Something-To-Watch Saturday #2


Welcome to the second edition of Something-To-Watch Saturday. Missed the first instalment? Then just click here to sate that sense of intrigue.

RBG (2018 – 98 mins – Netflix)

Why should I watch this? Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away on 18th September 2020 aged 87, was a true icon. Given the loving nickname ‘The Notorious RBG’ in recent years, when she finally started to receive the attention and appreciation she finally deserved, this is documentary is the perfect introduction to those who knew nothing about her or for fans to celebrate her life. I could tell you here all about the amazing work she did, for men and women, and how she blazed the trail for so many people – but I think you should watch this instead and bask in her glory.

Honey Boy (2019 – 94 mins – Amazon Prime)

Why should I watch this? Shia LaBeouf started his career aged just ten, performing stand-up at comedy clubs. Film and TV roles soon followed, with Disney’s Even Stevens being the role that bought him to most people’s attention. Now 34, he’s grown up in front of the camera, with all sorts of hardships and trauma going on behind it. Honey Boy, written by LaBeouf and directed by Alma Har’el, is the closely inspired by his life story of a young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health. A wonderfully tender evocative movie, made all the more heart rendering by it’s layers of autobiography.

A Matter of Life and Death (1946 – 104 mins – BBC iPlayer)

Why should I watch this? I first watched A Matter of Life and Death during the second half of my first year of uni, were I was starting to fall out of love with film – unfortunate as my course was film studies… This film made me fall back in love and then some, so much so it’s still my 3rd favourite film of all time. Only upon seeing it can you appreciate just how ahead of a time this film is – the visuals and special effects, the story and its themes, the fact it was made in the shadows of WW2 – simply extraordinary. A British fantasy-romance that is truly timeless.

A Street Cat Named Bob (2016 – 103 mins – Amazon Prime)

Why should I watch this? Based on a true story, that has since resulted in 9 books, Bob was a street cat who adopted a human called James Bowen (planned in the film by Luke Treadaway). In 2007 Bowen enrolled on a methadone programme, busking in Covent Garden, and living in a supported housing programme in Tottenham, London. One night he returned home to a ginger cat (Bob, playing himself) in his hallway. When no-one claimed Bob, decided to help Bob and keep him. In doing so, James’ life was changed forever, as recounted in this very sweet feelgood movie. Click here to read my full review.

Hotel Artemis (2018 – 94 mins – Amazon Prime)

Why should I watch this? Hotel Artemis sure isn’t perfect, but it is ambitious and so entertaining. Set in riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, the film follows the Nurse (Jodie Foster), who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals. With a cast that includes Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto and Dave Bautista, Hotel Artemis is an immensely entertaining romp. It’s also made even more impressive when considering it’s relatively small budget of $15.5 million. There’s some superb world building going on here with an immensely compelling narrative. Click here to read my full review.

A Man Called Ove (2017 – 115 mins – Amazon Prime)

Why should I watch this? This is an example of a film that should persuade you to look past it’s subtitles if you are someone who is usually resistant to them. This Swedish film is an adaption of Fredrik Backman‘s novel of the same name. Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is a true curmudgeon, old and ill-tempered, he has cut himself off from the world since the death of his wife the previous year – and even then he had as little as possible to do with anyone as he could. He’s finally given up on life when his boisterous new neighbours inadvertently interrupt his plans. Darkly funny and uplifting, this is a real gem of a film.

The Incredible Jessica James (2017 – 83 mins – Netflix)

Why should I watch this? One of Netflix’s many own movies that seem to slip under the radar, this is a real treat to watch. It’s the story of Jessica James (a magnetic Jessica Williams) who strikes up a new friendship with Boone (Chris O’Dowd) whilst rebounding from a break-up with Damon (LaKeith Stanfield) whilst also working out what on earth she should be doing with her life. A really charming way to spend 83 mins!

Something-To-Watch Saturday

Oh my god we’re back again. After a few weeks break, I’m bringing Movie Mondays back – as promised, in a slightly tweaked format. Each Saturday I will be recommending 7 films from across multiple platforms; in a bet to counter that weekend feeling where you ended up flicking across platforms for ages, trying to decide watch to watch. Sometimes I’ll make some picks according to seasonal events, the weather, what’s going on in the world and sometimes just because I think they’re rather brilliant. Hope you enjoy!

