Film Reviews: Battle (2018) & Fierce (2020)

Dance/musical competition films are such a fun subgenre that I don’t watch nearly enough. I grew up with Save the Last Dance (2001) and Honey (2003), but there was a good stretch there where I didn’t watch any. Although Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) was bloody hilarious. Break, that I reviewed a few weeks ago, reignited my love of the genre, so I marathoned a couple this week: Battle (2018) and Fierce (2020).

Fierce is a Polish film that follows a young woman who gets herself involved in a singing-on-television competition in order to impress/frustrate her estranged father, who is one of the judges. The singing in this is really, really impressive. The lead actress, Katarzyna Sawczuk, competed in the Voice of Poland competition in real life, and she’s fantastic. Maciej Zakościelny, who plays her dad, is equally as talented, and I loved his guitar scenes, haha. I also really adored the mother and grandmother! Honestly, the cast overall were awesome, the songs were really catchy and I liked the ending. There is one scene in this that had me like WHOA though, and totally took me by surprise. I won’t spoil you, but it’s near the end and I was like O.o for about five minutes.

Battle is a Norwegian film that follows a dancer after her father loses all of their money and they lose their home. They move to a new place and she hides the reality of her situation from her friends and boyfriend. When she meets Mikael, a young hip-hop dancer, she ends up discovering a whole new side of her new life and of other kinds of dancing. It’s very much like Save the Last Dance and Break, and I totally recommend it! The dance numbers are worth it and the main couple are adorable. Lisa Teige and Fabian Svegaard Tapia are brilliant actors!

Short Film Review: Query (2020)

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!

The Outlands Pentalogy – new covers!

I’m absolutely delighted to unveil the new covers for The Outlands Pentalogy. My dear friend Heather made them (she’s a wonderful designer, for anyone looking for a book cover!). These books are dystopian/science fiction, with a dash of romance!

Behold:

The book’s map is here, for anyone curious! Add on Goodreads.

October Recommendations

October is probably my favourite month of the year. I love the themes, the bite in the air and the scented candles. Everything is orange and yellow and red, everyone’s wearing jumpers and scarves, and things seem quieter, calmer. So I wanted to compile some of the things I associate with October into one place. And because I think this is a season that blends cosiness with spookiness well, these recs are very varied!

Gilmore Girls (2000), without a doubt. This has been a childhood favourite of mine for years, but whenever I think of autumn and fall, I think of Lorelei and Rory. Everything about Stars Hollow is cosy and cute, the colours are so vibrant and the town so festive. Definitely a fall favourite! I also really find the small town theme very cosy, so following this theme, allow me to also recommend Virgin River (2019) and Hart of Dixie (2011).

The Exorcist (2016) is another show to watch this month, for sure. I really loved the storylines and everyone should give it a go. It got cancelled after two seasons, but it ends on a good note that isn’t utterly frustrating or cliffhangery. Some other really good shows are: Bates Motel (2013), Slasher: The Executioner (2016) and Zone Blanch (2017). Unfortunately, I think Zone Blanch was cancelled, too, but gosh if it wasn’t amazing noir-misty-mystery.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) has amazing Hallowe’en episodes and they’re basically classics by this point: people turning into their costumes, a haunted house that becomes real, Giles and his costumes, Dawn getting into trouble. Stranger Things (2016) is also definitely going to enter the realm of classics someday.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is probably one of the top October recs. I want to actually watch The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) soon, which I haven’t seen yet, but I really love the movie Sleepy Hollow (1999). I also recommend It Follows (2014), which is so eerie, I can’t even describe. It’s all filmed on site in Detroit, which was really cool. Some other more classic recs are: Practical Magic (1998), Hocus Pocus (1993), Scream (1996), The Addams Family (1991) and The Cabin in the Woods (2012).

I recently watched The Skeleton Key (2005), which follows a young nurse when she goes to tend to an aged couple on an old plantation in Louisiana. She quickly discovers that not everything is as it seems and there’s something else in the house. It’s an interesting addition to the Southern Gothic genre, although I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped. The cast is great, though!

Other general horror movies for you to peruse, if you’re in the mood: Christine (1983), Friday the 13th (2009), #Alive (2020), The Possession (2012) and It (2017). I also have some horror-comedy recs here. Horror-comedy is one of my favourite subgenres and I wish there were more in the category!

Candles! I love candles. They’re absolutely one of the best things about fall and winter. I mean, I have candles year round, but the best scents come out around this time: pumpkin, spice, ginger, apple, cinnamon. All smells I associate with autumn and all are pretty much guaranteed to put me in a festive mood.

The clothes! I’m not a summer clothes kind of lady. I prefer jeans, boots, jumpers, scarves and knit hats. I definitely prefer the cold weather, too, but I also just think the styles are so much better. Fall styles > summer styles, for real. I got a new coat and scarf recently (on sale!) and love wearing them when I go out. I’m not much for short sleeves, to be honest.

