Trom Season One

tromTrom, 2022, Six episodes, BBC iPlayer

Trom is another example of Nordic Noir, a crime thriller this time set on the isolated, windswept Faroe Islands. A journalist, Hannis Martinsson (Ulrich Thomsen), is contacted by a young woman who claims to be his daughter and is seeking his help. When he arrives on the islands to meet her he discovers she has been murdered and sets about uncovering the web of political and judicial corruption behind her death.

Unfortunately Trom fails to equal the sum of its parts- its setting (filmed pretty much entirely, it seems, on the actual islands) gives it a suitably dark, wet, gloomy mood so common to these Nordic dramas, but really has some distinct atmosphere, other than reminding me of holidays in Scotland. Its central mystery is your typical whodunnit with plenty of suspects, red herrings and of course misdirection’s that you can see a mile off (maybe I’ve seen too much Nordic Noir) but with enough genuine surprises chucked in to maintain your interest. Its not bad, its just not great. Thomsen is very good in the starring role, giving the series some considerable weight (he often reminded me of a middle-aged Laurence Olivier) but some of the cast just aren’t up to it, or have been cruelly miscast (the police characters particularly so, being possibly the most unconvincing police types I’ve ever seen; I kept on referring to two of the lead police characters as Laurel and Hardy every time they were onscreen).

I found the final revelations regards the guilty parties and what actually happened to Martinsson’s daughter enough to possibly save the day, but it was ultimately undone by just too many coincidences and a desperate cliff-hanger that comes out of nowhere and is pretty ridiculous. Wide-open space, dozens of people attending a funeral service, and the child central to everyone’s attention suddenly disappears, kidnapped, without anyone noticing? I demand a season two in order for the series makers to explain themselves regards the contrivances involved making her vanish into the damp air, cruelly teasing another season/mystery at the very last minute. Is it just too much to expect a proper ending?

4K Poltergeist

poltergeist4kDon’t look at the cover. Don’t. The real horror is, there have been worse.

First film I ever rented, back in 1983 – Poltergeist will always be something special. It was the first film I ever watched on a VHS tape, when the ‘miracle’ of watching a film at the push of a button, with no censorship or ad-breaks was something to leave you breathless, and incredibly exciting in ways that kids today will never understand. Ah, the pull of nostalgia will never loosen its grip on this movie.

Fantastic Jerry Goldsmith score, a pretty great cast including the beautiful JoBeth Williams and the great, late James Karen whose only better film was The Return of the Living Dead, and ILM bringing the horrors of Raiders to suburbia. 1982 was a great year for movies, and its somehow been 40 years so I guess this release was inevitable- joining quite a few of the Class of 1982 to 4K.  I just want to know where’s Conan The Barbarian in 4K;  you’d think Arrow or someone would give it a go if Universal had zero interest.

Bloody cover does look more like an alternate for CE3K than something for Poltergeist  (“Honey there’s a mothership over the house!”).

David Warner 1941 – 2022

davidwarnerSo sad to read the news yesterday of the passing of the great British actor David Warner. For many decades now he has been a familiar face in film and television, always an indication of quality; he was someone you could rely on for something to be worth your time. Even in the poorest stuff there would be something worthy in his performance, he could always raise the quality of whatever he was reading or playing. And in all honesty, for awhile either his face or his voice seemed to turn up everywhere; he was a busy man, always, it seems, in demand.

