Another Blindspot Review Roundup

Following on from the roundup of four of my Blindspot and “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?” reviews the other day, here’s another quartet.

In today’s roundup:

  • Gran Torino (2008)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Nashville (1975)
  • A Matter of Life and Death (1946)


    Gran Torino
    (2008)

    2017 #78
    Clint Eastwood | 116 mins | download (HD) | 2.40:1 | USA & Germany / English & Hmong | 15 / R

    Gran Torino

    Clint Eastwood’s modern Western (thematically speaking), about a grumpy old loner who overcomes his inherent racism to bond with the immigrants who now dominate his neighbourhood and eventually come to their defence, is a well-liked film, generally regarded as a late career highlight for the director-star. I imagine it would play very nicely as a companion piece and/or counterpoint to his earlier Oscar-winner, Unforgiven — both are stories about old men in one final fight, essentially. Here, that comes with a subtext about the price that’s paid for standing up for yourself. It may be the right thing to do, and maybe it ends up with the right result, but the good guys really suffer to get to that point.

    While that aspect of the film is ultimately powerful, I was less won over by the actual filmmaking. It feels like it’s been jiggered around in the edit, with some odd bits where it just jumps into a new scene. Even before that, Nick Schenk’s screenplay occasionally features very heavy-handed dialogue, of the “explain what the character is feeling right now” variety. It’s especially bad when Eastwood just talks to himself in order to vocalise these points for the sake of the audience.

    Still, if you’re immune to such niggles then it remains a potent — and timely — tale of doing what’s right for the defenceless. Such themes never die, I suppose.

    4 out of 5

    Planet of the Apes
    (1968)

    2017 #96
    Franklin J. Schaffner | 112 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | USA / English | PG / G

    Planet of the Apes

    The original instalment in the long-running franchise (it’s up to nine films across three go-rounds now, plus a couple of TV series) sees astronaut Charlton Heston land on a mysterious planet where apes have evolved to have human-like intelligence, while men are mute wild creatures dominated by their simian betters. And eventually there’s a twist that everyone knows, which is a shame because I bet it was pretty darn surprising before that.

    Coming to Planet of the Apes for the first time almost 50 years after its release, there’s an unavoidable quaintness to some of it, mainly the monkey makeup. It was for a long time iconic, but it’s been abandoned in favour of hyper-realistic CGI in the new movies and therefore shows its age. That said, while the apes may not be as plausible as those produced by modern technology, the performances underlying them are still strong. It contributes to what is really a parable about dominance and oppression; colonialism inverted onto a white man, that kind of thing. All wrapped up in a sci-fi adventure narrative, of course.

    Honestly, it’s not just the effects that have improved — as a piece of speculative fiction, I think it’s now been outclassed by the recent trilogy. It’s still a cracking adventure, but a bit “of its time”.

    4 out of 5

    Nashville
    (1975)

    2017 #111
    Robert Altman | 160 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

    Nashville

    Robert Altman’s low-key epic about 24 characters and how their stories interact, overlap, and collide across five days in the city of Nashville, Tennessee.

    The sheer scope of that makes it a tricky film to interpret. There’s a lot going on, much of it in snatched conversations and moments that leave it up to the audience to piece together what matters and why. Collision must be a theme: within the first hour there are three car crashes or near misses, and the climax is certainly a collision in its own way. I’ll be honest, this isn’t a fully-developed thought, so I’m not sure what the point of it might be. It’s a small element of the film, really — something like all the music being performed is much more obvious and therefore maybe more relevant.

    I guess I’m searching for meaning because the film in general is just casually observational of a bunch of characters meandering through a few days. Maybe there doesn’t need to be meaning — maybe that is the meaning. It’s certainly one way to interpret the finale. So, I kind of liked it — or, rather, admired it, perhaps — even if I didn’t necessarily ‘get it’.

    4 out of 5

    A Matter of Life and Death
    (1946)

    2017 #74
    Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger | 100 mins | DVD | 4:3 | UK / English | U / PG

    A Matter of Life and Death

    I finally get round to watching this on a ropey old DVD, and then they announce a new 4K restoration (which was released in UK cinemas earlier this month). Hopefully a Blu-ray will follow. It will be very welcome, because I imagine this film will look magnificent in properly restored HD.

    It begins with an incredible opening scene, in which an entire relationship is founded and ended over the radio in about five minutes. From there it’s the story of a World War Two pilot (David Niven) who avoids death by a fluke, then properly falls in love with the voice from the other end of that radio call (Kim Hunter) before the afterlife comes a-callin’ to take him where he was meant to be. Or maybe that’s all just a vision induced by the injury he sustained. Either way, he must argue his case to remain on Earth.

