Wednesday, August 31, 2016

DVD of the Week(s): Speed Review Blow-Out!

My only real aspiration for this blog is to be my own small corner of the internet where I can record my thoughts on the meandering cultural journeys I end up taking through screen and page. I don't have to worry about posting frequency, or if my opinions are half-formed rubbish, because they're mine, and this gives me something to look back on. Sometimes I surprise myself, looking back, at how kind, or mean, I was to something. Anyway, the point is that it's been a rough summer, all told, and so this has dropped off a little bit, so it's time for a bit of an epic catch-up on movies we've seen recently. Here we go. 

John Wick
Movies with just a name in the title - unless its a name thats already well known - are a dumb idea, at least to me. It tells you nothing about the film, gives you no expectation, and yes, awful titles can happen anyway, but it's just something I don't like. I ended up watching John Wick because it seemed to pick up a strong word of mouth as a punchy action movie, and I've got to say I really liked it. Starring Keanu Reeves, back to doing that "blank slate" thing he does so well, the eponymous lead is a retired hit man greiving his dead wife (female characters do not do well in this extremely macho film) brought back out with a vengance to strike at his former employers.

It reminds of nothing more than the Hong Kong "heroic bloodshed" genre - it's primary interest is slick, fantastically choreographed violence - as a series of characters go head to head more out of honour and duty than any more substantive motivation. It's efficient, and taut, and extremely stripped back, with a lot of visual flair to compensate for a bunch of fairly stock character archetypes. But, we really enjoyed it, and it's worth seeking out.

OK, so this is a name as well, but at least it's one that already sort-of exists in the film-goers mind. Creed is the latest movie in the Rocky series, but this time centred around the son of Apollo Creed, one of the older films supporting cast. I have a nagging suspicion that in a lot of ways Creed is just a remake of Rocky, but the shadow of that past - the dead father and the conflict between living up to the name and wanting to be your own man - seperates in key respects. It's anchored in it's two main performances (Stallone returning as Rocky, and Micheal B Jordon as Adonis Johnson/Creed) and some great direction, especially in it's climatic fight. 

I guess I'd describe Spotlight as a "journalistic procedural" in the style of Zodiac, or All the Presidents Men. Focusing on the story of the news team that broke the sorry tale of the cover-up of abusive preists by the Catholic Church in Boston (and later, beyond), it's interested in the "how sausages are made" element of journalism, and why it's important. It feels like a timely film in the sense that traditional journalism is clearly struggling at the moment, and not everyone is mourning it's loss, and this is in part a reminder of what the proffession can do. It also manages to be clear about the horrors of the story it's uncovering without feeling the need to directly dramatise it; focusing instead on the impact and legacy of such trama. It's a powerful and interesting film, and probably deserves the awards attention it got.

Pride and Predjudice and Zombies
Ridiculous movie time! Here is a film that knows if you're going to mash up classic literature and silly horror tropes, that you need to play it up, and successfully makes a fun, if slightly forgettable period romp with the odd splattery gore effect. It doesn't always work - it drags in places, and oddly expects you to have more knowledge of the original to get some of the jokes - but it's worth it for the inventive opening credits, combat-based re-enactment of scenes of Pride and Predjudice, and Matt Smiths scene-stealing.

The Revenant
Finally, The Revenant, in which a man endures hardship and isolation whilst watching a movie aboout hardship and isolation. No, sorry, I jest. I liked The Revenant, but it's a long movie, that wants you to know it's long as part of it's appeal. Mostly, that works - the desolation feels like a character in it's own right, and is so beautifully shot I found myself wishing I'd seen it at the cinema - but there were also moments when I felt I'd been watching the bloody thing for weeks. But it works, especially in the moment, and it's a stark portrait of the frontier life.