Movies of the Week #14-19 (2021)

Another Round (2020): I shied away from watching Thomas Vinterberg’s Academy Award nominated movie because of it’s predictably…sobering subject matter – “Four friends, all high school teachers, test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood.”. As expected, the “experiment” creates more problems than it solves, but the movie stands out as a viscerally relatable tale on men, their mid life crises and their inability to openly discuss their feelings. Vinterberg succeeds in expressing the great paradox of alcohol – the anxieties it shackles, the disfunction it conceals – but it feels to generous to really stick the landing. 7

The Secret Garden (1993): I always find „mature” children’s movies a rarity – and when they work (e.g. Where the Wild Things Are), they can be pretty special. Maggie Smith is most probably the only actor you’ve heard of from those starring in Agnieszka Holland’s Secret Garden, but, thankfully, the performances of the child actors are convincing enough to not hamper the movie. It takes a while to get going, with a slow build up to an emotional finale, in a story about the limits we impose on ourselves and the life-affirming energy that children can infuse into any situation. You’ll find it on Netflix, alongside a 2020 readaptation, which appears to have been unsuccessful. 7

The Mortuary Collection (2019): In this old school movie, a mortician tells various tales of grisly and otherworldly deaths to a young applicant desiring to fill a vacant position. Naturally, things aren’t as they seem. The anthology stories are unusually consistent, quirky and disturbing in a PG-13 way, with R rated visuals. It’s all a pleasant viewing experience thanks to Ryan Spindell’s directing work, as he captures a very specific nostalgic feel of horror tales that defined the 80s and 90s. 7

Stowaway (2021): You never know what you’re going to get with a Netflix production – is it going to be a conceptual piece of filmmaking that the target audience doesn’t enjoy, or will it be a generic, star-powered romp? This one’s more of the former, an un-extravagant problem-solving story in space, set in the near future, as a small crew set to travel to Mars finds a stowaway in their (now damaged) ship. The arising problems pose some life-or-death questions which, in turn, are pretty good at framing the bigger question of who we want to be in the face of adversity – not too distant an allegory from what we’re faced with at the moment around the world. Add to that the fact that the movie looks really good and you should be able to enjoy it for what it is, in spite of the bad reviews it’s getting for not explaining its central premise. 7

The Courier (2021): Doing funny business in the USSR during the 60s was bound to be a dangerous endeavour and Dominic Cooke’s movie makes sure that you feel what’s at stake. Just around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the boiling point of the Cold War, a Russian official named Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) was trying to defect and the US/UK governments decided to use the cover of a British business man, Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), to gather information from Penkovsky, while preparing his extraction. Both Cumberbatch and Ninidze offer committed performances, in a movie that unfortunately feels a rote spy-affair – but this is coming from someone who never enjoyed spy tales. Still an ok watch, which you might get more out of if it tickles your fancy. 6