I stumbled upon this film randomly, but it makes for a really good short watch (I believe it’s less than ten minutes!). It kind of follows a similar format to the Before Trilogy, with two people walking around and talking the entire time. This one centres around two friends, Jay and Alex, as they discuss the ins and outs of sexuality and how they know for sure that they’re heterosexual. They go back and forth on the matter, open-minded and bantering. I think the film could’ve used just a few more minutes of dialogue and maybe a few more topics and twists, but it works well as is. Definitely worth a watch!
I feel like there are so many films, books and shows that I wanted to review this year that I haven’t got around to for some reason or other. (Re: laziness). Oh well! I’m listing some of the ones I can remember below (and I’m sure there’s still others I’ve forgotten).
Shows: Summertime was a great show, for anyone looking for a warm and sunny show with cute romances. Set in Italy, diverse cast/rep. Curon is another good Italian show! I haven’t finished it, but the start is super strong. The Last Kingdom is soooooo amazing. I don’t know why I haven’t written up a review for this epic beauty, but it totally deserves one. Another Life is a great sci-fi adventure, with lots of diversity/rep and a solid plot. Got sci-fi queen Katee Sackhoff in it, too. Score! The Mandalorian is so absolutely brilliant, my Star Wars heart is a flutter. The Mess You Leave Behind is a fantastic Spanish murder mystery show. If you loved Élite, you’ll love this one. And Arón Piper is in it! Mismatched is the Hindi adaptation of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. I bought the book a while back and haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m definitely moving it up my list! This is a super cute romantic comedy series set in Jaipur and I can’t wait to finish it. The Great was fun as well, and I really liked the cast. I also just started Bridgerton, which I’m enjoying!
Films: The new Little Women was super cute. I didn’t love it quite as much as the Winona Ryder version, but the cast is fantastic, and I liked some of the changes. I think this one would have been great as a miniseries, actually. Spending more time exploring the romance and building up to the end would have been good, I reckon, as that seemed more the focus in this version, whereas the 1990s version was more focused on the growing up aspect, I felt. I caught up on most of the Marvel movies this year and really liked some of the latest ones. The new Spiderman is great, and I’m excited for Natalie Portman’s return to Thor in the next one. I’m also intrigued by the shows coming to Disney+! I really like the idea of WandaVision. I liked Solo, the Han Solo standalone for Star Wars. All the standalones have been pretty good, actually. Happiest Season is a new Christmas film with Kristen Stewart, I have a lot of thoughts on it. Did anyone else see this one? I also can’t even begin to review Hotel Mumbai, which was a truly heart-shattering watch and the actors were amazing in their roles. I think, rather than writing a review, this look at the true story behind the film is worth a read.
Books: I write a lot of mini reviews on Goodreads that I don’t bother linking here. But my page is here, for anyone curious. All of the nonfiction books I’ve picked up this year deserve their own review. Guns, an essay by Stephen King, was very poignant and thoughtful. But having the time, or even figuring out how to describe them is so hard sometimes on top of studying. Some recommendations for anyone looking to delve into more non-fiction: The Korean War at Sixty: New Approaches to the Study of the Korean War; A Violent Peace: Race, U.S. Militarism, and Cultures of Democratization in Cold War Asia and the Pacific; Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War; Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations; Framed by War: Korean Children and Women at the Crossroads of Us Empire; Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World; Name, Rank, and Serial Number: Exploiting Korean War POWs at Home and Abroad.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Spiderman franchise. I grew up with animated Spiderman and Toby Maguire Spiderman, and I enjoyed Andrew Garfield’s version, too. I really, really adore the new versions, though. Tom Holland suits Peter Parker best, I think, and I love what they’ve done with Peter’s relationship with Tony Stark. The father/son dynamic that they have/had going is lovely to behold. I also love the new Aunt May and the new MJ. Something about the new films just feels lighter than the other versions – and more believable as high school? I adore the other versions, but none of the actors looked young enough to be a sixteen year old Peter Parker.
This latest one takes place after Infinity War/Endgame, all of which I saw way after the fact. I actually prefer that, though. Seeing them once the hype dies down makes them much more enjoyable as you aren’t going in with far too much expectation. This one follows Peter, MJ and Ned on their class trip to Europe a few months after everyone has returned to life as normal as possible post-Avengers. Happy’s now dating May, while Nick Fury is trying to regain control of the situation in general (i.e. how to fill the Tony Stark shaped hole in everyone’s lives).
It’s on the class trip that shenanigans strike, and with them comes Mysterio, and Peter is once more dragged into the thick of things – all the while trying to profess his feelings to MJ. Poor Peter!
