Horror Tuesday: The Innocents (1961) Review

This 2020, every Tuesday I will reviewing a horror film, and this week we have 1961’s The Innocents.

This week marks the first time I have reviewed a film for Horror Tuesday that was not made in the 21st century. It makes the first time that I have reviewed a properly, old-fashioned black-and-white horror film. It also marks the first time I have reviewed a film that is often called “important”, and has been called a major influence on a variety of horror films, including The Orphanage, which I reviewed two weeks ago.

The film is one of the many adaptations of the 1898 horror novella, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. One of the most recent adaptation include the 2019 film, The Turning, starring Mackenzie Davis and Finn Wolfhard, and it has been announced that it will be the basis of the second season of the brilliant Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, to be released in 2020.

The plot revolves around Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), who applies for a job as a governess, for a wealthy bachelor, who wants Gibbens to look after his niece, Flora, so he can carry with his bachelor lifestyle. Meanwhile, his nephew, Miles is currently away at boarding school. Giddens is given the job, and develops friendships with Flora and the housekeeper, Mrs. Goose (Megs Jenkins) but things start to turn sour when Miles returns after being expelled for being a “bad influence” on his peers. Soon enough, she starts to become suspicious of the strange behaviour of the children (or “the innocents”, as she calls them), and is irked by the news that two of the house’s former employees (including the former governess) had died under previous circumstances.

The film remains such an important horror film, and such a classic to this day is the brilliant atmosphere and mood that the film creates. Much in the same way as a lot of ghost house horror films (including The Orphanage), the film trades cheap “jump-scares” for more of a slow-building sense of tension and dread that builds throughout the film.

One of the many ways that the movie does this is from the performances all across the board. Kerr is very impressive, especially because, in a similar way to many performances in horror films, she is mainly reacting to something or being terrified, but she never makes that feel one-note or over-the-top. Who is most impressive, however, is the performances from the children – Martin Stephens (who plays Miles) and Pamela Franklin (Flora), who brilliantly perform on that line of being cute but also creepy.

What is often most discussed about this film, however, is how influential it is in terms of film-making. One of it’s most significant techniques is it’s use of deep focus, which is where a shot features two characters and the audience can clearly see both of them clearly in the shot. This sort of technique is used in a variety of horror films, both classic (like The Shining (1980) and Rosemary’s Baby (1969)), and recent (like Us (2019), The Perfection (2019) and It Follows (2014)).

This technique, mainly because it does not end up using a lot of editing, creates a very slow and tense atmosphere, and this is probably why it is used in a lot of horror films. The director has also said that this technique is effective because it creates a sense of claustrophobia, as we can see both characters squished together in the same frame.

Another important technique that the film uses is the film’s editing. The film uses a lot of dramatic fades – one of the most dramatic uses of this is an early scene when Flora is smiling in a sinister fashion and it fades to Kerr’s face, and this also contributes to the film’s surreal and tense atmosphere. The film’s fade editing is also used effectively in a sequence where Gibbons is sleeping, and the camera cuts to a variety of images, including the children, and some sinister things happening in the house. This use of editing felt strange, intoxicating, and of course, very innovative (even for a film released in the 60s), and continues to contribute to the film’s surreal atmosphere.

Although, the film is more of a gentle, subtle and creepy horror film, the film does not shy away from proper, real scares at times. Two of the biggest scares include a former employee of the house, Peter Quint (played with brilliant menace by Michael Redgave) that suddenly turns up out of the blue, and surely terrifies the audience. The great thing about these scares, however, is that it skewered the “quiet, quiet, bang” rhythm of many scary scenes in certain movies and trusts the audience to play attention and get it.

Overall, The Innocents remains a really brilliant and wonderful horror film that completely holds up today, and you can see how influential it’s film-making is to the horror genre and films overall.

Rating: 9/10

Next Week: [rec] (2007)

Sex Education: Season 2 (2020) Review

After the Stranger Things-free 2018, Netflix were after a new huge smash hit that appealed to it’s young audience, and then arrived the brilliant Sex Education over a year ago. Much like Stranger Things, the show gained a word-of-mouth success, and soon became a hit with viewers – so much so that when Netflix announced it’s most viewed Netflix Original TV shows of all time, it ranked very high at number 5.

The first season of the show starred Asa Butterfield as six former, Otis Milburn (played by Asa Butterfield), whose mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson) is a sex therapist, and he begins to run a sex clinic at school to help with various queries for all the teenagers, with the help of his best friend, Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa) and the weird loner, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey). This season focuses on the Otis’s relationship with Ola (Patricia Allison), as well as his leftover feelings for Maeve, who in turn deals with breaking up with Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) and her own feelings for Otis. Meanwhile, this season continues to flesh out various supporting characters, including Jean, Eric, Jackson, Ola, and other six-formers.

Continuing on from the break-out success of the first season could be very nerve-wracking, but this second season feels just as confident as ever, starting off with a crazy montage of the now sexually-awakened Otis masturbating continuously in a variety inappropriate locations (like in a school assembly and in the car while his mother is shopping, for instance). And, what’s really great about the show (among many things), is that it always discusses sex is a very honest and open way. Sometimes, teen dramas can think that they are being very ground-breaking in their approach to sex, but actually just come across as preachy and melodramatic. However, Sex Education never feels like that – it always feels open, honest and actually, quite ground-breaking in it’s own way.

The film also discusses a variety of issues and themes, a lot more and different from the previous season. In one of the most heartbreaking story-lines from the show, we see the lively and bubbly character, Aimee Gibbs (Aimee Lou Wood) being sexually assaulted on the bus. The story-line is remarkable in how real it feels – at first, Aimee is in denial and thinks it is nothing (she’s more concerned about the stain on her jeans), but then it really starts to affect her – she can’t go on the bus, and can’t really go anywhere without seeing her assaulter. It is extremely hard-hitting seeing the really bright and warm-hearted character turn into a shell of her former self, affecting her relationships with her friends and boyfriend. This story-line was really the show at it’s wonderful and hard-hitting best.

This season also continues on the conversation of various characters’ sexuality, including the show’s gay and bisexual characters and this time also covering asexuality and pan-sexuality. The central friendship between Eric and Otis is notable for being a positive representation of a friendship between a straight guy and a gay guy that is still very pleasant, entertaining and actually, quite unusual.

Also, although, the show is a teen drama and primarily focuses on teenagers, the show also includes some interesting older characters, especially that of Gillian Anderson’s Jean, and though her, we see what it’s like for an older woman in her 50’s to begin romance and go through heart-break.

