Watched, Read, Reviewed: February 2020

Happy March everyone! I’m cold! February was worse than January for a change. And February’s movie releases were as disappointing as the weather. Here’s everything I watched & read & listened to in February...

MOVIES THIS MONTH

MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

Parasite – 7.5/10
Little Women – 7/10
Jojo Rabbit – 7/10
Weathering With You – 7/10
1917 – 7/10
Long Shot – 7/10
Burning – 6.5/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

The Gentlemen – I enjoyed this Guy Ritchie film. It’s good to see him back doing the “London gangster” type stuff since, quite frankly, it’s what he does best. I mean, WTF was Aladdin all about?! (Not that I’ve seen it – I’m boycotting Disney live-action remakes! But Aladdin looked especially rubbish). Lock Stock & Snatch are very enjoyable movies, though. If you’re a fan of those, I guarantee that you’ll like The Gentlemen as well. The only thing I’d say it has against it is that the story gets too convoluted. I think it’s trying too hard to be a little too clever at times. However, the characters are very strong & make up for the meandering plot. Matthew McConaughey is great & super cool as the powerful drug lord (well, it’s just marijuana so I don’t know if that exactly makes you a drug lord). I can’t believe how much I like McConaughey as an actor now after all the shitty rom-com stuff he did at first. Other standouts are Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, and surprisingly Colin Farrell and, even MORE surprisingly, Hugh Grant as a sleazeball you can’t help but kind of like. His & Farrell’s roles are a lot of fun, and I normally don’t like either actor. Farrell’s character seems the most “pointless” in a way but I’m glad they added him in anyway as he was fun to watch. There’s a lot of double crossing & back stabbing and it was nice not being able to predict what was going to happen every step of the way. As I said, though, the story was a little more messy than I’d have liked but overall I can’t complain as I got far more enjoyment from watching this than some of the dreary Oscar nominees in January. Oh, and they swear like absolute motherfuckers in this one. I love a good sweary movie. – 7/10

Onward – 7/10

The Call Of The Wild – I found this family-friendly film based on a classic American novel (that I never read – shame on me) very enjoyable as well. As I said, I never read the book so can’t compare it so I’m only speaking of my experience with the movie. It’s about a dog named Buck who is stolen from his family & sold to become a sled dog in Alaska during the time of the Gold Rush. Buck is a dog and who the hell doesn’t love a dog?! Plus there’s grumpy old Harrison Ford. Who the hell doesn’t love grumpy old Harrison Ford?! That’s all I needed to convince me to check this one out. And I’ll say once again that there are NOT enough “family films” being made these days (besides shitty live-action Disney remakes). We’re a household of big movie fans and it’s felt like we’ve had nothing to take our daughter to see in the cinema in months. Movies are either for adults or are too “kiddie” lately (being almost pre-teen she has no interest in those). She brought a friend to this & they both liked it and of course especially liked Buck. I’m assuming this is a toned-down version of the book and that there’s more focus on Buck feeling the “call of the wild” in the novel but, as a film, I think this does well to make you feel like you know Buck & what he’s thinking. The movie gets stronger once Ford plays a more active role later on. I’d have liked to know a little more of Ford’s backstory but they tell you enough to understand his character & his bond with Buck. It’s a lovely story & I’m sure it’s a very good book (just like Little Women, which I also never read). Damn. I really should’ve read more American classics as a kid & teen instead of just Stephen King. – 7/10

The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl – This was an odd one! I love Japanese anime & have been exploring more of it beyond just the Studio Ghibli stuff. I knew nothing about this one but liked the look of it from what I’d seen of images from it. I just realised in looking it up now that it’s from the same director, Masaaki Yuasa, as Lu Over The Wall (which I reviewed HERE). I’d say this one is the stronger film but both are fun & quite “cute”. Cute sounds kind of insulting but I can’t think of a better way to describe the animation style. Lu is aimed younger, though, while this one has a slightly more grown-up storyline involving romance, guys who keep losing their underwear, and drinking lots of alcohol. Honestly, the story is pretty damn weird at times & I have no idea how to go about reviewing this. But I like weird so I had fun watching it although I didn’t love it. If you like Japanese anime and if you like quirky movies, you might want to check this one out. – 6.5/10

