Tv Tuesday #4

One sentence summary – 3 suggestions of tv shows you may have missed and will probably love. Are you not entertained? Give #1, #2, #3 a try.

Yonderland (2013-2016 : 22 x 25 mins : Sky/Now TV )

If you love/d Horrible Histories and love Ghosts, then this one is for you. Blending fantasy and comedy, with puppets (and ‘everybody loves puppets’!) we follow married mum-of-two Debbie (Martha Howe-Douglas) as she finds out she is The Chosen One of a far away land hidden in her cupboard – a role which comes with all sorts of duties including saving Yonder Land itself. The whole HH gang are present and accounted for (Simon Farnaby, Mathew Baynton, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond) in this witty and warm tv series. Sidenote: If this video was an intrinsic part of your teenage awakening – as it was for me – please do let me know…

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019 : 64 x 42 minutes : Netflix)

‘I was/ Working hard at a New York job/ Making dough, but it made me blue/ One day, I was crying a lot/ And so I decided to move to/ West Covina, California/ Brand-new pals and new career/ It happens to be where Josh lives/ But that’s not why I’m here…’ And with that, the lyrics of the opening theme song, you’ve got the gist of this show – except you have no idea of the heartbreaking joy that awaits you. Co-creator, co-write and lead  Rachel Bloom does a phenomenal job of conveying so much of what it means to be a 21st Century woman. The story starts with Rebecca Bunch (Bloom) moving to the aforementioned West Covina to ‘not’ follow her old boyfriend, but it’s about so much more – plus incredibly well written and accurate songs about the gender disparity in getting ready, confusing relationship dynamics, <a href="http://<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/brzZQBSVMX0&quot; frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>facing your fears, <a href="http://<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uic_3vlI5BE&quot; frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>mental health and heavy boobs. Oh, and this total banger.

GameFace (2017-2019 : 12 x 24 minutes : All4)

Created and co-written by lead Roisin Conaty, we follow her character Marcella as she deals with all manner of life rejections – love and career – where the only constant is her driving lessons with Jon (Damien Molony). A funny and sweet love story plays out, using some familiar romcom tropes in a slightly more realistic and believable manner. The final episode of series 2 has one of my favourite pieces of dialogue in recent televisual history.

TV Tuesday #3

If you are also binging on good telly as a surviving mechanism for the unholy trinity that is it getting dark at 4pm, crappy weather and Lockdown 2.0 – I hope this series helps. Each week I’ll pick a trio of tv delights which you may not have seen before. Or you may have seen them before and I tempt you into a rewatch. There’s no rhyme or reason to each week’s picks, just things I spot on my streaming site travels that tickle my fancy. Here’s editions #1 and #2 if you’re in need of even more to choose from.

Crashing (2016 : 6 x 30 mins : Netflix/All4)

Last week I talked about Michela Cole’s fantastic sophomore project Chewing Gum. This week I’m talking about Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s tv debut as writer-director. Crashing is a comedy series following the lives of six 20- and 30-somethings living together as property guardians of a large, disused hospital. And it is superb. Fans of Fleabag will see lots of now-familiar tropes within it, particularly in how Waller-Bridge manages to explore relationships in such a bittersweetly-nihilistically-hopeful manner. Such a shame it only had one series, but so good that we got that at all. I have such fondness for this show, and I really do urge you to give it a go.

Try this if you like: Fresh Meat, Fleabag, Lovesick, This Way Up, Derry Girls

Outcry (2020 : 5 x 70 mins : SkyGo/ NowTv)

Showtime really know how to put on a good tv miniseries, and this one is no exception. This five-part documentary series examines the gripping story of high school football star Greg Kelley who was arrested, convicted and jailed for sexual assault of a 4-year-old boy, and his supporters’ quest for truth and justice. I’m loathe to go into too-much detail as to why this makes for such compelling watching – such is my want not to spoil things. What I will say, this will have you hooked, horrified and outraged throughout and long after watching.

