Film Review: #Alive / #살아있다 (2020)

Because who doesn’t turn on a zombie movie first thing in the morning before you’ve properly finished your coffee?

Oh my gosh, this film was actually great! I’m very picky when it comes to zombie films/shows, as so many are so cliché, but I quite liked this one. It’s fast paced, straight forward and felt almost like an indie movie with the focus being on only two characters and their day to day lives, only there’s zombies outside. Actually, it’s quite a lot like 28 Days Later.

The plot follows Oh Joon-woo, a gamer and streamer, who wakes up one day to find that the zombie apocalypse has started and he’s trapped inside his apartment. Over the next few days, Joon-woo tries to contact his family, the outside, anyone, but there’s no responses and the signal dies fairly quickly, although the news continues on the television for a while. The uses/drawbacks of modern tech are touched on. The drone is helpful, having nothing with an antenna is not, etc. I liked that aspect.

Across the apartment complex is Kim Yoo-bin. The pair start to communicate by holding up messages to each other and eventually string a rope between their apartments to send food and walkie-talkies. But you can only stay inside for so long in a zombie apocalypse and soon the pair are faced with what to do next …

If you like zombie movies, or character driven action films, definitely check this one out! I loved the two main characters and the ending was very satisfactory.

Film Review: Venom (2018)

I wanted a movie that was going to cheer me up and I’m so glad I picked Venom. It’s honestly the funniest movie I’ve seen in a while and probably one of the best superhero movies I’ve ever seen. I only realised after I watched it that it didn’t get great reviews – well, SILLINESS. IGNORE THE BAD REVIEWS, THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME SAUCE AND A KETTLE OF FUN. Tom Hardy is good in literally everything (Virgin Queen, Peaky Blinders, The Dark Knight Rises, etc.) but as I don’t keep up with movies at all, I had no idea Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed were in it too! Great casting, great movie.

The film follows Eddie, a reporter who wants to hold bad guys accountable for their crimes and doesn’t hold back on his opinions of their awfulness. Unfortunately, being a good reporter and a good person doesn’t sit well with his bootlicker boss, and Eddie gets fired when he goes after a corrupt scientist, Carlton Drake, and asks him about the cover-ups of his company. To Eddie’s horror, the move also gets his fiancée Anne fired, too. Furious, Anne breaks up with him, and in one day Eddie loses his job, his love, his apartment and his cat. Poor, poor Eddie. 😥

Drake’s experiments continue when his company uncovers an alien ‘symbiote’ and tries to match it with various human hosts. Horrified by his methods, one of his scientists seeks out Eddie to expose the truth. Unfortunately, everything goes wrong, and the symbiote gets inside Eddie.

Cue, DRAMA AND ACTION.

Venom, the alien symbiote, is hilarious. (And he takes deep personal offence to being called a ‘parasite’ FYI.) He and Eddie are basically a sarcastic duo fused together. Like if Jekyll and Hyde could talk to each other and liked each other, but were constantly duking it out. I giggled throughout their ensuing escapades, fending off bad guys and trying to sort out their shenanigans of being stuck together. Eddie tries to keep Venom good, Venom struggles with listening, but he likes Eddie and comes around to the idea of fighting for the good side. Plus, Venom’s commentary of how awesome Eddie’s ex is, is so funny.

10/10, totes recommend, ignore the bad reviews, this movie is a m a z i n g.

Film Review: Cellular (2004)

I remember watching Cellular waaaaaaaaaay back when it first came out. I think I was like eleven or something at the time. It’s been a while! But I do remember liking it, and when it popped up on my Netflix, I decided to rewatch it. And you know? It’s a pretty decent action movie and the actors really make it fun. It’s got Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, William H. Macy and Jason Statham.

The film definitely couldn’t have been done today (like Phone Booth, anyone remember that one? Also written by the same guy, as it happens) as there’s a lot of old tech glitches that are long since avoidable – like being on the phone and getting your lines crossed with someone else in a car nearby. Ahhh, the old days of mobile phones!

The plot is fairly straight forward: a woman, Jessica, is kidnapped and manages to use a broken rotary phone to dial an unknown number. The guy on the other end, Ryan, picks up, she asks him for help. Ryan at first thinks she’s joking, but he’s convinced to go to the police station where he encounters Mooney, a cop ready to retire and start his day spa with his wife. Mooney directs Ryan upstairs, but at the same time, Jessica learns that the kidnappers are going after her son. With few choices and no way of calling Jessica back if the signal dies, Ryan decides to get her son first. And so begins the chase!

Chris Evans is great in this, and I really liked William H. Macy’s comedy. Kim Basinger is a badass, too! Honestly, the whole cast are great. For a good action film, I totally suggest this one.

