Despite what my opinion may be of the choices made by director Rian Johnson with The Last Jedi, I remain a fan of his earlier movie ‘Looper’ and so sat down to this latest offering with optimism. The trailer certainly name dropped a few famous faces and add to this a Cluedo-esque murder mystery premise and positive word of mouth. A wealthy family are brought together following the apatent suicide of the eldest member, famed crime novelist Harlen Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). So enters renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who suspects there may be foul play at hand.
A strong cast and an immediately intriguing set up quickly drew me into this. It’s put together expertly by Johnson who free from the restraints of a franchise can really show off his directing chops – aided by eye-catching cinematography, great atmosphere and a tongue-in cheek tone. The story, initially a who-dunnit which gradually develops into a back stabbing family drama … is full of twists and turns, but with good use of flashbacks never felt confusing like similar movies can. Daniel Craig is great, camping it up as the Southern speaking slueth, but the real star here is Blade Runner 2049’s Ana de Armas, who delivers the most complex and layered performance as Harlen’s nurse, and carries the movie.
Support cast such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Don Johnson are a bit wasted, and because the movie doesn’t exactly play by the who-dunnit rule book, it loses a little bit of it’s momentum around the middle (but hits its stride again in the final act). Clever and highly entertaining. Check it out.
How am I only now just getting around to seeng this 1980 classic by one of my favourite directors John Carpenter? I think I actually saw bits of it as a child but it never really crossed my path since. So what’s this one about? A quiet fishing town hold an anniversary of the founding of the town following the fateful crashing of a ship against the rocks on its shoreline 100 years previous. However, on this anniversary an ominous fog descends on the town, bringing with it a supernatural threat.
This is a particularly eerie premise that’s done justice by Carpenters assured, pacey direction (hot off the heals of Halloween) and Dean Cundey’s very effective cinematography. A colourful cast of characters including screen legend Janet Leigh as a real-estate agent and real-life daughter Jamie Lee Curtis as a free spirited hitch hiker … bring plenty of personality to proceedings. I was soon intrigued by everyones varying situations, especially that of the town’s lighthouse based resident DJ. The ghosts who lurk in the fog were also unnerving and that thump-thump-thump they make as they knock on doors, only added to the tension and feeling of dread.
It’s all pretty tame by most standards and isn’t all that scary or shocking, but with a setting that resembles to good effect Jaws and even Hitchcock’s The Birds, this slight but effective genre-offering still proved very entertaining.
Studio Canal are releasing several of John Carpenter’s back catalogue in special editions and this one is very special. In deluxe gatefold packaging, this comes with a poster, art cards, a detailed booklet, with the movie on 4K UHD as well as Blu-ray. I didn’t get chance to sample the 4K disc, but the image quality on the Blu-ray, for a mostly night-set movie is very pleasing and offers up some good detail. The sound is presented in standard stereo or 5.1 DTS Master Audio which proves effective if naturally not a surround sound showcase. Extras are plentiful including an archive commentary from Carpenter and producer Debra Hill, along with another commentary from key cast and crew. On a second disc we get trailers, behind the scenes features, storyboards and a scene analysis by Carpenter amongst other bits and bobs. They even throw in the CD soundtrack. Exceptional treatment for a somewhat forgotten, but still worthy horror classic.
The prospect of a new entry in this long running franchise, for me would always come with a degree of trepidation . Previously Rob Zombie attempted to reboot it with his remake and then the ill-conceived Halloween 2, one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen. So we come to this latest attempt … how does it fair?
A sequel set 40 years after the events of the original 1978 movie has Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode now a paranoid recluse, estranged from her family and still planning for masked-killer Michael Myers’ return. Seems like on Halloween night she’s finally going to get her wish. With production overseen by John Carpenter himself yet directed by David Gordon Green, from the start this feels like familiar territory. However unlike the 2008 reboot it’s only trying to pick up years after, reintroduce characters, see where they are now … and then get on with being a straight forward yet slickly made slasher movie. Gone is some of the tension and stalking but in place is a ferocious force of nature Michael Myers, who doesn’t need analysing or figuring out … he’s just pure evil. So of course it’s time for Laurie to stop him.
The movie gives ample screen time to new characters, most welcomely Andi Matichak as Laurie’s granddaughter and there’s several subtle, clever nods to that original classic. Add to this a newly commissioned score from Carpenter and this really feels like the sequel we’ve always wanted. The important thing here is that the film-makers respect and understand the material and it makes for a thrilling, often unnerving and very effective experience. Granted, it could have been bloodier, some kills being hidden by (a little too) fancy editing, and that lack of slow stalking weakens the atmosphere early on, but considering what’s come before … this remains a triumph.
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