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.

Show Review: Daredevil (2015)

‘This … Elektra, this is a part of me that I need. And you’re the only one who gets it. Without this, I’m not alive. I’m not. Not really. And I know that now, thanks to you. I don’t know what we are together, and if we have any chance in the future … But I … I do know that I’m free with you. Like with no one else.’

I’ve come in and out of Daredevil. I don’t know why, cos it’s amazing, but I just never made it past season one the first few times. And I love season one. I’ve seen it multiple times. But I’ve been wanting to finish it properly, so this time I came in with the arrival of Elektra and my word, I don’t think I’ve adored a star-crossed couple as much as Matt Murdock and Elektra.

This pair, ahh. They are what OTPs are made of.

The storylines of Daredevil are so enthralling and require your full and total attention, and season two is a great mix of a case that’s impossible not to care about – Karen learning about Frank Castle’s past and seeing the human side of him – alongside an epic, heart-shattering romance – Matt’s relationship with Elektra. Their history/flashbacks are so perfect and make them impossible not to root for. Matt and Karen are cute this season, but I really liked watching Karen with Frank and Foggy, and Matt with Elektra and Stick. Those were great trios and made the season nonstop action and anxiety.

I haven’t read the comics, or seen season three yet, so I don’t know where the final season is going, or what’s going to happen in The Defenders, but I’m excited. The fact that Daredevil got cancelled before it got a fourth season is truly gutting, because now I want many, many seasons of Matt and Elektra fighting side by side and being ridiculously perfect for each other. (ˆ⌣ˆ)

Documentaries! Documentaries Everywhere!

I’ve got to say, I’m really loving the documentaries that have been popping up on Netflix. I’ve already watched The Great Hack and Knock Down the House, which were both brilliantly done.

If you haven’t seen them, The Great Hack follows the exposé on how data is being used to influence elections, and whistleblowers surrounding Cambridge Analytica. I have a longer review of it, here. Knock Down the House follows four young progressive politicians in the United States who ran for Congress in 2018. If you like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or followed her campaign at all, this film focuses on her as well as Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin. Even knowing how the campaigns end, it’s still very much worth a watch. I have such respect for these women and how they’ve handled themselves. Very inspiring documentary.

In the same vein is The Social Dilemma. It’s half documentary, half re-enactment, and both sides are enthralling to watch. The interviews with former leaders at Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more besides, shine a light on just how greatly social media and advertising have come to influence the world around us, even when we don’t realise it.

These interviews are complemented by a fictional modern family obsessed with technology, whose youngest daughter is being bullied online while the son is being drawn into extremism via advertising and propaganda. Skyler Gisondo plays the son and I loved his performance. (Still sad about Santa Clarita Diet ending, boo urns.) Vincent Kartheiser as the three AIs was also brilliant.

In a totally different genre of documentaries, I also recommend Explained and Dark Tourist. Explained is really cool, because it’s basically a bunch of mini documentaries. I think each one’s about 20 minutes, but they pack a lot of information in. You get episodes on topics ranging from monogamy to the gender pay gap to meat consumption. I definitely recommend checking them out! There’s also a three-part one on Covid-19.

Dark Tourist, on the other hand, is an eight episode documentary series hosted by New Zealand journalist David Farrier. I’d never actually heard of dark tourism until I watched this. I like my vacations to be fun and relaxing, but there’s a side of tourism that apparently leans towards scaring the absolute life out of yourself. Fun? Apparently. Decidedly not for me, though.

Farrier goes first to Latin America. He visits Medellín and meets people who once ran with Pablo Escobar and now make YouTube videos and run tours and role playing adventures based around their own experiences. In another episode, Farrier goes to Japan and visits Fukushima, which is still intensely radioactive and is basically a ghost town now. After Fukushima, he goes to a robot hotel, where robots basically run the whole place. (Seriously, the talking robots freaked me out so much! I don’t think I could have turned off the lights in a room full of robots.)

In a later episode, he also goes to the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan which was the scene of nuclear tests throughout the Cold War. At one point he swims in the lake of a crater that formed from nuclear blasts. (The group he’s with also eat the fish from the pond.) I did find the part where he goes to see the space shuttle take off really cool.

Two of the episodes focus on dark tourism in the United States. The haunted house one was particularly unsettling to watch. Signing up to be berated and terrified is not something I understand. Nor did I understand the serial killer tours he goes on. Um, no, thank you.

Despite some of the seriously unsettling/downright alarming things he finds, what I really liked about the whole series was Farrier’s method of letting the locations and visitors guide the documentary. He’s a very laid-back, likeable journalist and doesn’t overwhelm the focus of the documentary, which I prefer.

