STWS #15

Welcome back. Lovely to see you again, even if the circumstances (what with Lockdown 3.0 and the world on fire) are decidedly less than desirable. As always, what follows are 7 film recommendations to help you with your picking what to watch.

Here’s the back catalogue: – #1#2#3, #4#5#6#7#8#9 , #10#11#12 #13 and #14.

Dredd (2012 – 85 mins – Netflix)

It’s taken over 8 years and counting, but it feels like Dredd is finally getting some of the recognition it deserves. One of the most underseen comic book movies as well as being one of the finest of the genre. It’s a fantastic take on the 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd with Karl Urban (currently most recognisable for his leading role in Amazon’s The Boys) playing the eponymous law enforcer. It’s brutal (strong 18) with incredible special effects, a tau thriller of a narrative and packed full of dark humour.

Pepe the Frog: Feels Good Man (2020 – 92 mins – BBC iPlayer)

I’ve slowly but surely been working my way through the Storyville series on BBC iPlayer. It’s a documentary strand that currently comprises 35 contemporary and challenging documentaries from different filmmakers gathered from across the globe. Some are familiar titles, otten with titles slightly edited, and some are unknown gems – like this one was for me. Loosely aware of the Pepe the Frog meme but knowing nothing about the context in which it was created or how it has since been horrifically warbed and used in terrifying ways, I went in totally blind with this one. Wow. Seeing this just days before the events in Washington this week added a horrific timeliness and an answer of sorts to the question ‘How did we get to this point?’

Casablanca (1942 – 102 mins – BBC iPlayer)

I started to really get into film when I was twelve. For the next few years I’d have these phases we’re I’d discover a genre/theme/actor and obsessively get into it. My discovery of Casablanca, somewhat oddly, happened in my Summer of Film Noir (yep, I was one cool kid…) If you’re yet to see it and have dismissed it as everyone always talks about it, hear me out. Give it a try this week. Why? It’s funnier than you might think, exquisitely filmed and has some sublime performances just across the board. There’s just how brave and ahead of its time it was, whilst being truly of it’s time too. This was filmed and released in 1942 – WW2 had been raging for years with no end in sight. Watch this and dare tell me it’s not audacious and revolutionary. And, I hate to carry on referring to current events but – I think we all need some hope this week.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001 – 97 mins – Netflix)

This film celebrates its 20th anniversary this year – isn’t that MAD?!?! (Answer, yes. v.mad) After watching this fantastic documentary over the festive period, I was compelled to rewatch the film with fresh and informed eyes. It really does hold up (workplace sexual harassment aspects aside…). As I grow closer to Bridget’s age, having had far too many entanglements and experience that could be described as Bridget Jones moments, I appreciate all the more just how bold her character is – with Renée Zellweger capturing her and the single woman experience so beautifully. And I won’t get started on Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in this film. The former has ruined my romantic expectations for life and the latter would just ruin me.

Gone Girl (2014 – 159 mins – Amazon)

And this week’s underappreciated romcom slot goes to… Ha! There’s really not much I can say about this film because you’ve either seen it already (and seeing it here now you know you want to rewatch it) or you haven’t seen it yet (and therefore I don’t want to spoil things by telling you too much about it as you should now go and watch it). A top-tier thriller by David Fincher, dark and wonderfully twisted.

Hustlers (2019 – 110 mins – Amazon Prime)

I once saw this described as ‘Goodfellas but strippers’ – whilst I appreciate the sentiments, that buzzphrase sort of misses the point. Director and co-writer Lorene Scafaria has made a modern classic here, expertly and seemingly effortlessly utilizing the female gaze. The based-on-a-true-story about a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients is just magnificent.

Instant Family (2018 – 118 mins – Sky/NowTv and, from sunday, Netflix )

I reckon it’s a safe bet to say that you looked at the below still and formed a judgement about this film based on Mark Wahlberg and, to a much smaller extent because of her varied back catalogue, Rose Byrne. At least, that’s what I did. However, skip this one at your peril as you’ll be missing out. This is one of the finest and funniest family dramas in recent year, following a couple who find themselves in over their heads when they foster three children. Inspired by the personal experience of the film’s director, Sean Anders, this really is a feelgood delight.

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.