The show also effectively fleshes out a variety of the show’s supporting characters, especially the ones who were a bit boring or flat-out unlikable in the first season. The best example of the former is the development of Adam Groff (played by Connor Swindells), the former high school bully, who last season, bullied the openly gay Eric, before going on to kiss him. After being expelled from school and an unsuccessful stint at military camp, he returns and through a lovely unexpected friendship with Ola, and standing up for himself against his father, he evolves from a one-note, and very unlikable character into a really charming one. It’s also really lovely to see Swindells get to show his comedic abilities and timing.

In addition, the show also fleshes out Jackson in a very interesting way. The character was at the forefront last season with his turbulent relationship with Maeve being heavily featured. Last season, however, he always felt quite uninteresting and dull. However, this season, as we see him being pushed to the edge from stress of his swimming career, and deliberately physically injure himself, the character starts to become very interesting. Through a tutoring, and eventual friendship with straight A student, Viv (Chinenye Ezeudu) and a deep dive into his mental health issues, he involves from the stereotypical jock character into a more complex and interesting character. In the style of obvious influence, John Hughes, the shows makes a point of giving us stereotypical teen characters (like the jock, the bully, the weird loner girl, the awkward guy), but then subverting those stereotypes, to create really interesting characters.

The performances from all the characters also remain really great and charismatic. The former child actor, Butterfield continues to impress, with his really wonderful awkward comedic timing, while still giving him some depth. Anderson is great as she leads the older cast members, and virtually everyone else is impressive, including, Swindells, Gatwa, Mackey and Williams-Stirling. Wood also rises to the challenge of performing her sexual assault storyline, and doing so brilliantly.

The downsides of the season is that the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Otis and Maeve continues, and this becomes a little contrived and tiresome at times, particularly towards the end. Also, it’s a shame that this season dropped certain interesting story-lines, including Eric’s complex relationship with his father, and Jackson and Maeve’s relationship.

However, Sex Education remains one of the funniest, wittiest and best Netflix Original TV shows, and probably, the best teenage/ coming of age TV drama around at the moment.

Roll on for season 3.

Rating: 9/10

Horror Tuesday: The Wailing (2016) Review

This 2020, every Tuesday I will reviewing a horror film, and this week we have 2016’s The Wailing

The Wailing is a very odd film, to say the least. Although it is mainly rooted in horror, the film also finds itself in many genres, including mystery, supernatural, thriller, suspense, and most strangely, at times comedy. It makes a odd third feature film for Na Hong-jin, who up until this point, had not tapped into the horror genre, with his first two action/thriller feature films, The Chaser (2008) and The Yellow Sea (2010).

The plot centres on Jong-goo (played by Kwak Do-won), a policeman living in Gokseong, a rural village in the mountains of South Korea. He lives with his mother, his wife, and their young daughter, Hyo-jin (Kim Hwan-hee). He begins to investigate a series of deaths by various villagers, who are killed by a mysterious disease that spreads throughout the village. When Hyo-jin becomes infected with the disease, Jong-goo makes it his mission to save her, including tracking down shaman, Il-gwang (Hwang Jung-min), and having various mysterious encounters with a “stranger” (Jun Kunimara) and a “woman in white”, Moo-wyung (Chun Woo-hee).

The first thing to say about this film it that it does have quite an imposing length. Running over 2 and a half hours, the film is remarkably long for a horror film, a genre which is often at it’s best when being short, lean and to the point. There is a valid criticism to make about this film that not only is it too long, but it can also be quite indulgent and wandering.

This is particularly true of the first hour or so, which is less horror-orientated, and is more of a standard police procedural, in the same vein of the terrific South Korean thriller, Memories or Murder (2003). There are certain sequences in this segment, particularly the parts of Jong-joo tracking down the shaman, that do feel a little long and not as tightly put together. That being said, the opening is still important to establishing a mood and atmosphere for the film. It immediately makes the film supremely creepy, suspenseful and chilling, a feeling that only mounts as the film progresses.

The film really, really hits its stride after the first hour or so. This is around the time Hyo-jin becomes infected with the illness, which is by far the most interesting plot point from the film. This part, clearly influenced by various child-possession films (especially The Exoricst) details not just a normal virus in making her physically sick, but also effecting her personality as well. As we see Hyo-jin get rashes and be sick from her illness, we also see her disturbingly scream and shout expletives at her father, which is really quite horrifying to watch.

In addition, this plot point is very well set up by the beginning – there is a great sequence where Hyo-jin catches her father cheating, and uses his to blackmail him into giving her toys – and this is used a very clever way of setting up their relationship, as well as foreshadowing later events. The success of this part is really owned to Kim Hwan-hee’s performance. The young actress would of been in her early teens at the time, is very dedicated, committed, and honestly, very scary as the young girl who is possessed.

There is a really mounting tension that carries on throughout the film, and this carries on to the last act, where things get, well, really rather weird. There is extended sequence in the middle which cross cuts between Shaman performing a ritual, The Stranger performing his own ritual, and Hyo-jin kneeling over in pain, which remains completely bonkers and nuts.

Near the actual end, however, is when things get very twisty and turny. The film subverts expectations, and gives numerous twists, and has a very ballsy, surprising, and also, quite downbeat conclusion.

The end result is at times, quite indulgent, but always, strange, surreal, mesmerising and interesting. Despite tapping into multiple genres, this film still feels like a terrifying horror film through and through, and one that horror fans, although might take a little getting use, will still purely love.

Rating: 8/10

Next time: The Innocents (1961)

Horror Tuesday: The Orphange (2007) Review

This 2020, every Tuesday I will reviewing a horror film, and this week we have 2007’s The Orphanage.

Belén Rueda in 2007’s the Orphanage

The Orphanage has always been a horror film that I’ve been meaning to watch, but have never got around to it. It has appeared on some “Best Horror Films” lists, but somehow still seems underrated and seems to lack the iconic status of many beloved horror films. This is probably down to it’s fairly recent release, coming out only 12 years ago.

The critically acclaimed film is centred around Laura (portrayed by Belen Rueda), who moves into the former orphanage where she grew up in hopes to turn it into a home for disabled children. She moves in with her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and their troublesome adopted son, Simon (Roger Princep). Laura and Simon’s relationship is strained, and after an argument between the pair, Simon mysteriously goes missing and Laura becomes determined to find him. Meanwhile, Laura begins to notice a bunch of mysterious occurrences around the orphanage – including some strange noises and the appearance of a young child with a sack on his head (one of the film’s most arresting and iconic images).

The film is notable for being the debut feature for J. A. Bayona, who has since gone to create the disaster drama, The Impossible (2012) and the dark fantasy drama, A Monster Calls (2016), before directing the big blockbuster movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), going on to be his biggest commercial hit, gaining over 1 billion at the box office.