Has anyone seen any of these? Got any documentaries to recommend?

Show Review: The Innocent Man | Nice Guy | 세상 어디에도 없는 착한 남자 (2012)

Oh my gosh, The Innocent Man has me hooooooooked. If you like intense dramatic romances, this one is fantastic. I’m only about six episodes in, but I can’t stop! (It’s on Netflix as Nice Guy, if you’re looking!)

[I keep writing reviews for these shows before I’ve finished them but I just have a lot of EMOTIONS and OPINIONS so bear with me (and also there are some spoilers for the first six episodes herein, so if you don’t like spoilers, avoid until you’ve seen the show!).]

The main characters are Kang Ma-ru, Seo Eun-gi, Han Jae-hee, Kang Choco and Park Jae-gil. At the start, Kang Ma-ru’s madly in love with Han Jae-hee. They grew up together without money and have been together for years. There’s nothing Kang Ma-ru wouldn’t do for her. One night, after proving himself in medical school, he comes home to find his sister unconscious on the floor. Choco suffers from a long term illness and is constantly fainting and needing medical care. He’s in the process of bringing her to hospital when Jae-hee calls him, frantic. Torn between his sister and his girlfriend, he promises his sister that he’ll be right back, she only has to count to 500, and he runs to Jae-hee.

At a hotel, he finds Jae-hee sitting beside a dead body. They panic about what’s going to happen and in a spur of the moment decision, Ma-ru takes the fall. He’s kicked out of medical school and goes to prison, Choco’s health worsens, and Jae-hee ends up marrying a rich older man.

Five years later, Ma-ru’s jaded and furious. He’s on a flight when he encounters Seo Eun-gi, an heiress and step-daughter to Jae-hee. When Eun-gi faints onboard the plane, he uses his medical knowledge to save her life. In the process, he encounters Jae-hee once more.

Later, Jae-hee comes to his house and offers him compensation for taking the fall. Disgusted, Ma-ru returns the money but he gets caught in the crossfire between Jae-hee and Eun-gi, and is accused of blackmailing the family for money. So, that’s twice now that Jae-hee’s got him into trouble with the law.

I don’t know what to think about Jae-hee, honestly. She’s a really interesting and well developed character. Like, I cannot stand her in most of her scenes, but I do feel deep empathy for what her character experiences before the start of the show. She’s truly broken and terrified of going back to where she came from, so even though she’s manipulative and awful at times, she’s an interesting character and I hope she finds peace by the end. Also, her chemistry with Ma-ru is unreal and their scenes can be really heartbreaking.

Both of the women have great side relationships outside of Ma-ru and the love triangle, too. Eun-gi is close with Park Joon-ha, who’s been her friend all her life and fights for her within the company she runs, and always has her back. Jae-hee is close to Ahn Min-young, her husband’s secretary who’s secretly in love with her and helps her fight back against Eun-gi, who’s hated Jae-hee since her father kicked out her mother to make room for Jae-hee. There’s also Choco’s relationship with Park Jae-gil, Ma-ru’s best friend, who lives with them and supports Ma-ru through thick and thin. It’s a really splendid cast overall!

I really adore Ma-ru the most, though. He’s an amazing character. He’s such a good brother to Choco and he loves fiercely even though he’s been deeply hurt by Jae-hee’s actions. I love how his relationship with Eun-gi develops even as he’s battling Jae-hee and their tangled history. There’s so much intrigue and tension and looks. Seriously, this is a show that thrives on glares and side-long glances and I am here for it.

I can’t wait to see how it ends! Has anyone else seen it? If not, you totally should!

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.

Show Review: Romance is a Bonus Book / 로맨스는 별책부록 (2019)

Romance is a Bonus Book (로맨스는 별책부록) is a lovely surprise. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I’m taken aback by how invested I’ve become. Seriously, I love each and every one of these characters and kind of want to ramble about them, so this review is a bit spoilery! It’s just such a likeable show with a likeable cast with a unique, heartfelt premise and relatable storyline and I must EXPLAIN. ♡_♡

The show follows Kang Dan-i and Cha Eun-ho, childhood friends that have always been supportive of each other and have remained close into adulthood. At the start, Dan-i’s getting married to Dong-min, only to run away from her own wedding and hide in Eun-ho’s car. He ends up talking her back to her wedding and she goes through with it. Years later, Dan-i’s divorced from Dong-min and homeless. She’s pretending to be Eun-ho’s housekeeper and eats and showers in his house while he’s at work, and cleaning the place in exchange for money meant for a housekeeper she supposedly hired for him.

