Midnight Cowboy


Viewed 22 August 2020. Blu-ray

This 1969 Oscar winner had a bit of a backlash at the time of release and was one of the few ‘x’ certificate movies to get nominated let alone win. I’d always been aware of it and heard it was a classic but only now gotten around to seeing it. Jon Voight, screen legend and father to Angelina Jolie … plays a naive, sort of man-child from Texas who travels to New York to find his fortune as a hustler / gigalo. However reality soon comes crashing down after various encounters leaves him desperate for money. At the same time, he befriends Ratso, a streetwise conman and petty thief, played by Dustin Hoffman.

Living the dream?

Gritty and at times moving, this tale explores loneliness and the harsh realities of life with a semi-whimsical vibe, with strong turns from both Voight and Hoffman. Direction from British filmmaker John Schlesinger (Marathon Man) is occasionally surreal and other times psychedelic, whilst not shying away from sex, gay culture, the drugs scene etc. despite not being the movie’s focus. Instead, this is an exploration of unconventional friendship, following one’s (hopeless) dreams which proved very effective – especially in the closing moments. The various side characters also stood out, and the setting of New York, the period and the music, with a score by John Barry and that timeless ‘Everybody’s Talking’ by Nilsson all added to the charm.

I’d have liked to know more about Hoffman’s character and his mystery illness, and other details like Voight’s troubled background I’d have liked explored further – although the flashbacks do a decent job. Overall a surprisingly powerful and rather enjoyable experience.

The Blu-Ray from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has a very interesting commentary from the director as well as producer Jerome Hellman. We also get several featurettes that offer interviews (new and archive), behind the scenes footage, as well as a photo gallery and a fold-out booklet with a new write up on the movie by critic Mark Harris. The movie, a new 4K restoration retains that grainy, at times overly-soft late 60s / early 70s look but offers vibrant colours and depth to the image. Sound is in the original mono or a new 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. Decent treatment for one of the few ‘classics’ worthy of the title.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets


Viewed – 11 Jan 2008  Blu-ray

This being my first review of a Blu-ray title, forgive me for gushing.  Lets get the obvious stuff out of the way first – the picture and sound to this baby is first class, with every wrinkle on Nic Cage’s weathered face and every crease of fabric and crumble of a stone wall, represented in vivid detail.  I also noticed that the sound seemed much deeper and crisper than on a DVD.  I was very impressed.

This modern take on Indiana Jones archaeological adventuring is the follow up to the underwhelming but enjoyable NT #1 (duh!) and has a wise cracking, quite funny Nicholas Cage on fine form even though I feel this kind of audience pleasing pop corn entertainment is beneath an actor once wowing critics as a suicidal drunk in Leaving Las Vegas.  Joined by two other treasure hunters (gadget guy Justin Bartha and ex-squeeze Diane Kruger) as well as a scene stealing Jon Voight and Helen Mirren; after the revelation that a lost diary page could ruin the family name in the history books, a quest begins to discover the hidden city of gold and prove the family name’s innocence.  Ok it sounds rubbish, but with a kidnapping of the President (!), globe trotting to Buckingham Palace and sneaking around The White House, as well as car chases, caves, booby traps…and a sneering Ed Harris – its hard not to get caught up in the hokum, and if like me you’re a sucker for conspiracy theories, American history etc, then you’ll have a great time with this.

It does nothing new and borrows shamelessly from much better plotted films…but at the end of the day, has plenty of personality – and sometimes that just about makes all the silly stuff work.

Verdict:  3 /5