Of course like many of my age, I’m sure, my first memory of him is as the ill-fated news photographer Keith Jennings in The Omen (1976), whose grisly and shocking end proved something of a milestone in horror cinema, and then Time After Time (1979) in which he gave a charming spin on Jack the Ripper. For an example of how he could raise the most average into something interesting, he played Ed Dillinger/Sark in Disney’s 1982 sci-fi Tron. He’s an ambitious corporate guy who realises that he’s made a monster and is trapped by it: he’s a baddie you wind up almost feeling sorry for. Later films included parts in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes reboot and James Cameron’s Titanic. While it could be well argued he deserved better, starring roles in films that revolved around him as a central protagonist he seemed more comfortable in supporting roles and lots (lots!) of television parts- including Twin Peaks, Wild Palms, Star Trek: TNG, Babylon 5, Total Recall 2070 and the last thing that I think I saw him in, Penny Dreadful.  All of the examples I have cited concern his genre work, but it was far outnumbered by all sorts of characters in all sorts of both present-day and period-set dramas, and indeed all the voicework he did in cartoons and animation. He rather reminded me of the great Peter Cushing, who treated even the weakest Hammer script as something from Shakespeare. These guys never phoned anything in, and they are always missed, but of course their work lives on beyond them.

The Northman, by Crom!

northmThe Northman, 2022, 137 mins, 4K UHD

Robert Egger’s The Northman is John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian by way of The Lighthouse; it is barbaric revenge with lots of meta-physical weirdness chucked in. Something like Robert E Howard via David Lynch.

As an intellectual exercise, I don’t mind all the meta-physical stuff, its Egger’s way of trying to get us ‘into’ the heads of the Vikings back then, of how they thought. It was something Eggers did well in his debut film The Witch, getting viewers into the mindset of Puritan settlers in 17th Century New England. Its something that often frustrated me, whether a film be a Roman epic, Medieval romp or indeed a futuristic space-faring saga – its wrong to pretend people back then (or indeed in the distant future) will be the same as us, with the same beliefs and points of view. Its one of the things that I think Kubrick nailed so well in 2001: A Space Odyssey, how dehumanised people are in Kubrick’s year 2001, how they interact, how soul-less old traditions like wishing someone a happy birthday seems, which I always thought was, deliberately or not, the films thesis of how technology dehumanises people (and the irony of how HAL 9000 seems the most human character in the film). Likewise in period films, we cannot really appreciate how people thought and rationalised back when superstition dominated short and uneducated lives, people absolutely convinced there were Gods in the sky or Devils lurking in the shadows. We can try putting ourselves in their places but will always fail- we know too much; even if its just knowing what those lights in the sky are. Whether we really need all the mystical nonsense and its weird imagery to do that is up to debate, or indeed if we need so much of it, but its what Eggers deployed to serve his ends.

All this of course is an intellectual point of view and doesn’t necessarily make for very good, enjoyable movies- so often film-makers ignore such exercises and make a film like Gladiator with Roman-era characters that are modern enough that we can fully identify with them, or films like Red Planet with astronauts that act like ordinary joes rather than professional level-headed engineers/astronauts. Films after all are entertainment first and foremost.

So I have to wonder is The Northman any better than Conan the Barbarian, as a film? It follows a very similar plot, in which a disenfranchised boy, separated from his people and home seeks revenge for the death of his father and ultimately arguably finds that revenge hollow, questioning the purpose that has driven him all his life. It features near-identical scenes of our hero finding a special sword in a tomb, taking it from the dead hands of an ancient warrior. It even looks similar, Milius and his art team (notably the late Ron Cobb and William Stout) influenced by Viking armour and Northern culture/lore from the Dark Ages to lend Robert E Howard’s Hyborian Age some verisimilitude onscreen.

I was actually surprised how often The Northman kept reminding me of Milius’ film- I know many have pointed to obvious parallels with Hamlet which was itself is based on Norse legend (Hamlet = Amleth), but to me it was Conan that kept tapping me on the shoulder. Indeed, while watching The Northman I often considered how cool it would be if Robert E Howard’s character could be given a serious treatment  similar to that of Egger’s film.  I particularly liked its treatment of sorcery/magic- the moment in which Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) invokes her Gods to summon wind to speed her boat on its way was pure, tangible Robert E Howard- no flashy visual pyrotechnics or animation, just an intonation followed by howling wind.