Eun-ho quickly figures out ‘the housekeeper’ is using his place and tells Dan-i, who ‘hired’ the pretend housekeeper, to fire her. Dan-i begs him to give ‘the housekeeper’ another chance, and frantically starts looking for a new job. Her daughter’s in the Philippines at school, but her tuition and medical bills have left Dan-i with nothing. Dong-min doesn’t send child support or alimony, so she struggles to get by.

One night, after losing her shoe on the way to a job interview, losing the job interview, and having no place to sleep, Dan-i meets Ji Seo-joon. He actually found her shoes earlier that day and gives them back to her, along with an umbrella. She gives him her onion plant.

Dan-i shows up at Eun-ho’s and asks for a place to sleep. He doesn’t know she’s been divorced for a year or that her husband has left with his mistress. They’re still good friends, but drifted apart after her marriage. Eun-ho clearly hates her ex-husband, too. At first he thinks Dan-i’s making it up, but he soon learns that she’s homeless and divorced. He agrees to let her stay until she can find her own place. Dan-i then finds flyers in his house for a job interview at his book publishing company that requires no degree and she jumps on it. Having not been in the work force for eleven years, no one wants to hire her and she’s desperate for anything to pay her daughter’s hospital bill.

Dan-i ends up impressing the company without Eun-ho’s help and she’s hired as a team support contractor. Her job is basically to help out everyone, clean up, get coffee, file work, run errands. Eun-ho doubts her at first, but Dan-i ends up fitting into the company well. Although one of the colleagues, their director, hates her. When Dan-i starts showing promise in meetings and putting forward ideas, the director sabotages her efforts. I liked that Eun-ho wasn’t kept in the dark about it, but I do wish he’d done more about it. At one point his co-worker/on-again, off-again girlfriend, calls him cold-blooded for not standing up for Dan-i more. On this note, I will say that Song Hae-rin is really great. I didn’t like her at first, but she grew on me quickly.

Over the course of the episodes, Dan-i learns more and more about the book publishing industry. You see the ups and downs, and how very hard it is to get published or become successful even when you actually manage to get your manuscript picked up. The scene at the book binning plant was particularly hard to watch. Dan-i’s reaction was spot on. Like, ouch. There’s also an episode focused around a poet and how hard it is for poetry to circulate. That episode broke my heart.

Dan-i ends up running into Seo-joon in the neighbourhood and they bond over umbrellas, green onions and his dog, whom Dan-i even names. These two are the definition of adorably awkward. Like, you fall in love with Eun-ho and Dan-i in episode one, but Seo-joon is lovely. It’s a wonderful case of Team Everybody, so the episodes are enjoyable no matter who the focus is on.

The members of the company are a colourful bunch. The new hires vary wildly from Dan-i, but the trio quickly become supportive of each other. Although Dan-i faces a lot of setbacks, she gets support from Eun-ho and Hae-rin, and things slowly start to improve.

There are also great conversations about love, divorce, relationships, work, the impact of infidelity, poverty, class, etc. For anyone looking for an upbeat, charming, relatable romantic comedy show, definitely check this one out! I insist ♡

Show Review: 질투의 화신 / Don’t Dare to Dream / Jealousy Incarnate (2016)

Okay, so 질투의 화신 aka Don’t Dare to Dream aka Jealousy Incarnate is so not what I expected. The summary just did not give away many details. A love triangle? Cool? What else? So I didn’t go into it with much context and I’m glad I was willing to give it a try! A much better summary would be: A weather forecaster, Na-ri, works at a news network and is struggling to make it big in the business. She’s thrown for a loop when the reporter she had a crush on three years ago, Hwa-shin, returns to South Korea from Thailand. At the same time, his best (and possibly only) friend, Jung-won, begins to crush on Na-ri. So, yes, love triangle.

However, the biggest focus of the series coming in are the struggles of the characters individually: Na-ri lives with her brother in a house with a few other tenants. The young girl, Ppal-gang, is the niece of Hwa-shin, who left for Thailand after destroying his brother’s/her father’s reputation. Her mother also works at the news station, but doesn’t take care of her. When Ppal-gang’s father ends up in hospital after a drunken accident, she blames Hwa-shin and her mother entirely. Na-ri’s younger brother and another boy in the house make it their goal to look after her. Then there’s Hwa-shin himself, who, thanks to Na-ri’s accidental discovery while giving him first aid, learns he has breast cancer. It’s something I’ve not seen much, if any, representation for in English or Korean shows (or any other that I can think of?).