Midnight Sun – Why do I watch so much YA romance bullshit? Oh yeah – Because I secretly like YA romance bullshit. Shh – Don’t tell anyone! This is an American remake of a Japanese film & I of course wanted to see the Japanese film instead. It’s about a teenage girl with xeroderma pigmentosum, which means she can’t ever go out into sunlight as it will kill her. But she’s a teenage girl & has had a crush on a neighbor boy who has gone past her window every day since they were kids. The boy is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son, FYI. But he’s no Terminator. The Terminator & Predator are WAY better movies than Midnight Sun. Obviously. Hell, Kindergarten Cop is better. Where was I?? Midnight Sun is fine as far as this weird subgenre of “dying teen romance” goes. But it’s got some of the most ridiculously cliché shit I’ve seen in a while, especially at the end. One cheesy bit at the end actually made me drop my overall score slightly. If you like this genre, it’s worth an easy watch as the two leads are likeable enough. But The Fault In Our Stars & especially Five Feet Apart are much better so I’d recommend those first. I also preferred Everything, Everything. Man – I watch too much of this genre… – 6/10

Uncut Gems – Had to check this out as everyone was raving about it on Twitter. And, once again, I’m wondering why the hell I listen to people on Twitter. I know it’s popular to hate Adam Sandler but I’ve never had a problem with him and do really enjoy SOME of his movies. It probably helps that he’s from my generation of Saturday Night Live (the years of my beloved Wayne’s World!!). I did also watch the Safdie Brothers’ film Good Time & really liked it so I was looking forward to Uncut Gems. I couldn’t get into this film at all. It’s honestly nothing but shouting & hateful characters the whole time. It gave me a headache. However, I agree with the general consensus that Adam Sandler is good in this. He is. It’s maybe worth a watch just to see him in a very different role. Maybe. I just wish the movie wasn’t so annoying. And I could’ve done without seeing up Sandler’s butthole. – 5.5/10

Birds Of Prey – Um. Ugh. Yikes. Damn… This was bad. Sorry! But what an absolute fucking mess of a film. And I wanted to like it. I really really did. To be fair, I’ve not really liked any of the DC movies other than Wonder Woman. Not being a fan in the first place probably didn’t help. I do think Margot Robbie is good as Harley Quinn but she was such a hateful character it was hard to really give a shit about her. She’s unhinged to the point of being silly instead of just being fun. The best thing about this movie was at the very end when the women team up & work together (then becoming the Birds Of Prey). So the reason for the title of the movie isn’t until the very end. I have to say that I’d find a movie about this group of female vigilantes FAR more interesting than this mess of a Harley Quinn story. The next movie should’ve been called Birds Of Prey as this one was really about Quinn with little development of the other female characters until the end. And I did like those characters, especially Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s. Maybe a spin-off Birds Of Prey movie wouldn’t suck as much. Even without the inclusion of Harley Quinn it could be okay. Meh. Waste of time. Worst movie I’ve gone to so far this year. – 5.5/10

Freeway – Wow. This was awful. I like Reese Witherspoon but had never seen this 1996 film with Kiefer Sutherland where he’s a creepy pervert serial killer & she’s a trashy juvenile delinquent. It’s apparently a dark satirical take on Little Red Riding Hood. I normally love dark humor (Heathers is a big favorite) but I can’t say I enjoyed Freeway at all. I do think Witherspoon is good, though. I knew she’d be a big star after seeing her in The Man In The Moon in 1991. She’s good in Freeway although it’s strange seeing her playing someone so trashy. If you want to see her saying all kinds of filthy shit, this movie is the one for you. It’s just one of those movies where everyone is so hateful that it’s hard to get any enjoyment out of it. For a far better satirical black comedy starring Witherspoon, I’d recommend Election instead of this one. – 4.5/10