What The Northman lacked was a rousing score such as the Basil Poledouris classic that Conan was blessed by, and indeed interesting characters: Eggers film preferred to leave his film’s Vikings etc pretty much unknowable with largely unfathomable passions: intellectually fine I guess but perhaps opposed to traditional film narrative. Funnily enough, I can recall Conan being criticised for the same but its obviously cut from a different cloth to Egger’s film; one can believe Conan falling for Sandahl Bergman’s Valeria, feel their passion, and ironically, considering Arnie’s lack of acting prowess, he actually feels more human than Alexander Skarsgård does, but of course that’s maybe the point. Conan feels rather contemporary (Howards gritty Hyborian hero tinged with a hard-boiled, rather noir sensibility in his stories) while Amleth feels like some stranger wholly of his Dark Ages.

The Northman ultimately takes itself a little too seriously and takes far too long telling a very familiar, and surprisingly simple, story. It looks gorgeous and authentic, grounded in some kind of grey reality but maybe needed something bolder, more epic- it lacks a villain, really; Amleth’s uncle Fjolnir (Claes Bang) is almost a victim of fate himself (or maybe that’s the point), apparently manipulated by Amleth’s mother Queen Gudrun (a rather bizarre-looking Nicole Kidman) to betray his King and brother. Its likely more realistic (and realism seems to be Egger’s justification for everything with regard this film) but it leaves the film lacking some energy and, yes, the more traditional plot for viewers to hang onto: the film needs a complete and utter bastard for us to hold in contempt, rooting for our hero. We always knew James Earl Jones’ Thulsa Doom was an evil sorcerer who deserved Conan’s steel cleaved through his neck; instead I rather hoped Fjolnir would come to his senses, dump Gudrun and go find himself a better life. That’s clearly not the film Eggers was making though and would likely just confound viewers more than they are already. Me? I much prefer Conan the Barbarian.

The Gray Man: Action flicks need a reboot

gray1The Gray Man, 2022, 122 mins, Netflix

The Gray Man isn’t terrible- I’ve certainly seen far worse Netflix Originals – Outside The Wire, Red Notice, The Woman in the Window, Father Christmas is Back, and the recent Interceptor immediately spring to mind – but it is sadly typical of so many films these days, especially from Netflix, who still seem to be preoccupied with competing with the Hollywood Silver Screen Big Boys (any explosion you can do, I can do bigger). The worst thing about it is how it ably summarises where the action film genre is right now, a kind of film that badly needs a reboot. We still seem to be caught in a post-Bourne Identity wave of action films, something that infected Bond and much every film with a big stunt and fight sequence in it. Some films, most notably the John Wick series, seem to have made their own niche and proved successful with it, but most everything else seems to be floundering with ever-more sophisticated and increasingly ridiculous stunt and fight sequences that inspire unintended laughter rather than respectful awe.

Maybe I’m cursing the Bourne films too unfairly- its likely just as much the trend for costumed superheroes that’s causing all this, and the action-film’s apparent need to compete with all that wall-shattering, bullet-proof nonsense of costumed nutters with silly powers. Oh, for the days of Die Hard

Some six-foot giant of a thug punches me in the face, I’m likely to have a fractured jaw, fewer teeth, serious concussion and a bruised swollen countenance lasting months. I know movies are the land of Make Believe but its getting crazy what happens to our action stars now – guys who may be ‘professional killers’ but who lack the powers of your average Kryptonian. They survive stabbings, gunshot wounds, being thrown through glass windows, falling from great heights, car crashes, explosions… I know, I sound like a killjoy hellbent on spoiling everyone’s fun, we all like our heroes to be a little larger than life, that’s part of the fun of action movies, but surely its gone too far, its getting more into parody now. You don’t need to make something like an Airplane! or Top Secret! comedy to ridicule current action-film tropes; The Gray Man is already it.

To be clear, The Gray Man is everything it was intended to be. Its some kind of action/ spy thriller in which a secret agent (codename ‘Six’) from some covert group operating within the CIA stumbles upon a conspiracy that causes him to question the ‘rightfulness’ of his actions and the integrity of his superiors, going on the run and subsequently pursued by every killer in the Uber Assassins Handbook in a global chase that decimates cities and a castle, killing hundreds, maiming thousands. Naturally everyone is beautiful and sexy, muscle-toned  and well-dressed, even some of the bad guys. Its a spy fantasy on some level astronomically beyond even the daftest Roger Moore 007 flick.