Hwa-shin spends a good bit of time in denial and has a negative reaction to what he considers a mark on his masculinity. It’s really heartbreaking to see. It takes a lot of women – Na-ri, the doctors and nurses at the hospital – to convince him to get treatment. In fact, the show spends a lot of time focusing on Hwa-shin’s journey after receiving his diagnosis. I’m really glad the show highlighted a topic as important as this and it’s not used merely as a dramatic and discarded plot point, it’s a big focus. You see Hwa-shin’s struggles and eventful acceptance of his cancer that leads him to getting the help he needs. He also doesn’t go through it alone. Na-ri’s mother and grandmother both had cancer, so she gets screenings every six months. It brings them into each other’s orbit and they slowly grow close.

Na-ri is also dealing with work complications, as no one takes her seriously and the sexist regulations from one of the directors is making it a wretched place to be. Hwa-shin, despite his irritation with her appearances in his life, starts to fight her corner at work, like highlighting how she’s a ratings success to the other anchors. Jung-won, a rich businessman who supplies the network with clothes, also begins to take an interest in Na-ri’s success.

The friendship between Hwa-shin and Jung-won is bromance material to the max, guys. Check out this set on Tumblr, I MEAN THE CUTENESS! And then there’s this one. I STAN A SHOW WHERE THE GUYS ARE TRUE AND UNAPOLOGETIC BESTIES.

I’m only five episodes in, but I’m really liking 질투의 화신! It covers important topics with care and comedy, and the characters are super likeable. Definitely recommend!

Show Reviews: Abyss (2019) & Beautiful Gong Shim (2016)

It’s been a little bit since I’ve watched a K-drama, so of course I started two in one week. Abyss (어비스) and Beautiful Gong Shim (미녀 공심이). I haven’t finished either yet, and I’m only about five episodes into each, but so far I’m loving both of them.

Abyss follows two best friends: a man who doesn’t find himself attractive and is often ridiculed, and a woman who believes herself stunning and gets quite a lot of compliments. Both die on the same day. Cha Min decides to kill himself after his fiancée dumps him over text and insults his appearance. However he changes his mind at the last second and calls his best friend, Go Se-yeon. She doesn’t take him seriously at first and halfway through the call, Cha Min is knocked off the building, only to be revived by two other worldly beings. He’s reborn as his ‘soul’s true form’: younger, taller, more confident. The beings gift him with an Abyss, a glowing orb that brought him back to life, and tell him to read the instructions. He heads towards his best friend’s flat, ready to tell her what happened, only she doesn’t come to the door and he goes to his apartment. At the same time, Go Se-yeon, is being murdered.

The next day, Cha Min learns what happened to Go Se-yeon and goes to mourn her, horrified that he could have stopped what was happening if he’d only gone inside the building. The Abyss lights up and Go Se-yeon is brought back to life in her soul’s true form: a little older and what she considers less attractive. (I will at this point note that some of the comments about beauty standards did bother me and I don’t like the body shaming a few of the characters do.)

Cha Min explains to Go Se-yeon what happened to them and proves he’s who he says is. They pair up to solve her murder and find his fiancée, who went missing just after dumping him via text. The investigation is quite interesting so far and I’m really enjoying Cha Min and Go Se-yeon’s dynamic, so I’m excited to see how it ends!

Beautiful Gong Shim, on the other hand, is a contemporary romance with a mystery twist. Gong Shim is the youngest, overlooked daughter of a family who relies financially upon her older, more successful sister Gong Mi. Gong Mi is quite shallow and puts Gong Shim down constantly, as if lowering her sister’s self-esteem is her evil art form. Honestly, she’s the worst.

Ahn Dan-tae is a pro-bono human rights lawyer and all around cheerful bloke. He encounters Gong Shim when she almost drops a potted plant on his head while trying to take a selfie on her roof. Despite this encounter, he ends up wrangling his way into renting her flat and moves in quickly. There are a lot of misunderstandings (largely on Gong Shim’s behalf), but when Gong Shim is beaten up by a rich woman at the petrol station she works out, she ends up going to Ahn Dan-tae for help.

Unfortunately, the woman who assaulted Gong Shim is the wife of the head lawyer at her sister’s law firm, and when Gong Mi learns of this, she bullies Gong Shim into dropping the law suit. Ahn Dan-tae isn’t remotely convinced and continues to help Gong Shim. He also makes fast friends with Seok Joon-soo, a rich businessman who ends up getting Gong Shim a job. Seok Joon-soo, for his part, is still reeling from the disappearance of his cousin years before, with his grandmother trying desperately to locate her missing grandson and his parents wanting to forget it happened (you get the impression they don’t care about their missing nephew).