Rewatched:

Pretty In Pink – Still love it. Of course – it’s a John Hughes film. – 8/10

BOOKS, MUSIC, TV, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

I actually listened to some NEW music in February. Shocking! I finally have access to a streaming service. Yeah, finally. What can I say? I’m old school. I still play CDs. So I finally have some music to talk about in this section. I’ll start with that. But I won’t rate or “review” music as I wouldn’t know how to go about doing that. Plus my musical tastes change way too often…

MUSIC LISTENED TO

Petals For Armor I by Hayley Williams – I mainly listened to this to get my daughter into Hayley Williams as she likes some Paramore. But, hell, I’m the one who ended up loving this EP (especially the song Simmer). The songs are unusual. Very grown-up (the kid liked Simmer but I don’t think the rest went down well). I’m now looking forward to this full album being released in May. I liked all the albums I listened to in February but my very favorite song from all of them is Simmer (I’ve put the video at the end of this post).

The Slow Rush by Tame Impala – I don’t have a lot to say about this as I’ve only listened to it once while working. I like Tame Impala so was looking forward to this. It’s super chilled. So, yeah – it was perfect while I was concentrating on working. Will give it more of a proper listen at some point. I’ll say I felt quite calm & relaxed that day so maybe it was good to not be blasting metal into my ears for a change.

Miss Anthropocene by Grimes – I admit it – I kind of like Grimes. I liked her before the whole Elon Musk thing when no one knew who she was. I even did a post about her for the Music Video Friday series I did for a while (Grimes post HERE. I really enjoyed that series…). Yeah, she’s fucking nutty. Yeah, I don’t like all of her songs and some of what she does is pretentious as shit. But I adore those two songs in that post I did & I happily listened to Miss Anthropocene as soon as she released it. I’ve listened to it quite a bit. I really like it, especially the songs Violence, 4ÆM, My Name Is Dark & You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around. I have to keep skipping Darkseid, though – what the fuck is that?!

Ordinary Man by Ozzy Osbourne – Of course I like this. I’ve loved Ozzy most of my life now. I have so much Black Sabbath & solo Ozzy stuff on various playlists that I don’t think a week ever goes by where I don’t hear his voice. Which is probably why I’ve only listened to this album a couple of times so far. I have loads of Ozzy already! Again, I’ve listened to this while working so I have to give it a proper listen some weekend. Liking it so far. But didn’t expect not to…

BOOKS READ

Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira – Damn me & my annoying inability to stop reading YA books. I can’t help it – they’re simple reads! This one is about a teenage girl whose sister has died (we don’t know exactly how or why at the beginning). At school, she’s given an assignment to write to a famous person. She starts writing to various dead celebrities & the story is all told through her letters to them. She sorts out her feelings about her sister & her death as she writes mainly to people both she & her sister liked (Kurt Cobain & my beloved River Phoenix being two of the main ones). It’s a decent book. If you like YA stuff, it’s worth a read. I’ve read better but I’ve also certainly read worse. – 3/5

Currently Reading Dune by Frank Herbert. What the hell have I gotten myself into?! Crazy time to start something so heavy when I’m so damn busy. But one of my only New Year’s Resolutions this year was to finally read this before the new film comes out. I’m digging all, um, 32 pages I’ve managed to read so far…

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Picard – Have fallen so behind on watching this due to lack of time. Managed two episodes so far. Loving seeing my beloved Patrick Stewart as Picard again but not quite feeling this show yet. We’ll see. But nothing will ever live up to Star Trek: The Next Generation for me.

The Witcher – Watched the first episode of this. Will watch a couple more to see how I feel (but not sure when I’ll find the time!).