I thought Tom Holland was as brilliant as ever in this. You can see from the start how heavy a loss it is for Peter not to have Tony around and I seriously wish we could’ve had another movie of just them bantering. ;_;
I really liked that this film wasn’t as grand scale, for want of a better phrase, as the previous ones. Honestly, what I loved so much about Antman (2015) was how the final showdown took place on a boardgame and I liked how this one was just focusing on Peter learning how to move on with his life, struggling with confessing to MJ, his friendships with Ned and Happy, and just generally more day-to-day goings-on in the life of the Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman. The focus on a smaller scale, more friends-and-family-drama was a welcome addition to the franchise and brought all the FEELS.
One of my first memories is of The Nutcracker and hearing those familiar chords. I come from a household obsessed with ballet, so of course. I love the music so much; the dances are enchanting; and I’m a sucker for anything festive and snowy. I’m not Christian, but I do adore holiday films. (Let it be said that we need more Jewish holiday films!) But I digress … Also, my love of The Nutcracker is only slightly trumped by my love of Keira Knightley, so of course I wanted to watch The Nutcracker and the Four Realms – she’s the Sugar Plum Fairy!! Sign. Me. Up.
This version follows young Clara after her mother’s died and has left her an egg, but it’s locked and Clara doesn’t know what’s inside. Additionally, she and her father are at odds over her refusal to engage with daily life, but Clara’s too sad to do more than invent things in the attic with her brother. Only her sister’s suggestion that their godfather might be able to open the egg convinces her at last to join her family at the dance. There, her godfather conspires to give her the key to the egg through a gift-treasure-hunt that leads Clara from the ball into the Four Realms, a magical place where holiday toys come alive. There she meets a whole host of colourful, vibrant characters who reveal to her that her mother was once queen.
This movie is so lovely and Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy is perfection. I do feel like it went a bit too much into the ‘we need to make this an epic action/adventure film just because’ territory, when I just wanted it to be more ballet and wonder, but it was good fun overall and definitely worth a watch over the holidays!
I have watched so many good movies lately and they all deserve lengthy reviews, but I’m going to keep these short and sweet for now!
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is honestly fantastically well done. It recounts the court hearing of seven (eight) activists – Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner and John Froines – charged with starting a riot in Chicago to protest the Vietnam War, and another – Bobby Seale – who wasn’t in the area but is dragged into the court room regardless. If you’ve studied the Vietnam War protests and the Civil Rights and counter culture movements, then this is definitely up your alley. It’s also a harrowing depiction of the brutality and racism so many faced simply for existing. It’s directed by Aaron Sorkin and definitely has his signature take and will grip your heart and not let go.
Ready Player One was so, so brilliant. Knowing Steven Spielberg directed it was what pushed me to give it a go as I wasn’t quite sold on the premise by itself. I’m not a gamer or into virtual reality, so the prospect of a dystopian future where VR is the only good thing wasn’t quite what I had in mind. But I gave it a go and I’m delighted that I did! The visuals are amazing, the Easter eggs and throwbacks to retro games, 80s music and classic movies were super cool. It felt like a love letter to pop culture wrapped up in a dystopian adventure and I enjoyed every second. In fact, I liked it so much that I watched it twice in a row: once alone and then again with my partner after work because I knew it would be in his lane. And he adored it, so win!
About Time was such a lovely rewatch! I saw it a few years ago but I wanted to show it to my partner because I think the message of the film is genuine and sincere and wholesome. It’s a movie to watch when you need uplifting, yanno? It follows a family where the first born sons have the ability to travel through time. Tim, the main character, at first tries to use the power to fix his love life, but quickly learns that even with time travel, things aren’t that simple. The focus of this story is characters, their relationships and on the importance of appreciating every moment of life. The fantasy/science fiction aspect takes a backseat and is never explained beyond we can time travel, but it works very well and it’s a movie I can see myself rewatching a lot because it’s just so darn lovely.
The Aeronauts was absolutely fantastic. It’s inspired by real events, so it’s not a direct take on history. Basically, the film follows real life meteorologist James Glaisher and fictional pilot Amelia Wren (Amelia Rennes is also used in the film, perhaps because her surname is Anglicised from her French husband’s? Not sure, not explained). Anyways, Amelia Wren is a composite character based on a few real life female aviators: Sophie Blanchard and Margaret Graham. Her husband is partially inspired by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Thomas Harris. James and Amelia and the events the characters go through in the film are used to really cover the era, and I like what the director’s trying to do. It’s important to note that James’ real life historical partner, Henry Coxwell, isn’t included, and I understand the criticism of omitting his role in James’ flight, but the director’s reasoning of wanting to represent the female aviators of the time makes sense. It’s not meant to be a documentary, it’s an inspirational film based in history, so just go into that knowing the divergence. James is real, Amelia is fictional, but the end result is wonderful.