Try this if you like: The Vow, Defending Jacob, When They See Us, The Jinx

In The Flesh (2013-2014 : 9 x 60 mins : BBC iPlayer)

BBC3 regularly gets ridden off rather snobbishly with all manner of presumptions made about it’s content. If you’re in any doubt to the wonderful shows it has made and continues to produce, then rectify it with this. Four years after the Rising, the government starts to rehabilitate the Undead for reentry into society, including teenager Kieren Walker, who returns to his small Lancashire village to face a hostile reception, as well as his own demons. Whilst a zombie drama, this is more human than something like The Walking Dead – it’s quieter, more drama than action although not without a tense sequence it tends to focus more on the aftermath. Bitterly profound and immensely beautiful.

Try this if you like: Being Human, The Returned, The Fades, London Spy

Something-To-Watch Saturday #6 : Halloween Edition

Six weeks in and it’s time for the first themed edition. With 7 days to go to Halloween, here’s 7 films to set the mood. If Halloween isn’t for you, check out the previous five editions here #1 #2 #3 #4 #5.

What We Do In The Shadows (2014 – 86 mins – Amazon Prime)

‘I go for a look which I call “dead but delicious”…’ One of last week’s picks was Taika Waititi‘s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, an adventure romp involving a rebellious kid and his foster father going on the run in the New Zealand bush. This was Waiti’s preceding film, co-directed with Jemaine Clement. An endlessly entertaining mockumentary about an illusive household of vampire roommates. Time for first watch if you’ve not seen it already or, if you have, then it’s time for another rewatch. Then, you’ve got two series of the tv spin-off to follow-up with (20 episodes all on BBC iPlayer). Always remember, ‘werewolves not swearwolves’.

Cabin In The Woods (2011 – 95 mins – Amazon Prime)

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin, where they get more than they bargained for, discovering the truth behind the cabin in the woods. Think you’ve seen all those tropes done before? Not like this you haven’t… The script, by writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, is wonderfully knowing and satirical. The end result is an immensely entertaining (and occasionally frightening) ride.

Ghost Stories (2017 – 98 mins – BBC iPlayer)

Based on the stage show, also by writer-director duo Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, Ghost Stories is a creepy slow-burn about skeptical professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman) as he embarks on a trip to the terrifying after being given a file with details of three unexplained cases of apparitions. Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther are the three men who test Phillip’s beliefs and push him to the very edge.

Addams Family Values (1993 – 94 mins – Netflix)

Although this is the sequel (with 1991 The Addams Family also on Netflix), this one has slightly more bite and has an even bigger place in my heart as we follow the eponymous Family try to rescue their beloved Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) from his gold-digging new love, a black widow named Debbie (a scene-stealing Joan Cusack). Morticia (Anjelica Huston) and Gomez (Raul Julia) continue to be couple goals for the ages. A fantasy comedy suitable for all ages.

Corpse Bride (2005 – 77 mins – Netflix/ Amazon Prime)

This week’s underrated romcom slot goes to a wonderful animated necrophiliac musical directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson. When a shy groom (Johnny Depp) practices his wedding vows in the inadvertent presence of a deceased young woman (Helena Bonham Carter), she rises from the grave assuming he has married her. The animation is exquisite, the songs captivating and the macabre story is told with just the right amount of sweet and spook.

Hereditary (2018 – 127 mins – Netflix)

I first saw this with my friend Sarah at Sundance London, months before release and knowing nothing about it. My most distinct memory of watching it was turning to Sarah, at what was probably mid-way through, and whispering ‘When will this all be over..?!?’ Not because it’s a bad film, but because I was really feckin’ scared! Fantastically performed, well told and packed full of hauntingly tense sequences.

A Quiet Place (2018 – 90 mins – Netflix)

Another one of those films that makes me nostalgic for sold-out cinema screens packed full of people truly immersed in the film experience. This one truly relied on an audience adhering to an unspoken (lol) code of making no noise during the film. If you were lucky enough to have that happen, this would have been such a magnificent experience. It holds up on the small screen too, just as entertainingly scary as it was on release. The sequel was due to come out in the UK March 20th 2020 but has been pushed back to April 23rd 2021, making it one of the many unmissable films that await us next year.

Something-To-Watch Saturday #5

Are you new around here? Then let me catch you up. Every Saturday I’ll be publishing a list of 7 movie suggestions of films from various streaming sites, saving you time and decision-making by helping you decide what to watch. Like what you see, then just leave a comment. Want even more suggestions? Check out issues #1, #2, #3 and #4.