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019 – 97 mins – Netflix)

Why should I watch this? This story of a young man who has Down Syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) escaping his nursing home and joining a man on the run (Shia LaBeouf) so he can pursue his wrestling dreams, with his carer (Dakota Johnson) in hot pursuit, is so wonderfully charming. Blending road trip with a touch of magical realism, this is a heart-warming tale tinged with a touch of bittersweet-ness. Simply wonderful. Click here to read my full review.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005 – 98 mins – Amazon Prime)

Why should I watch this? If you liked the mix of black comedy and trauma that made up Iron Man 3, there’s a good chance you’ll love this as it was written and directed by the same person – Shane Black. This is his take on a film noi/neo noir – with a thief (Robert Downey Jr, in the role that brought him back to the forefront), a private detective (Val Kilmer) and an actress become entangled in a murder mystery (Michelle Monaghan). Dark, witty and wickedly funny.

Wild Rose (2019 – 100 mins – Amazon Prime)

Why should I watch this? I firmly believe there’s something rather magical about a British feelgood story. The evidence for this theory? This corker of a movie. Jessie Buckley plays Rose, a Glaswegian powerhouse obsessed with Country music. Recently out of prison, her heart yearns for Nashville while she’s stuck living in an estate trying to look after her two children who know their grandmother (Julie Walters) far more than their mother. A feelgood story of dreams and reaching for the stars that will resonate with everyone.

Handsome Devil (2017 – 94 mins – Amazon Prime)

Why should I watch this? And now to Ireland, with this delightful indie drama about two total opposites, musical loner Ned (Fionn O’Shea) and beloved rugby star Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), forced to share a room at their boarding school. They bond over a shared love of music, watched over by their understanding teacher (Andrew Scott) – this is an underseen gem. Perfect for anyone who’s ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with.

Ex Machina (2015 – 108 mins – Netflix)

Why should I watch this? A three hander of a movie, set in one location, this is a superb science fiction drama made by and starring some of the finest actors of this generation. Written and directed by Alex Garland, Ex Machina is the story of a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) selected by the company’s CEO (Oscar Isaac) to take part in a retreat, which is actually a cover for testing his latest artifical intelligence software (Alicia Vikander). Taut and oh-so thrilling.

Mudbound (2017 – 135 mins – Netflix)

Why should I watch this? Mudbound continues to be one of the most frustrating examples of an incredible film being ignored and/or forgotten films during an awards season. A truly gripping historical drama about two Mississippi families, one white (Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund) and the other black (Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell). Staring in 1939, Dee Rees‘ films is a brutal, illuminating and stunning tale of farming, friendship and prejudice.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015 – 116 mins – Netflix)

Why should I watch this? If you’re in need of an entertaining action romp, this is the one for you. With a beautiful cast (Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki) wearing beautiful costumes in beautiful settings, this really is one for you. With an adoring fandom, that has only grown since it’s underseen release, Guy Ritchie‘s attempt at a James Bond movie is action-packed, funny and utterly charming.

The New Mutants

”I don’t think we’re here to get better.’

Occasionally a media product – be that TV show, game, album or film – will be described as going or having gone through ‘development hell’. It describes exactly what it sounds like; when the putting together, making of or releasing of was a hellish experience. Rarely has the term been as accurately used as when it is describing The New Mutants. Director Josh Boone started work on the project in 2014. Fox signed off on it in 2015 with the script being completed in 2016. 2017 saw pre-production, casting and the start of filming. After a cut was put together, re-shoots took place in 2018.

None of this is particularly uncommon for a big blockbuster, although the time frame is was one the slightly longer side. Then the film got pushed back by Fox, the re-shoots looked to be more extensive than initially anticipated – whispers of an entire tonal shift started occurring. Then Disney bought out Fox and it looked like it either didn’t know what to do with the film. A final cut was ready in early 2020, a release date of March was set – and then Covid closed the cinemas. Now, this weekend and next Friday, you can finally go and see the film everyone was starting to believe didn’t actually exist. Was it worth the wait?

No, not really. The whispers and speculation of the film’s unimpressiveness prove to be mostly warranted, mainly because it is hard to believe how so many interesting full-of-potential components have resulted in something so dull and bland. The best superhero adaptations, be that film or tv, aren’t ‘just’ superhero stories, they utilise generic or cultural conventions to great effect. Think the Afrofuturism of Black Panther, the take on the Western that is Luke Cage and the film noir of Jessica Jones for just a few examples.

