Saboteur Review

Saboteur movie posterSynopsis
When Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is framed for sabotage, he sets out to prove his innocence.

Review
If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that I set a movie goal for 2021. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, well, now you know that I set a movie goal for 2021 (but also you should go follow me on Twitter *wink wink*). That goal is to watch twelve Alfred Hitchcock films throughout the year; that’s roughly one a month for you math wizzes. The first in that endeavor is Hickcock’s 1942 film Saboteur.

When I hear the name “Hitchcock,” the first thought that comes to mind is “suspense.” And the kind of suspense I think about is the horror brand of suspense. Not being well-versed in Hitchcock’s films, that was much too narrow of thought. While I wouldn’t call Saboteur “suspenseful,” I would call it “exciting.” This film did a great job of not letting the audience know anymore than Barry (Robert Cummings) about what the larger picture was. Maybe I’m used to the quick cuts of today’s cinema but the way the characters and scenes were framed made things tense and dramatic. It wasn’t the type of suspense I was expecting from a Hitchcock film but it kept me on edge nonetheless.

Something that I didn’t expect were how big some of the smaller scenes felt. For example, there is a scene were Barry meets a man named Philip Martin, played by Caughan Glaser. For most of the scene, it’s just the two of them, before Philip’s niece Pat (Priscilla Lane) enters the scene. Even though scenes like this are quieter, there is still an element of suspense to them. But more than that, they had a larger context within the story, fleshing out characters and relationships.

Speaking of relationships, Cummings and Lane were such a great pair. The two of them had a natural chemistry that made their scenes enjoyable to watch. The relationship between Barry and Pat felt a bit forced at times but luckily Cummings and Lane made it feel less out of place.

Besides the two leads, another standout performance was Otto Kruger as the villainous Charles Tobin. Some of the most terrifying villains are the ones who do not look like villains on the surface and Kruger played into that role wonderfully. He was just the right mix of suave and charm with malice and menace. You never knew exactly what he was thinking or what he was planning until it was too late.

After I finished watching the movie, I watched some of the special features on the disk. In one of the featurettes, it described how some of the special effects for the film were achieved. I think special effects are something we take for granted these days, or at least I do, with everything being done on the computer these days. I tend to forget that back in the early days, directors and cinematographers had to get creative to accomplish effects that would be simple these days. And watching and learning how it was done in this film gave me a greater appreciation in how movies were created before CGI came along.

Throughout the film, “the organization” is constantly referenced. We even meet several of the leaders of the organization in Charles Tobin and Mrs. Sutton (Alma Kruger). Tobin also explains what their plan is that Barry stumbles onto. However, there is no explanation given as to why or what the organization’s overall goal is. Given the film’s early World War II setting, it could be inferred it has something to do with assisting the Axis powers but no real details are provided. It is left very vague. Although, maybe that was the point?

I thought Saboteur was GOOD 🙂 As my first dip into Hitchcock’s work (well, my second, I watched Birds years ago), it was exciting to open my eyes to the depth of Hitchcock’s abilities. While not the suspense I was expected, I was captivated nevertheless. Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane carry the film with fantastic performances, and Otto Kruger keeps pace as the villain across Cummings and Lane. While I would have liked to learn more about “the organization,” their anonymity and mystery give another layer of suspense to the film. All in all, not a bad start to my journey through Hitchcock’s filmography.

Trivia
This was the first movie in which Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s name was billed above the title. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
Peter Viertel – Screenplay
Joan Harrison – Screenplay
Dorothy Parker – Screenplay
Frank Skinner – Composer

Robert Cummings – Barry Kane
Priscilla Lane – Patricia (Pat) Martin
Otto Kruger – Charles Tobin
Alan Baxter – Freeman
Clem Bevans – Neilson
Norman Lloyd – Frank Fry
Alma Kruger – Mrs. Henrietta Sutton
Caughan Glaser – Philip Martin
Dorothy Peterson – Mrs. Mason


There is still a week left to join the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021. For all the details, check out the announcement post.

The Little Things Review

The Little Things movie posterSynopsis
Former Los Angeles detective and current Kern County deputy sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) returns to LA to pick up some evidence. While there, he notices similarities between one of his unsolved cases and a current case being investigated by Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malick). Deacon teams up with Baxter to solve the case.

Review
A good psychological thriller will find a hook that gets you into the story then won’t let you go and keep you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. The Little Things manages to do just that. The film finds new ways to pull you in as it goes on, adding new wrinkles to the story, providing new revelations and tension. It manages to keep a good mystery and paces itself well for the most part. As the mystery deepens and more is revealed, we the audience have just as much information and as many details as the characters on screen have, making the story more engaging as we are trying to solve the case at the same time as Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) and Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek). For the majority of the film, the lens is on the the three leading men of Washington, Malek, and Jared Leto. Together, they carry the film expertly and naturally play off each other. Leto in particular was fantastic and easily the stand out of the trio. As is typical in this type of story, the movie is a bit of a slow burn, and as such it feels like it can drag out at times. The cryptic ending doesn’t wrap things up as much as expected but at the same time, it leaves the resolution open to interpretation, which feels fitting for this film.