Film Review: The Old Guard (2020)

Give me diverse superheroes, she begged; give me gay superheroes, she pleaded. AND THE OLD GUARD DELIVERED ‘EM IN SPADES. AW, YUUUUUUUUUS. Firstly, what a cast: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo and Chiwetel Ejiofor. So you already know it’s going to be amazing. AND IT IS.

I didn’t have much context for The Old Guard before starting it. I only found out it was based on a graphic novel when the credits rolled. So that’s really cool. I’m definitely curious about the novel now. But the film is top notch.

The Old Guard is about four ‘immortals’ who, largely, can’t be killed. But there’s a limit to it. At some point, their time is up. But the years have left them jaded and lonely. Their families have long passed and they can’t get close to anyone outside of their group because it always ends in bitterness and tears and blame. Amongst the group are Andromache of Scythia, nicknamed Andy, centuries old and hardened with cynicism; Sebastian Le Livre, known as Booker, who once served under Napoleon; Yusuf Al-Kaysani, known as Joe, who served in the Crusades; and Niccolò di Genova, known as Nicky, an Italian Crusader from the same time. Joe and Nicky were enemies during the Crusades but are now partners and their romance is the absolute best. Let me just share this with ye:

He’s not my boyfriend. This man is more to me than you can dream. He’s the moon when I’m lost in darkness and warmth when I shiver in cold and his kiss still thrills me, even after a millennia. His heart overflows with the kindness of which this world is not worthy of. I love this man beyond measure and reason. He’s not my boyfriend. He’s all and he’s more.

(Watch the scene here.)

Give me a movie of just Joe and Nicky, please and thank you! Joe and Nicky talking about how they met in the Crusades was great and we need more of them. Perfect, fabulous super boyfriends. A+ ADDITION TO THE GENRE, LADS.

After Andy, Booker, Joe and Nicky are set up, they take up a revenge mission against Copley, the man who betrayed them. Halfway there, however, they share a dream about Nile, a Marine who’s just like them. Not wanting to abandon one of their own, Andy goes for Nile while the other three head on to find Copley and his benefactor.

So much about this movie hit me harder than I expected. It isn’t a happy superhero film by any means. The focus is heavy on the price of immortality and all the downsides. Booker’s backstory was especially sad and I really felt for him. I’m also interested in more on the relationship between Andy and Quynh, so I’m desperate for a second film where that’s explored. Quynh is an immortal from before the events of the movie, so you only get snippets of where she went and why, and I want more! That whole storyline messed me up. Honestly, every character was fascinating and there isn’t a moment of the film where you’re not desperate to find out more.

For anyone else who’s been waiting years for an inclusive superhero film, get on this one asap!

Film Review: Krampus (2015)

I love comedy-horror and for some reason, in the middle of July, I decided to watch Krampus. At eight am, on a Sunday morning. Because sure, why ever not?

Krampus follows the Engel family on Christmas Eve when their relatives come over for holiday dinner. (The rudeness of the guests sparked a long discussion with my partner about how silly it is to subject yourself to a rotten holiday, but I digress.) My heart broke for little Max, who desperately wants to believe in Santa Claus and who writes a letter to the North Pole, wishing for good things for his family. His cousins find the letter and ridicule him at the dinner table. That no one stepped in really, really annoyed me. Only his sister came to his aid.

Terribly upset, Max rips up his letter to Santa and throws it out the window. Cue the dark and stormy night~

The next morning, a blizzard has struck the neighbourhood, the electricity is out and everyone’s trapped inside. When Beth, Max’s older sister, goes out to check on her boyfriend, the horror really sets in. And so begins a gruesome Christmas where the family must work together to survive Krampus and his gingerbread men and deadly demon toys. The gingerbread men were definitely a highlight! Think Shrek but make it Chucky.

The casting of this one was absolutely on point. Adam Scott and Toni Collette lead the film and are as wonderful as always. I feel like Adam Scott should do more horror-comedy. (He was great in Little Evil, too!) Emjay Anthony did a brilliant job as young Max, and Allison Tolman and David Koechner made a great duo even if the characters could be frustrating.

If you love comedy-horror, definitely check this one out! Although it’s probably better not to watch it on Christmas 😉

Film Review: What If (2013)

I’m very picky when it comes to romantic comedies. I often feel like, if the main characters had a very simple conversation (or simply broke up), their lives would be much easier. But there are a few with wonderfully charming storylines and incredibly likeable characters. What If (aka The F Word) is one of them.

