The Squid and the Whale


Viewed – 05 August 2020 Blu-ray

I hadn’t heard of this movie up until now and only stumbled across it when browsing ‘The Criterion Collection’ releases. So a complete blind purchase that although I don’t regret, I don’t feel was entirely worth it. This follows the story of two brothers (one played by a young Jesse Eisenberg) who’s parents separate, leading them to have to spend their time living at each parent’s house … whilst also going through the trials of high school, first love and puberty.

trouble with Mom and Dad…

Jeff Daniels plays the Dad, a respected writer and teacher, who has a close bond with his eldest son (Eisenberg), whilst Laura Linney (Ozark) plays the Mom who gets sort of a bad rap due to having had an affair. William Baldwin also turns up as a tennis instructor. This very ‘indie’ drama, in the style of Gus Van Sant is very authentic and occasionally amusing with decent performances and astute observations of its various themes. It occasionally goes down avenues exploring the effect a breakup has on children that takes some weird turns … what with the youngest kid resorting to masturbation of all things, as a way of acting out (er…ok). Eisenberg also comes off as a bit of a brat, who whilst his usual brand of awkward is less likeable than usual.

For this kind of subject, I felt the movie offered very little we hadn’t seen before and didn’t go anywhere particularly interesting or all that optimistic. It also doesn’t really explore why the parent’s relationship hits the skids. A shame as it’s well acted (especially Linney who I’ve always liked) and has some good moments, but is otherwise forgettable.

The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection has a an adequate image, thats very grainy and a bit lacking in detail, almost like 16mm – but it does create a distinct ‘look’ that suits the movie’s tone. Sound is clear in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio and showcases various unusual and obscure music choices. Extras consist of a making of documentary, interviews, audition footage and trailers. We also get a booklet that has an interview and a write up on the movie and it’s production. Not too bad for a movie a little undeserving of such treatment.

Verdict:

(the movie) Poor

(the Blu-ray) Good

Zombieland: Double Tap


Viewed – 25 February 2020. Online rental

I really liked the first Zombieland. It felt like America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead,, and although it wasn’t quite as clever as that Simon Pegg vehicle, it had tons of personality and a great cast. This sequel, which I’d never expected but was hyped for none the less reunites us with our American-state-named survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) etc. during the zombie apocalypse following the discovery of a mutated, even deadlier version of the creatures they’ve become a little too relaxed with despatching.

The gang’s back together…

Clearly the story is a fairly basic excuse to do another Zombieland and although this fails to further build on what came before or flesh out the setting, with barely any exploration of the zombie threat … just being in the company of these chatacters again was good enough. Harrelson, Stone and Eisenberg still have great chemistry and their frequently comical banter is pure joy. Honestly, I dont think i could ever get bored of these characters. Harrelson is especially on brilliant form and steals many of the best scenes. Although, less said about a tiresomely pouty Abigail Breslin as Little Rock and that incrdibly annoying millenial bimbo that turns up, the better.

A shortage of new ideas makes this sequel a bit lazy, but the comedy, some decent zombie killing action and just plain fun characters all sparking off each other, made for solid entertainment regardless – and yeah, I’d welcome a part three with open arms.

Verdict: Good

Now You See Me


Viewed – 20 September 2013  DVD

I love magic, from the likes of Penn & Teller to David Blaine and Cris Angel, so this was an easy pick for me.  Four famed street magicians are brought together by a mystery organization known as The Eye to use their skills at illusion to pull off a series of elaborate heists.  Yet an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) is hot on their heels, aided by a former magician (Morgan Freeman) who now hosts a TV  show exposing the secrets behind so called magic tricks.

nysm1

This is a very entertaining and cleverly plotted thriller, deftly put together by The Transporter’s Louis Leterrier and with several stand out performances, most notably the always interesting Mark Ruffalo and also Jesse Eisenberg, doing his geek/genius thing to perfection.  Also on hand is a sexy Isla Fisher and an enjoyably dead-pan Woody Harrelson.  For me the plot got a bit convoluted and some of the twists and turns were a little hard to swallow (especially the ending).  Also by exploring a subject many still consider steeped in mystery, the ‘magic’ goes a tad over the top and far fetched, with unnecessary use of CGI.  Also the motive for these clearly gifted illusionists turning to crime is not explored which I found hard to understand, especially when they clearly make them selves known for their crimes (?).

That being said the action, including an intense car chase and the illusions themselves make for a gripping and enjoyable experience over all, backed up by some very stylish looks.  Just a shame its all a bit too frantic and clever (or complicated?) for its own good.

Verdict: 3 /5

RIO


Viewed – 10 February 2012  DVD

It would be easy to pass off many animated movies these days as simply more of the same, and although this likable entry has the same old themes, such as believing in yourself, fish out of water etc, it has enough comedy, lush visuals and all round ‘fun’ to make it worth your while.  Blu is a rare breed Macaw, who having been captured by poachers as a baby, soon becomes the pet of a young girl.  Over fifteen years they become inseparable.  Then one day a wildlife expert spots Blu and offers to take him and his owner to Brazil where he knows about a female Macaw, and if they hit it off, it could mean the saving of the species.  That is until a band of ruthless smugglers intervene.

From the guys behind the Ice Age movies, this is a vibrant and instantly enjoyable movie.  The voice acting, whilst nothing special adds personality, with Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway delivering the goods as the two Macaws.  The relationship between Blu and his owner is pretty much the same as that seen in other movies such as Bolt, and as a story, it’s fairly predictable.  Thankfully the gag factor is more hit than miss and the increasingly entertaining situations (with a memorable carnival chase) mean it never gets tiresome, and support characters like a rapping bird voiced brilliantly by The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.AM. and a salivating bulldog, brought more than a few giggles my way.  The Rio de Janeiro setting is also gorgeous and enhances the whole movie, meaning that all in all – this is one to see.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Social Network


Viewed – 18 February 2011  Blu-ray

I’ll admit to not being a fan of Facebook.  There, I said it.  I’ve been on the site as a member and built up a friends list, but something about the artificiality of the social experience it professes to provide feels fake and ultimately isolating.   So what excuse would I ever need to see a movie about Facebook?  I have just one:  David Fincher.

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