Tuesday, December 07, 2021

What I Watched in November 2021

Edgar Wright is turning out to be another filmmaker who I wish was able to make more films than he is getting across the finish line. Much like Guillermo Del Toro it seems that for every one new movie we get from him there are three that might never see the inside of a theater. He has been making feature films for over seventeen years and only managed to direct six finished movies and one feature documentary. I try not to be sad about this and just be happy about the fantastic work we get from directors like this, but it is a struggle. Which brings me to Wright’s latest movie.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021) is being referred to by many as the writer/director’s ‘giallo’ but that is an oversimplification of what he is doing. Yes, there are certainly elements of the classic giallo films of the 1970’s built into this film’s story and structure but that is not the main aim. As much as he pulls from Dario Argento’s work (BIRD WITH CRYSTAL PLUMMAGE, DEEP RED. etc.) it is all in service to another goal which seems to be making a terrifying horror movie. In fact, what Mr. Wright has made is one of the best ghost stories of the past couple decades and its real trick is to push us, as the viewers, into feeling sympathy for both the victims and the murderer. Not an easy thing to accomplish and damned near impossible unless you hide specifics of past events until the right moment. But, damn! Those final act reveals do the trick effectively.
None of these clever story elements would work if not for the excellent performances from the strong cast. I expect brilliant work from veterans like Terrance Stamp, Diana Rigg and Rita Tushingham but they are matched by the young actors here who have very difficult lines to walk as the mystery plot plays out. For Dame Diana this is sadly her final screen performance but she seems to have known full-well that it was a plum role to cap her impressive career. As always, she is stunning in her ability to convey blunt character information and wonderfully skilled in shading her physicality and voice to communicate more than you might spot on first viewing. And I have to admit that Matt Smith is turning out to be an excellent character actor, effectively shaking off the aftereffects of playing Doctor Who years ago. He is quite good as the slimy 1960’s scumbag that sets the horrible events in motion that cascade down through the decades. 

The List 

RON’S GONE WRONG (2021) – 5 (mediocre animated kid’s movie) 
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021) – 8 (fun twisty thriller) 
THE KISS BEFORE THE MIRROR (1933) – 6 (weird melodrama about infidelity) 
DUNE (2021) – 9 
ETERNALS (2021) – 8 
THE WHISTLER (1944) – 6 (rewatch) (the radio show makes the jump to the big screen)
DYNASTY (1977) – 6 (martial arts action in 3D!) 
IN SOCIETY (1944) – 7 (very funny Abbot & Costello farce) 
FEAR NO EVIL (1980) – 3 (rewatch on Blu) (still an unfocused mess) 
THE SEXBURY TALES (1973) – 6 (silly anthology sex comedy) 
RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS (1983) – 5 (rewatch on Blu) (not good but entertaining) 
INFRA-MAN (1975) – 7 (rewatch on Blu) 
THE POWER OF THE WHISTLER (1945) – 6 (second Whistler film is an odd one) 
TORCHY BLANE…PLAYING WITH DYNAMITE (1939) – 6 (last of the series is solid even without the regular leads) 
INVISIBLE MENACE (1938) – 6 (rewatch) (quick murder mystery with Karloff) 
A SCREAM IN THE STREETS (1973) 4 (clunky, low budget soft-core cops vs rapist tale) 
BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST (1941) – 6 (rewatch) (tear-jerker about orphans and legitimacy) 
HAUNTING FEAR (1990) – 5 (bland horror effort)

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