I thought The Little Things was GOOD 🙂 It’s easy to find similarities between this film and other crime psychological thrillers, but it does everything it’s supposed to do. An engaging story and a core cast that’s at the top of their game provide thrills right up until the very end.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
John Lee Hancock – Director / Writer
Thomas Newman – Composer

Denzel Washington – Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon
Rami Malek – Jim Baxter
Jared Leto – Albert Sparma
Chris Bauer – Detective Sal Rizoli
Michael Hyatt – Flo Dunigan
Terry Kinney – LASD Captain Carl Farris
Natalie Morales – Detective Jamie Estrada
Isabel Arraiza – Ana Baxter
Joris Jarsky – Detective Sergeant Rogers
Glenn Morshower – Captain Henry Davis
Sofia Vassilieva – Tina Salvatore


There is still plenty of time to join the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021. For all the details, check out the announcement post.

Greenland Review

Greenland movie posterSynopsis
When comet fragments begin crashing down to Earth, John Garrity (Gerard Butler) sets off on a journey with his family from their home in Georgia to bunkers in Greenland before the biggest of the fragments strikes the planet.

Review
For as much of a catastrophe that 2020 was, it’s quite appropriate that one of the final films released this year is a disaster movie. You would be forgiven if you go into Greenland expecting a cheesy adventure often seen within the genre. And while this film does contain some of the tropes expected from this sort of film, it does manage to find an authenticity not often found in disaster movies. This all stems from Gerard Butler and his every-man portrayal of John Garrity, who is merely a structural engineer trying to protect his family. He is not indestructible, nor does he become this insanely good fighter like is often seen. Rather, he simply uses his wits to protect his family. Greenland is surprisingly down to Earth, focusing on the family dynamic between John, his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). While similar films have attempted this approach, Greenland manages to do it more successfully. Of course, it helps that Butler, Baccarin and Floyd all have great chemistry together. As the trio journey to from the southern United States to Greenland, they meet many different characters along the way. The movie uses this structure to display the different ways people would react and behave during such a calamity. It’s a powerful and effective way to examine human nature.

I thought Greenland was GOOD 🙂 Choosing to focus on humanity and family rather than the impending disaster, it manages to strike a surprising emotional cord for this type of film. This smaller focus does prevent some of the genre’s more obnoxious flaws from surfacing, however it doesn’t avoid them completely. Nonetheless, Greenland is one of the better disaster films out there and feels like a fitting end to the disaster that is 2020.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ric Roman Waugh – Director
Chris Sparling – Writer
David Buckley – Composer

Gerard Butler – John Garrity
Morena Baccarin – Allison Garrity
Roger Dale Floyd – Nathan Garrity
Scott Glenn – Dale

Godmothered Review

Godmothered movie posterSynopsis
To prove the world still needs fairy godmothers, Eleanor (Jillian Bell), a young fairy godmother, travels to Boston to help Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) realize her childhood wish.

Review
Over the past several years, Disney has been redefining what “true love” means, a precedent they themselves set with their princess films beginning way back in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with movies like Maleficent and Frozen. Godmothered continues this effort, resulting in a not-so-subtle moment during the finale to really drive home the numerous ways love is represented across all kinds of families. Throughout the film, leading up to this climactic scene, the film subtle spends its time laying the groundwork for this scene, being self aware of what the filmmakers’ end goal is. While I appreciate Disney’s efforts to update themselves to the time, this feels like a retread of their previous films that are trying to do the same, particularly Enchanted, which has a very similar premise of a character coming from a fantasy world into the “real world.” This familiarity leads to predictability and a feeling of unoriginality.

Now, with that said, I did have fun while watching this movie. Jillian Bell as the young fairy godmother Eleanor was charming and sweet and very different than her role in in 22 Jump Street, the most recent film of Bell’s I have seen, where she was much more foulmouthed but no less funny. Her comedic timing is impeccable and her sense of optimism is infectious. She pairs well with Isla Fisher, who is a gem like always. Not to be outdone by the adults, Jillian Shea Spaeder and Willa Skye, who play Fisher’s daughters, provide their own sense of wit and charisma. All around, the cast makes the film a worthwhile viewing, even if the rest of the movie around them does not.