Set (and filmed on location) in Toronto, What If follows Wallace after his girlfriend cheats on him and he breaks up with her and drops out of med school. One night at a party, he meets Chantry and they have great chats and end up walking each other home. As they’re parting, Chantry tells him that she’s got a boyfriend. Disappointed, Wallace decides not to hang out with her again. A few nights later, however, they meet at a showing for The Princess Bride and decide to become friends properly. Chantry’s also cousins with Wallace’s best friend Allan, who’s embarking in a new, wild relationship with carefree Nicole. They’re a seriously charming secondary couple and are one of the highlights of a very funny movie! There’s a lot of improvising of lines so the jokes come naturally and don’t feel like they’re just there for cheap laughs.

Problems arise when Chantry introduces Wallace to her boyfriend Ben, who immediately assumes Wallace is trying to sleep with her leading to a wild night that puts Ben in hospital. (No, there’s no fist fight; yes, it’s hilarious, but I won’t spoil you!) Shortly thereafter, Ben moves to Dublin for work (also filmed on location!), leaving Chantry feeling lonely and needing a distraction from her heartache. She spends more and more time with Wallace, Allan and Nicole, but as Allan and Nicole’s relationship progresses, so do things between Wallace and Chantry as the feelings on both sides become complicated by a deep friendship neither wants to lose.

I really adore this movie. Daniel Radcliffe is at his comedy best, but Adam Driver is a true gem! Zoe Kazan and Mackenzie Davis are so great as well. Honestly, the central four are just perfectly cast. The one-liners are brilliant and the comedy isn’t tired. It’s a very, very refreshing romantic comedy and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Film Review: Isoken (2017)

I honestly think one of the best aspects of Netflix is being able to see films from other countries that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. It’s led me to Indian, Korean, Italian, Spanish, French, German (etc) films and shows that are just so wonderful but have never been widely available in the country I’m in until Netflix made it so. (Yay Netflix!)

Today I watched a wonderful Nigerian film, Isoken, and now I’m going to be digging through all the offerings to see what other Nigerian films are on offer in my region! This one was great! It follows 34 year old Isoken in her search for love and meaning in her life whilst everyone around her is trying to push her towards marriage. She meets two men at the same time: one seemingly the perfect marriage candidate, yet the other one increasingly draws her attention.

If you’re looking for a sweet, uplifting movie about love, I definitely recommend this one!

The Joys of Horror Comedy

I feel like a genre there isn’t enough of is horror-comedy. And there are some winners out there! I watched three delightful ones today: Extra Ordinary (2019), Little Evil (2017) and Beetlejuice (1988). And I can wholeheartedly recommend them all!

Extra Ordinary follows a driving instructor with a Talent for the supernatural who gets roped into helping a man rid his house of his wife’s spirit. The spirit will go so far as to dictate what shirt he can and can’t wear, how much toast he should eat, or where the plates need to go into the dishwasher. Honestly, it’s hilarious.

Little Evil is about a man with a stepson who takes pranks to an extra level – to the point where the father starts to wonder if he’s actually evil. The opening scene is the wife having to dig her husband out of the ground because the stepson buried him. Adam Scott is honestly a gem in this! I laughed so much.

Beetlejuice is a classic Tim Burton! I remember, vaguely, seeing it as a child, but I couldn’t remember anything about it other than Winona Ryder was in it. I totally forget it had Alec Baldwin! It also has Catherine O’Hara and watching it so soon after finishing Schitt’s Creek gave me the giggles. She’s a star!

Anyone else love horror-comedy? I’d love some recommendations!

Film Review: Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound is an intense historical film set in the deep south of the United States after WWII. The central characters are members of two families, the McAllens and the Jacksons. It’s also based on a book.

The opening scene is very striking. It begins with Henry and Jamie, two brothers in Mississippi digging a grave for their father. They realise it’s a slave’s grave halfway through, but a storm presses them on even as Henry protests. Jamie, who doesn’t care, continues. The rain worsens and Jamie gets stuck in the grave and begins to panic, screaming for his brother. It’s very clear from the get go that Jamie suffers from PTSD. Henry returns and pulls his brother out, with Jamie, hysterical, telling him he thought Henry would leave. To which Henry promises that he’d never do that, they’re brothers. It’s a moment that really underscores the relationship between the two. The fear, the doubt, the love that binds them together.

The scene then shifts to the following morning and the brothers are joined by Henry’s wife Laura and the children, but between them, the brothers can’t carry their father’s coffin alone, and Henry flags down a family leaving the property. Henry asks them to help, but Hap, the head of the family, doesn’t speak. Beside him, his wife Florence looks furious. Bearing in mind that this is the Jim Crow South in the 1940s, and the family are African American, the immediate tension between the two families hints at something terrible.