This is very much like Bayona’s other films in that the film contains with children. Much like Tom Holland’s appearance in The Impossible, Lewis MacDougall’s lead performance in A Monster Calls, and the appearance by Isabella Sermon in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this film puts it’s young star, Princep in a leading role here. The real strength here is that Bayona is not afraid to put Princep front and centre, and give him a lot of dramatic scenes, and he gives a really great performance.

But the real star here is the absolutely wonderful Belen Rueda. Her performances was reminiscent of that of Essie Davis in another fairly recent horror film, The Babadook (2014) in how it shows a detailed depiction of a mother, who sometimes hard to sympathise with and who does things that the audience don’t like (like at one point slapping her son), but she always finds a way into the character for the audience. She commands the screen with absolute charisma and gravitas, and although, it would seem very unlikely (for being a foreign language horror film), should of got a Oscar nomination back in 2008.

It seems like the reason why the film seems quite underrated is possibly partly due to it’s unfortunate comparison to the iconic dark fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth, released one year before this film – in how both films originate from Spain, they centre on a young child, and also because Pan’s Labyrinth’s director, Guillermo del Toro executive produced this movie. The comparison seems rather unfair because the two films are rather different beasts – Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantasy drama with dark and depressing undertones, while The Orphanage is more a chilling and haunting ghost story. The comparisons that I would make for the film are films like The Others (2001) and Poltergiest (1982), which are also very chilling ghost stories, or The Omen (1976) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) which also centres on troublesome young children.

Also much like those films, the film is brilliantly creepy, suspenseful and thrilling, and never settles for just cheap scares. Sometimes, when horror films are described as not being centred on “jump-scares”, they can sometimes in fact go the opposite way, and be slightly boring, however, this never happens with The Orphanage. It has some wonderful scares – particularly one involving knocks on a door – which are very effective and scary, and a great sense of mounting dread and suspense, which peaks in the final scene.

Additionally, the film is like those films because it still has a very strong story at it’s core. It’s not just about the horror – the film remains a really haunting and realistic portrayal of a mother and son relationship, and a fragile and on the edge mother, who would do anything for son. Also, unlike some horror films, the film doesn’t put it’s central characters in situations where they do unrealistic things. The film always remains true to the characters’ original characterisations, and always relies on true emotion.

Sometimes, the film has moments of feeling a little tonally out of balance – there is one particular moment at the beginning that feels quite darkly funny and has a lot of slapstick humour, which feels very strange and out of nowhere. Also, there is a particular plot point – that involving Montserrat Carulla’s Benigna Escobeda – that never quite clicks and falls into place completely.

However, The Orphanage remains a real threat – it is haunting, chilling and just really great. I’m so glad I finally got around to watching it, because I had a great time, and I can’t wait to see what else Bayona does with his career.

Rating: 8/10

Next Time: The Wailing (2016)

1917 (2019) Review

One of the year’s most anticipated films of the year, Sam Mendes’s 1917 has arrived in cinemas this week in the UK. On the back of it’s release, the film has gained 10 nominations at this year’s Academy Awards (the joint second most nominations of the year) and 9 nominations at the BAFTA Film Awards and also won Best Picture and Best Director at the Golden Globe Awards earlier this year. So… there was a hell of a lot of hype going into see this film.

George MacKay in 1917

And, for the most part, it lives up to the hype. Being Mendes’s writing debut, the film is based of Mendes’s grandfather’s real life experiences in the World War 1. The plot centres on two young British soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), who are given a mission to hand-deliver a message to another Battalion, which orders them to call off an attack on German forces. However, they must travel through dangerous and life-threatening landscapes in order to get the message there safely.

Much has been discussed about how it seems as though the film is all done in one continuous shot. This is not necessary true – there is one obvious cut and there are a lot more cuts that are made to seem invisible – but overall, it has sensation of feeling like it is all done in one shot. The film follows suit of various audacious films, with the most famous examples including Alfred Hitchcock classic, Rope (1948) and the 2014 Best Picture winner, Birdman. Sometimes, these type of films can work or they can fail, but for the most part, 1917 really works.

One of the main reasons for the film’s success is the stunning cinematography by the fantastic Roger Deakins. Over his almost 40 years in the film business, Deakins has made a name for himself for being probably the greatest cinematographer working today. He has lend his hand to some fantastic films over the years, and has worked with various high-profile directors, including the Coen brothers (with Fargo, No Country for Old Men and True Grit), Denis Villeneuve (with Sicario, Blade Runner 2049 and Prisoners), and this time, reunites with Mendes after working with him on Revolutionary Road (2008) and the bond film, Skyfall (2012).

His work throughout this film is equally as fantastic, where the cinematography remains as stunning, gorgeous and very creative as all his other work. One of the best shots from the film is a night-time landscape of ruins, which will now and then, become illuminated by various flares and bombs going off in the background. It’s these sort of shots that make the film extremely dazzling and beautiful, but still reflect the true horror of war. It is by far the best cinematography I’ve seen for a movie all year, and Deakins should and probably will, win his second (yes, that right, he’s only previously won one award) Oscar for his work.

The film also largely succeeds because of the brilliant direction by Mendes. The director, who has done equal work on film (with various critically acclaimed films such as American Beauty (1999), Road to Perdition (2002) and Skyfall) and theatre, uses his theatre background here, in what I can imagine, must have needed a lot of rehearsal time to make sure that these long shots (with the reportedly longest time being 8 minutes long) don’t go wrong.

Some of the most brilliant shots of the film include a shot tracking Schofield run, unarmed, through a dangerous battlefield, as well as a tense shot of a plane crashing near the two leads of which they have to run and hide from. The only problem is that a lot of these brilliant shots have already been ruined by the trailers. So if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, don’t watch them before watching the film.

The skill with Mendes’s direction is that it’s very fast-paced and brisk. The problem with some one-take films they can lack a sense of tension and urgency, however, this never happens here – it is a tension-filled, adrenaline ride from near the beginning to the very end, which is only made worse by it’s real time, race against the clock conceit. The tension is also aided by the brilliant score by the always reliable Thomas Newman, which, while not being too powerful, largely creates a suspenseful and thrilling atmosphere.

Mendes’s script is also quite impressive, especially for a first-time screenwriter. The dialogue is few and far between, as Mendes here wants to create a purely cinematic movie (which he is very successful at doing), but when there is dialogue, it is very natural dialogue between Schofield and Blake that establishes a truthful, realistic and honest relationship between the two young men. The film also has some really emotional, funny and surreal moments, including a strange moment when Schofield stops by a band of singing soldiers, and a moment where Schofield has a heartfelt exchange with a young woman and her adopted baby in the midst of all the war. It’s these sort of moments that ease the tension slightly, while still not ruining the pace altogether.