The four lives get entwined over the episodes as Gong Mi falls for Seok Joon-soo, who likes Gong Shim, who’s liked by Ahn Dan-tae, who can’t seem to admit it to himself. CUE THE DRAMAAAA.

I definitely recommend both!

Documentary/Docudrama Reviews: Official Secrets (2019) & The Great Hack (2019)

Official Secrets is a truly important film that focuses on 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq. It’s a docudrama (real news footage is interspersed with the film) that follows Katharine Gun, played by Keira Knightley. (Seriously, when is Keira Knightley not perfection??) An employee at GCHQ, Katharine Gun learned via email that the USA sought to acquire intelligence on other nations who might oppose the war. Horrified of the outcome and the impending death toll, Gun brings the document to her friend, an antiwar activist, who then leaks it to The Observer.

The film also focuses on her relationship with her husband, an immigrant to the UK, and how he was impacted by her choices. Needless to say, I cried a few times. The real Katharine Gun also apparently really liked the film and it’s been praised for its accuracy. If you’re curious about this one, it should be available on Amazon Prime.

I followed Official Secrets with The Great Hack, which is available on Netflix. If you haven’t heard about the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, this documentary delves into the extent to which members of FB and CA used peoples’ personal information to directly target them to drive elections. If you’ve seen Snowden (or followed the Edward Snowden case), it’s very similar, just as disturbing, and remains prevalent to this day.

The main players in the documentary are Carole Cadwalladr, David Carroll, Christopher Wylie and Brittany Kaiser. These last two are former employees of CA who eventually come forward to discuss their role in the events that followed, especially the 2016 election in the USA and the Brexit referendum in the UK. As with Official Secrets, none of the information was new to me, but seeing it play out is quite shocking and being reminded of the extent of it is always a punch to the gut.

Both of these films are well worth a watch and focus on extremely important moments in recent history. It’s imperative that we don’t forget the atrocities in our world and how often human rights have been ignored in the face of power, money, greed, politics and war.

I recommend these films to everyone, but perhaps have cartoons on standby to watch afterwards. They’re tough to get through.

Show Review: Snowpiercer (2020)

aboard Snowpiercer, 1001 cars long …

The dystopian genre is where most of my interest lies (that, and anything with good lgbt+ rep), so allow me to recommend to you my newest gem: Snowpiercer. The series is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and the 2013 Korean-Czech film. I really, really liked the film, too. If anyone hasn’t seen it, make sure you do! Chris Evans is great, and Bong Joon-ho is a wonderful director. (He also directed Okja, which will turn you vegetarian so fast your head will spin, whilst you cry the entire time.) The series is definitely different from the film and stands on its own, although there are some scenes that echo each other. Where the main aim of the film is to get to the engine, where the power rests, the show delves into the politics, relationships and machinations of the characters.

The premise is basically: the world went crazy with fighting and global warming, someone tried to cool down the global and ended up causing a mass ice age that’s killed everyone and everything. The only survivors are the people and the few plants and animals they managed to bring aboard. The leads in the show are played by Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, as Andre Layton and Melanie Cavill. Andre lives in the tail of the train, Melanie runs the engine. The train is divided by class, with the billionaires in the front of the train, then second class, third class, and then the tail, which is filled with a few hundred people who leapt onto the train just before the world froze over. Everyone at the back of the train is abused by the rich, hated and forgotten about.

At the start, there’s been a murder in the front of the train, so Melanie brings Andre out of the tail to solve the mystery, as he’s the only homicide detective aboard. Andre takes care of young Miles, an orphan aboard the tail, who he raises with Josie. Andre seizes upon the opportunity to try and help his people in the tail. He’s paired with ‘Brakeman’ (like a cop) Till, who’s from Third and is dating Jinju, a woman in Second. Till grows slowly sympathetic to Andre’s situation and the pair become friends while solving the murder. Class politics are a huge plot point, as those in First don’t like to be investigated by a man from the tail and believe themselves above the law.

My favourite characters are definitely Andre and Till, but I’m fascinated by Melanie and everything she’s not saying. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding her and she’s a much different character than the movie parallel, who was played by Tilda Swinton. Where Minister Mason (Swinton) relished pain and brutal order, Melanie is more pragmatic, although I can’t say that I like her. A lot of what she does is unforgivable. Jennifer Connelly does an amazing job in her role, though. Josie, Zarah and Knox are also really good characters. The Folger family, who seem to have most of the power in First, are horrifying. Just you wait. Y I K E S.

This is definitely a tough and frustrating show to watch, but in a good way, if that makes sense? Very diverse, great class commentary and a central l/l pairing! Can’t wait to see how season one ends. And it’s been renewed for a second season, so there’s more to come!