Recap: Every Monday, as part of my school’s radio show, I make picks of the week in the four categories of book, film, tv show and book. For your delectation here’s the picks from Monday 18th January…
Book (tie between The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman and After the Silence by Louise O’Neill)
I’m cheating this week and I’ve gone for two – both crime but very, very different with one light and one dark. For the light pick, Osman’s book follows four unlikely friends in a peaceful retirement village who meet up once a week to solve unsolved murders. It’s wickedly funny and so warm, playing on societal expectations, cosy yet gripping. O’Neill’s book counters this, by being brutal and scathing. I’d recommend for fans of real-life murder crime podcasts – on the ten year anniversary of a young woman on a small Irish island, a documentary team travel there to find out what really happened that day. Devastating, dark and so powerful – it’ll haunt you long after reading.
TV (Race Across The World on BBC iPlayer)
A group of travellers are dropped off in a city, in pairs they have to race across the world to their destination using any route they like – but they’re not allowed to use their smartphones, they’re not allowed to catch a flight and their budget is only whatever the cost of a flight would be. At a time when travelling applies moving from the bedroom to living room to kitchen, this show is a wonderful escape seeing such beauty of the world. It’s also wonderful to follow the travellers as they grow in confidence and make so many discoveries about the world, and themselves.
Film (Hotel Artemis on Amazon Prime)
In a dystopian Los Angeles, a nurse (Jodie Foster) runs a secret hotel/hospital for criminals. However, the arrival of a new group of patients is about to wreck all kinds of havoc…. A blend of science fiction, action and thriller, it’s fast paced (only 93 mins) with some fantastic world building.
Song (Under Pressure by David Bowie and Queen)
This week the artist was the easy bit, as last week saw what would have been his birthday and the anniversary of his death – but the big question was the song. My favourite is The Prettiest Star, Modern Love is the one that gets me on the dancefloor. But I’ve gone for the one that should result in some cathartic sing-yelling along.
As there’s a good chance any of us will be watching a *lot* more telly over the coming month, I thought I’d start up with some recommendations again. So begins this new feature (which I like to sing to the tune of Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones). Each week I’ll pick three tv series – most likely at random – that I think may appeal for all manner of reasons…
The West Wing (1999 – 2006)
7 seasons – 156 episodes – Free on All4
I’ve always wanted to watch The West Wing as I was always certain I’d love it. Why? ‘Because I’m a lily-livered, bleeding-heart, liberal, egghead communist.’ Shying away from the commitment of buying on DVD or VOD, I hoped I’d get around to it at some point. Then, on October 21st 2020, all 156 episodes dropped on All4. And fellows, it is *everything* everyone has ever said about it and more. It’s superbly written, constructed and performed. It’s been optimistic balm for this weary soul (which may have inadvertently made the fast-approaching US election result even more terrifying). I’m 22 episodes in, I fancy and am in love with pretty much all of the cast at this point, have felt weepy on average once an episode and sobbed my way through one truly masterful episode that might just have been the most perfect piece of TV I have ever seen. In short? Go watch it, then let’s walk and talk.
Below Deck (2013 – )
105+ episodes : Season 1, 2 and 3 Amazon Prime (Season 4 onwards requires hayu subscription)
And now for something very different, something which I’m still trying to pinpoint how and why I am so addicted to. I started to work it out in this VodZilla article for the similarly themed Selling Sunset but it’s still not conclusive. Is it the exotic locations? The guests who are varying degrees of trash? The crew who can be varying degrees of trash? The work-place conflict? The 21st Century Marie Antoinette levels of excess and indulgence? Or all of the above? I binged this like I have never binged before. I thought season 1 was okay, but once I found out the fact the guests have no inkling of the crew’s dramas I was sold (competence and professionalism ftw!) It’s just so good guys, but I think you need to indulge to truly believe it. Pure trashy reality tv that I’d like plugged into my veins during this difficult time. Oh, and if approx. 5250 minutes (and counting) of this tropical trash is not enough for you, Amazon also has both Below Deck spinoffs Mediterranean (85 episodes) and Sailing Yacht (17 episodes).