The Creeps – This Goosebumps-esque British kids’ show is SO up my alley. Watched a couple episodes with my daughter. I love eerie stories with a twist! I adored The Twilight Zone as a kid but I can’t convince mine to watch a black & white show from the 1950s with me. Damn. Guess we have The Creeps as a compromise. (It’s very tame, though. I’d prefer creepier).

Locke & Key – Can’t wait to watch this if I can ever find the time. I managed about ten minutes of the first episode. I’m intrigued. As Joe Hill is one of my favorite authors, I’ll definitely be watching it even though I’ve not read his graphic novel this show is based on.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

I have no plans other than to hopefully continue posting these monthly roundups. But as I’m listening to music a bit more again, it got me thinking about how much I enjoyed my Music Video Friday series (I especially loved the Billy Idol post with Brian of Hard Ticket To Home Video). No one read the posts but I had fun reminiscing when putting them together. Maybe I’ll start posting those again sometimes. Or maybe at least a Song Of The Week post each Friday…

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

Fantasy Island – This looks like it could be dreadful so I’ll probably wait to watch it on Netflix. Like all shitty horror movies… (I watch too many)

The Photograph – From IMDb, this is “A series of intertwining love stories set in the past and in the present.” Well, that’s vague. Could be good?

Onward – Seen it! A little disappointing for a Pixar movie but still better than most things made by other animation studios.

Escape From Pretoria – Not sure this is my type of thing. Will see if reviews are good. Still freaks me out that Daniel Radcliffe is a grown-up in movies now.

Military Wives – This looks so British. A Sunday afternoon Netflix flick…

Bacurau – The plot synopsis for this is intriguing. Is it horror?? Mystery?? Will wait to see if reviews are good.

Misbehaviour – Damn, I hate Keira Knightley but this looks interesting.

A Quiet Place Part II – Will definitely go to this as I liked the first film a lot.

The Jesus Rolls – I’m not bothered about this since, unlike most people, I wasn’t that into The Big Lebowski. Loved that rug, though.

Radioactive – I’m sure this will be worth watching but can wait for Netflix.

Mulan – I’ve been boycotting these rubbish Disney live-action remakes ever since that stupid Beauty And The Beast remake. But Mulan looks really good in the trailers… Hmm…

Vivarium – Love the sound of this movie but can’t stand Jesse Eisenberg.

Here’s the Hayley Williams song Simmer:

The Frame, The Fits & Before I Fall Movie Reviews

Here are three quickie reviews for three more movies before I post my 2017 end-of-year lists. Two are 2017 (UK release) films & I try to review all current movies by the end of the year. The other one is just one that I really really liked. Here we go…

The Fits (2015)

Directed by Anna Rose Holmer

Starring: Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Da’Sean Minor, Lauren Gibson, Makyla Burnam, Inayah Rodgers, Antonio A. B. Grant Jr.

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of Toni (Royalty Hightower), an 11-year-old tomboy who struggles to fit into a girls’ dance troupe, which begins to suffer from an inexplicable epidemic of violent fits.

My Opinion:

This film is a hard one to explain. It’s indie as f*^k and I’d never ever recommend it to anyone other than hardcore film fans (like you guys!). Yeah, it’s one of those festival films so it’s 2015 but was only released in the UK this year. It’s good. It’s “arty”. Royalty Hightower, who plays the “11-year-old tomboy”, is the best thing about it. From what I read, a real life dance team was found for this film and Hightower was one of them. She feels very real, probably due to the fact that she wasn’t an actor. I think, with young people in films, it’s sometimes better when they aren’t from an acting background as actors can come across as too fake.