Its competently acted, has some great, albeit increasingly preposterous stunt sequences, wasting some $220 million with absolutely ruthless efficiently. On one level, one has to admire it.

gray2But its also so woeful. Ana de Armas seems to be increasingly wasted in these dumb support roles which are a) one dimensional and b) repeatedly daft with her beating the shit out of guys twice her size. She’s very pretty and apparently the Face Of The Moment, but there is depth to her as an actress -demonstrated in BR2049 and Knives Out– that is lost in all the carnage of these action flicks she’s slumming in. There seems to be a dominant male fantasy lately, as per No Time to Die and so many others, that seems to suggest that slim beautiful 5 ft 6 inch women can beat up musclebound brutes without creasing her designer dress (her cameo in No Time to Die was more silly than anything else to me but the fans seemed to love it).  I don’t know if its some kind of delirious, devious  Girls Can Too movement working away in the shadows but… hell, there’s plenty of instances in The Gray Man that I’m scoffing at six-foot hunks doing stuff, never mind fragile beauties… am I being sexist here? Should I shut up before I get trolled?

Chris Evans chews up the scenery in some fruitless attempt to out-act his moustache. He’s probably revelling at the opportunity to over-act in every scene he’s in: its not his fault, its exactly what’s being asked of him, he’s a cartoon bad guy in a Marvel movie posing as a semi-serious spy movie. I mean, that’s basically what The Gray Man is. The Russo dudes weren’t hired by coincidence. Yes its not a great movie but it is exactly what it is intended to be and very proficient at it. I’m questioning why it seems every action film is like it these days. Its so big,  So noisy. It takes us all over the world, spending huge amounts of Netflix money on a script that doesn’t warrant it (but isn’t that true of most every Hollywood movie and television show these days?). As for Ryan Gosling, I have the worrying feeling that this whole film is just some kind of audition for him being cast in an MCU flick.

I wonder what Martin Scorsese thinks of this film.

Everything is bonkers all at once

every1Everything Everywhere All at Once, 2022, 139 mins, 4K UHD

Writing as someone more comfortable with the pace of a Denis Villeneuve or Terrence Malick film, the hysterical madness of Everything Everywhere All at Once, which seems edited to literally display on film just what its title suggests, is either something genius or utter idiocy. I’m still not sure which side of the fence I’m on- is it the pinnacle of style and spectacle over empty content, or is there substance hidden in those dizzying visuals and frenzied pace? Is it a martial arts parable about dysfunctional families not communicating or just a martial arts demo reel stretched over a vacuous plot? My wife was adamant it was the latter- admittedly not the biggest fan of martial arts films she increasingly hated every moment as the sedate opening descended into an almost unintelligible chaos that, frankly, is the default state for most of the rest of the film. It simply does not let up, and Claire was happy to see it finally end her exhausted misery after its surprisingly long running-time. “Never again,” she finally said.

Which didn’t help my initial thought that I’d need another viewing to properly digest it, as that intention may be thwarted awhile.

So a visual feast? Yes certainly, those stunts and fights are quite impressive even if they stretch most credibility- I do wonder as things become ever-more cartoon-like whether film-makers should reign things in somewhat. One could accept most this kind of thing in a Matrix or an MCU film but I have to wonder if some traditional martial arts fans are irate at some of the comicbook silliness infecting their favourite genre (or maybe I’m missing the escapist appeal). But outside the frantic editing and stunts, is it profoundly moving and ambitious or shockingly empty and annoying?