The two lead performances by MacKay and Chapman, are very good, only made more impressive by how young the pair are. MacKay has been a rising star for many years now (including appearances in the films, Pride (2014), Captain Fantastic (2016) and Marrowbone (2018)), but Chapman feels feels pretty much new on the scene (however, he did have a big role in Game of Thrones). If this film is anything to go by, they will soon be stars in the future. The pair’s mostly unknown status also largely fits well in the film as they can be the everyman that the audience can easily engage with. While MacKay and Chapman centrally lead the film, there are many cameo appearances by bigger, more well-known actors, like Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch, which are all real pleasure to see.

The only downside to the film is that sometimes the film lacks real emotion. The two lead actors are great, but the film just lacks a bit of in-depth characterisation, particularly Schofield – we don’t know anything about him or his background. This is largely due to the constraints of it’s single take format as the characters cannot really grow and change that much over the course of a few hours. The script from Mendes is very good, but – on his next scripts, maybe – he could just add a little more depth.

However, this is slightly nitpicking as overall this is one of the best films of the year. Although, I am rooting the mesmerising and brilliant Parasite for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars (it would be great to see The Irishman or Little Women win, though), 1917 would be a perfectly fine film to win. A real triumph for Mendes, indeed.

Rating: 9/10

2020 Oscar Nominees that Probably Won’t Happen but Should

The 92nd Academy Award nominations are being announced on Monday, and almost immediately, suspect some snubs and pleasant surprises for everyone (including me) to praise and criticise. While films like Parasite, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917 are all guaranteed success, and other films, like Little Women, Ford v. Ferrari, Joker and Jojo Rabbit could possibly do very well, there are many other great films that will most likely be snubbed on Monday. There, I go through the nominations that most likely won’t happen, but should happen.

Booksmart – Best Picture, Best Director & Best Original Screenplay

From Left to Right: Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart

One of 2019’s best films, Booksmart has still managed to feel quite underappreciated. It is quite possibly the best directed comedy of last year, in which Olivia Wilde directs the film with an wonderful zippy energy, and you can see the passion coming off the screen. The film also wouldn’t work without it’s wonderful script which combines some hilarious comedy and one-liners with an emotional theft underneath. It would be great to see that nominated also, but it seems unlikely (although Bridesmaids did get nominated back in 2011, so maybe).

Considering the film came out in May, it will properly be forgotten about around Awards nominations time in January, but it would be wonderful to see it nominated.

Knives Out – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay & Best Production Design

From Left to Right: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Noah Segan and Lakeith Stanfield in Knives Out

Rian Johnson’s Knives Out was my favourite film of 2019. It is somehow clever, witty, funny and exhilarating all at once. It wouldn’t work without it’s fabulous script, which manages to subvert and critique whodunit/mystery tropes, while still having an emotional heart underneath. Also, much like Booksmart, the film is directed with an real energy and love. The production design is also fantastic – the set of the central Thrombey house brilliantly recreates the classic sets of the classic mystery-whodunnit films.

However, because of the Academy’s aversion to genre films (including whodunnit/ mystery films), the film will probably leave completely empty-handed.

Us – Best Actress (Lupita Nyong’o) & Best Original Score

Lupita Nyong’o portraying two characters (Adelaide & Red) in Us

Us is one of the best horror films of last year. Much like the director, Jordan Peele’s previous film, Get Out, the film largely sticks together because of the terrific central performance. Here, the already Oscar favourite Lupita Nyong’o (winning an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave in 2013) manages to brilliantly capture two distinct characters – the bitter, terrifying and vengeful Red and the scared and smart Adelaide. Also, the musical score is absolutely terrifying and manages to invoke a real suspenseful atmosphere (also, bonus points for turning Luniz’s I Got 5 On It into a song that sends shivers down your spine).

However, often the Academy snubs horror films and considering Us is a much stranger, nastier and less mainstream film to Get Out, the film will probably not get any nominations. A shame, because it is one of the year’s best.

Klaus – Best Animated Feature

The animated film, Klaus

Netflix will probably be dominating the awards nominations with films like Marriage Story and The Irishman, but another Netflix original that should be nominated is the animated film, Klaus. It’s cute, sweet and really lovely and was on my top 10 list for this year. However, with the category already overflowing with wonderful animated features (like Toy Story 4, I Lost My Body, How to Train Your Dragon 3, Frozen II and the surprise Golden Globe winner, Missing Link), and considering how unfairly underrated this film was, it will probably be snubbed.

Parasite – Acting awards for all the performances

From left to right: Choi Woo-shik, Song Kang-ho, Chang Hyae-jin and Park so-dam in the sensational Parasite

Parasite is not just one of the best films of the awards season, but one of the best films I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s extremely exhilarating and exciting, whilst remaining a brilliant satire on class prejudice and capitalist greed. After setting the world on fire with huge critical acclaim and surprise box office success, it seems highly likely that it will win Best International Film and get nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and probably, some technical categories.

However, unfortunately, it will be likely snubbed in it’s acting categories, probably due to the large cast ensemble. However, it would be lovely to see various cast members, including Song Kang-ho for Best Actor; Choi Woo-shik or Lee Sun-kyun for Best Supporting Actor or Chang Hyae-jin, Park so-dam or Cho Yeo-jeong for Best Supporting Actress. Kang-ho is probably the most likely (although, in all likelihood, it will be in Best Supporting Actor than Best Actor), but they will all be snubbed most likely. It’s a real shame because everyone is so great.

Jojo Rabbit – Best Supporting Actress (Scarlett Johansson)

Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise because Jojo Rabbit is utterly wonderful – it’s hilarious and heartfelt and just great. Despite the divisive consensus by critics (which I don’t happen to agree with), it hasn’t ruined it’s Oscar hype and will probably walk away with nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the very least.

However, possibly the best aspect of the most is the mesmerising supporting performance by Scarlett Johansson. It would lovely to see her nominated, however, it’s very unlikely we see actors get nominated twice in the same year and because Johansson will already be nominated for her performance in Marriage Story (which is equally as great), we could see her performance in this unfortunately snubbed.

Horror Tuesday: The Host (2006) Review

This 2020, every Tuesday I will reviewing a horror film, and this week we have 2006’s The Host.