In the film, two years after Amelia’s husband Pierre falls to his death from a hot air balloon, she’s coaxed back into the skies by James, a scientist determined to prove that you can predict weather (he’s the father of weather forecasting, basically), but he’s been laughed out of the Royal Society in London for his ideas, which many claim are far-fetched and based in fantasy. He and Amelia agree to try and outdo the French record of reaching 23,000 feet while taking readings as they go up, in an effort to help James understand weather patterns. The intensity of the flight cannot be overstated and I gasped throughout the entirety of it, but it was brilliantly done. Absolutely fantastic movie! I’d love to see a documentary on the era and James Glaisher’s real life flight with Thomas Coxwell if anyone knows of any docs? Also, any docs on female aviators, please send my way!
Jupiter Ascending was definitely unexpected but I’m glad I finally watched it! I never got into The Matrix (much to everyone’s horror, I know) but I absolutely adored Sense8, so I figured I would give this one a go (same directors). I don’t know if I loved it as much as I wanted to (and considering how much I adore Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean as actors), but there was definitely a lot to like. Visually it was gorgeous and I thought the plot was fascinating. The idea of other creatures engineering the start of Earth, mass civilisations out there in the galaxy, all very cool. If you’re a fan of space opera, this one is well worth a go!
There are few aesthetics that I like more than steampunk. Futuristic tech with old-timey designs and styles? Sign me up! So it follows that I’d love Mortal Engines, but I didn’t realise how much I would love it. I’ve had the book for a while but haven’t got around to reading it yet, so I didn’t really know what the film was about besides moving cities.
The storyline follows Hester Shaw, an orphan in a world far in the future after war and massive technology have ravaged the land, leaving only predator cities and at risk stationary settlements. One powerful city, London, consumes smaller cities, stripping them for parts and stealing from the citizens. The opening scene is London chasing Salzhaken, a tiny city with salt stores. When the inhabitants are shepherded into London and their things are taken from them, Hester slips through with her blade and stabs the city’s leading archaeologist and deputy mayor, Thaddeus Valentine. Hester escapes and Tom, an admirer of Valentine’s, chases after her. She tries to jump off the city and he grabs her. She tells him that Valentine killed her mother before yanking free and falling. Seconds later, Valentine pushes Tom off the side of the city for having heard the secret. He tells his daughter, Tom’s friend Kate, that he fell to his death.
On the ground, stuck in the great tyre treads of London, Hester picks Tom’s pockets and sets off, furious at having failed to kill Valentine. Tom follows, unable to shut up and now doubting everything he’s ever known. The two are found by scavengers who bring them to a slave market where they’re subsequently rescued by Anna Fang, the most notorious assassin on the continent. Let me just say that Anna Fang is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. She has the most gorgeous plane, for starters. It looks more like a badass flying lantern. She’s also proficient in all weaponry and fights for the Anti-Traction League, a group against the predator cities.
The trio are chased by a new enemy, Shrike, a ‘Stalker’ who is more machine than man, and who is obsessed with killing Hester for ‘breaking her promise’. It’s revealed by Hester that Shrike raised her after he found her near death and saw her as his child. Shrike doesn’t have a heart, but remnants of his past life as a human bleed through and there is genuine affection there. We also learn that Shrike found Hester days after her mother Pandora was killed by Valentine after she discovered an ancient piece of technology that he wanted to control. I really, really enjoyed the Shrike storyline. It’s utterly distressing but in a very well written way, and Hester’s relationship with him was a poignant background story.
Back on London, Kate befriends Bevis, an Irish mechanic who witnessed Valentine shoving Tom off London and agrees to help her find out what her father is up to. I appreciated how quickly everyone got on the same page. There was no wishy-washiness about the characters, no bargaining or bullshit. The characters adapted to situations quickly and maturely, and Kate and Bevis as a pair are just as dynamic as Hester and Tom.
Everything comes to a head at Shan Guo, the great wall barrier that protects settler cities from predator cities. The final show down was fast paced and cathartic: Tom gets to test his flying skills, Hester has her showdown with Valentine, Kate plays an essential role, as does Anna. For everyone who has ever wanted a movie that doesn’t sideline its female characters, this one’s for you!
It must also be said that I loved everyone’s outfits in this movie: Hester’s outfit, Anna’s outfit, Tom’s outfit – it’s a steampunk DREAM, lads. Truly, truly stunning. The design of the cities was gorgeous and inspired. The shout-outs to history and culture had me in awe, too. There were a lot of great current analogies and throw away lines that were brilliant.
The ending was great, too. I honestly loved every aspect of this movie and thoroughly, thoroughly recommend it. ♡
For some reason, I’ve always thought I’d seen the whole Addams Family movie from the 90s, but watching it this Hallowe’en, I found that I didn’t remember any of it! Oh my gosh, though, it’s cracking good fun. I’d stick it up there in the same category of Beetlejuice (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1993). Fun, crazy, spooky goodness. (I also have a post about horror-comedy here.)