I thought Godmothered was GOOD 🙂 While it does feel like it’s retreading previous Disney attempts to redefine their version of Happily Ever After, it copies some of the best aspects about said endeavors, too. The characters are charming, the message is a powerful and wholesome one, and there is a sense of whimsy and fun the whole way through. While there is a lot of plot for this type of movie, it still manages to provide enough enjoyment to at least elicit a watch.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Sharon Maguire – Director
Kari Granlund – Screenplay / Story
Melissa Stack – Screenplay
Rachel Portman – Composer

Jillian Bell – Eleanor
Isla Fisher – Mackenzie
Jillian Shea Spaeder – Jane
Willa Skye – Mia
Mary Elizabeth Ellis – Paula
Santiago Cabrera – Hugh
Artemis Pedbani – Duff
Utkarsh Ambudkar – Grant
Jun Squibb – Agnes
Jane Curtin – Moira

Ashens and the Polybius Heist Review

Ashens and the Polybius Heist movie posterSynopsis
Ashens (Stuart Ashen) is a collector of rare but worthless collectibles. When he learns the location of the Polybius, a mythical 80s arcade game, he puts together a crew to acquire it.If you’re going to pull a heist, this is not the crew you want.

Review
Before going into this review, there are two things you should know about me: 1) I consider myself a nerd, and 2) I love heist films. So when I read the synopsis for Ashens and the Polybius Heist, I knew immediately that it was going to be a film I would enjoy. Crowd funded and featuring several online personalities, Ashens and the Polybius Heist is made with an evident passion from the cast and crew. This passion seeps from the screen; clearly the filmmakers created a product they would enjoy which in turn made in enjoyable for the rest of us.

The creators behind Ashens and the Polybius Heist describe the film as a “love letter to geek and retro culture” and that’s exactly what it feels like. There are so many homages to classic films such as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Ocean’s Eleven, Mission Impossible, and so many more. Gaming and nerd culture also get plenty of call outs and references as well, from cliches like making rude comments about someone’s mother while playing video games to attending conventions, as well as vast amounts of classic and vintage memorabilia. If you’ve embraced the culture yourself, then you’re going to be pleased with the attention and care it takes when portraying it on screen. It’s easy to see that the creators embrace the culture themselves and brought what they love about it into this movie.

Since this film parodies heist films, particularly the aforementioned Ocean’s Eleven with less-than-subtle references, it too relies heavily on the chemistry between the core cast of characters. Also much like its inspiration, each member of the ensemble pairs well with every other member of the the group. Seriously, no matter the combination, every scene is full of laughs and enjoyment that it is hard to be bored while watching this film. Stuart Ashen and Eli Silverman, the George Clooney and Brad Pitt of the movie respectively, are the foundation of the cast and are delightful to watch. Ashen in general works well with whichever member of the cast he is paired with. While everyone had their moments and enjoyable quirks, two stand-outs to me are Daniel Hardcastle as Cube, the “eye in the sky,” and Jarred Christmas as Jarred, the “smooth man.” As someone who works with computers myself, hearing Hardcastle spit programming jargon was entertaining. As for Jarred, his awkwardness when trying to distract his marks was relatable and charming. If I had to give you one reason to watch this film, it would be for the cast.

If you need another reason to check out Ashens and the Polybius Heist, then check it out for the writing. The script is witty and tight. With a run time clocking in around 90 minutes, this film doesn’t have much room for excess plot. While the time might be short, this movie never feels rushed or that there are things missing, pacing itself extremely well. On top of that, there is a payoff for pretty much everything. Even a small comment about maintaining a nice lawn to collecting donations for the heist payoff throughout the film. And there is no shortage of laughs. This film is targeted towards an audience member like me so I might be a little bit biased here but there were very few few jokes or gags that didn’t land for me. I was laughing from beginning to end.

The biggest drawback to this film is the villain (who humorously is literally named “antagonist”). Antony Agonist (Stuart Barter), serves nothing more than to be the person who has what the crew is trying to obtain. He’s shallow and cliched. Although, I guess that might be the point. The film pokes fun at tropes associated with heist films and undeveloped antagonists are usually one of those tropes. Unfortunately, that leads into another gripe is that at times it feels too cliched, going against convention at times simply because it is against convention. For the most part this approach works but it happens a time or two too many.

I thought Ashens and the Polybius Heist was GOOD 🙂 I feel that films featuring online personalities and influencers don’t have the best reputation. However, there is obviously a lot of dedication and heart that went into making this movie. That passion translated into a product that pays homage to many fandoms in nerd culture and appeals across a wide range of audiences. Whether you are a part of that culture or not, this film has something for you to enjoy.

