Reel Life #1: Tully, Chimes at Midnight, The Hidden Fortress, and Vertigo

Anyone who has followed my site this year will know that I began doing monthly updates at the end of each one. Partially inspired by the various blog tags I’ve been doing, I ended up talking about films I had been watching during these updates – first starting with ones I saw in theaters before expanding that to ones I watched at home as well. I enjoyed regaling readers with stories of what I’ve been watching, but I eventually realized that cramming them all into the monthly updates made for an unfocused post. Therefore, I decided to start yet another new feature on this site that I will call Reel Life. Here, I will talk about the films I’ve seen. I can’t say I’m as good at parsing films as I am games, so this is less of a set of formal reviews and more of me talking about whatever happened to catch my interest during the past week. Once I’ve finished with my piece, I’ll say whether or not I can recommend the film in question or if I have mixed feelings about it.

Hope you find something worth watching!

Tully by Jason Reitman (2018)

This is a film about a struggling mother of two named Marlo with a third on the way is the fourth collaboration between director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, following Juno, Jennifer’s Body, and Young Adult. Eventually, the pressure of motherhood, which includes taking care of a son who may or may not have a learning disability, proves to be too much for the protagonist, who then proceeds to hire a night nanny – the title character, Tully. Tully is young, exuberant, and delighted at the prospect of having kids of her own one day. It may seem like the natural foil to the more jaded Marlo, but it works really well in this film. I enjoyed it for not being afraid to portray motherhood as something other than overly idyllic. Some critics said it was a cynical portrayal, but I don’t think that’s the term I would use. Whatever it was, it was masterfully executed and worth a watch. |Also, I never thought I’d say “go into this film as blind as possible” for one such as this, but that is very much the case with Tully.|

Rating: 7/10

Chimes at Midnight by Orson Welles (1965)

Sir John Falstaff was always a popular character in Shakespeare’s historical play, Henry IV, so Orson Welles creating a film in which he is the main character was an excellent idea. |It makes Hal’s rejection of him all the more heartbreaking.| Considering Citizen Kane is the only film of his most people can name, I find it interesting how Mr. Welles considered this his favorite work alongside The Trial. While I can’t say I enjoyed this film as much as Citizen Kane, I do think it is worthy of its following over the years among hardcore film fans. Boasting one of the greatest war scenes in cinematic history, I’d say it’s worth celebrating its newfound availability on home media after spending decades in limbo by giving it a watch – especially if you’re a Shakespeare fan.

Rating: 6/10

The Hidden Fortress by Akira Kurosawa (1957)

The Hidden Fortress is a bit unconventional compared to most of Akira Kurosawa’s fare. This is because rather than telling it from the perspective of the hero, the film follows the exploits of two bickering farmers, Tahei and Matashichi, for the first twenty minutes or so. They find themselves in the midst of an armed conflict between the Akizuki and Yamana clans. After finding gold in a river, the two intend to travel to Hayakawa where they will be set for life. Along the way, they find themselves in the company of a general from the defeated Akizuki clan and its princess. Though their motives differ, they all share a common goal in reaching Hayakawa. In the West, this film is best known for inspiring George Lucas when creating the original Star Wars, for C-3PO and R2-D2 are very loosely based off of Tahei and Matashichi. I was going into this film thinking it would have a similar plot when that ended up not being the case. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter because what I got was a great adventure film that ranks as one of Kurosawa’s finest efforts.

Rating: 8/10

Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock (1958)

James Stewart is John “Scottie” Ferguson, an ex-detective with crippling acrophobia hired by college acquaintance Gavin Elster to investigate the strange behavior of his wife, Madeleine. What ultimately spurred me into watching Vertigo was when it was voted the greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound magazine. It notably dethroned Citizen Kane for the title. What do I think of it? In all honesty, it’s not a film I would’ve chosen for such a task. In a strange way, the film reminds me a lot of Ken Levine’s games in that it has a legitimately amazing twist, yet seems to have trouble deciding what to follow up with it. |It’s revealed that Gavin exploited Scottie as part of an elaborate scheme to murder his own wife. This involved hiring a lookalike, and when Scottie confronts her about this, she falls to her death just like Gavin’s wife. From there, the film just kind of stops; Gavin is never even seen again after the deception is revealed to the audience.| Critics may consider it an all-time classic, but I personally don’t think it rises above the level of being merely sort of neat.

Rating: 5/10

11 thoughts on “Reel Life #1: Tully, Chimes at Midnight, The Hidden Fortress, and Vertigo

    • I can see the fact that it follows those two bumbling farmers losing somebody, but I was able to enjoy it regardless. That said, I do have to admit it’s probably my least favorite Kurosawa film between the three I’ve seen (the other ones I’ve seen being Rashomon and High and Low). It’s still good, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Of the four Hitchcock films I’ve seen (Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, and Rear Window), Vertigo was actually my least favorite by some margin. Not bad by any means, but why that one gets “best movie ever” levels of praise over the others is beyond me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, good. I’m glad it wasn’t just me who thought Vertigo was rather underwhelming. I have no clue how Sight & Sound believed it could dethrone Citizen Kane. I think they were just sick of Citizen Kane always winning and wanted another critically acclaimed film to win instead but didn’t actually put much thought into why Vertigo should win.

      On the plus side, I did obtain the Alfred Hitchcock Collection recently; I intend to check out Shadow of a Doubt next.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting selection! I haven’t watched much Hitchcock (and really, only Psycho was in recent memory)nbut I’ve been looking into checking out more. Maybe I’ll save Vertigo for a little later, once I’ve seen some others. If you have any recommendations, I’d be interested to hear!

    Tully sounds up my alley, too, but I’ve never heard of it before this so thanks for putting it on my radar. 🙂


    • Admittedly, Vertigo is the only film of his I’ve seen so far. For all of the praise it has received over the years, I was expecting something with a little more impact than that. As it stands, there are way better films that don’t get nearly as much praise. I’ve been thinking about trying Shadow of a Doubt next; apparently, that was his personal favorite.

      And I hope you end up enjoying Tully; I know I did.


    • Indeed, it’s that kind of disconnect that spurred me into becoming a critic myself.

      Cinema as a medium is old enough that I think we’re to the point where critics can declare something the greatest of all time due to being pressured by their predecessors. That is, they claim something like Vertigo is the greatest of all time less because it is and more because critics have just been saying it for so long that newer generations of critics assume that it must be true rather than thinking for themselves. Funnily enough, that’s what I assumed would be the case with Citizen Kane, but nope – turns out it really is just that good. It may not be my absolute favorite, but it has held up remarkably well.

      In their defense, I will say that in reading these kinds of lists, I have yet to watch something outright bad (or even mediocre); that’s *way* more than what could be said of video game critics or film/television critics tasked with analyzing modern works. The only other critical darling I didn’t really care for so far was Sunset Boulevard, and like Vertigo, I don’t really think it’s bad – just undeserving of such unanimous praise.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: May 2018 in Summary: Extra Life is Now Four Years Old! | Extra Life

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