Film Review: Mortal Engines (2018)

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.

*spoilers*

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. ♡

Film Review: The Addams Family (1991) & Addams Family Values (1993)

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.

Film Review: His House (2020)

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.

Film Review: Final Destination (2000)

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?

Film Review: The Skeleton Key (2005)

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.

Film Review: Friday the 13th (2009)

I’m definitely not a fan of gore-horror. And yet for some reason I’ve still seen a good number of them? I don’t know. I’m easily grossed out and scared, but sometimes I’m also in the mood for an over the top kind of flick. So today I decided to rewatch Friday the 13th (2009). I’m not really into the franchise (again, I like my horror spooky, not gore-y), but I like the casting of this film: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker and Ryan Hanson are all fantastic, so I sort of endure the gore.

I think Jason is probably one of the scariest film villains of all time. Like, I have absolutely no desire to watch Freddy V Jason. I am a wimp. But I previously watched this one when it first came out because I was watching Supernatural at the time and I made a point of watching all of Jensen Ackles’ and Jared Padelecki’s filmography. I also watched My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) right around the same time. And it’s funny that I’m so scared of horror given that Supernatural was my favourite show of all time when I was younger. But I suppose half the fun of watching a horror movie/show is scaring yourself. And this one is certainly frightening!

What I like about Friday the 13th (2009) is Clay’s determination to find his sister. I really like those kinds of characters. I didn’t care much for any of the other characters apart from Clay, Jenna and Whitney, but they’re in the majority of the film and bring good characterisation to an otherwise nonstop gore fest, which is a plus.

I’m not sure if this made me inclined to see the original, but if you like terrifying movies with lots of screaming, this might be up your alley. I’m mostly just glad I watched it during the day time and not while staying at a cabin by the lake.

Film Review: Christine (1983)

I’m one of the many who watches more spooky things in the month of October. I get in the odd mood for horror, but usually I watch the bulk of them in October. I’ve also been trying to watch more classic movies just in general. I’d heard about Christine before, and I know of John Carpenter’s other films, but I never got around to this one. I also didn’t realise it was by Stephen King until after, so that’s a fail on my part. For anyone who’s a fan of vintage cars and classic horror, this one is definitely worth a go.

Some spoilers herein

The film follows Arnie, a high-schooler who is frequently bullied. He’s best friends with Dennis and the pair of them face off against the bullies together. Arnie and his mum have a complicated relationship that only worsens when he impulsively decides to buy ‘Christine’, a vintage 1958 Plymouth Fury. Little does anyone know – except the seller – that the car has a dark history.

Arnie fixes Christine up and soon the car is in pristine condition, but Arnie starts to change as time progresses. He starts getting more confident, bolder. He also starts getting meaner and more violent. Any word against his car sets him off. Things only worsen when he starts to date Leigh. Christine seems almost … jealous. (Yep.)

After Leigh almost dies, she blames Christine and parts ways with Arnie, who won’t hear a word about it. Leigh turns to Dennis, who’s also starting to have his concerns about the car, and the pair decide they have to do something about it.

The soundtrack in this film was excellent, so that has to be mentioned first. Old horror really had a knack for those soundtracks. The CGI is fantastic – I was really impressed by the car fixing itself scenes – and the film relies on soundtrack, atmosphere and surprise more than loud screams, like so many others.

My one biggest nitpick is the standing in the centre of the road. There are WAY TOO MANY scenes where the characters could go literally in any other direction and yet they do not move out of the car’s path. One scene in particular keeps panning out from Leigh as she just … stands there, staring at the car, not moving. For. Ages. Gurl, I get that you’re scared, but move out of the fucking way! Oh my gosh. My partner and I kept looking from the screen, to each other, to the screen, to each other, and still Leigh did not move. It made no sense. Why wouldn’t you move?! The car isn’t even barrelling at her. It’s literally creeping towards her and she watches it. All I could think of is that scene in How I Met Your Mother where Barney is learning how to drive and doesn’t turn the wheel. (Also that scene in Bob’s Burgers where Tina’s learning to drive, but now I’m just wildly off topic …)

That said, overall it’s a really solid film and I’m definitely going to try and watch more John Carpenter soon.

Also, Dennis stole this whole movie. Four for you, Dennis. You go, Dennis!

Short Film Reviews: Toy Story of Terror! (2013) & Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014)

One of my favourite movies this year was Toy Story 4 and I was super bummed that there weren’t any more in the series to watch. Imagine my delight when I stumbled across the shorts!

Toy Story of Terror! is a Hallowe’en tale where our favourite group of toys are watching a horror movie in the boot of the car. The tyre pops and Bonnie’s mum is forced to divert to a motel for the night. Pricklepants is convinced that they’re walking into a horror movie and spooks everyone as things start to unfold in line with his predictions. When Jessie disappears, Buzz and Woody lead the charge to find her, and high jinks ensue!

Toy Story That Time Forgot is centred around Bonnie’s trip to her friend Mason’s house at Christmas time. When Bonnie and Mason ditch the toys for video games, they’re left to fend for themselves amongst Mason’s toys, who have never been played with and don’t know they’re toys.

I was really impressed that these short films were just as good as the movies. The comedy is perfect and the storylines are short and sweet. I totally recommend both. They’re seriously good fun and I laughed the whole way through!

Film Review: Onward (2020)

Onward is exactly what I want in an animated movie. Honestly, it was just so uplifting and feel-good and lovely – and I cried so many times. Movies that move you because they’re so kind are truly wondrous creations.

The movie follows Ian and Barley Lightfoot, two elves in a world that’s modern but magical. Their father Wilden died when they were young and they’ve been raised by their mum Laurel. On Ian’s sixteenth birthday, she gifts him and his brother with something Wilden left behind for them once both are sixteen. It turns out to be a wizard’s staff and a spell for conjuring the dead for just one day.

Barley tries to bring their dad back but is unsuccessful. When Ian tries, he manages to bring back half of his dad before the gemstone in the staff explodes. Barley, who’s spent his life researching magical lore for games and quests, convinces Ian that they can find a replacement gemstone by following an old trail with a map. Unfortunately, after a series of mishaps, the only tools they have is a staff Ian can barely wield, a van that keeps breaking down, and a children’s menu puzzle adapted from a treasure map. It’s honestly cracking good fun!

At the same time the brothers are trying to finish the spell to bring back their dad, their poor mum is trying to track them down with the help of the Manticore, the harried restaurant owner whose business went up in flames after the brothers tried to take her map, and Colt, Laurel’s centaur police officer boyfriend. Their scenes are so funny, I couldn’t stop laughing.

What I loved most about this movie was the focus on sibling love and brotherhood. Ian and Barley are the most amazing duo and I adored how their relationship developed throughout the movie, how they worked together and supported each other, and how it all came together by the end. It was such a sweet, heartfelt, wonderful film. ♡

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.