Movie roundup – April 2021

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I calmed down a lot during the second half of April in terms of how many movies I was watching and didn’t have much time for many as I spent most of my free TV time watching the excellent Netflix documentary Making a Murderer. For completeness, my midpoint roundup is here – April midpoint movie roundup – along with The Bourne movies revisited and my take on Tenet.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) is the obvious headline act in this post because I’m not alone in wanting Snyder to be given the chance to finish what he started and try and fix as best he can the woefully lacklustre theatrical version of Justice League which, if you follow the link, you will find I really didn’t enjoy on any level. I have to say, the weird aspect ratio aside, that Snyder has transformed this movie into something really memorable and worth rewatching. Sure, there’s still some lame dialogue and ropey-looking computer graphics but compared to the original theatrical version it’s like comparing a gold bar to a pile of dog shit. Really. It’s actually a pretty solid film that makes me proud to be a DC fan.

I’ll let other reviewers and fanboys with more time on their hands (Kevin Smith has probably spent more than the 4-hour run time of the Snyder cut reviewing it) wax lyrical about its many good points and just mention 4 key things that I loved:

  1. The extended running time allowed for much better back stories to be provided for Cyborg, Flash and to some extent Aquaman (who I guess wasn’t covered asmuch because Snyder assumed we’d seen Aquaman the movie). All the new scenes with Flash and Cyborg were great and I also liked the fact that a lot of Flash’s lame jokes in the original version were cut in favour of some more endearing scenes.
  2. Steppenwolf’s character was a lot more interesting and his new spiky armour rocked. The fact that he’s just Darkseid’s approval-craving minion is a great addition and provided a more layered story to his motivations for wanting to trash the planet.
  3. The glimpses of a wider DC universe with the additional scenes of Martian Man Hunter, a tease for Atom and the extended alternate-future dream with a truly horrible Marilyn Manson-looking version of the Joker and a bad-guy Superman were really cool and made the whole movie feel darker and more DC – going to places the Marvel movies have never gone in terms of tone.
  4. The final battle where the Justice League finally overcome Steppenwolf is much more cohesive with much more tension baked in. Each member of the League has a role to play and the difference in approaches to the challenges and also the history between the Amazons, the Atlanteans and the invading forces makes for a much more enjoyable viewing experience.

I could keep going, but I’d just be repeating other fans and so I’ll leave it there I think. It’s a really good job of taking a super-bad movie and turning it into something special. Shame it’s so square!

Thunder Force (2021) is a comedy superhero movie starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer as a pair of crime fighting ladies with extreme strength and the power of invisibility. You don’t have to have an alcoholic drink within easy reach to watch this film but I found it helped. It’s good fun, but nothing to get too excited about. It follows the usual buddy movie formula where one of the duo annoys the other to the point where they have a big falling out by the end of Act 2 only to make up and beat the bad guys by the end of the film.

Three Identical Strangers (2018) is a rather more interesting movie – a documentary – about three brothers who were given up for adoption and found each other later in life, and for a while became celebrities – to the point of appearing in a brief New York street scene behind Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan.

But this isn’t just a story of siblings reunited, it’s an expose on a very unethical study performed by scientists with the help of a leading adoption agency to test the nature-nurture theory of child development. They did this by purposely splitting the boys up (and several other sets of twins/triplets) and putting them in different homes of varying social standing and then studying how the differing approaches to parenting affected their mental health. I had read about similar, frankly Nazi sounding studies, in fiction – I think the new books in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series have this as a back story for Lisbeth Salander and her estranged sister.

Winter’s Bone (2010) stars Jennifer Lawrence in her breakout performance as a young woman trying to protect her hillbilly family from the trouble her criminal father has landed them in. It’s a low-budget indie film for which writer/director Debra Granik was nominated for Academy Award for best adapted screenplay based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell (nope me neither), but I have to suggest it might have been a slow year at the Oscars that year, because I didn’t think it was all that to be honest.

Lawrence is really good and has an interesting collection of knitted hats, but the story is rather slow and I found a lot of the passive-aggressive characters to be rather stereotypical – playing banjos, hunting for varmints and cooking up crystal meth on the side.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009) is a Kevin James comedy vehicle which is even more ludicrous than Thunder Force and has been ignored for years on my Netflix watch list. But you know, some days you just want some stupid in your life to cheer you up. It doesn’t try to be anything other than a funny story about a fat guy with some moves who didn’t quite make it through police academy who devotes himself to being the best security guard he can be.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) is an old back and white film by Alfred Hitchcock based on a story ‘The Wheel Spins’ by Ethel Lina White (yeah, again never heard of her). There was a digitally restored version of the movie on Amazon Video and being interested in Hitchcock’s movies old and ‘new’ I gave it a look.

I think the main thing to note is how funny this film is with Michael Redgrave playing an absolute blinder as Gilbert Redman alongside Margaret Lockwood who plays the damsel in distress after a curious old lady she was talking to on a train journey disappears. To make matters worse the lady is replaced by an imposter and it feels like everyone on the train is in on some kind of conspiracy to cover up the titular lady’s abduction. It’s great stuff.

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