I watched this because I was intrigued by the synopsis (and also because I was short on time & it’s only 1 hour & 12 minutes!). I read this at Wikipedia, which explains where director & writer Anna Rose Holmer got the idea for the film:

“While developing the script, Holmer was inspired by real-life stories of communities succumbing to fits of hysteria. She first became interested in historic cases of mass psychogenic illness and conversion disorder while producing Ballet 422 (2014). Examples of outbreaks of seizure-like attacks and uncontrollable spasms date back to the Middle Ages, but there are still cases of this occurring today. In 2007, a group of high school girls in Virginia suffered from “twitching arms and legs” that eventually resolved itself. Holmer’s research into this subject, specifically cases like the Dancing Plague, and the pattern of these fits emerging amongst young women inspired her to explore the nature of this subject in a coming of age dance-film.”

Bizarre. I’ve never heard of this sort of thing. Anyway, if you watch this, don’t expect a straightforward exploration of this topic. Or any exploration whatsoever. The film is quite atmospheric, which is something I enjoy but won’t be to everyone’s taste. This probably isn’t a great comparison but this film reminded me a little bit of the feeling I had while watching Picnic At Hanging RockPicnic is certainly the better film but I liked the mysterious tension throughout The Fits. It deserves a higher rating than I’m giving it but I have to say this is one of those movies that you’re unlikely to watch more than once and a lot of people would find it very slow & be frustrated by its lack of explanation. It’s very well made and I loved its originality, however, and I liked how “real” the characters felt. I’d be interested in seeing more films made by Anna Rose Holmer. 

My Rating: 6.5/10

Before I Fall (2017)

Directed by Ry Russo-Young

Based on Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Starring: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Jennifer Beals, Diego Boneta, Elena Kampouris

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
February 12 is just another day in Sam’s charmed life, until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over and over, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she’s losing.

My Opinion:

Teen movie based on a YA novel! Once again, I’ll admit to still enjoying teen movies & YA fiction. Us adults were teens once – we can still relate! I was actually going to read this book before the movie but gave up after having it on reserve at the library for ages. Yeah, the library! I’m a library nerd. I realized fairly recently that, like, you can read books from there for free. 😉

Anyway. This is Groundhog Day with the twist being that this pretty teenage girl has to relive the last day of her life over & over again. She tries to make changes each time to see if she can stop the cycle, which always results in her death at the end of the day. Zoey Deutch plays the main girl. She’s so adorable. She looks soooo much like her mom Lea Thompson!

I really enjoyed this movie. It certainly won’t be winning any Oscars and the plot felt far from original but I love the “Groundhog Day story” that has been done so many times (I badly wanted to see Happy Death Day this year as well but didn’t manage it). It’s always fun to see the different ways this storyline can play out. I’m not sure why this didn’t come out in cinemas in the UK like it was originally meant to as it’s better than half the shit that gets a cinema release.

I can’t give this a higher rating as I have to admit that, while it’s fun & I liked it far more than I was expecting, it still felt quite shallow. The whole point is that Deutch’s popular character starts to see what life is like for those in her high school who don’t have it as easy as she does. Her boyfriend and her circle of friends are the popular assholes that most of us despised in school. Deutch is the “nice one” of the group anyway so it feels unfair that she’s the one with this fate. The story also feels a bit too forced and the characters are extremely one-dimensional. Other than Deutch, everyone is a “popular asshole!” or “unhappy & uncool nerd!”. Teenagers are more complex than that. Still, I liked this movie. Deutch has her mother’s charm. Also, this movie has a Grimes song in it (Genesis)! I love Grimes (I wrote about her HERE). I’ve included the video for Genesis at the end of this post.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Frame (2014)

Directed & Written & Music by Jamin Winans

Starring: David Carranza, Tiffany Mualem, Cal Bartlett, Christopher Soren Kelly, Anthony Nuccio

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two strangers find their lives colliding in an impossible way. Alex is a methodical cargo thief working for a dangerous cartel. Sam is a determined paramedic trying to save the world while running from her past.

