True Romance


Viewed – 21 July 2021 Blu-ray

In the early to mid nineties, one name seemed to reignite cinema as we know it and seemed to make movies exciting again. That name was Quentin Tarantino. At the time his movies, both those he directed and the ones he simply wrote, influenced me in my own writing. Most notably this lovers-on-the-run thriller from 1993. Directed by the late Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) this tells the story of Elvis-obsessed Clarence (Christian Slater) who after falling for newbie call girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) decides to confront her pimp, Drexel (Gary Oldman) to reclaim her belongings … yet after the meeting goes horribly wrong, Clarence comes into accidental possession of a suitcase full of cocaine.

This is shot with Scott’s distinct style; smokey interiors, sunsets, garish colours and soft focus. Something he put to great effect in movies such as Top Gun and The Last Boyscout. He’s also a great fit for Tarantino’s snappy, pop-culture filled script, helping to get the most out of a colourful cast, which also includes Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken and even a stoner cameo by Brad Pitt. There’s many stand-out scenes here, such as the now iconic Sicilian scene between Walken and Hopper, many quotable lines (“I like you Clarence, always have …always will!”), and even side characters seem to jump off the screen. However, I’ve always felt the movie is held back a tad by the fact Clarence comes across as a bit of an asshole sometimes. It also didn’t feel right how easily Alabama dismisses certain crazy things Clarence does. Yet as an unconventional love story, and despite their flaws, I still found myself liking these guys.

Like Natural Born Killers, Reservoir Dogs etc, at the time this came under fire by the censors for its violence, and yes it’s violent (especially the Tony Soprano vs Alabama scene) but it’s all larger than life, and by today’s standards – rather tame. Yet this is still one of Tarantino’s most entertaining scripts, and remains a nineties classic well worth your time.

The newly restored 4K release from Arrow Video is a difficult one to judge. Mostly due to Tony Scott’s directing style which delivers an overly soft, yet noticeably grainy image. The HDR implementation does seem to bring out the colours, and overall detail is good, if not exactly reference quality. Soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is crisp, and the various scenes involving music really deliver (Drexel’s club especially). Extras are plentiful, many of which are carried over from the previous Blu-ray, including deleted scenes, interviews and four commentaries, from Scott, Arquette & Slater, critic Tim Lucas and most notably one by Tarantino himself. New to this version are additional interviews with behind the scenes crew members, co-stars and fans of the movie. We also get art cards, a detailed 60 page booklet, double-sided poster and deluxe packaging.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended

The Drop


Viewed – 08 September 2015  DVD

The moderate hype surrounding this relatively low key crime drama is that it was the final performance of acclaimed actor James Gandolfini, who rose to iconic status in the hit TV show The Sopranos playing charismatic mob boss Tony Soprano.  Add to this the pairing of him with current hot property Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road) and this was a more than alluring prospect for an evening’s entertainment.

drop

Hardy plays Bob, a softly spoken, likable bartender at a local establishment that is used as a ‘drop’ for mob money that’s then handed over to a local Chechnyan gang. Gandolfini is Marv, former owner of the bar and cousin to Bob. Following a hold up one night however, Bob & Marv find themselves in debt to the gangsters and must figure a way of getting the stolen money back. At the same time Bob befriends a local girl who has more than a few problems herself.

As the final role for Gandolfini, this offered up little that wasn’t seen in The Sopranos and isn’t much of a stretch for the actor, even though he clearly still had presence. His character is also a little confusing and I found it hard understanding some of his actions. Hardy fairs better and clearly it’s his film and he again brings to the table a quiet, moody character that he seems to do in every film, with that hint of underlying rage. Noomi Rapace appears as the troubled love interest and is decent also, with her friendship with Bob proving the backbone of the story. For a crime drama this was less about people getting whacked and more a character-piece, but didn’t stand out in any particular way despite a screenplay from famed author Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island).  Enjoyable at times and has a good ending, but overall a little too lightweight for it’s own good.

Verdict:  3 /5

Killing Them Softly


Viewed – 20 March 2013  Blu-ray

Brad Pitt has been out of the spotlight of late, what with his rocky relationships and unsightly beards … but I was glad to hear of this crime thriller, with the Pitster (yes, I just said that) sporting a goatee, slicked back hair and shades … and basically being a bad-ass.  Shame then I suppose that it takes quite some screen time before he actually arrives in this above average thriller.

Killing-them-softly

This follows the story of two wet-behind-the-ears crooks who get given the task of robbing a poker game run by the local mob  Pitt plays a hit-man hired to step in and figure out who screwed who, and hopefully not ‘wack’ the wrong guy.  Add to this small but memorable appearances from Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, and all the ingredients are here for a decent piece of entertainment.

Set during the Obama / Cain election campaign for some reason, this attempts to be a bit of a commentary on the American way of life, but much of that went over my head.  More interested was I in the sharp, engrossing dialogue, good performances and first-rate direction from Andrew Diminik (cult Ozzy film ‘Chopper’) who brings no end of style and panache to proceedings, with some showy camera work and clever use of CGI.  This had shades of Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann at times, and the presence of actors from both Goodfellas and TV’s The Sopranos all set the scene perfectly.  Sometimes the dialogue drags on a bit and it’s a little lacking in action, but with some infrequent but jolting moments of brutal violence and a good soundtrack I came away suitably impressed.

Verdict:  4 /5

Where The Wild Things Are


Viewed – 05 June 2010  Blu-ray

Now going into this I had no previous knowledge of its source material other than it being based on a children’s book, and so as you can imagine, this very unusual story of a young, hyperactive boy with no friends and whose parents are separated, was at first something I found hard to get into.  You see after running away from home, the boy somehow finds himself in a forest inhabited by wierd talking monsters, huge goat, bird etc  inspired creatures who at first see him as their next meal – then grow fond of him as he declares himself their king and sets about helping them rebuild their village.  Now these creatures act like human beings, with complex relationships and ‘issues’, all of which are prown to falling apart at any moment.

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The Man Who Wasn’t There


Viewed – 30 May 2008  Television

I’ve always been a fan of The Coen Brothers. The sibling directors have constantly delivered with the likes of Millers Crossing, Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou? and especially the sublime The Big Lebowski proving some of the most perfectly crafted and enjoyable films I have seen.  This one came about during a bit of a hiatus when they delivered big studio-backed fair such as Intolerable Cruelty and The Lady-killers which many consider miss-steps in their otherwise un-tarnished reputation. I myself didn’t enjoy ‘Cruelty, and feel the name was fittingly ironic.

Yet this gentle and fascinating murder mystery about a quite Barber who suspects his wife of having an affair was decidedly the Coens on form again – small town with likeable, fascinating characters that seem worthy of their own films alone. Billy Bob Thornton has the kind of face and personality born for a Coens film, and he doesn’t disappoint – and add excellent support from Coens regular Francis McDormond along with James Gandolfini complete with beautiful black & white cinematography and this sits proudly along with the Coens best.

Verdict: 4 /5