With Simone Harwood at Home on Sky+
The Angel is based on the story of real-life Egyptian billionaire turned spy Ashraf Marwan. A close advisor to President Anwar Sadat in time leading up the Yom Kippur War, Marwan fed info to Israel's Mossad and according to some believers, also worked as a double agent to Egypt. The Angel follows that line of belief, following Marwan's rise to becoming Sadat's trusted advisor and watching him play both sides in an effort to avoid all out war. How much of this is true is another discussion, but regardless that story line on paper is very interesting. But director Ariel Vromen doesn't execute very well on its presentation, instead following a paint by numbers path that we have seen many times before in spy films. Marwan Kenzari is effective as Ashraf, but is held back by a predictable script.
With Kina at home
Let's be honest. We probably don't need any more zombie movies for awhile. The genre is bursting from saturation across every medium possible from film, TV, books, and comics. But if we followed that idea, we'd miss out on fresh takes like the one we see in Cargo. Cargo begins where many zombie flicks begin, with the epidemic already spread and in full swing. A man Andy (Martin Freeman) is travelling with his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their infant child Rosie, trying to look for the good in the bad but desperate to find a safe haven. When tragedy befalls them, they are forced to look for help, not knowing if the humans they encounter will be friend or foe. Their path leads them to Thoomi (Simone Landers), a clever teen travelling with an infected father who is heartbroken at his condition. What separates Cargo from other films of its kind is its lack of attention on the zombies and its focus on the family bond in catastrophe. Its not that its ghouls are unimpressive, they are about as scary as most the good entries out there. But its that emphasis on family through turmoil that really makes this one stand out.
At home on Shudder
Takashi Miike is known to push the envelope throughout his ultraviolent portfolio, and early in his career he put that on display in Shinjuku Triad Society. I can tell you the story is about a crooked cop (Kippei Shina) obsessed with taking down a gangster (Tomoro Taguchi) and his cronies after they bring the cop's shifty attorney brother into their fold, but the plot is so thinly executed that it really doesn't need explaining. Everything plays second fiddle to shock value in Shinjuku's 110 minutes, and outside of Taguchi giving a fierce turn as the psychotic antagonist, there really isn't anything memorable here , at least anything good to remember. I am no prude when it comes to blood on the screen. But I also need something to hold onto in the middle of all that plasma splashing around and there is absolutely nothing gripping on display here.
With Mike at Northwich Odeon
Gritty and interesting tale about a B-movie sound guy (John Travolta) who witnesses a fatal car crash while out recording ambient sounds at night. When he rescues a woman (Nancy Allen) in the crash and learns that the dead driver was a presidential hopeful, he reviews his recording and starts to think he witnessed a murder. Layer by layer he begins to peel back an intricate plot involving a crooked P.I., a radicalized assassin, and a whole bunch of people who just want the whole debacle to go away. DePalma is heavy on style here, dropping his characters in a shadowy setting where the threat is lurking around the corner in what feels like every scene. Its good stuff until the climax which is a little over the top. But a fun watch nonetheless.
With Kina at home
We are in Iran in the 80s and there is war going on outside with Iraq. A disheartened mother is stuck with her daughter in their apartment as the threat of missile attack looms. This is a pretty good setup by itself but Under the Shadow adds a supernatural wrench to the gumbo where we don't really know whether the mom is the Babadook or something else is going on. Its too bad it took what felt like half my adulthood to get past the setup because once it did, Under the Shadow was an effective ghost story aided by a claustrophobic lens that heightens the intensity. But effective only gets you so far and that paired with such a slow start equals only adequate.
Average rating: 6.5