Movie Review #4876: JUNIPER
Poignant Kiwi outing based around the relationship between a grieving teen, his alcoholic and ailing grandmother and his self-absorbed father, set in the late 80s on a farm somewhere in kiwiland when and where of course there was no internet, no cell phones, no social media of any sort.
Gran has come to stay along with her nurse as she recovers from a broken leg and brings with her quite a few cases of Mother’s Ruin. The sense of remoteness conveys nicely the isolation each feels as dad skips off to London leaving son and grandmother with the long suffering and terribly patient live-in nurse.
Son and granny slowly start to realise there is more to the other than meets the eye which begins a series of amusing events that bring them closer together. We rather predictably figure all is not quite what it seems and the reveals start to surface as we go, culminating in some difficult yet understandable moments.
Charlotte Rampling is exquisite as granny Ruth, Marton Csokas goes well as dad, and George Ferrier is a Heath Ledger lookalike as young Sam. Some overt depictions of kiwiana remind us that our national identity in these challenging times is alive and well and overall, bitter sweet and compelling viewing.
Currently showing at the usual cinemas.
Warning though: suicide themes are depicted.
Movie Review #4876: THE HARDER THEY FALL
And you could be forgiven for thinking all I do is watch movies; if I could make a living at it I would.
This is a modern-day Tarantino-esque western on Netflix in the vein of Kill Bill and Django Unchained but without the comedic bits of the latter. Which means we’re pretty much left with just the violent bits and there are plenty, including beatings, shootings, slicings, explodings and various other bits of other hapless mayhem.
Amongst it all though is a reasonably good story that jaunts along without being overly-complicated, and we just know there’s a secret twist to be revealed at the end. Basically, young boy wronged grows up to track down and mete out vengeance on he who wronged, gathering a host of rather colourful characters along the way.
Idris Elba is probably the best known name in the cast, playing a nasty bad guy although the other names I don’t recognise apart from Damon Wayans Jr who looks exactly like his old man. Good performances all round with a script that gives freedom and license to the supporting crew which brings the story to life via a myriad of animated antics.
Nice vivid landscapes against rich blue skies top off the proceedings. This one I think is an 8.5/10.
Movie Review #5875: The Last Duel
Showing at movie theatres around the county
Based-on-fact tale from Ridley Scott (Alien) around the conflict between two French noblemen, formerly friends, where one accuses the other of rape (and warning: that scene might be difficult for some).
Essentially three separate retellings of the same events from the standpoint of each of the players, culminating in the duel of the title pitting them together in a deadly combat to the very end. It’s an interesting study on perspective that has a few lessons for today as we grapple with current issues and it shows how emotions can have a major impact on how we can view very differently the same truth.
Set in the late 14th century on a winter-laden French countryside which brings a separate gloominess all of its own to the proceedings. Matt Damon and Adam Driver (StarWars’ Kylo Ren) are great as the leads with Ben Affleck almost unrecognisable as a dandy French lord, Jodie Comer as the lady wronged, with Kiwi Marton Csokas turning up in the supporting cast.
Quite long at 2 1/2hrs but not tedious with the finale pretty violent and bloody. And while I’m sure no animals were harmed in the making of this movie, the horses in particular do not fare well in the depictions. Well-executed outing that holds attention well and doesn’t pull any punches in getting its message across.
Movie Review #6855: IRON FURY
Also known as T-34 after the tank star of the show, this is a Russian-made ripping WWII yarn on Amazon Prime in the spirit of Brad Pitt’s Fury from 2014.
Quite a cool original story although the hammy English overdubs do take a bit of getting used to as the tale of cat’n’mouse is outplayed between a Russian tank commander and his German counterpart. The balance of power swings between our two boy scouts as they each parlay for the upper hand and strategise for supremacy.
Set on the Eastern front, the cinematography is suitably wintery with amusing slo’mo shots of tank shells passing one another in the street before slamming into their intended targets.
Finale has a little bit of corn attached but overall a riveting war story told from an angle not often covered.
Performances are adequate however as mentioned, the overdubs are a little off-putting which is why I’ve pegged it back a bit as a 7/10. War movie fans will no doubt be suitably amused.
Movie Review #5568: DAMASCUS COVER
Spy flick from Netflix set in late 80s with an undercover government agent sent on a mission to extradite countrymen from a foreign power. Trouble is all is not what it seems and no-one but no-one is able to be trusted so our fellow has to navigate through minefields of intrigue, twists and turns to finally uncover what is going on.
Great story that includes a romantic subplot and isn’t too hard to keep track of despite the usual pitfalls and betrayals with vets John Hurt (in his last role) and Jurgen Prochnow turning up in supporting slots. Adequate outings from the leads and we’re taken bouncing from one jaunt to the next, piecing it all together as we go.
Probably a cut above the usual political thriller and our main man has an almost Bond-like approach without the cheese. Nothing that hasn’t been done before, but does it in a classy manner that keeps us ticking over until the very end.