The problem with this current preoccupation with the concept of the multiverse remains the same for everything in comics, film and television that tries it- it offers vast possibilities for ignoring continuity (which is the central appeal I’m sure) but undermines most of the weight of traditional drama. When removed from the criticality of the one, the individual, whether it be a character or a planet or a universe, a dramatic work or narrative seems to lose its stakes. Regards the Kelvin timeline of Chris Pine’s Kirk in the Star Trek reboots – why care what happens to Chris Pine’s Kirk if one’s more invested in the William Shatner one? I appreciate that the existence of both does not necessarily make either redundant, but…

Everything Everywhere All at Once tries to both ridicule and take advantage of this curious fact regards multiverse narratives. Its main antagonist is a nihilist utterly despondent at the perspective of endless universes in which, she feels, nothing really matters, nothing is critical anymore because if you’re a failure in one world you’ll be a millionaire in another, if you’re slim in one world you’ll be fat in another, why strive to succeed if you’ve already succeeded/failed elsewhere? The protagonist, her mother, eventually seems to realise that love conquers all, that the individual really does matter after all, but she seems to only arrive at that after increasingly sophisticated martial arts fights. Maybe its a twist on the rational arrived within Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few (or the one)) in that the needs of whatever universe you are in outweighs the needs of the many universes beyond. Or maybe the grass isn’t always greener in the multiverse, or something like that.

Or maybe its about the sausage-fingers and the really cool fighting. But I will say one thing- this film is worth it just for the boundless pleasure of 93-year-old James Hong (Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China and countless others) still working his magic. Pretty much any scene he is in outdoes all the stunts and effects for me.

Not the year Orwell had in mind

ww84aWonder Woman 1984, 2020, 151 mins, Streaming

Yeah, I wonder why they chose 1984. Why not 1985? Or 1986? Did I miss something? Was there some subtle reference specific to George Orwell’s book that escaped me? Or am I just overthinking it? The date does seem arbitrary, as the setting didn’t seem to have much bearing on the plot other than few visual gags and the film was definitely full of errors regards its source music and fashion; it was more a case of someone’s idea of what 1984 was like rather than a well-researched recreation. Mind, that’s something true of the film itself- it was more someone’s idea of what a superhero film is like, an approximation of a superhero film (throw in some action sequences and CGI and the punters will be happy) with some vague feminist/political commentary thrown in.

There seems a belief in Hollywood that anyone can write/direct a superhero film, just as there seems to be an assumption that anyone can make a science fiction film (just look at what’s being done to the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises). Currently both superhero and science fiction films are very popular with audiences and seem to be where the money is at, so all sorts of creatives are tipping their creative toes into genre material to which they are ill-suited just to get their fingers in the pie. In WW84‘s case, both Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins seem to think they can make a girl-empowerment movie (and really, there’s nothing wrong with that) in the guise of a $200 million superhero merchandising blockbuster that features random new stuff like special golden armour (that gets destroyed anyway) if only to sell new toys/dolls to girls who, well, don’t buy that sort of thing anyway?

A prologue set during Wonder Woman’s childhood, in which she is taught that cheating doesn’t work/pay, that success needs to be earned on one’s own merit honestly, is some kind of foreshadowing or ‘message’ for the film as a whole (our two bad guys don’t earn anything, they cheat/steal for their success), but all the prologue really does is sum up the lack of sophistication in the film. Its all very clumsy and obvious, and nothing really surprises- everything seems to be telegraphed in advance, almost as bad as a television soap like Emmerdale or Coronation Street.

I’ll cut this film a little slack. Yes it was silly, full of leaps of logic and convenient coincidences as usual, but all the way through it, I kept thinking how, tonally, it seemed so reminiscent of Superman II, a film that many rate as one of the best superhero films… maybe less so, now, with all the MCU stuff that has come out, but I recall that when it came out back in 1980, it was considered (wrongly) to be better than the first film and the pinnacle of comicbook movies. The combination of fun, action, comedy… Admittedly, I remember seeing  Superman II at the cinema and coming out feeling this tremendous buzz, whistling the theme, feeling that a man really could fly… there’s this sweeping sense of comicbook fun to it, the fact that it doesn’t feel the need to take itself too seriously (something taken much too far in Superman III). WW84 feels like a throwback to the superhero capers of that era.  The silly tv versions of Marvel characters that we saw in the 1970s (Spiderman, Doctor Strange, Captain America, The Hulk); not as camp as the 1960s Batman show but far distant from some of the darker current superhero films such as those from Zack Snyder. What seems to have escaped the minds of those behind WW84 though is that Superman II hasn’t aged particularly well, not for me anyway (the first Richard Donner film will always be the best Superman film, and possibly the best superhero film of all) and that the secret of the MCU’s success is that (at least initially, much less so now) it treated its subject-matter with some sincerity.