The Princess Bride (1987 – 98 mins – Amazon Prime)

To start with, I’m chucking out the big guns. My favourite film of all-time. If you know me, you know this fact already – you’ve probably heard me harp on about it enough. A film that is as funny as it is charming as it is romantic. This is a film perfect for every mood, with truly medical qualities. Here’s a piece I wrote for Den Of Geek about why I love it so much.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014 – 113 mins – Amazon Prime)

Easily one of the finest science fiction movies of the past decade, think Groundhog Day meets Independence Day – where a soldier (Tom Cruise) fighting aliens gets to relive the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies. His fellow soldier (Emily Blunt), may just be the answer to saving both he and the entire world.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016 – 101 – Amazon Prime)

I first saw this movie at Genesis Cinema (East London), a month prior to it’s release – in screen 4 with an audience made up of folk from New Zealand and Australia. It was the perfect audience for such a hysterically funny film. A comedy adventure film set when a national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and his foster uncle Hec (Sam Neill) who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush. ‘ I didn’t choose the skuxx life, the skuxx life chose me.’

Man Up (2015 – 88 mins – BBC iPlayer)

This week’s underseen romantic comedy slot goes to this gem of a Brit flick. Nancy (Lake Bell) is in her mid-30s, fed up of being single but also fed up of her friend’s awful attempts at set-ups. After literally bumping into Jack (Simon Pegg), who believes she’s the woman he’s meant to be headed on a date with, Nancy decides not to correct him and go on the date. A night they’ll never forget soon follows. Wonderfully written by Tess Morris, this is a seriously funny film with a fantastic ensemble cast. Adhering to romcom tropes, yet playing wonderfully with them, any film that has a dance-off to this tuuuune has me sold.

Southside With You (2016 – 84 mins – BBC iPlayer)

Sometimes, when present day politics terrifies me (aka, most days) I think about the Barack Obama era, with the same degree of nostalgia one would an ex partner who you ended things with on mutually respecting yet loving terms. Should you be the same, this is an indie gem for you. It’s a fictionalised account of the first date between Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle (Tika Sumpter). Understated, charming and really endearing.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019 – 119 mins – Amazon Prime)

Armando Iannucci deciding to follow up the scathing satire The Death of Stalin with a Dickens adaptation felt like something of a choice. Thankfully, we any doubts were kicked away within the film’s opening moments. From then on it’s a charming and hilarious riot of laugher, that had me grinning like the Cheshire Cat the entire time. Dev Patel is the eponymous David in a riches-to-rags-to-riches-to-rags tale starring Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie, Morfydd Clark, Daisy May Cooper, Hugh Laurie, Anna Maxwell Martin, Tilda Swinton, Paul Whitehouse, Ben Whishaw and Benedict Wong. Click here to read my film review.

Life, Animated (2016 – 92 mins – Netflix)

If you were to ask me the oddly specific question, ‘What are you favourite five documentaries of all time?’, this would definitely be making an appearance. A story that hits me on a personal level (as I mention here), we follow Owen Suskind as he gets ready to leave his family home and move away to live on his home for the first time. It’s a situation his parents’ would never have foreseen when he stopped suddenly speaking aged 3 and a diagnosis of autism soon followed. This is a film about the magic of parents and of Disney – two powerful forces that should never be underestimated.

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.

My worst ever date

My worst ever date lasted for 27 minutes. I know this because of the call history on my phone; my date with Dan was a 4 minute phone-call followed by 23 minutes in person that truly felt like eternity.

It was October 2014, I had lived in London for four months and was a very naive 22 year-old. My rented apartment with a friend was awesome and I was loving my first ever year as a teacher. I didn’t know all that many people in the city, with most of my university friends having scattered back to their various homes across the country. My social life was practically non-existent – which made me all-too-aware of my lack of love life. And so, like most of my generation, I had turned to the internet. A cursory Google search just now has informed me that Tinder was very much around then, but it had totally skipped me by at the point (which reveals a lot about my then-self). Instead I had turned to Match.Com; which seems a slightly baffling choice now I’m in my late twenties and feeling a sense of protectiveness towards my sweet-cinnamon-roll younger self.

