Behind Again

I’m still reviewing Halloween movies here firmly in December and that’s because I’ve been busy and lazy, a wonderful combination. So I’m going to have to squish some of my To Do list into one post, which I kind of hate but what can you do?

Here’s what I’ve been watching since the end of October:

Halloween

I waited for what feels like forever for this 40th anniversary sequel and… I can’t say I was disappointed. A lot of it doesn’t work, some of it spectacularly (looking at you fake Doctor Loomis/terrible podcasters) but all in all David Gordon Green‘s offering is a lot of fun and that’s what I wanted.

Jamie Lee is dope as the deeply affected, original Final Girl™ Laurie Strode. A lifetime of paranoia has made her into a reclusive survivalist and she is barely holding onto her family as a result. But what happens when all that preparation finally comes to fruition? Well, you’ll find out when Michael Myers busts out of the institution that has held him for the last four decades – and the whole thing is as gory and tense as you’d imagine. Plus, there’s something truly disconcerting about the humanisation of The Shape just before shit kicks off.

My Rating

4.5/5. Probably for nostalgia more than anything. 

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

In my opinion this movie suffers for not featuring enough Jack Black but IT’s Jeremy Ray Taylor does a fine job as a mini version of the man himself. If I’m honest, I don’t remember too much about the plot (I think because I saw The House with a Clock in its Walls right before it and they’ve sort of blended into one) but I did enjoy its childlike Halloween wonder.

The effects are very good – plenty of inventive monsters and sadistic gummy bears – the kids are fantastic and Slappy is a dollop of mischievous fun. I think I’ll always be here for the Goosebumps movies honestly, they’re charming. I’ll definitely be hitting this up with a re-watch as soon as possible.

My Rating

3.5/5. Witches be crazy. 

The Hate U Give

Based on the YA novel by Angie Thomas which I have half read, THUG is a pretty solid adaptation, if a little heavy-handed in its delivery. Starring the ridiculously talented Amandla Stenberg as our main protagonist Starr and the ridiculously cool Regina Hall as Starr’s ferocious mother Lisa, this movie examines subject matter that is all too relevant. I enjoyed the ride and also cried like a baby throughout.

While I could never understand what Starr and her family and community have to deal with, I was pumping the air with triumph as Starr stood up for herself and her lost friends in the most dramatic, tense scenes imaginable. Not only does this movie look at the horror of racism and police brutality, it also hones in on the insidiousness of subconscious prejudice, particularly within Starr’s own friendship group. Russell Hornsby is fantastic too as Starr’s wise old ex-gang member father.

My Rating

4/5. Powerful stuff. 

Slaughterhouse Rulez

Meh. This, sadly, was a steaming pile of nothingness and given the cast, I’m surprised. It’s just not that memorable, funny or endearing – and takes an age to get going. When it does there are a couple of okay moments but there’s not enough to make it worth the effort. Sorry, Nick Frost, I still love you.

My Rating

2.5/5. A real stinker.

Widows

My takeaway from this is that Viola Davis should be cast in every film from now on. Literally every single one. As freshly widowed Veronica, she is mesmerising – the perfect blend of vulnerability and strength – I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She is matched perfectly though by Elizabeth Debicki as Alice, who steal scenes left and right, even from the Queen herself.

I enjoyed this film very much, it follows the lives of a handful of women left devastated by the death of their husbands, a band of bank robbers. But as with most crime capers, there are twists at every turn and danger lurking in every shadow, not least the terrifying Manning Brothers, Jatemme and Jamal (played, respectively, by two of my favourite actors, Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry).

My Rating

4/5. Girl power at its finest.

Bohemian Rhapsody

I avoided this for a few weeks before finally relenting and I enjoyed myself. Rami Malek nails Freddie so convincingly that it is ridiculous. Honestly, I knew he was good but this guy needs to take home Oscar in the Spring or there is no justice in the world.

There are a few things wrong with this biopic and it’s exaggerated in places I’m sure but it’s also moving, triumphant and seriously satisfying. The music is ace (as you’d expect) and did I mention the central performance is pretty decent?

My Rating

4/5. Don’t think I didn’t go home and listen to the entire Queen back catalog. 

~

What have you been watching?

A Star is Born

The Movie

A Star is Born (2018)

The Director

Bradley Cooper

The Cast

Lady GagaBradley CooperSam ElliottAnthony Ramos

IMDB Synopsis

A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

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My Thoughts

UGH. This movie, I loved it so much. Don’t even get me started on the climactic scene – it nearly destroyed me.

Charting the rise of singer Ally’s (Gaga) success following a chance meeting with seasoned rock/country legend Jack (Cooper), the fourth version of A Star is Born is gorgeous with a heavenly soundtrack.

If you’re wondering how Gaga could possibly keep her end up in place of the Garlands and Streisands of this world, just fucking watch her. She’s mesmerising at the best of times but in this role she is next level. If Oscar doesn’t come knocking in the Spring, then there is no God. Or there is but he’s a man with no taste.

I think if you aren’t familiar with the story, you might still have an inkling of how this might play out but the ending is very sad and the heartbreak is palpable. It’s one of those story lines you wish you could change for the better, even as you watch it veer dramatically off course.