    It’s a grandly romantic film — it is all about the triumph of love over everything else, after all — but with a particular fantastical bent that I think remains unique. It has the wit to present a mildly irreverent stance on the afterlife, not taking the whole “life and death” thing too seriously. While the final result of the airman’s trial is never in doubt, the delight is in the journey there.

    5 out of 5

    Planet of the Apes, Nashville, and A Matter of Life and Death were viewed as part of my Blindspot 2017 project, which you can read more about here.

    Gran Torino was viewed as part of my What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…? 2017 project, which you can read more about here.

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  • The Blue Rose Monthly Update for May 2017

    What does it mean?

    Twin Peaks' blue rose

    What does it mean?!


    #63 Nightcrawler (2014)
    #64 Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
    #65 Four Lions (2010)
    #66 Blair Witch (2016)
    #67 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
    #68 Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014)
    #69 Alien: Covenant (2017)
    #70 Twin Peaks (1990), aka Twin Peaks: Pilot (International Version)
    #71 Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017), aka Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
    #72 Underworld: Blood Wars 3D (2016)
    #73 The Accountant (2016)
    #74 A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
    #75 New Tale of Zatoichi (1963), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari
    Nightcrawler

    A Matter of Life and Death

    .


    • 13 new films watched this month. That’s the same as April, though slightly down on the 2017 average (15.5, now exactly 15).
    • This is the 36th consecutive month where I watched 10 or more new films — that’s three solid years since a month with nine or fewer.
    • By the end of May last year I’d reached #101, the earliest I’d ever passed 100. This year I’m on track to do it in July, which would equal 2015 for second-earliest.
    • Does that indicate anything for my final total? Well… no. The last two years prove that conclusively. Looking at the end of June (i.e. the halfway point), in 2016 I’d reached #115, but, rather than make it to #230, I ended the year at #195. However, in 2015 I finished June at just #90, but, rather than stop at #180, I got all the way to #200.
    • Back to the here and now, I had a bit of a franchise frenzy this month: including my rewatchathon (see below), I watched two Prometheuses, two Underworlds, five Pirates of the Caribbeans, and made five feature-length trips to the world of Twin Peaks (the three films above and the opening double-bills of the new series, of course).
    • This month’s Blindspot film: the fantastic British fantasy romance A Matter of Life and Death, a film which, if anything, is underrated. It’s certainly in need of a UK and/or US Blu-ray release.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: Jake Gyllenhaal gives an incredible performance in neo-noir thriller Nightcrawler, which UK readers still have a few days left to catch on iPlayer.



    The 24th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Not a bad month, but my shortlist of favourites quickly came down to two (see the posters accompanying the viewing list). For me, the edge goes to the aforementioned neo-noir starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler. You can read my full review here.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    This also quickly came down to two options, both of them ’90s franchise revivals that disappointed. I feel like it’s “more fool me” for expecting anything good from ID4-2, but I felt like the early buzz and behind-the-scenes pedigree of Blair Witch should have delivered. I’m still a bit excited for Adam Wingard doing Godzilla vs. Kong, though.

    Worst Retitling of the Month
    Salazar’s Revenge may be less evocative than Dead Men Tell No Tales (though, arguably, more relevant to the actual movie… but only a bit — that film’s busy with plots), but don’t worry, Pirates 5, you’re safe when this clanger’s about: the beautiful A Matter of Life and Death was bluntly renamed Stairway to Heaven in the US thanks to its main special effect. And you thought US cinema’s monomaniacal focus on effects movies was a recent thing.

    Biggest Unanswered Question of the Month
    How is Annie?!

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the new Pirates of the Caribbean may have both walked all over it at the box office, but it seems people were much more interested in what I had to say about Alien: Covenant. Guardians 2 did come second, but it was with precisely 25% as many views.



    May turned out to be my best Rewatchathon month so far, nearly doubling the number of films I’ve revisited this year. As you can see, a lot of that was actually thanks to new movies that were coming out…

    #9 Back to the Future (1985)
    #10 Prometheus 3D (2012)
    #11 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
    #12 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
    #13 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
    #14 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D (2011)
    #15 Underworld Awakening 3D (2011)

    Well, whatever works.

    Anyway, I’m still not on track for where I should be (an average rate of 4.3 films per month means I should be at #22 by now), but I’m a lot closer than I was.


    Inevitable disappointment in the general election. (Rest of the world: we’re having an election, did you know? Apparently you’ve not noticed. Nor should you, really.)

    As for cinema, well, the big new films include that Tom Cruise Mummy movie and the new Transformers.

    I’ll pin my hopes on Blu-ray, then…