As for reads, I think Pumpkinheads (2019) definitely picks up the spirit of the season! Such an adorable comic/graphic novel, honestly. I also absolutely loved The Monsters We Deserve (2019). Like, really truly loved it. I finally got to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), which I reviewed here and can wholeheartedly recommend it. Of course there’s the always relevant The Exorcist (1971), Dracula (1897) and Frankenstein (1818). The Witches (1983) is another classic.

General horror reads: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973), Everything’s Fine (2020), Anything Resembling Love (2020), Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams (2017), Selfies (2014), These Deathless Bones (2017), A Forest, or a Tree (2019), Lullaby for a Lost World (2016), A Gift of Magic (1972), Gallows Hill (1997), The Third Eye (1984), Killing Mr Griffin (1990), Stranger With my Face (1990), Down a Dark Hall (1975), and Summer of Fear (1976).

And, of course, Hallowe’en, or All Hallows’ Eve, or Samhain. I have a huge fascination with history, especially the history of religions and holidays. And I am fascinated by Pagan and Celtic history. I was never much into the trick or treating aspect of the modern holiday, although the few times I went as a kid were good fun. But I’ve always loved the atmosphere of the time, the idea of a thinning between the worlds.

Annnnd that’s all I can think of for now. What do you love during October?

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.

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!

Random Articles I’ve Read This Week

I read so many good articles that I want to recommend to people, and usually I just toss them onto Twitter for anyone who might be interested, but I thought I’d post a few really good ones here to collect them all in one place. In fact, I might actually start doing these regularly, just so I remember which articles to come back to later!

One of my favourite articles recently was Marilyn Manson’s interview with Nicolas Cage on Interview Magazine.I adore Nicolas Cage and I’m sitting here *most impatiently* waiting for National Treasure 3, and I really loved this interview. My other favourite article is, ‘100 Years of Photographs of Gay Men in Love‘, which is just such a lovely collection.

As I was watching a new Turkish drama the other night (Filinta), I ended up doing a bit of research about the history of Turkish television. I read Fatima Bhutto’s article on The Guardian, ‘How Turkish TV is taking over the world‘ and Murat Sofuoglu’s article on Medium, ‘The giddying rise of Turkish television series‘. Both them were so insightful. Also, feel free to recommend any Turkish dramas you like! I’m always here for more recs.

On a radically different note, I’ve been reading a lot about the pandemic’s impact on the world at large. Some really insightful articles that I’ve stumbled across are: ‘Out of Work in America‘ on The New York Times, which is super depressing. So many people are out of work and struggling. My heart breaks for each and every one of them. ‘Manhattan Hits a Virus Milestone: Median Rent Below $3,000‘ just made my mouth drop. Did anyone ever see that old website that listed New York City apartments pictures versus prices? It was insane.

Today’s ‘America hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began‘ on The Washington Post hit me really hard. This pandemic isn’t nearly over and it’s so heartbreaking. Also, in Irish pandemic news, this article today offered some information on pandemic vaccine progress: ‘Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine could be available ‘within weeks’ and Ireland would be one of the first countries to get it‘.

Pull Yourself Up by Bootstraps? Go Ahead, Try It‘ is another one that’s really worth a read. That article followed this clip, for context. I’m always so impressed with AOC’s know-how and I just adore her. ‘There’s Something About AOC‘ is another wonderful read. I also read John Cusack’s interview about American politics, which was fascinating, and Jacobin‘s new article was really insightful, too. I also want to recommend: ‘How Americans View Foreign Policy in the Trump Era‘ on TIME, for anyone interested in foreign policy.

Has anyone read any good articles this week? I’d love some recs!

A Glimpse into the Gothic

Gothic as a genre is something that’s always intrigued me. I love the idea of dark, spooky manors, of mysteries that lurk beneath, of fog and shadows and whispers. Of course, being named after a Gothic novel – Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) – probably has something to do with it, but I’m always wanting more. Give me the ghostly, the haunted, the mysterious, and bring it dressed in pale colours, windswept and chilling. Bring it in gorgeous architecture, in castles and manors, in forests and fields and by the sea, with grey skies and constant rains.

The first novel I ever remember properly encountering and identifying as ‘Gothic’ was Northanger Abbey (1871) by Jane Austen. Then there’s Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (1909), which are probably some of the most well known classics. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) is on my list, although I haven’t read it yet. I’ve always known the peripheries of this story, but don’t actually know the finer points of the story, so I’d like to read it properly soon. Actually, add Dracula (1897) to that list as well because even though I’m familiar with the names of Count Dracula, Mina, Harker and Van Helsing, and the ins and outs of vampire lore, I haven’t actually read the novel itself. I’ve started it, but never delved in. Must fix this! Carmilla (1872) and Frankenstein (1818), too. For those who don’t know, Frankenstein is considered the first science fiction novel by many! And I adore Mary Shelly and studied her mother Mary Wollstonecraft for college, so I really must read the whole darn thing at some point. I also want to properly read The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) as I love Oscar Wilde and I’ve seen the adaptation (2009) with Ben Barnes. I very much recommend that one, by the way!