I don’t want to give anything else away but I will say this is one of my favourite movies of this year so far and I can’t stop thinking about some of the songs. They’re outrageously good.

Oh, and the surprise appearance of Shangela and Willam was fun. God, I want to watch it over and over again.

My Rating

4.5/5.

The Wife

The Movie

The Wife (2017)

The Director

Björn Runge

The Cast

Christian SlaterGlenn Close, Jonathan Pryce

IMDB Synopsis

A wife questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, where he is slated to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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My Thoughts

This movie showcases a powerhouse performance by Glenn Close, obviously. The woman is electrifying and handsome as fuck – and rightly so, pretty much the only thing you will care about.

As the downtrodden wife of a Pulitzer prize-winning author, she gives the most emotive performance and it’s probably the only element of the film that will stick in the mind. The narrative itself flip-flops between present day as the Castlemans journey to Switzerland with their son David (Max Irons) to pick up Joe’s award – and the past, as they meet in college, fall in love and begin to build their life together. The thing is, along the way they create something much more that just their family and it looks set to catch up with Joe.

But will Joan blow the whistle? Will she ever be ready to share her truth, the one that gives a fuller picture of who she is – not just the wife, not just a victim?

The Wife is a good movie but it’s not exactly a fun ride and at its climax you might just be a little disappointed. I would have liked more raging against the machine, more punches thrown (metaphorically or otherwise) and as the credits roll, I got what it was saying but I wanted more. Forgive me for waiting for Close to throw just a little bit of Alex Forrest into the mix. Now that would be a film worth watching.

My Rating

3.5/5.

A Simple Favour

A Simple Favour (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

A woman seeks to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her best friend.

*Minor spoilers*

This film is by far my favourite lately, if not all year – and there have been a pile of really good films so far. It just appeals to my bitchy nature with its zingy dialogue, incredible appearance and genuinely tense thriller vibe. It will be hard to talk about this without dropping #spoilers so I’m going to remain as enigmatic as possible – just like Blake Lively‘s mysterious Emily Nelson.

Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a slightly irritating mommy blogger who one day meets and befriends the chic and charismatic Emily Nelson at her son’s school. The two quickly bond over martinis and secrets. One day, however, Emily calls Stephanie for a simple favour – to pick up her kid while she deals with an emergency.

The most glamourous staring contest of all time had just begun

Days later and no sign of Emily, Stephanie is forced to contact her husband Sean (Henry Golding again), who is in the UK tending to his ailing mother. The two of them become closer as they try to work out what happened to Emily – and let me tell you I’ll probably have to stop myself here just to be safe. Let’s just say that Stephanie’s secrets aren’t the only ones out there – what could Emily’s be?

The story unravels via a series of vlogs put together by Stephanie whose views increase tenfold the more she updates her audience on the Emily case. This is a play on the ‘screen life’ format most recently used in Searching and I think it’s really fresh, although it doesn’t all play out on screen, we also visit present time and flashbacks to build up the story.

I must say that I went into this knowing I’d be impressed but not really knowing what to expect – Paul Feig‘s filmography contains a lot of broad comedy which I love but didn’t expect in this movie. Which I was right about, the humour is pitch black and sharp AF but it’s more sophisticated than usual.

Same, Anna. I’d be the same

Blake and Anna have never been better than here. They look great but they bounce of each other so well and the dialogue they’re given to play with made me cackle throughout. There’s a scene in which Stephanie confronts Emily’s fashion designer boss that was priceless and an excellent showcase for Kendrick’s comic timing.

Helen and I left the cinema just saying “Wow” to each other dozens of times. It’s just done very well and hopefully, along with the aforementioned Searching, will pave the way for more smart arse thrillers, I feel like they might be having a moment.

As for the costuming, don’t think I’m going to sign this off without swooning over both women’s wardrobes. More so Blake who rocks sharp tailoring like nobody’s business. Is there anything sexier that a woman in a well cut suit? I think you’ll find not. Anyway, I’m quite prepared to spend more time in the theater re-watching this movie because it’s bloody great and exactly what I wanted.

There’s a crafter in my kitchen what amma gonna do?

Whatever you do, go see this.

My Rating

5/5.

American Animals

American Animals (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Four young men mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history.

*Minor spoilers*

I feel like I had to work extra hard to catch this movie in the theater (by going to another one). The Odeon showed it for what felt like ten minutes before pulling it due to lack of interest so I had to seek it out. It was worth it.

Based on the true story of four acquaintances who attempt to pull off an extraordinary heist based on a load of crime caper movies they’ve watched as homework, it’s a really interesting ride. Spliced with interviews with all the real life ‘characters’, including all four robbers, it builds up to the day of the robbery from its moment of conception.

The fictional Spencer (Barry Keoghan) works in a supermarket and is dissatisfied with his lot in life. Waiting for something to come along and render his existence special somehow, an idea is born the day he visits Transylvania University and sets his sights on John James Audubon’s The Birds of America as well as a collection of other rare books (including Darwin’s The Origin of Species).