WW84 is really poor, with one of the worst villains I’ve ever seen in a comicbook film- was this some thinly-veiled attack on Trump’s business acumen and tenure in the White House? Was it genuinely just as simple as that, some in-joke for the liberal Hollywood community to chuckle at? Was bringing Chris Pine back some admission that his death in the first film was a mistake or just that the ladies in the audience love seeing Chris Pine’s eyes glowering at them from the silver screen and wanted more, more, more? The irony that the method they came up with (Steve Trevor’s spirit or soul literally stealing the body of a random -albeit  ‘hot’-  living guy) was morally questionable at the very least seems to have escaped them. If a film’s bad guy did what they did, there would be righteous indignation from up high – Diana and Steve sleep together using a stolen body, what is that, some kind of rape? Diana wants him to stay with her forever in this poor bloke’s body, stealing the life of the body he has taken. How wrong is all that? Oh wait, that foreshadowing… Diana, you mustn’t cheat or be dishonest….

Agh. I’m overthinking it, obviously much more than the so-called writers and producers of this mess. Best just to take it as a bit of mindless nonsense. Funnily enough, for all its few merits, its all undermined by an ill-judged coda which features a cameo from original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, or at least a plastic/CGI de-aged version of her that looks pretty hideous (why does Hollywood have such a mortal fear of ageing?). Maybe its the kind of fan-service they thought would get audiences whooping and cheering, but I thought it was horrible and tasteless.

Mrs Hemsworth saves the world

interceptInterceptor, 2022, 99 mins, Netflix

I get it: the joke’s on me, I paid for this. Chris Hemsworth is sitting on his private beach somewhere with his beautiful wife and chuckling “cheers, Ghost!” as he sips his cocktail partly funded by my Netflix subscription this month. I finally figured out that beard by the way- he hasn’t been able to look himself in the mirror long enough to get a shave.

Not that I should give Hemsworth any credit for feeling guilty about Interceptor, a film (I’m using that term loosely here) of which he’s a producer, that stars his wife, and in which he features in a cameo that’s either hysterically funny or horribly self-indulgent, and most likely a desperate attempt to raise this horrible film’s profile for his buddies at Netflix.

Nah, Chris doesn’t feel guilty sunning himself on that beach. Guilt doesn’t come into it for our Hollywood types. I still can’t quite figure it out- he doesn’t need the money, she doesn’t need the money; she’s a beautiful and I’m sure charming lady who does not deserve this movie- its the kind of film that can (should) torpedo anybody’s career behind and in front of the camera.

Are they bored? Is that what it is? They got nothing better to do than find some writer with one of the most stupid stories ever, featuring some of the dumbest plot twists and most risible dialogue and then make it for next to no money at all and flog it to Netflix, because Netflix is like the Patron Saint of Money for Hollywood types? Oh loosen up, Ghost, its just a bit of fun. I wanted to star my wife in a film where she saves the world so my kids can say hey, mom’s cool too.

Part of me wants to laugh, part of me wants to get angry. Angry at all these Hollywood creative types and their indifference to any kind of quality control as long as there’s a pay cheque. Maybe the bigger question is was there ever any integrity in Hollywood?

There’s a part of this film where Mrs Hemsworth, shot in one arm and suspended under a sinking oil rig by her one good arm clutching to a metal rung performs a preposterous stunt that had my wife threatening to throw something at the screen. My wife is calm and meek and not often disposed to physical violence against TV screens. It takes extreme provocation to have her losing her shit at a movie.