Favorite Quote
While playing a video game
Cube: How did you do it? You’re cheating as well!
Annalise: Oh, don’t say that. Oh, I’m going to say mean things about your mum in a minute.
Vocal: Your mum is the nicest person I think I’ve ever met. She’s, like, so kind.
Annalise: Where’s my head gone? There’s so much blood, I’m going to have PTSD.
Cube: Your mum’s so fat! Well, she’s lost a lot of weight recently actually. She looks really good for it to be perfectly honest.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Riyad Barmania – Director / Writer
Stuart Ashen – Writer

Stuart Ashen – Ashens
Eli Silverman – Benny
Jarred Christmas – Jarred
Alyssa Kyria – Annalise
Katia Kvinge – Vocal
Daniel Hardcastle – Cube
Yiannis – Yiannis Vassilakis
Ryan Livermore – Ryan
Dan Tomlinson – Geoff Excellence
Barry Lewis – Chef Assistance
Jonti Picking – Handsome Man
Steve Langley – Attractive Man
Joanna O’Connor – Christine Ashen
Stuart Barter – Antony Agonist
Robert Llewellyn – The Professor
Nigel Fairs – Jonathan Ashen


Ashens and the Polybius Heist is now available for streaming. For all viewing options, head over to watchpolybiusheist.com.

Tenet Review

Tenet movie posterSynopsis
A CIA agent (John David Washington) is recruited into a secret organization known as “Tenet,” who are trying to prevent a catastrophe worse than Armageddon.

Review
Over the years, Christopher Nolan has made a name for himself with his high-concept films, containing multiple levels, where nothing is exactly what it seems, and often require several rewatches to fully grasp the nuances and details of the story. With Tenet, Christopher Nolan might have made the most Christopher Nolan film to date. From the explosive opening scene to the mind-bending final scene, Tenet continuously leaves you feeling one step behind as you try to put the pieces together before realizing you aren’t even working on the same puzzle as Nolan is working with.

One thing I really appreciate in Nolan’s style of film making is his commitment to practical effects. Zero green screens were used during the production of this movie, which is an impressive feat given the idea that people and objects can move backwards in time or the scale of some of the action pieces. Nolan’s sincerity in wanting to keep everything in-camera creates a level of authenticity in Tenet that very few action films these days have. We’ve seen directors more and more in recent years move away from CGI back towards practical effects and I for one could not be happier. While there have been some really great worlds created with computer special effects, nothing beats feeling like what you’re watching on screen is real. Hopefully with this film, Nolan has inspired more directors to do more of the same.

In today’s world of remakes and reboots, Nolan has stood out as a director and writer who regularly brings original concepts to cinema. While Tenet does take inspiration from espionage thrillers of the past, and time travel movies have been done numerous times in Hollywood, there is still something that feels fresh and unique about the film. As I said, one of Nolan’s trademarks is a multi-layered story filled with details easily missed in the initial viewing and that is no less true in Tenet, which given the way the film uses time-travel, multiple watches are almost a necessity.

But with this film’s complexity comes a slow start. As exciting as the opening scene was, it took some time to get going. In order to properly get the idea of inversion across required a bit of exposition. Also, not much is given on what the organization of Tenet is or what exactly they are doing. As a result, a fair chunk of the beginning I felt lost as to what John David Washington’s character was doing and working towards. I don’t think the character knew exactly either and by keeping the audience in the dark as well, Nolan was trying to put us in the same boat as the character. While this can work, taking too long to get to the payoff can become frustrating and remove the audience member from the film. Once I really got into the idea of inversion and at least some idea of the plans of Washington’s character then I was able to settle into the film more. However, there was still a lot left unrevealed until the final act, and sometimes even the final minutes. The same can be said for the characters themselves, who receive very little in terms of development. Even though much is disclosed in the end, it does little to help their development.

Of course, what might have contributed to my confusion was the fact that it was very difficult to hear what the characters were saying half of the time. Another signature of a Nolan film is a boisterous score. And while such a score can work, the sound mixing in Tenet made it more of a burden than an enhancement. It’s hard to understand what is happening when you cannot hear the exposition.

I thought Tenet was GOOD 🙂 In classic Christopher Nolan fashion, this film has an ambitious concept with a very intricate plot that will certainly require multiple viewings to fully catch all of the details. As a fan of great action sequences, this film is chock full of amazing set pieces all done using practical effects for an absolutely stunning experience. However, the beautiful wrapping covers up a lack of any character development and the score is the most in-your-face and obtrusive of any of Nolan’s films. Nonetheless, Tenet’s originality and creativity is refreshing in today’s landscape of remakes and reboots.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Ludwig Göransson – Composer

John David Washington – The Protagonist
Robert Pattinson – Neil
Elizabeth Debicki – Kat
Kenneth Branagh – Andrei Sator
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Ives
Himesh Patel – Mahir
Clémence Poésy – Barbara
Michael Cain – Michael Crosby
Dimple Kapadia – Priya
Martin Donovan – Victor
Fiona Dourif – Wheeler