Cold Pursuit


Viewed – 03 September 2019. Online rental

This Liam Neeson thriller has gotten swept under the rug it following the actor’s controversial remarks during an American TV interview earlier in the year, which has since relegated this to stumble-upon VOD fodder. Here, Neeson plays a snowplow driver at a ski resort who’s son is murdered in mysterious circumstances.. A simple set up then has Neeson tracking down those responsible. At the same time a war breaks out between rival drug dealers that Neeson uses to his advantage.

Now I thought after a glut of copycat Liam Neeson thrillers that just seemed like weak attempts to cash in on tne success of Taken … a satire of his usual formula was on the cards. However despite such a promise in the trailer, what we actually get is Neeson playing it entirely straight in a movie that tries and mostly fails to a achieve that clever Coens-esque vibe that blends the serious with the comedic (think especially Fargo). Some support characters add flavour, including a rookie cop out to prove herself and a young boy Neeson befriends who’s father just happens to be the main villain. I also enjoyed the villain’s maniacal performance, and the drug gang rivalry stuff was entertaining as they slowly picked each other off. Also on a purely technical basis, the wintery setting and some of the sequences were at least visually arresting.

Yet with a limp story, a cliched lead performance and plot threads that go nowhere – what actually had the son done to get himself killed? Oh and Laura Dern is in this as Neeson’s wife who following their son’s murder, just stops talking and eventually leaves – that’s how this movie explores grief. Yeah, this was a bit of a strange one and I’m afraid, not a movie I can easily recommend.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

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Ten of the best


Top Ten lists are sort of something I enjoy doing, especially at the end of each year.  But Top Ten Favourite Movies of all time?  Harder.  I used to have a list a while back of which some of the movies below used to appear on.  Yet I gave up putting them in a particular order as they are so different some of them, comparing is impossible.  So find below Ten movies I think have had the greatest effect on me, either growing up, inspiring me (writing, movie tastes) or just hitting me on an emotional level.

fight-club

Fight Club

Made me a big fan of the movies of David Fincher and has arguably Edward Norton’s finest turn.  Style, effects work in a movie that didn’t need it, a great soundtrack, that twist and endlessly quotable.

Gran Torino

Emotional, heart-wrenching, funny, touching with one of Eastwood’s best performances.  The cast of newcomers surrounding him are also first-rate.

gran torino

21 Grams

Complex and twist-filled with three stunning performances (especially Naomi Watts) and a script that is quite literally genius.  Tough going but well worth the journey.

21grams

Pulp Fiction

Possibly still my all time favourite movie.  The dialogue is amazing, funny, very cool and  believable.  The sound track is stuff of legend and performances across the board are superb.

pulpfiction

Leon

Natalie Portman’s debut.  Ice-cool, Gary Oldman’s looniest but greatest villain, Jean Reno as a lovable assassin and Luc Besson on stunning form.

leon

Annie Hall

All of Woody Allen’s best ideas, cleverest dialogue and touching observations rolled into one perfect movie.  Diane Keaton is excellent and Allen has never been funnier.

Annie-Hall

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

James Cameron fully realising Terminator … stunning effects work, amazing action sequences, Arnie at his best, Linda Hamilton as the most bad-ass female role model since Ellen Ripley.  The ultimate sci-fi blockbuster.

terminator 2

Blue Velvet

Weird but one of David Lynch’s most coherent works, with a great cast (Hopper is just plain nuts) and haunting music and a dream-like atmosphere.  Sexy and disturbing just how Lynch should be.

blue-velvet

Goodfellas

The finest gangster movie ever made, fast, packed with ideas, dialogue, people getting wacked, great dialogue and great performances throughout.  Martin Scorsese at his very best.

goodfellas

The Shining

Stunningly filmed, creepy as hell, scary, with an amazing Jack Nicholson and a true directing auteur in the shape of the late Stanley Kubrick.  The best horror movie ever made?  Quite possibly.

The-Shining

Jurassic Park


Viewed – 28 April 2012  Blu-ray

Universal Studios 100th Anniversary Edition

Not many movies have had the monumental impact with the box-office that this enjoyed during the nineties.  Directed by Stephen Spielberg, this was going to be the blue print by which all future summer blockbusters would be judged, and pioneered many of the effects we now take for granted.  Two Paliantologists (Sam Neill and Laura Dern) are called to a remote island by a wealthy tycoon (Richard Attenborough) in order to over see the imminent opening of a theme park.  Yet this one isn’t anything like Disney.  This one has living, breathing dinosaurs as it’s star attractions.  Of course something always goes wrong, and soon its a battle to survive against some of the deadliest creatures to ever roam the earth.

At its basic level, this is a monster movie, but with a director like Spielberg behind the camera, it quickly becomes so much more … uplifting, awe-inspiring, exciting as hell and to some extent magical.  He is a grand master at the high-concept picture, being responsible for the likes of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Jaws, to name but two of his many achievements.  Add to this some of the finest effects work of their day (that still look good now, even if day-time shots reveal the CGI a bit too much) and set-pieces that have become Hollywood legend (the amazing T-rex attack especially).

The movie does crawl in the quieter moments and there’s too much exposition at the start, but along with some enjoyable performances (with a memorable Jeff Goldblum) and that stirring score from John Williams … this still works magnificently and for me, remains one of the finest blockbusters ever made.