Movie Review #3976: CROOKED HOUSE
Agatha Christie outing on Netflix with all the classic whodunnit ingredients: highly dysfunctional rich family, hidden agendas, despised intruders, red herrings and a gumshoe engaged to solve the mystery, which of course he ultimately does.
Lotsa twists and turns as we run through the proceedings, flicking our suspicions from one possible culprit to another while knowing full well it’s usually the most unlikely character who turns out to be the killer.
Good performances from veterans Glenn Close and Terence Stamp with X-Files’ Gillian Anderson turning up in a most unflattering brunette wig! The rest of the cast is adequate but a few go a little unnecessarily OTT and we’re left wondering whether they’re being set up to be the killer or merely overacting. And it doesn’t actually take too much to figure the culprit yet the conclusion is a bit unexpected and perhaps even a little disturbing.
Set in mid50s England, the cinematography is suitably gloomy and the depiction that ‘it’s always raining’ probably pretty close to the mark. Amusing albeit routine but one to check out for Agatha fans.
Movie Review #4765: THE SILENCING
This Canadian effort on Neon is a mystery thriller centred on an alcoholic father grieving his missing daughter and now living somewhat off the grid.
The discovery of the bodies of other girls in the wildlife sanctuary he manages sparks off a game of cat’n’mouse, dragging in the local sheriff and her rather troubled brother along the way.
After a few red herrings and unexpected turns we see the killer becoming obvious and it’s just a matter then of bringing him to justice.
Nice scenery set somewhere north of the Canadian border but does suffer a little from plot disjointedness and a few why-didn’t-he’s before coming to a reasonably predictable conclusion. Nevertheless a half-decent thriller that might have done better with a tighter script and a few hole plugs.
Adequate performances from the leads although I wondered how many wounds the leading guy’s body could take before he’d pass out.
Movie Review #4765: THE FORGOTTEN BATTLE
Dutch WWII movie on Netflix which is essentially three tales that bisect at varying stages. There’s the German soldier, the Dutch doctor’s family & the downed Allied glider crew each with their own story, all built around the Battle of Scheldt, the offensive to wrest Antwerp from German control and open it up to Allied shipping.
Gritty but not bloody, violent but not OTT, it resists the temptation to descend into shock tactics but does portray well the carnage of war and the horrendous waste of human life. One wrong step in any direction and it would have spelt the end for each of the three main protagonists with numerous comrades falling by the wayside during various melees.
Cinematography is the usual dark European fare but it uses the illumination of explosions to great effect.
No big climax at the end just a carry on as you were segment that fades out with the customary what happened notes.
Didn’t recognise any of the names but then given I’m not familiar with the Dutch movie industry I didn’t expect to.
Well worth a look for war movie fans.
Movie Review #5986: NO TIME TO DIE
Umpteenth Bond outing and apparently Daniel Craig’s last after 15yrs in hot seat starting with 2006’s Casino Royale.
This is probably the best of his, although turning up in a beige suit with blue shirt and burgundy tie is not exactly in keeping with Bond style or colours. Still, the Aston Martins are there as are the usual gadgets, but have to say they are downplayed and only used sparingly.
Usual love interest is around with a few surprises in tow and the bad guy is none other than Rami Malek, of Bohemian Rhapsody fame. Usual aim of takeover/blow up/poison the world is part of the evil plan and Bond has his work cut out sorting out the messes.
He gets a few allies along the way too, including old CIA cobber Felix who seems to survive every explosion, assassination, car smash and maiming thrown his way in the various Bond movies including being mauled by a shark. But he turns up here with all his limbs intact and seemingly in need of help from gold ole 007.
Usual spectacles, car chases, island lairs, flying cars and nasties which all add to the flavour we’ve come to expect from Bond. Doesn’t disappoint but I think the next Bond needs to look to Q for a little more reinvention.
Netflix Mini-series Review #4965: The Defeated
If you’re looking for something to relieve the tedium of Lockdown IV, look no further than this Netflix original set in Berlin in the aftermath of WWII.
An American cop is inserted into a German police department to help restore law and order to a city dissected into American, Russian, British and French sectors, each with their own agendas and share of oligarchs jockeying for power and to benefit from get-rich-quick schemes.
Lotsa plots and subplots but the main target is a German doctor who recruits needy women to carry out his dirty work, and against whom our American friend teams up with a local German police chief to bring to justice.
Gritty and tense, the portrayal of a city not only defeated but broken to its last is overt, and the despair of its inhabitants brought to the fore. The finale has more than its share of twists and turns, and not all the bad guys get their comeuppance, leaving the door open for a second season, which in the eyes of this reviewer would be welcomed.
Well thought out and executed, I reckon this is a solid:
I'm a movie nut from way back with my first ever being The Hallelujah Trail from 1964. Ever since, I've been mesmerized by the giant screen, and the darkness that went on forever. Despite the infernally uncomfortable seats, (plus having to stand for God Save the Queen), I've been enticed ever since to duck into a theatre whenever I can for a few hours of escapism.