2019 has been a hell of a year for director, Bong Joon-ho. The South Korean director has been making films since 2000 with his debut Barking Dogs Never Bite, and has become one of the biggest South Korean directors around with films that include Memories of Murder (2003), Mother (2009), Snowpiercer (2013), Okja (2017) and of course, Parasite (2019). The latter of which has famously become one of the most critically acclaimed films of recent years, appearing (often near the top) of various best of 2019 and best of decade lists by critics, went on win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and there have been buzz circling that it could be the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

Before all of that, however, 13 years prior, Joon-ho made the monster movie, The Host (2006). The plot stars Song Kang-ho as Gang-du, a goofy, clumsy guy who runs a small snack-bar with his father (Byun Hee-bong) and has a young daughter, Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung). Soon, tragedy strikes when a huge creature emerges from the Han river and begins attacking, killing, eating and kidnapping people, including Hyun-seo, leaving Gang-du devastated. Believing that Hyun-seo is still alive, Gang-du makes his mission to find her, with help from his brother, Nam-il (Park Hae-il) and sister, Nam-joo (Bae Noo Na)

Something that Joon-ho is not afraid to do is to tip into genre film-making. He has done so with most of his films in a way that, while a lot of them deal with heavy themes (Parasite for example, deals with class prejudice and capitalistic greed), often make them very fun and entertaining crowd-pleasers. Here, The Host is a monster movie and creature feature in sometimes a very pure way – it centres on a goofy hero who, over the course of the movie, matures and becomes a better person (in the vein of Simon Pegg’s titular hero in Shaun of the Dead (2004)) and often includes various sequences of people running scared from the titular monster in the vein of monster movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Godzilla (1954) and Jaws (1975)

However, much like a lot of his work, the film balances a lot of different genres, including black comedy, family drama and social satire. The black humour is very successful here, particularly in a scene after the first creature attack where all the family over-dramatically wail on the floor in grief at Hyun-seo’s (apparent) death. The social satire here is also very well-drawn and successful. It is quite similar to Okja in how the film details what happens to the environment when humanity is hapless and not sensitive.

The film, however, really succeeds because of the family drama and relationship drama. The relationship between Gang-du and Hyun-seo in the film is very well-drawn and interesting, as is the various relationships between various family members. The film also gives all of the characters rounded arcs, and in a very Joon-ho way, the characters are stereotypes that subvert them over the course of the film – Nam-il is a smart, pretentious college graduate that is actually an emotional distressed alcoholic; Nam-joo is a sophisticated and famous archer that is actually nervous and self-sabotaging and Gang-du is a clumsy misfit that turns out to be brave and heroic. In contrast to some monster movies to come out recently (like Kong: Skull Island (2017) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)), the film takes real care and gives real depth to it’s main characters, and still manages to feel like an intelligent, personal movie.

The only problem with the film is that is not that scary. The monster itself is not that terrifying, unlike the central monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon. Also, the film seems to be a little confused as whether to take the film-making approach in not showing the monster as a was of building tension, in the same vein as Jaws, or showing the monster in full to scare the viewer, in the same vein as The Thing (1982). The end result is that sometimes the monster is on screen, and sometimes not, and this all feels a little uneven. Also, it seems like they would of been benefited from not showing it, because the design is not that terrifying.

Joon-ho might be the auteur of 2020 for me – I am still to watch his first two films and Mother and I honestly can’t wait to watch them. Parasite is honestly one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, and although, I’ve only seen it once, it’s probably one of the best films I’ve ever seen in my life. However, The Host still remains a complete triumph for Bong Joon-ho. It is a fun, entertaining monster movie that still manages to feel like a small personal movie from him. It was really terrific.

Rating: 8/10

Next Week on Horror Tuesday: The Orphanage (2007)

My Top 15 TV Shows of 2019

There have been some fantastic television this year. Television cultural phenomenons like Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory ended this year, as did other critically acclaimed television shows like Veep, Broad City, Orange is the New Black and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Meanwhile, television shows that recently premiered this year, like The Mandalorian and The Witcher, are already on their way to becoming cultural phenomenons.

Tim Blake Nelson (playing Looking Glass) in this year’s Watchmen.

There are my 15 best television shows of the year:

Firstly, some honourable mentions include Bojack Horseman (part 1 of season 6), Catastrophe (season 4), Dead to Me (season 1), The End of the F***ing World (season 2), Good Omens, Killing Eve (season 2), Mindhunter (season 2) and Santa Clarita Diet (season 3)

15: Rick and Morty, season 4

Dan Harmon continues to be the king of cult television (after Community), with the fourth season of Rick and Morty. Despite taking over two years to produce this season, it well worth the wait as the show remains as wonderful as ever. Although only five episodes have aired, hopefully they keep up the standard for the remaining five episodes.

14. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, season 4

As someone who has been a die-hard fan of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ever since it dropped on Netflix in the UK in 2016, it almost pains me that this is only number 14 on the list, and that is mainly because this season felt a bit like an extended epilogue to the series (also, it didn’t need to be 18 episodes long) and the show slightly peaked in it’s devastating and emotional season 3. However, with the show’s unique mix of musical comedy, relationship drama, and heartbreaking truth about mental health, the show proceeds to be as terrific with its final season. Also, as always, this season boasts some terrific songs (from “Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal” to “Don’t Be a Lawyer” to “The Darkness” to “Slow Motion”) and some great performances (particular by Bloom and Donna Lynne Champlin).

As an advocate for this show for the longest time, hopefully give it another 10 years, and this show will be a cult classic, in the same vein as Arrested Development and Community.

13. Barry, season 2

Barry could be the closest thing we have to be a successor to Breaking Bad, in how it features a central anti-hero character that, despite the terrible things he has done, manages to remain sympathetic with the show’s wonderful writing and powerful lead performance by Bill Hader. By combining pathos, black comedy, heart-breaking drama and wonderful supporting performances (by Henry Winkler and Sarah Goldberg), this show is one to watch, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

12. Veep, season 7

In case you were one of the few who didn’t know, Game of Thrones ended it’s 8-season run this year in, ahem, divisive (and that’s being kind to it) ways. Meanwhile, at the exact same time, another long-running HBO show, Veep ended on a pretty much perfect note. Julia Louis Dreyfus, who portrays lead, Selina Meyer, remains as electric as ever, and has some of the best comic timing by any actor I’ve ever seen. Also, unlike the lead female heroine, Daenerys in Game of Thrones, the show is able to end Selina’s character arc in an absolutely perfect way. Also, there some lovely supporting turns this season by Hugh Laurie, Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn and Tony Hale.

Despite the first few episodes feeling a little bit filler, the finale was absolutely brilliant and remains one of best ways to end a series in recent years.