The Blu-ray picture quality whilst not jumping off the screen as I had hoped, still has enough ‘pop’ to satisfy, seems free of noise-redcution and is in pretty good condition.  More importantly the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack positively roars and really enhances a movie that for me, was always about its sound design not just its effects.  Saying that, in HD some of the CGI is showing its age, but overall this is a movie that has stood the test of time fairly well.  Extras-wise we get a 3 part documentary (not 6 part as stated on the sleeve) as well as archive featurettes, interviews and galleries.  I would have liked a Spielberg commentary, but apparently he doesn’t like doing them, so that isn’t going to happen.  Overall as a tribute to a classic movie, this could have been better, but as it stands, many fans will still find plenty to like.

Verdict:

(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5

INLAND EMPIRE


Viewed – 26 August 2007 DVD

Well how do I go about reviewing this one? To simply put it, this was the strangest, most overwhelming and ultimately most disturbing three hours I have experienced in, well…ever.  David Lynch’s films are not easily catagorised, and his earlier opus Mullholland Drive was one of the wierdest films I had ever seen…and seemed to have been an all new high of surrealism even for Lynch.  Well here he has out done himself.

What story there is, follows what appears to be an aspiring actress (a remarkable Laura Dern) as she prepares for a movie role that could make her career, under the watchful eye of an acclaimed director (Jeremy Irons).  The film is said to be cursed though, as it transpires to be a remake of a Polish film that was never completed because it’s two leads were murdered.  Now this may seem a simple set up, but it gets very strange immediately (and even before we reach this point of the ‘plot’), as Dern falls for her swarve co-star and quickly finds her real life mirroring that of her on-screen character…then the roof caves in as this splintered narrative is torn inside out, as past moments meet future incidents and wierd dialogue seems to have meaning later on even though its near-impossible to figure out in what way.   Characters jump in and out of the film at an alarming rate until really – you haven’t got a clue what you’re watching.  At one point Dern’s character may be either a hooker imagining life as a Hollywood actress, or a battered wife imaging her life as a hooker imagining herself as an actress…or even later on, a different person entirely constantly watching events unfold on a TV screen who may be imagining herself as a hooker / battered wife / actress.  It’s all open to interpretation – and it gives you a headache you’ll never forget.

Now as a follower of much of Lynch’s work, I can appreciate some of the brilliantly strange imagery and the fantastic sound design that makes the hairs on the back of your neck have a hissy-fit…and some moments of striking camera work / editing and lighting really knocked me over.  Yet at nearly three hours – this assault on the senses is a little too much to contend with…and some images are so frighteningly off-kilter that I really hope to never see them again.  Naturally I understand the theory that some of the clues can be pieced together, but with the epic running time and Lynch’s insistance on no scene-selection … analysing this one would only prove nausiating.  Shame really – because on a visual and atmospheric scale – this is some of Lynch’s best work – but why does it have to be so ridiculously hard to follow?

The DVD features several interviews and featurettes…but if you’re hoping to find out more about what this film means or is trying to say – forget it … Lynch never offers an explaination for his work.  Bastard.

Verdict:  3 /5

If you have what it takes to give this one a viewing (and by that I mean patience, stamina and an appreciation of something entirely different) … then I think a read of some of the threads on David Lynch’s message board for the film (AFTERWARDS!!) would be very much worthwhile.

Message Board

David Lynch – a retrospective


 

To mark the release of his latest opus INLAND EMPIRE on DVD this week (watch out for the review soon!), I thought it was high time I gave a few words about my appreciation of this visionary director. 

Possibly best known for the acclaimed TV series Twin Peaks, this long standing director first found critical acclaim with the classic The Elephant Man … still one of the most difficult to watch films I have ever seen.  Yet Lynch’s work is often difficult … not because its unpleasant or horrific (even though many a time he can touch on both) but because he has the ability to tap into that part of our psyche that we all wish we could avoid – nightmares and the strangeness of those dreams that don’t make any sense – or at worst freak you out.

Very much an artist of the medium, Lynch is also a painter and furniture designer and has been heralded by critics as a modern day genius.  How else do you explain his body of work, which can feature some of the most haunting and powerful imagery & sound your senses have ever been (mis)treated to.  At his best, he can wrap a conventional drama around dream-like imagery and atmosphere, bring out career defining performances from the likes of Laura Dern, Dennis Hopper, Nicholas Cage and Naomi Watts, whilst also probably presenting us with a side to the actors we have never seen before.  His films don’t easily fit any particular genre though, and are sometimes mixtures of thriller, comedy, drama and horror…and I find his brand of nightmarish wierdness some of the scariest stuff I’ve ever been witness to.  He’d be the best horror director on the planet, if Lynch could be labelled so simply.  He uses unsettling sound effects, music that really shouldn’t fit the scene in question (but to startling effect), and moments of style and creative editing that leave their mark – long after the credits have rolled. 

So to watch a David Lynch film is to have an ‘experience’ completely unlike anything in cinema today. He stands alone as one of the boldest, strangest but most fascinating directors around.  Just don’t try to figure out what it all means, for fear of a splitting headache.

Recommended viewing:

Twin Peaks (series 1 & 2)

Blue Velvet

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Lost Highway

Mulholland Drive

Further reading:

David Lynch.com

Lynch on Wikipedia