The film then goes back to 1939, where Henry’s wife Laura begins telling the story of how the family came to the Mississippi farm, her relationship with the brothers, and the arrival of their virulently racist father, Pappy. (He’s the worst. The worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrst.)

From there, the perspective shifts to Hap’s family, and the dynamics between the McAllens and the Jacksons is striking. Where the McAllens are tense and bicker a lot amongst themselves, all unhappy in their own way, the Jacksons are close and loving, working together despite how horribly their neighbours and society treats them. Hap’s son Ronsel is heading off to fight on the frontlines of WWII and the family are saving up to buy property of their own. There’s a sense of hope.

When he returns from WWII, however, Ronsel is disappointed with what he finds. Abroad, he had a relationship and he was treated as a hero. Back home, he finds that nothing in Mississippi has changed. What’s more, the arrival of the McAllens make the Jacksons worry, and tensions begin to mount when Pappy’s racism drives a wedge between the families.

Shortly there after, Jamie, also a WWII vet, moves in with the rest of his family. He quickly bonds with Ronsel, and both reminisce about how different things were abroad whilst struggling to cope their with PTSD and the racism of the society they find themselves in. Their growing friendship is judged problematic by bigots, and whenever Ronsel and Jamie spend time together, Ronsel is forced to hide from passing cars in case someone sees Jamie giving him a lift. It’s utterly heartbreaking and the sense of injustice carries throughout the film. Eventually, the tensions come to a head between the families, and things go from bad to worse.

Do be aware that Mudbound is really difficult to watch in places, very gritty, and there are numerous racist characters. Ronsel and Jamie were by far my favourite characters, but I adored Hap and Florence, too. Laura was a tough one, but I did really sympathise with her. Above all, this film is an important addition to historical movies and features a wonderful cast. The acting is top notch, the cinematography is gorgeous and the directing is fantastic. I definitely recommend watching it.

3 Mini Film Reviews

Reality Bites [2003 | indie, romance, drama] This quiet, understated indie movie is one I wish I’d watched sooner! It stars Winona Ryder, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Stiller and Ethan Hawke. I was really surprised I’d never seen it before! The film follows a group of friends after they graduate from college (or don’t, in some cases) and try to figure out their lives in the adult world. Main character Lelaina moves in with her best friend Vickie, and then their two friends Troy and Sammy also move in. Lelaina works on a television show writing notes for a misogynistic boss that she barely tolerates, Vickie gets a job in sales, and for a while they manage to make it work. On the side, Lelaina is filming her documentary on the side, capturing more quiet, intimate moments of the group and their arrival into adulthood. After Lelaina tosses her cigarette into Michael’s (Ben Stiller) car and causes him to crash, the pair begin to date, much to Troy’s displeasure.

I was surprised to learn that Ben Stiller directed this one! I had no idea! I’m surprised it took me so long, because I adore the cast and have always liked Ben Stiller’s and Winona Ryder’s movies. If you like romantic indie movies à la Before Sunrise, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or 10 Things I Hate About You, give this a go!

Lady Bird [2017| drama, indie, coming of age] This film follows a young girl getting ready for college and her struggling relationship with her mother. It’s set in Sacramento where Lady Bird, the main girl, is about to graduate from her strict Catholic high school and is dealing with the complicated road ahead of her. Her mother wants her to stay in California, she wants to go to New York. She’s at odds with her mother’s standards and views, but it’s clear that they love each other. Every time they fight, they make up. The dramatics are contrasted by the sweet moments, and I’d say it’s more of a mother-daughter movie than a romance, although there is a love interest in the form of Kyle (Timothée Chalamet).

I really loved Lady Bird (real name Christine) as a character. Saoirse Ronan is a wonderful actress and was at her absolute best in this role. I love the dynamics between Lady Bird and her mother, and Lady Bird and her father, as well as her friendship with Julie. It’s a touching independent movie and has that ‘real feel’ to it.

Accepted [2006 | comedy, new adult] is one of my favourite silly comedies. It stars Justin Long, Columbus Short, Maria Thayer, Blake Lively and Jonah Hill. The movie centres upon Bartleby Gaines after he’s rejected from every college he applies to. In a desperate attempt to get his father off his back, Bartleby fakes a college acceptance letter and website with the help of his friends who also struggled to get into school. The website accidentally accepts everyone who tries to apply, however, and dozens of kids show up on the ‘first day of school’. Once he realises how much it means to everyone there, Bartleby decides to continue with it and very soon the students are running the asylum-turned-faux-college. It’s not a particularly plausible movie, but I really do adore the lightness of it. The movie has a good message about being true to yourself and the main characters are all likeable. If you’re looking for something feel good and fun, I totally recommend this one!

What’s everyone else watching this week?