11. The Umbrella Academy, season 1

This very peculiar superhero series debuted on Netflix in February, and seemed to be an odd mix of Tim Burton, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Pushing Daisies and Heroes. Benefiting from some ambitious character arcs (specially by Ellen Page’s Jean Grey-inspired Vanya), deft interplay between the eccentric characters and an original visual style, this was one of the best Netflix Originals of recent years, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

10. Sex Education, season 1

Another Netflix original here that premiered earlier this year that was absolutely terrific. Much like the teen film, Booksmart from earlier this year, this show managed to reinvigorate the coming of age genre with wit and a renewed energy. The show benefits largely from charming lead performances by Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson, along with loads of appearances by various promising newcomers (notable cast members include Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey and Aimee Lou Wood). Blending the heart-breaking and harsh truth of teen dramas like Skins but still with a lighthearted charm, I can’t wait to see where this goes for season 2, to be released this January.

9. The Good Place, season 4

In a world of television series being dark and depressing and focusing on anti-heroes, it’s wonderful to see to see a show like The Good Place that remains unapoletically optimistic in it’s final season. Although this season has yet to end (with 3 episodes left), the show remains as charming and lovely as ever, and it’s bonkers and weird premise still hasn’t run of steam it’s final year – if anything, the show has just got more entertaining. Hopefully, unlike Game of Thrones, it will end the series just as brilliantly.

8. Schitt’s Creek, season 5

The small underdog series that has finally managed to break into the mainstream, Schitt’s Creek has really come into it’s own in it’s latest two seasons. Perfecting it’s vein of awkward comedy and heart-warming relationship drama, Schitt’s Creek has become possibly the best comedy on television. Also, Caroline O’Hara is a comedy legend.

7. Chernobyl

Following from Game of Thrones disappointment, HBO rebounded with this miniseries, detailing the devastating true life Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, which easily became one of the best miniseries of the year. Every element of production was fantastic from the writing, the direction, the production design and the performances (especially by Jared Harris). It’s very hard to watch, but it’s still very much worth it for just how brilliant it was.

6. Russian Doll, season 1

Much like Sex Education, Russian Doll has managed to successfully reinvigorate a hired genre – this time, being the time loop/ personal improvement genre in the vein of Groundhog Day and It’s a Wonderful Life. It has managed to do that so brilliantly with the wonderful writing and great lead performance by Natasha Lyonne. Hopefully, they don’t mess it up for season 2.

5. Derry Girls, season 2

Although Derry Girls – the Irish comedy-drama, produced by Hat Trick and Channel 4 – probably won’t be known to international audiences, it’s one probably the best British comedy out there at the moment. Filled with wonderful characters, brilliant one-liners (particular by Siobhan McSweeney’s deadpan Sister Michael and Louisa Harland’s bonkers Orla) and great writing, Derry Girls is one of UK’s greatest hits of recent years.

4. Unbelievable

This true life Netflix miniseries was utterly heartbreaking and captivating. The series combines two central story-lines – the harrowing story of the rape of Marie Alder (played by the brilliant Kaitlyn Dever, who broke out this year with equally wonderful Booksmart) and the investigation of various rapes by two chalk-and-cheese police detectives (played by equally great Toni Colette and Merritt Wever). Through brilliant performances, the series manages to completely surpass it’s true crime and police drama roots to create something riveting. A must watch.

3. Fleabag, season 2

These top three are so bloody fantastic that any one of them could be to number one. But currently, in my mood at the moment, the second series to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s breakout series, Fleabag ranks at number 3. The series combines some of the best writing seen on television with brilliant performances by Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford, Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott (with a nice cameo by Kristen Scott Thomas). The end result is a heartbreaking and riveting depiction of addiction, trauma and grief, whilst retaining a real wit at the same time. Hell, even Obama loves it, so it you don’t, you have no soul.

2. Stranger Things, season 3

The breakout Netflix series shows no signs of slowing down for it’s third season, with possibly the best season yet. While, the second season of the show felt like a homage to David Cronenberg and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1984), this season felt more like a homage to popular 80s summer blockbusters movies, in the vein of Back to the Future (1985). The real strength of the season is how brilliantly directed it is, keeping it very briskly paced, whilst developing all of it’s characters in interesting ways. It’s just wonderful.

1. Watchmen

The loose adaptation/ continuation of Alan Moore’s classic 1986/87 graphic novel, Watchmen is the definitely best TV show of the year. The real strengths of the series is how each every episode of the series feels completely unique and different, while contributing to the overall story. Highlights include “This Extraordinary Being”, a black-and-white trip back to the 1930s; “Little Fear of Lightning”, a dark character study about the depths of PTSD and “A God Walks Into Abar”, a really heartbreaking love story. The characters and performances, from Regina King’s Angela to Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass to Jean Smart’s Laurie, are really fantastic. Even though it stands beautifully as it’s own self-contained series, I would still like to see where this goes for season 2. It was just fantastic, and it’s my favourite show of the year.

My Top 15 Films of 2019

From Left to Right: Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig in Knives Out

What a year 2019 has been for film. We have had huge event movies like Avengers Endgame, extremely polarizing movies like Joker, disappointing sequels like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and It: Chapter Two, and critically acclaimed films like The Irishman and Little Women. Here, however, are my personal favourites of the year.

Firstly, some honourable mentions: Apollo 11, Avengers: Endgame, Blinded by the Light, Doctor Sleep, Dolemite is My Name, The Favourite, Hustlers, Ready or Not, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, The Sisters Brothers, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Stan & Ollie

15. Burning

An earlier release from this year, this South Korean psychological thriller/ mystery film (directed by Lee Chang-dong and starring Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun and Jeon Jong-seo), was hypnotic, strange and utterly captivating. The film plays out like a mixture between David Lynch and Park Chan-wook in it’s mysterious characters and weird imagery. It’s a very slow-burn, but for those who have the patience for it, it will be an utterly rewarding watch.

14. Eighth Grade

This film, directed and penned by comedian/YouTuber turned director, Bo Burnham, felt so true, real and honest. Featuring an terrific central performance by Elsie Fisher, the film deals with serious themes, such as young teenage angst, mental health, consent and the impact of social media on the youth of today. Yet, it manages to do so in a witty, funny and accessible way. It’s just great.

13. If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins’s follow-up to 2016’s Moonlight (which was one of my favourite films of recent years), this may not of been as devastating or engrossing as the Best Picture winner was, but it was still wonderful. Jenkins has a real talent for infusing terrible and depressing situations with some real wonder and hope, and he does that beautifully here. Also, all the performances are great, particularly Regina King, who deserves the Oscar alone just for THAT mirror scene alone. I wait to see what Jenkins does next.