Dan was one of the first people I matched and messaged with. He was neither attractive nor unattractive, he was fine. He had no distinctive features and I am safe in the knowledge I would be totally unable to recognise him if I ever saw him again. I could have passed him at any point in the following years and would have had absolutely no idea. I think I continued to exchange messages with him as he was confident and unafraid to ‘say it how it is’ (which may just be the worst thing any human being can say of themselves). I was lacking in confidence and found some sense of assurance in his matter-of-fact messaging. He was in his early 30s, a banker who worked in the city – somehow, along the way of forming relationship expectations I had decided (or been forced to decide through societal expectation…) that these were good attributes in a partner (Yes. I know.) Which is why I had missed the repeated references in his messages to my legs and his wanting me to wear a short skirt to the date. I just thought that was normal flirting…

We were due to meet at Liverpool Street station at 6pm one Friday night. I’d not been there before and nobody had warned me that it is a station with exactly 1,841,858 exits – hence me texting Dan at 6pm asking where exactly to meet. He called in response and instantly I knew tonight would not go well. He was chewing gum in the manner of a ravenous cow devouring a savoured patch in an otherwise drought-struck field. His words were more like noises, mastication turning his vowels into a form of morse code that needed deciphering. Having gone out of the station’s nearest exit, I’d decided to head towards the biggest building I could see. I told him the name of it, only to be greeted with a groan and what I was near-certain translated as ‘How did you know I worked there? Are you a stalker my crazy girl?’ My mortification levels had never been so high and every part of my body wanted to run away, my brain trying to put on the breaks, but I thought that I should at least try the date. What did I have to lose..?

We (he) carried on talking over the phone until we saw each other. He crossed the road to meet me and I instantly realised he had lied about his height, by about five inches. He’d said he was the same height as me, 5ft11″ which made our height difference pretty significant. Which wouldn’t really be a problem except a)he’d lied and b) he clearly had a profound height fetish. The greeting of ‘What’s the weather like up there chick? Glad to see you wore a skirt for me!’ did not help matters. At all.

We side-hugged as greeting, then he guided me by the small of my back to a bar. It is packed with workers in their packs who have finished for the week, stopping by the watering hole before making the commute home. Dan asks what I want to drink. I’ve recently discovered cocktails and believe them to be the height of sophistication. He leaves me at the only free table, going off to order a mojito for me and a pint for himself. He returns with two mojitos for me as it’s Happy Hour. This wouldn’t be a problem except I’ve quickly realised just how awful Dan is and that I’m now stuck here for two drinks before I can leave. My two drinks are plonked on the table by him with a look of disdain, ‘They’re not very good here – much better next door.’ I think better than to ask why he didn’t say this when he took my drinks request.

After some more height comments geared towards me, he then asks after my job plans. He’s relieved someone as young as me has a job as easy as being a teacher, that it’s good I’m doing something so flexible as I explore the city and the world. You know, take it easy as I discover myself. He’s advised teaching abroad, possibly in Scandinavia where my fellow women would be as tall and pale as I am. I’ve realised they’re no point in fighting with him on just how wrong he is, that as much as I love my job I’ve realised it has a to-do-list that will never end and will most likely consume me completely.

I have always wanted to go to Sweden though.

To keep myself busy, and to speed up my exit, I’m drinking my drinks as speedily as possible. Dan observes this, drawling ‘You’re drinking ’em quick. Yeah, suck that straw. Suck that straw good.’ Reader, yes I know I should have left immediately at that point, ideally throwing the remaining drink in his face in the process, but I was too shocked and too focused on being polite to do so.

Thankfully my exit pass came swiftly after, when he asked after my family. He asked if my mum was ‘like me’. Unsure of what was really being asked here I replied ‘Well, height-wise she’s shorter. She’s also a teacher though!’ Dan replied with the now immortal line, ‘No I meant, is she hot like you? Is your mum single?’ I jokingly apologised, explaining she was happily married to my dad. Dan seemed deeply disappointed by this response, far more at that than the fact I’d now decided to leave.

‘I’m going to go now.’ was all I said, as I got up and left. It was 6.30pm when I walked back through the station, having called my best friend as I was laughing so hysterically I feared I’d look truly crazy without my phone as a prop.

Unsurprisingly, I never heard again from Dan. It would be months before I could drink again from a straw.