The New Mutants seems to be a horror pitched at the young adult audience, with it’s 15 certificate clearly signposting this statement of intent. The BBFC certificate promises ‘strong threat, bloody images, abuse references’. It’s a shame then that the film isn’t particularly scary or gory or really anything at all.

Starting in media res we see Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) running for her life as her reservation is destroyed by what appears to be some sort of monster. After falling unconsciousness in the middle of some woods, she awakes in what seems to be hospital. Dr Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga) explains that she is there because she is extraordianary – her mutant superpowers meant she was the only survivor of the catastrophe. She must stay at the hospital until she learns to control her powers, although she doesn’t know what they are yet.

She’s not the only patient at the hospital. There’s also Rahne Sinclair (Maise Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton) and Bobby da Costa (Henry Zaga). All have experienced great trauma as a direct consequence of their powers. Dr Reyes refers to her ‘superior’, which the group assume is Professor Xavier, but as each young mutant endures a literal haunting from their past they have reason to suspect they are in great danger.

And so the story goes, with a running time of 100 minutes. The most memorable thing about it is just how unmemorable it really is. The cast are great, with the majority being very familiar faces known for iconic performances – Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split, Emma), Williams (Game Of Thrones) and Heaton (Stranger Things). Those three in particular make an intriguing impact within proceeding, even when armoured with some ‘interesting’ The fault lies with the material they have been given.

The story is The Breakfast Club: emo edition, with 5 disparate superpowered teenagers trapped in a building. The true monster? Themselves! The dialogue is empty enigma sandwiched in endless exposition. We get told so much, yet very little of it helps us understand or actually like the characters. The visuals aren’t particularly impressive and the special effects are a tad on the creaky side.

The end result is a film that is unlikely to generate hate, simply apathy. At least now we know it actually exists..?

The New Mutants previews in the UK August 29th and 30th, before being released September 4th.

Tenet

‘Don’t try to understand it, just feel it.’

When submitting essays at university, between the act of final proof read and pressing that ‘submit’ button I would have one recurring and prevailing thought – this is either total brilliance or totally nonsensical. I had an echo of that thought throughout the entirety of Tenet 150 minute running time. But, are brilliance and nonsense truly binary opposites – or are they inverted…?

The biggest film to hit cinema’s in nearly six months is Christopher Nolan’s go at a Bond movie – a caper full of spies, missions, dashing leading men in great suits, a damsel in distress and gorgeous locations all around the globe. It’s also his most inaccessible film to date. I’ll avoid going into any detail at all about the plot because of A) Spoilers and B) I’m pretty sure I have absolutely no idea what happens in Tenet, and I just came out o the 14.10 screening of it. I look forward to reading the Wikipedia summary and/or idiots guide to what just went down. There’s something wildly liberating about having extended periods of time where you have absolutely no idea what is happening or will happen next.

Did I enjoy Tenet? Watching it, yes. Trying to work out what was going on, no. It’s pretentious to say, but I truly appreciated it even if I didn’t enjoy it all that much. It truly is the cinematic spectacular that Nolan himself has been advocating for months. The stunt work is truly incredible, with some impeccably coordinated and shot sequences which truly boogle the mind. The locations are extraordinary and add to the film’s immersive qualities.

The performances are exemplary. We already knew from Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman that John David Washington is a great talent. Here we see that he is an unquestionable star, with an electric charisma that is beyond captivating. Robert Pattinson’s internal chaos is channelled brilliantly as Nolan’s doppelganger (aka the character in each Nolan movie that dresses just like him. If in doubt, look for the scarves.) Elizabeth Debicki is excellent with what she is given, it’s a joy to see her 6ft 3 height shown and not hidden. Kenneth Branagh is there as a Russian villain.

As I come to end of writing this piece, I’m not sure if I need to see Tenet again or never again. My practical advice when it comes to seeing it? Go in with no expectations, don’t try to resist it or work it out. Let it embrace you and allow it to sweep you up in its journey. If you’re comfortable with getting back into the cinemas, this is one to see on the biggest screen possible.

Tenet is out in UK cinemas from Wednesday 26th August.

Movie Mondays – 20 weeks in review

‘Of all the arts, movies are the most powerful aid to empathy, and good ones make us into better people.’ – Roger Ebert

After 20 weeks, I’m going to take a break on doing Movie Mondays. Whether I bring them back, most likely in a slightly different format is still to be decided! For now, he’s an overview of the 420 films I recommended: