar old man up against thugs premise, the violence and the rather sickening portrayal of sex and drugs, puts the movie in much darker territory than Eastwood’s on a whole heart-warming modern classic. 

Overall though, this is a definite recommendation for both fans of Michael Cain and gritty Brit-thrillers.

Verdict:  4 /5