Lovesick (2014 – 2018)
3 series : 22 episodes : Netflix
A lot of people got put off this show with it’s series one title of ‘Scrotal Recall’ (which, child that I am, still makes me smirk each time I say it..) which is a real shame as this show started out rather brilliantly then became something so beautiful and profound. It’s the story of Dylan (Johnny Flynn, swoon) testing positive for an STD and deciding to use the informing his exes of his status as an opportunity to find out where he went wrong in their relationships. Along for the journey are his housemates Luke (Daniel Ings, swoon) and Evie (Antonia Thomas, swoon). The result is a realistic romantic comedy, funny and sweet yet occasionally dark and melancholy. It’s well-written, charming and immensely feelgood.
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, #3and #4.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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)
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.
Welcome to the third edition of Something-To-Watch Saturday. Missed the first two instalments? Then just click here (#1) or here (#2) to sate that sense of intrigue.
Rocks (2019 – 93 mins – Netflix)
2020 has seen a quick turnaround of films popping up on VOD, and the window between their cinema release has definitely been shortened – but Rocks might just have the record of roughly two weeks from cinema to Netflix. Which is fortunate for many as Rocks is one of the finest films of this year. A beautifully moving and truly heartfelt story of an East London teenage girl (Bukky Bakray) and her younger brother (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) left to fend for themselves when their mother leaves them behind. An extraordinarily powerful story of female friendship, one of the best movies about teenagers and one of the best British movies we’ve had in years. (Click here to read my full review)
Short Term 12 (2013 – 96 mins – Amazon Prime)
This is a perfect example of a film that is truly excellent on first watch then, when you return to it years later, you realise that a) it’s still excellent and b) the incredible success that deservedly followed for the ensemble cast. Grace (Brie Larson) is a supervisor at a group home for troubled teenagers, where she works with her partner Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). The young people in their care include Marcus (LaKeith Stanfield) and (Jayden) Kaitlyn Dever. Stephanie Beatriz and Rami Malek help round out the familiar faces at the start of their career cast. It’s a quietly moving drama, so brilliantly written and performed.
I love Guillermo del Toro and I love Gothic cinema. There was little doubt I’d love this – thankfully I *adore* this film. A true victim of inaccurate marketing, which pitched the film as a horror – which it isn’t – this is a film that will finally get the recognition it deserves with time. Beautiful to look at – every still could be framed and on a wall – this is the story of a young woman Edith (Mia Wasikowska), her mysterious first love Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and his strange sister (Jessica Chastain). When Edith and Thomas marry, and he takes her back to his family estate – she quickly realises all is not what it appears. (Click here to read my full review.)
Zodiac (2007 – 150 mins – BBC iPlayer)
Impeccable ensemble casts appears to have become an inadvertent theme here, as Zodiac is yet another. Helmed by David Fincher we have Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, Chloë Sevigny in this modern classic, which may just be the finest crime movie to have been made this century. Based on a true story, in the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree. A phenomenally gripping tale that haunts long after watching.
Brooklyn (2015 – 111 mins – Amazon Prime)
It’s due to continue raining in London for the next 48 hours, which means you deserve some good quality comfort watching. May I present you with this delight of a film, set in the 1950s, it’s the story of Irish immigrant Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) who arrives in Brooklyn desperately homesick. A chance encounter with Emory Cohen’s Tony brings her more joy than she could ever imagined, but when she’s forced to return home she’s faced with making a choice. Should she stay in Ireland with Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) or go back to Tony and her new home? The sets are extraordinary, the costumes exquisite, the writing beautiful and the acting sublime. You don’t just want to watch this, you deserve it. (Click here to read my full review)
Juliet, Naked (2018 – 105 mins – Netflix)
Of these seven slots, I think I’m going to try and always reserve one for an underseen romantic comedy. Last week was The Incredible Jessica James, this week has to be this adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 2009 novel of the same name. It’s the story of Annie (Rose Byrne), the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan (Chris O’Dowd). Duncan’s one true love isn’t Annie, it’s an elusive musician he’s never met – Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When a never-heard-before Tucker Crowe demo arrives at their door, it could just be the ending of something and the start of something new… A charming, well-written and well-acted romantic comedy.
“I have a strange feeling with regard to you. As if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you. And if you were to leave I’m afraid that cord of communion would snap. And I have a notion that I’d take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, you’d forget me.” – Jane Eyre