My Opinion:

I loved this movie. One of my favorite blogs here is mossfilm because he’s introduced me to a lot of great obscure sci-fi movies that I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. The Frame is one of these films. I’m not going to say a lot about it as his review is PERFECT (you can read it HERE). This is my favorite genre and I love when we get a film like The Frame, which feels truly fresh & original. It’s a bit arty smarty-pants but I loved the story and the fantastic visuals.

I don’t know how to discuss this one without giving too much away. The mossfilm review does say a bit about the plot if you’re interested. I think, if you love this genre and like to see a story which will surprise you & keep you guessing, you may be best going into this one knowing as little as possible. I’ll say that it tackles some interesting themes (like faith & fate) and I think it’s one from which different viewers will come away with different questions and feelings about it. For me, I saw it as a very unique love story and I thought the two main characters were fantastic (Alex the cargo thief played by David Carranza and Sam the paramedic played by Tiffany Mualem). Others will see it as something far deeper than the simple love story at its core (and it is) but, more than anything, the story itself is damn good. I watch a lot of movies so I get bored seeing the same predictable stories over & over again. I want more stuff like The Frame. I’ll never forget watching it, whereas I forget half the mainstream movies that I watch a year or so after seeing them.

I so want to talk more about this movie but I’m trying to avoid spoilers! Can someone else please watch it so we can discuss it?? 😉 The Frame is currently available on Amazon Prime Video in the UK & I highly recommend checking it out before it disappears since it’s an obscure one that could later be hard to find. Here’s a spoiler-free way of describing it: The Frame is like a really good long episode of Black Mirror. But more arty. And what I’ve seen of Black Mirror so far is great. Watch The Frame.

My Rating: 8/10

There are a couple of trailers for The Frame. One gives away too much of the story so I don’t recommend that one. The one below shows only images from the film. Still, I recommend knowing nothing beforehand but this is the safer trailer if you’re interested:

And this is the video for the Grimes song Genesis in Before I Fall. It’s weird. I love it.

Music Video Friday: Grimes – Genesis

Today’s video for Music Video Friday is Genesis by Grimes.

This is a weird one and I don’t know much about Grimes although I really should explore more of her work since I love the songs Genesis and, especially, Oblivion (which has a far less interesting video, but I like the concept of the female in a male-dominated world. Yeah, I read that online…):

Grimes is probably not to everyone’s taste but I love her quirky style & love of Japanese anime. If you look closely, you can see she’s carrying a Totoro backpack in the video for Genesis. I want one!!

You may not notice the Totoro thanks to the girl wearing the distracting metal outfit in front of Grimes. I had to Google who that was – she’s a rapper and stripper named Brooke Candy and is described by Grimes as “a very contemporary muse.” Yeah, I read about these videos at Wikipedia. Here’s what Grimes has to say about the video for Genesis, which she also directed:

“It’s loosely based on this painting by my favorite painter, Hieronymus Bosch, called The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things. I wanted to play with Medieval/Catholic imagery. I was raised in a Catholic household and went to a Catholic school, and my childhood brain perceived medieval Catholicism as an action movie: There’s this crazy omnipresent guy who can destroy you at any moment.”

Both of these songs are off the album Visions (I dig the cover art):

Grimes is one of these crazy, artistic types that don’t seem to go down as well nowadays as they did in the past (I’m thinking especially of the Seventies & artists such as David Bowie). This is how she’s described at Wikipedia:

Her work has been likened to various artists, including Björk, Siouxsie Sioux and Enya and she was described by Tastemakers Magazine as an “alien love-child of Aphex Twin and ABBA”. The Guardian summarised her musical style: “By sounding a little like everything you’ve ever heard, the whole sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard.”

Alien love-child of Aphex Twin & ABBA? I’d take that as a compliment! That’s far more interesting than being, say, Adele or something. (Sorry Adele lovers – her music just puts me to sleep…) 😉

Anyway, here’s the video for Genesis. I admit that her music is “love it or hate it” so I won’t judge you if you hate it. But I’ll like you if you like it!