Me, I’m finding it hard to forgive. Not my wife losing her shit (fear not, my OLED is still in one piece) but I’m finding it so hard to forgive anyone involved in this train wreck of a film (I’m still using that term loosely), but you know, above all else I blame myself for watching it. There’s a Netflix algorithm that probably cites this film as a major success and has greenlit several sequels featuring -hang on, what’s her name?- Elsa Pataky as Captain JJ Collins.

A film doesn’t have to be any good, it can be absolute shit, but as long as enough idiots stream some of it -not even all of it- then its deemed a success and we get more of the same. Something has to be done regards how this all works. Its pretty damning and Netflix needs to ensure some better kind of quality control, or they will deservedly continue haemorrhaging subscribers.

Interceptor is bad. Its very bad. Its worse than very bad. Have a very good look in the mirror Chris. And apologise to the missus (yeah, yours and mine).

Rewatching The Crow

crowfireThe Crow, 1994, 102 mins, Netflix

Saturday night I watched Alex Proyas’ The Crow, for the first time in… possibly twenty years. The gaps sometimes between viewings of films never fails to be a mixture of surprise and alarm for me, if only because the years pass and accumulate so quickly.

Naturally some, possibly most, people watch a film once and that’s it, they never feel any need to revisit it. Alternatively, some people can watch some films far too many times than can be possibly healthy, and the reasons for returning to films like that can be many. I suppose its often less to do with the film and more to do with the pull of nostalgia for the original time when we first experienced a film, whether it be a childhood favourite or a formative experience when growing up (usually in teenage years). In the case of The Crow… well it’s a film I watched back in 1994 in the (incredibly now a car showroom) Showcase Cinema and later bought in those heady days of importing R1 DVDs. Two things spring to mind: those were fun days going to the Showcase with my future wife every week, and boy, DVDs were so special – you know, actually owning films, in widescreen format, in great quality, with lots of special features, it was all new back then, especially as I’d never experienced anything of the laserdisc era. Who’d have thought DVDs would be so replaceable by so many new formats, given time?

the crow cdThe Crow has been on my mind a little while because late last year Varese finally released its soundtrack score in a complete edition 2-CD set (decades overdue but hey, we’re STILL waiting for the official complete Blade Runner…). I couldn’t resist it and have listened to it several times since – its a great score, dark and melancholy and with beautiful, often heart-rending music, richly thematic, something all too rare these days. Hey, even the song playing over the end titles (a trend I hated back then, much preferring the carefully-constructed end-title suites written by composers like John Williams) was a lovely piece that really worked for the film, and felt a part of the whole. Whenever I’ve listened to the CDs I’ve often thought it’d be nice to watch the film again (I don’t have it on Blu-ray, and the days of me playing my R1 DVDs -even if I could find the box they are in- are long gone). Anyway, I noticed that its popped up on Netflix so hey, bravo for streaming services (not something I write here very often!).

But sticking with the film’s music a little longer- electronic drones drenched in reverb, guitars, children’s choir, women’s voices, ethnic instruments… its a score that was ahead of its time and subsequently imitated numerous times over the years. I found it interesting in the CD booklet that Graeme Revell refers to Blade Runner‘s score, as The Crow‘s ‘world music/multi-cultural’ approach always reminded me of Vangelis’ opus.  Both films sound rather ‘outside of time.’

So anyway, back to rewatching the movie. Has The Crow aged well? Its hard to say, really. I suppose its a wonder the film even got released at all:  The Crow is always remembered for Brandon Lee’s tragic death (from an accidental gunshot wound during the filming), and it was only able to be completed by then-cutting edge use of computer graphics patching scenes together using various shots of Lee, body-doubles and careful composition of scenes, in a similar way to how Gladiator would later be completed following the death of Oliver Reed during filming in 1999. You can see the trickery in places but on the whole it works well- its nothing too distracting.