As for more modern stories, I really want to check out Mexican Gothic (2020) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and can’t wait to get enough time to actually sit down and read it. I’m also curious about Other Words for Smoke by (2019) Sarah Maria Griffin.

There are also a great many wonderful Gothic films and shows worth checking out. I loved Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Underworld (2003) when they first came out, both bringing a bit of action and horror into the genre. And when The Haunting of Hill House (2018) – based on the book by Shirley Jackson (1959) – first came out, I was immediately intrigued. Of course, I wasn’t able to start it straight away due to a busy schedule, but I loved the look of it. (I’ve since started it and it’s great.) The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020), based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898) and other stories, dives right in with a woman telling a spooky tale from the 1980s in England and I’m already on episode three. I’m loving the aesthetics. I’m used to Gothic settings in the 1880s, and seeing it set in the 1980s is a great contrast. I love me some old-timey spookiness, but it’s great to see other decades enter the genre. Crimson Peak (2015) was particularly gruesome, but engrossing all the same. Guillermo del Toro is always good and his signature style really comes through in this one. The cast is also amazing! If you haven’t seen this one yet, I definitely recommend it. Be warned, though, things are twisty in this one! And then of course, Penny Dreadful (2014), which was cancelled much too soon.

I also really like Southern Gothic, which needs more love! True Blood (2008) is a great example, and I really enjoyed the show. When I think of Southern Gothic, the introduction to that show is the first thing that springs to mind. Winter’s Bone (2010) and Mudbound (2017) are also well worth a watch. The Gift (2000), is truly traumatising from what I remember, but it definitely fits the bill of a Southern Gothic! I also watched The Devil All the Time (2020) a couple of weeks ago and it was intense, but definitely engrossing. Justified (2010) could also probably be added to this list, but it’s more Western procedural in my mind. The show is based on Elmore Leonard’s books and it’s one of my top favourite series of all time either way, so if you haven’t seen it, you totally should! The cast is stellar.

There’s so many more books, films and shows that belong on this list, so this is by no means exhaustive!

Do you like Gothic – or a subgenre of Gothic – fiction or romance? Any recommendations? I’d love to know!

Show Review: Marriage Contract / 결혼계약 (2016)

Oof. This one’s tough and beautiful.

Marriage Contract deals with two very tough situations: a son dealing with his mother’s illness and his desperation to find her a new liver; and a young mother, hiding from loan sharks after her deceased husband left her a massive amount of debt, who finds out that she has a brain tumour. The pair cross paths when Kang Hye-soo, the young mother, begins working at Han Ji-hoon’s restaurant. She overhears his plans to marry someone and pay for a liver, she offers herself and requests that he gives her enough money so that her daughter Eun-Seong will want for nothing. Not knowing the reasons why, Ji-hoon pays off the loan sharks, marries Hye-soo, and the pair begin to sort out plans for her giving her liver to his mother.

The more time they spend together, the closer they become, but that only makes things more difficult as Hye-soo doesn’t want to share what’s happening to her with anyone or ask for help. Her scenes are absolutely shattering. Ji-hoon’s mother’s storyline is also devastating; his father’s the absolute worst, though.

One of the best parts of this show, other than Hye-soo and Ji-hoon’s relationship, is their relationship with Eun-Seong. She doesn’t warm up to Ji-hoon at first, and is deeply protective of her mother, but soon the pair begin to bond and it’s clear they come to see each other as family. I loved how fatherly he was and how much he cared about both Hye-soo and Eun-Seong.

I’m not gonna lie, this show will make you cry. Constantly. Hye-soo’s pain is so real and all I wanted to do was reach into the screen and hug her. Ji-hoon is such a good son and caretaker and partner. He really grows over the course of the show and I loved his character progression. His dedication to his mother and now-wife are amazing. LOVE IT.

This show is truly wonderful and touches on some really rough topics. I definitely recommend giving it a chance!

Show Review: Where Your Eyes Linger / 너의 시선이 머무는 곳에 (2020)

It appears television writers came together and wrote a show just for me! (Just kidding, but not really.) One of my absolute favourite tropes is a bodyguard falling in love with the one they’re protecting; another of my favs is ANGST that hits you in the FEELS without ruining your whole day. And thus we are blessed with Where Your Eyes Linger.

The short series – eight episodes, ten(ish) minutes each – follows Han Tae-joo, heir and rich kid, who is guarded and protected by his best friend of fifteen years Kang-gook. They’re more than friends, though. Their relationship is deeper than just bodyguard/protectee as well. They spend every waking moment together and have only been apart for one week when Tae-joo visited Japan.

Things take a turn when Choi Hye-mi, a girl at their school, begins to take an interest in Kang-gook and Tae-joo’s jealousy surfaces. But it’s far from one sided, and as Tae-joo tries to get Kang-gook’s attention, things become more and more intense.

I watched the whole series in less than two hours and it’s totally worth it. Has anyone else seen this one? Or have some bodyguard show recs? (The K2 is perfection, FYI.)