The films follow Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandmama, Lurch, Thing, Cousin Itt and Margaret, members of the gothic, macabre Addams family. The film is based on the 1930s comic by Charles Addams. The family delight in all things death, darkness, despair and woe. But they’re a very, very loving family who care about each other’s happiness.
What I love about the storylines is just how whacky and fun they are. I like movies that aren’t afraid to be crazy or over the top or goofy. This is goofy with a side of goth wrapped in a wholesome, if macabre, family that loves each other.
The second one had me laughing just as much. Where the first film follows the storyline of Whatever happened to Fester Addams? which is neatly wrapped up at the end, the second film centres around the arrival of a nanny who sends the elder children off to summer camp so that they can’t uncover her plans to marry Fester and steal his fortune. As she woos Fester, with Gomez and Morticia playing matchmakers, Wednesday and Pugsley are forced to endure a militantly perky camp that refuses to allow anyone to deviate from what they perceive as enforceable fun. Wednesday, of course, revolts:
Honestly, the 90s were such a good era of kids movies and these are two gems. Also, I loved seeing so many actors that I recognise outside of the central characters. My partner and I kept going, ‘Wait, they’re in it, too?!’ So, awesome cameos are a plus. But honestly, for two films centred around a family obsessed with death, these movies are quiet uplifting and lighthearted.
Heart-punching horror is a hard one to watch. Especially when so much of it is grounded in real events. And so begins His House, a horror film set in modern England that follows a couple from South Sudan, Bol (Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), who have just gained a house and some small amount of freedom outside of the detention centre for refugees. They’re to get less than £80 a week (total), are not allowed to work to supplement this income, are not allowed to have parties or even have candles in their home. And the home they are given, even before you realise that it’s haunted, is filled with bugs, rubbish and the door is not even hanging in there.
The treatment of refugees is front and centre in this film and is utterly depressing and haunting. One of the rare nice moments happens when a local member of a church gives Bol a box of food and supplies, but few of their neighbours are kind and welcoming. And, very quickly, the problems with the house multiply and the unexplained horrors add to the couple’s already tough predicament.
This is a very important commentary about the hurdles and discrimination refugees face wrapped up in a horror story that focuses as much on the reality of immigration as on the paranormal.
Ah, a classic horror at this point. I feel like everyone of my generation saw this one growing up. It’s definitely one of the most memorable and has some big names: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Seann William Scott, etc.
The film follows a group teens after they manage to cheat death. It all starts when the group are getting ready to head to Paris for a school trip. Alex, the leader character, has a horrible nightmare where everyone dies and after freaking out, is escorted off the plane. A few other students are taken off with him and are forced to stay behind, along with one of their teachers. Turns out, Alex was completely right. And no one is comfortable with the implication.
Carter, who has a chip on his shoulder about Alex’s entire existence, it seems, blames him for getting them into trouble and for having the dream and then for being right. Carter even confronts him later at the funeral. Some students, like Billy, are convinced Alex is psychic and ask him questions about the future. The teacher, too, is freaked out by his vision and is cruel to Alex for having the premonition. Slowly, though, the survivors realise that they aren’t safe and didn’t escape.
Overall, this is a film that will make you walk on egg shells for the rest of your life and, as a result, it makes for a solid horror movie. Everything will make you jump and start after you watch this!
Did anyone else watch this growing up? Favourite childhood spooky movie?
I’m a huge fan of Southern Gothic as a genre, although I actually only learned today that the name for the genre started out as an insult. Ellen Glasgow was criticising Erskine Caldwell and William Faulkner and labelled them as ‘Southern Gothic’ and the name stuck. This was in 1935. But I really like the tone of Southern Gothic literature and cinema. True Blood (2008) and The Gift (2000) are the first things that usually spring to mind when I think of the genre, although I feel like Justified (2010) has some Southern Gothic vibes. If there’s such a thing as Modern Western Gothic, I’d put Justified in that category!
Continuing on with my October horror movie marathon, I picked up The Skeleton Key. The film follows a hospice nurse who quits her job because she finds that not enough people care about the patients, and takes a month-long job in the bayou at an old plantation house, caring for the ailing owner. She’s brought in by the estate agent, much to the wife’s frustration, but decides to stick it out.
Things are instantly eventful. There are no mirrors in the house, leading to a sense of foreboding, and the old man seems to be trying to communicate with Caroline, the nurse. As time goes on, more and more strange things start to happen. And then Violet, the wife, tells Caroline about the house’s history and the horrible things done by the previous owners.
You can see where this is going.
I’m not sure that angle really worked for me. It just made me really sad. Plantations hold devastating histories and having that incorporated into the storyline left me gloomy. I did think the actors did a good job, and I certainly didn’t see the ending coming, but overall this movie wasn’t for me.