What was distracting, at least this time around, was that the film seems to have been cut in several places; weird edits occur that makes it look like some of the violence or more graphic shots were cut, like something is missing. Whether anything has been cut, I don’t know; I assume this UK version is the same as the American R1 DVD disc I watched all those years ago; its not something I can remember from back then which is why it makes me curious now – it really rather felt like I was watching one of those ‘TV versions’ of films that were so common years ago (the TV version of Robocop for instance, is legendary). Maybe the film was always toned down a little from its original intent, in respect of Lee’s death.

The film also wears its ‘pop-video director’ vibe clearly; back then it possibly hardly seemed a thing at all, it was all the rage, but these days, with MTV and pop videos a more distant thing now, it seems to stick out more (I believe The Crow was Alex Proyas’ first film after years shooting pop videos). Too many slow-motion shots with over-powering music; it reminded me greatly of Highlander (1986) but on the positive side, there was some great use of music juxtaposed with the visuals at times. Inevitable visual nods to Blade Runner or Tim Burton’s Batman movie, regards endless rain and gothic art direction. I was such a fan of this film back in 1994/1995- its odd, with it being so long ago when I first watched it, the perspective from being in 2022 now. All those miniatures!

Director Alex Proyas certainly seemed to be someone to follow back then, and I simply adored his next film, the magnificent (if ill-fated, as I recall) Dark City that was one of the very best genre films of the 1990s, but his career sadly tailed off somewhat after that. Proyas skirted with major studio projects like I, Robot (a film I quite liked but don’t have any interest in ever watching again) but the bizarre casting for Knowing (Nicolas Cage as an M.I.T. professor!) pretty much ruined that particular film for me, and I never got around to watching Proyas’ Gods of Egypt at all. So it doesn’t seem that Proyas fulfilled the possibilities inferred by The Crow wowing me like it did in 1994.

I’m out of the loop somewhat regards The Crow, its been so many years since I last watched it. I’m not certain I ever watched the sequel and wasn’t even aware of the third or fourth films in that film series, or indeed that there was a 22-episode television series back in 1998. I must have been living under a rock or something, or maybe that’s just indication of so many straight-to-video films or television series ‘hiding’ on some obscure cable channel.

So anyway, I really quite enjoyed the film. Its such a sad film, inevitably so due to the circumstances during the making of it, the tragedy which seems to loom over most every scene. An unfortunate result is that its hard to really judge Brandon Lee’s performance, judging the line between narrative and reality but I still think a huge part of why the film works so well is Revell’s music; it seems to dominate everything. Which isn’t to say Lee isn’t excellent- his performance is really very good and I’m certain he would have gone on to considerable success in future films, but between what happened to him making the film and the music being such a symphony of melancholy, its really almost overwhelming. The Crow is a very dark gothic fable, a reminder that nothing is trivial, and there ain’t no coming back…. except maybe for movies.

Star Trek: The Definitive Tat Box Edition


Here was I a few posts ago moaning about the dreaded tat box editions muscling in on my wallet (its not the price of petrol we film-lovers are getting stressed about, its the bloody tat boxes) and now just days later this got announced.

We knew a disc release of the new Directors Cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was coming later this year, but we never thought that Paramount would be ambitious enough to market a tat box edition. Who thought there was enough love for this film to warrant one? Goodness knows that Paramount’s reticence regards upgrading the old 2001 DVD of the DC didn’t seem to indicate any interest in the film at all, but hey, I guess this is what launching your own streaming service does for you; you end up scouring all your content/franchises etc and making the most of them because there’s gold in dem der hills they deserve it.

Anyway, thank goodness there is a non-tat box edition available (more than I can currently say of their 4K Event Horizon release) as that’s where I’m heading. The DC on a 4K disc with a Blu-ray of new and legacy extras will be just fine for me. So yeah, I’m not really complaining, some will enjoy the tat box no doubt, but I’m just buzzing from the idea that I’ll be watching the DC in 4K, what, two months from now- it’ll be like an early Christmas. Then of course the moaning starts about the changes/fixes I don’t enjoy, but hey-ho, I’m only human (cue Spock raising his eyebrow).