Woody Allen and the Autumn List

Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of my all-time favourite films, and I have been intending to buy it on Blu-ray ever since Arrow’s edition came out individually as well as part of a box-set. Maybe this is one of those instances where it pays to wait things out. Recently Amazon had a discount on Arrow’s third  Allen box-set; at just over £20 with Crimes and Misdemeanors accompanied by another six Woody Allen films, it seemed a bargain, especially when the single edition of Crimes and Misdemeanors was priced at just six pounds less.The box has since sneaked up to about £30, which is still pretty good value. Includes a pretty substantial hardback book too (I just hope I can resist adding the first two boxes).

So now I have seven Woody Allen films placed on my list of films to watch this Autumn. Other than Crimes, the set contains just one other Allen film I have seen prior, the excellent Hannah and Her Sisters, which I now realise (to my horror) I last saw nearly thirty years ago. The other films are Radio Days, September, Another Woman, Alice and Shadows and Fog. Maybe there are some great films in there, maybe a few clunkers, but I won’t complain. Expect reviews to be posted over the coming weeks/months (before Christmas, at any rate).

Regards that Autumn list, its already piling up. Deadpool 2 and Solo arrived recently, and there’s also outstanding discs including Witness For the Prosecution (a Billy Wilder film I haven’t seen), Missing, The China Syndrome, one last film in that third Hammer box from Indicator, and a few 4K double-dips I still have to go through such as Sicario (before its sequel arrives the end of this month hopefully) and the mighty CE3K. 

If anyone has sufficient interest to nudge me in any particular films direction let me know and I’ll bump it up the list. At any rate, we’ll see how I get on this Autumn. Typically its just that time of year, with some 4K John Carpenter films, 2001 and the Matrix trilogy all coming up the end of the month, I’ll need to get busy sooner than later. I’m not complaining, mind, it should all be pretty great and I’m looking forward to it all.

Meanwhile I’ll be posting a backlog of reviews over the coming week for films I’ve seen over the past few weeks while I was up in the wilds of the wet and windy land of kilts and lochs. Likely a few more pics of a certain Westie, too, no doubt.

Spectral (2016)

spec1.jpgIt was quite surreal, in all honesty- there was a moment where a military team on a rescue mission in a war-torn ruined city entered a building in search of survivors of an earlier battle, when it dawned on me that they were walking through the Vegas hotel where Deckard was hiding out in BR2049. “Whoops,” I muttered as the illusion of the film was suddenly broken, “this thing was filmed in Budapest.”

I think Deckard kept it tidier, mind.

Spectral was a pleasant few hours- certainly much better than I had been expecting. Tagged as a ‘Netflix Original’, as in a few cases now that is a little disingenuous. Spectral was originally a full-blown theatrical movie but Universal got cold feet upon seeing the final film and stalled its release, and Netflix came to the rescue of Universal/Legendary Pictures saving them the added costs of distribution and marketing. Rather similar to what happened with Annihilation I guess, although that got a theatrical distribution in the States at least. Welcome to the future of making/selling movies.

Spectral wasn’t likely to have set the cinema world alight I suppose, but its a pretty solid effort with big-screen production values so certainly surprised me somewhat- I later l;earned of its not insubstantial $70 million budget and yeah, its certainly all there (indeed, as BR2049 likely found later, shooting in Budapest, Hungary helps your money go a long way). I suppose that it could even be argued that the film actually deserved a theatrical shot.  While it would perhaps be easy to criticize the script for some failings, that would almost seem a little unfair, as the film is simply what it is – a sincere and unapologetic mashup of Predator, Aliens and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (a film I have always had something of a soft spot for), with visuals probably inspired by modern videogame culture- Gears of War a particular example.

spec2So while it feels very familiar (and yes, the shooting locations ensure it even looks a little familiar, although in this case this film got there first) it most importantly also seems very sincere and well-intentioned rather than a cynical knock-off. Its a decent sci-fi romp with a decent cast, plenty of action and surprisingly impressive production values. I wouldn’t compare it to a classic like Alien but it does have that same feel of a b-movie lavished with a-list talent.

There is also something oddly comforting and nostalgic, even, about a simple sci-fi movie that doesn’t feature characters in spandex and capes or overblown CGI battle sequences, and I’m pretty certain that I will revisit this film again in time. Its just ironic and a further sign of our times that I expect a disc release will never happen and re-watches will depend on it being available on Netflix in the future- a further glimpse of the inevitable anyway, I suppose, if physical media continues to decline. I don’t find thinking of that future particularly comforting.

One further thought- I’ve never really been a subscriber to the old adage that a ‘name’ actor sells a movie, but I do wonder that if this had somehow starred, say, Tom Cruise it might have had a better fate/bigger success akin to, perhaps, something like Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow.  Certainly Universal might have been more bullish about the films possible success and not sold it to Netflix. That being said, I always like to see films with different actors away from the predictable casting norm, and the cast here all account of themselves well.