12. Rocketman

After the surprise success of the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody (which I also unashamedly loved), Dexter Fletcher follows that up with this new biopic about the life of Elton John. In the same way as Bohemian Rhapsody did, here Fletcher directs the musical sequences in such a passionate and entertaining way, creating probably the best musical of the year. Also, the lead, Taron Egerton continues on his streak of being one of the best actors around, creating a very nuanced portrayal of John (and by the look of it, will unfortunately be snubbed for a Best Actor nomination). It’s just so much fun.

11. The Peanut Butter Falcon

Playing like this decade’s answer to 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine, this film was just so sweet and lovely. It’s the film that will most probably sell you on Dakota Johnson as a screen presence, as she’s great in this, as is Shia LaBeouf, who seems well on this way to having a career revival. Also, Zack Gottsagen as the lead is a revelation. It’s one of the most recent examples of how to make a sweet and heartfelt film, but not having it reduced to sentimentality.

10. Klaus

Being the first animated feature to come originally from Netflix, this lovely movie serves as an origin story to Santa Claus. With absolutely beautiful old-school hand-drawn animation, a heartfelt story and great vocal performances, this movie ranks up as one of the best animated films of the year. Also, as a Christmas film, this will no doubt be featured as one of the most recent examples of modern holiday classic.

9. Toy Story 4

Another animated film here, Toy Story 4 did the impossible by upping what was the perfect trilogy into what is now the perfect quadrilogy. Although, it is no doubt an extended epilogue to the series, it still manages to end every character’s arc in a completely wholesome way, and never feels like a cynical cash grab (which I’m sure it really was). Also, if you don’t cry at the ending “To Infinity… And Beyond” scene, you have definitely have no soul.

8. Us

Jordan Peele’s follow-up to the 2017’s brilliant Get Out (one of my favourites of the decade), Us will no doubt not be for all tastes, but I loved it, and seems to be getting better the more times I watch it (I’ve seen it 3 times now). Like Get Out, the film combines some hilarious black humour and biting social commentary, but this time, mixed with a much scarier and nastier tone, which Peele always feels completely in control of. As much as I loved Doctor Sleep, this is definitely the best horror film of the year.

7. Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson and especially, Adam Driver give career-best performances in this heartbreaking Noah Baumbach film. The film combines comedy, drama, and oddly, some musical moments, and ends up creating a very true, and emotional depiction of marriage, divorce and family. If Joaquin Phoenix wins the Best Actor Oscar over Driver then, we riot because Driver deserves it much, much more.

6. One Cut of the Dead

Much like recent film, Parasite (which, if it had come out in the UK this year, would no doubt, be part of this list), the least you know about this film, the better. The first 40 minutes may take some patience to get through, but once that is over, the film becomes incredibly smart, clever, witty and heart-felt. The second act also completely justifies the opening act, and remains a great deconstruction for the zombie genre and of low-budget filmmaking. It has to be seen to believed, as it’s just wonderful.

5. The Farewell

This film, about a family (headed by a young woman, played by Awkwafina) who decide to not the matriarch that she’s actually dying of terminal cancer, is equals parts devastatingly emotional and equals parts very funny. The film also always finds a way to feel very real and relatable, even if you have never been through anything remotely like this. Also, the out-of-character serious performance by Awkwafina is fantastic, and should get an Oscar nomination. I loved it!

4. Little Women

Greta Gerwig follows up her great 2017 coming-of-age comedy-drama, Lady Bird (which I love love loved) by writing and directing the seventh adaptation of Louise May Alcott’s classic novel. Gathering a huge ensemble cast (including big names ranging from Laura Dern to Meryl Streep to Chris Cooper to Emma Watson to Bob Odenkirk), EVERYONE in this film is so good, but the standouts are Saoirse Ronan and this year’s breakout star, Florence Pugh. This film is also beautifully directed, and remains just so lovely, heartfelt and universal for everyone to watch.

3. The Irishman

This Martin Scorsese picture seems him back on regular ground after some more experimental films from him in recent years (like 2016’s Silence & 2011’s Hugo) and reunites him with a plethora of talent including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Although not as exciting as films like Goodfellas or The Departed, this film is melancholic, quiet, and deeply affecting. Dealing with themes of ageing, regret and leaving a legacy, this film will stick with you long after the credits start rolling.

2. Booksmart

Olivia Wilde completely revitalized the coming-of-age genre this year with the smart and hilarious Booksmart. Wilde is absolutely fantastic behind the camera, directing the film in a zippy and energetic way, and script is able to get the right mixture between funny moments and a genuine heartfelt story. Also, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are stars in the making. If anyone says that comedy in 2019 can’t be done (I’m looking at you, Todd Phillips), this is all the proof you need that comedies can still be rip-roaringly hilarious.

1. Knives Out

Yes, this film may not have the most depth or emotional resonance as some films this year, but it was this Rian Johnson-penned whodunnit was the one that kept me entertained and invested more than any other film. It’s incredibly smart, unpredictable and shocking whilst still remaining witty and funny, and having a genuine heart underneath the drama (mainly due to a very good Ana de Armas in the lead role). If you go to see, you will not be disappointed because it’s just so damn entertaining.

Monthly Recap: December 2019

Considering that I can’t review everything that I watch in a month (I don’t have that kind of time) – I’m doing a quick recap from each film and TV show I watch, and what Comics I read every month. Here they are:

First Time Watches

Catching up with this year’s releases:

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) – Review at https://885.movie.blog/2019/12/11/a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighbourhood-2019-review/
  • Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019) – This was fine. It felt like it was trying too hard to be The Big Sick (one of my favourites from 2017) in dealing with serious themes in a funny and mainstream way. It didn’t quite achieve that, however, I liked it’s central messages and Gillian Bell’s lead performance.
  • Burning (2018) – One of the year’s earlier releases that I missed, this movie was hypnotic, strange and dreamy. It was very reminiscent of David Lynch and I really liked it.
  • Charlie’s Angels (2019) – I was quite disappointed my this. I went into it thinking it was going to re-launch the franchise in a fun, interesting way, but the end result was very uneven. The three leads are perfectly fine (Naomi Scott is really great, but Kristen Stewart as the comedic relief doesn’t quite work), but I just wished this was much better.
  • The Good Liar (2019) – I feel like if I hadn’t watched Knives Out recently – which did something new, different and subversive with the twisty-turny thriller genre, that I love love loved – I might of liked this better. It just felt quite formulaic and uninspired, and all the twists I could easily see coming. Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan were perfectly fine, though.
  • Harriet (2019) – I liked this one quite a bit. There were some elements about that didn’t quite gel, especially Harriet Tubman’s premonitions and visions of god, but overall, it was quite a solid and engaging biopic. Cynthia Erivo’s lead performance was very good.
  • Jojo Rabbit (2019) – A review of this might come when this is properly released in the UK in January because I really really liked this one. It’s very peculiar and I do wonder how the film got made, but I loved it’s balls. Also, it was so funny. All the performances from the cast are great, particularly a very impressive Scarlett Johansson. If it was released this year properly, it probably would have one of my favourites of the year.
  • Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) – Review at https://885.movie.blog/2019/12/18/jumanji-the-next-level-2019-review/
  • Little Women (2019) – This adaptation of Little Women was just utterly wonderful – it may have even bested director, Greta Gerwig’s other film, Lady Bird from 2017 (which I love love loved). All the performances are fantastic (Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh are the real stand-outs, but I love EVERYONE from Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper and Bob Odenkirk) and the direction from Gerwig is very passionate. One of my favourites of the year, for sure.
  • Marriage Story (2019) – Review at https://885.movie.blog/2019/12/06/marriage-story-2019-review/
  • Parasite (2019) – Like Jojo Rabbit, I will probably do a review of this when it hits UK theatres in February because honestly, I don’t really have the words right now to describe how I feel about this movie. It’s like watching Alfred Hitchcock direct Fargo. It’s honestly one of the best films of the 21st century, and probably one of the best films I’ve ever seen in my life.
  • The Souvenir (2019) – This one was slightly divisive with audiences – some called it slow and pretentious, while some called it interesting and polished. I’m somewhere in the middle with it – I thought the direction and production design made it a very polished movie, and I loved the performances (Honor Swindon Byrne is a star) but I felt it lacked emotion and I was quite detached from it.
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – The critical response to this was a little unfair, as this Star Wars movie was fine, but that’s really all it was – just fine. The first half was a little painful, and was terribly written, but the film started to get a lot better in the second half, made infinitely better by Adam Driver’s performance. The real problem is that this movie didn’t really live up to the high standard set up by The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

Others:

  • House on Haunted Hill (1959) – A very campy, fun and quite silly horror classic. It has some genuine scares, too, especially the Old Woman scare. Great fun.
  • In the Mouth of Madness (1994) – This John Carpenter joint was quite uneven – it had some moments of unintentional hilarity, and the plot was a little all over the place. However, I loved it’s visceral special effects, and I admired it for it’s flat-out weirdness. I overall really liked it.
  • Jack Frost (1997) – Combining the Christmas spirit, and my love of horror films, this film was so bad, that it was so good. I mean it was no Chopping Mall, and my critical faculties can’t defend it at all, but I had fun.
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – Finally got round to watching this Christmas classic, and I really liked it. It was sweet, lovely and really cute.
  • Top Hat (1935) – Another classic that I finally got round to watching – this was a lovely Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical. The musical sequences were absolutely fantastic, and although, they were probably better than the overall film, it was still really lovely.
  • Wild Tales (2014) – Finally got around to watching this, and I absolutely LOVED it. It was so dark, cynical, witty and funny. Also, unlike many anthology movies, with each segment, the film just seems to get better. If I had seen this in 2014/2015 time, it no doubt would of been one of my favourites of the year.

Re-watches

Re-watching some of the year’s most popular films:

  • Avengers: Endgame (2019) – The biggest movie of all time happens to get the right mixture between big epic scale, emotional resonance and cathartic moments. Game of Thrones and Star Wars, wishes – this is how you end a popular franchise.
  • Booksmart (2019) – God I love this film. I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it.
  • The Irishman (2019) – One of the year’s best, and Scorsese’s best in 13 years since The Departed. One of my favourites of the year, for sure.
  • Knives Out (2019) – Review at https://885.movie.blog/2019/11/27/knives-out-review/
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) – Much like Joker this year, I slightly conflicted about this film (although, I do like this one much, much more). I love the craft and passion involved (I love the performances, and how the production design and costume design really invoke you in 60s era), and I love that it’s more a mature film from Tarantino (in the same vein of Jackie Brown), but I think there are many sequences (particularly Leonardo DiCaprio filming his western) that feel indulgent and over-long. It’s still quite good fun, though, and THAT ending is properly fantastic.
  • Rocketman (2019) – I really loved this movie – it doesn’t re-invent the musical biopic genre or anything, but it’s so much fun. The musical sequences and Taron Egerton’s performance are just wonderful.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – This was doesn’t hold up so well on fourth (yes, that right, fourth) viewing, but as a huge Spider-Man fan, I still really liked it.

Films that are always regular Christmas viewing:

  • Barefoot in the Park (1967) – It’s my mum’s favourite film, and we always watch it on her birthday (which is Christmas Eve), and it’s just wonderful.
  • Die Hard (1988) – Who cares what Bruce Willis says, this IS a Christmas movie, and it’s a wonderful one at that.
  • Gremlins (1984) – The super dark, daft and fun Christmas horror movie that I always love watching.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – Watching this with my dad is one of my highlights of each Christmas.
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) – Chevy Chase is hilarious in this stupid but hilarious movie.
  • Paddington 2 (2017) – One of my favourite films of recent years, this movie is WONDERFUL.
  • Rare Exports (2010) – As someone who used to be terrified on Santa, this film takes a needed dark take on Santa and Christmas. It’s just great.
  • Singin in the Rain (1952) – One of my favourite films of all time, this movie is made with such passion, craft and personality.
  • Trading Places (1984) – One of the most underrated Christmas films of all time, I love a lot about this movie – the social commentary, the one-liners and the performances. It’s just great.

Others:

  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) – My mum wanted to watch this on New Years’ Eve. It isn’t as well-written or smart than the first film, but it’s still quite funny.

TV Shows Watched this Month

  • Watchmen, season 1 – I loved this series so much – it’s one of my favourites of the year and possibly the best superhero series of all time. The series is very well-structured and well-plotted and each episode feels unique and special. All the performances are great, as well, particularly Regina King and Tim Blake Nelson. I just loved it.
  • Gavin & Stacey, 2019 Christmas special – I’m sorry, I’ve tried loads of times, but I just don’t get Gavin and Stacey. Ruth Jones is great, though.
  • Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer – This series is incredibly hard to watch at times, but it was very shocking and ultimately very fascinating. The only problem with it was that it became more of a standard killer/man hunt type thriller after a while, and lost it’s shocking edge. That being said, this miniseries was well a watch (even if you have to watch it through splayed fingers).

Comics Read this Month

  • Skyward, Volume 1 (Issues 1-5) – This series is so much fun. It has taken over as my favourite new comic to come out recently since Paper Girls ended in the summer. It’s feels very fresh, entertaining and clever.

Film of the Month:

Film watched for first time: Parasite (2019)

Runner-ups: Little Women (2019) & Marriage Story (2019)

Re-watched Film: Singin in the Rain (1952)

Runner-ups: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) & Paddington 2 (2017)