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.

20 from 2020: My favourite films of the year and where to find them

It’s the last day of the year, and I’ve put off doing this list for long enough. Instead of doing a top ten films of the year, I’ve decided to do a bumper addition. 2020 brought few joys with it but quality books (as demonstrated here) and films were not in short supply. So, in no particular order, here’s my 20 films of the year. (Two disclaimers: These are of the films I’ve seen, there’s a few I just haven’t been able to fit in yet so there are a few blindspots. I’ve gone for UK release date – either in cinema or VOD where applicable.)

FilmRunning TimeAvailable to watch Current priceMy review?
The Personal History Of David Copperfield119 minsAmazon Primeincl. in subscription Film Stories
A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood 109 mins Sky/NOWtv incl. in subscription Feature in FS #11
Parasite132 mins  Amazon Prime incl. in subscription 
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire122 mins  AmazonMUBI add-on (free 7 day trial, then £9.99 a month) 
Emma. 124 minsSky/NOWtv incl. in subscription  Film Stories
Ema 107 mins ALL4Free  
The Assistant87 mins Sky/NOWtv   incl. in subscription  
Clemency 112 mins Sky/NOWtv incl. in subscription   
Saint Frances101 mins  CurzonRent for £1.99  
Perfect 10 83 minsBBC iplayer Free  
Babyteeth118 mins  Netflix incl. in subscription   
Les Miserables 104 minsNetflix incl. in subscription    
The Broken Hearts Gallery 109 mins AmazonPre-order for Jan 4th, £9.99 to buy  
Rocks93 mins  Netflixincl. in subscription    Movies on Weekends
THE FORTY YEAR OLD VERSION123 mins  Netflixincl. in subscription   
Lovers Rock 70 minsBBC iplayer Free  
County Lines 90 mins BFI playerRent for £10  Feature in #21 of FS
Boys State 109 mins Apple Tv+incl. in subscription    
Wolfwalkers 103 minsApple Tv+ incl. in subscription     
The Invisible Man 123 minsSky/NOWtv incl. in subscription    

Something-To-Watch Saturday #9

You know the drill. It’s November, it’s dark at 4pm and the weather is rubbish. It’s the second weekend of Lockdown 2: The Second Cummings (or goings, amiright?!?) You want some movies to watch and escape in. I’m happy to provide with 7 here, and 7 more in each of these. That’s 63 to choose from, that’s how good I am to you. #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 and #8.

Adult Life Skills (2016 – 96 mins – Netflix & Amazon Prime)

Anna (Jodie Whittaker) is stuck: she’s approaching 30 and living like a hermit in her mum’s garden shed, avoiding fully living her life due to the fact that she is crippled by the loss of her twin brother. A week before her birthday, her mother (Lorraine Ashbourne) sets her an ultimatum – move out of the shed and move on with life. Soon she is entangled with a troubled eight year old boy obsessed with Westerns, and the local real estate agent (Brett Goldstein) whose awkward interpersonal skills continually undermine his attempts to seduce her. The feature debut of writer-director Rachel Tunnard, this is a such a charming bittersweet British indie. Just delightful.

Long Shot (2019 – 125 mins – Netflix)

This week’s underseen romcom is a fairly recent one. I last rewatched this in April, during Lockdown 1, and I found myself craving the considerate and empathetic political career of main character Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) in her run for the presidency, and the really positive and well-balanced burgeoning relationship she has with journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen). I genuinely could write an entire essay on their wonderful relationship and how he supports her & her career. Romantic and so so funny.

The 40-Year-Old Version (2020 – 123 mins – Netflix)

Another gem that Netflix plonked on the shelf rather than give it the fanfare it deserves. Radha (Radha Blank, who also writes and directs) is a down-on-her-luck NY playwright, who is desperate for a breakthrough before 40. Reinventing herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime, she vacillates between the worlds of Hip Hop and theater in order to find her true voice. Intimate yet epic, scathing yet endearing – a gem that truly sparkles if you give it the chance it deserves.

Animals (2019 – 109 mins – Amazon Prime)

Based on the book of the same name by  Emma Jane Unsworth (who also wrote this screenplay), Animals is the story of best friends Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) whose party-loving lifestyle gets tempered by Laura’s engagement to Jim (Fra Fee), disolving their friendship in the process. A beautiful, consistently funny yet devastating, mediation on modern love and friendship.

Perfect 10 (2020 – 83 mins – BBC iplayer)

One of the consequences of having a blockbuster-free summer (Tenet aside) was that independent cinema took over our screens, even if they didn’t get the large audiences they deserve. This film is the perfect example of one of those films you probably missed and need to catch-up on. 14-year-old Leigh (Frankie Box) is an aspiring teenager gymnast’s whose world is turned upside down with the arrival of the half-brother she never knew she had. Box’s debut performance is captivating and so full of depth in a wonderfully-told bittersweet story.

The Post (2017 – 116 mins – All4)

A cover-up spanning four U.S. Presidents pushes the country’s first female newspaper publisher (Meryl Streep) and her editor (Tom Hanks) to join an unprecedented battle between press and government. Another film that may resonate that bit deeper due to events of recent months/weeks/days, this is the cinematic equivalent of sitting in a really comfy leather tub chair with a dram of whiskey, a cigar and some comfy slippers. Steven Spielberg at his most solid historical best.

Dark Waters (2019 – 126 mins – Amazon Prime)

I’ll be honest, it’s only as I’m writing these brief comments that I’ve started to see an unintended link between some of these films. Dark Waters is about a corporate defence attorney (Mark Ruffalo) takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution. It too will have an even greater resonance around now, seeing capitalism and it’s destructive influences. A fantastic central performance by Ruffalo, this is a film that will haunt you for a long while after. So now I’m going to cheer myself up and listen to this. See you next week….

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.