The first edition of Katie Price’s Being Jordan sure was a rare and priceless gem

Initially just intrigued that such rare artifacts could fetch such a pretty penny, Barry mentions it to his best friend Warren (Evan Peters) who takes a grain of an idea and runs with it. Warren himself is a wild card and you could argue is the main instigator of the plan, though he might deny it (and more or less does on camera via the real Warren Lipka).

The boys find themselves involved in a world they’ve never experienced before, taking meetings with fences and buyers (when Warren travels to Amsterdam), doing their research (all manner of heist movies, including Reservoir Dogs) and generally focusing all their attentions on their mission to steal the priceless books and sell them on.

When they realise they’ll need more help, they enlist the assistance of Eric (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas (Blake Jenner) though both are kind of reluctant participants, particularly when it comes to any sort of violence, a dash of which they’ll need to deal with the one person standing in the way of their prize – librarian Betty Jean ‘BJ’ Gooch (Ann Dowd).

Can they pull it off or are they doomed from the start? As the story gains momentum, the relationship these men share are tested to the max and they are forced to deal with their own individual feelings of guilt, failure and regret.

Take That were trying a new look for their long awaited reunion

I bloody loved American Animals. I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t Evan Peters that initially pulled me in but I also love a good heist movie. Especially one based on a true story and one that examines four normal real life characters and their motivations. The whole concept of wanting that one incredible thing to happen is very relatable and the fact that we get to see interviews with their families reminds us of the consequences of their actions.

Barry Keoghan is amazing as Spencer and he sold his character to me the most. I really enjoy him as an actor, having really been creeped out by his role in The Killing of a Sacred Deer so I’m quite interested to see more of him.

Hereditary‘s Ann Dowd is great as always, though we don’t see nearly enough of her. During the will-they-won’t-they heist scene, she is heartbreaking in her vulnerability and it left me feeling genuinely uncomfortable. I definitely recommend this film which is subtly stylised in its look but also holds up as a dark and genuinely tense crime caper.

My Rating

4.5/5.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians.

*Minor spoilers*

When teenager Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught by her boyfriend getting it on with her best friend Coley (Quinn Shephard) at prom, all hell breaks loose. For her anyway. Her concerned older sister packs her off to religious camp God’s Promise to attend a program designed to convert her back to the only acceptable sexuality in God’s eyes.

Why are you such a grass?

Here she meets a rag-tag bunch of like-minded kids at varying degrees of their therapy. Luckily for her she is able to bond with two fellow cynics, Jane Fonda (American Honey’s Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck), who make her time there more bearable. Run by ex-homosexual Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) and his formidable sister, Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) – the camp expects each guest to adhere to a strict set of rules. The more they co-operate, however, the more privileges they’ll earn.

They’re each also required to fill in a personal ‘iceberg’ – e.g. a basic diagram of what’s going on beneath the surface, and what could possibly be part of the reason for their SSA (Same Sex Attraction). It’s a bad, no-good place to be basically and even worse when you consider that teens are still sent to conversion camps today.

Cameron struggles with the ‘punishment’ she’s received and is later forced to deal with the concept of guilt as Coley suggests she took advantage of their friendship.

“If they sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ ONE MORE TIME…”

On the sidelines we also meet Cameron’s hopeful roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs), musical Helen (Melanie Ehrlich) and Mark (Owen Campbell), who will break your heart in two. Genuinely, it’s very hard to watch any kid go through what these children do but especially when they’re warm and kind like Mark. His arc is hard to stomach and devastating for all involved. And it will make you mad as it should rightly do.

Thankfully, we get a feel-good ending and I’m down with that. One thing to note is how lovely this movie looks – it almost makes God’s Promise look like a pleasant holiday destination. Directed by the brilliantly talented Desiree Akhavan, it also illustrates Cameron’s flashbacks with proper sex scenes which are beautiful and real, something you don’t always see, particularly between two women. It’s not gratuitous, it’s more a visual ode to the beauty of women and the appreciation of them on the whole.

I love the characters, I love the dialogue and I really enjoy the scene in which Cameron gets up on the kitchen counter to do a rendition of 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Going On. As part of the new wave of gay movies we’ve been getting over the last couple of years, TMOCP holds its head up high and sticks two fingers up at ‘convention’ at the same time. Well worth a look.

My Rating

4/5.

Searching

Searching (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her.

*Minor spoilers*

This morning I learnt that there’s a name for films using this all-on-the-screen format and it’s “Screen life”. So not only is this an interesting film, it’s also been highly educational. Kinda.

Anywho, Searching is a very tense thriller in which David Kim (the gorgeous John Cho) fights tooth and nail to find his daughter Margot (Michelle La), who has mysteriously disappeared. As he picks at the threads of her life, he realises he barely knows her at all – which doesn’t help when he’s expected to unravel the truth about what happened to her.

With the help of determined Detective Vick (Debra Messing), David delves deeper into Margot’s social media account, messages and emails to paint a picture of where his daughter might be – and who she really is.

I really enjoyed this though I will admit to getting an inkling of the truth half way through. That said it makes you doubt every character you come into contact with, even David himself. And while it centers around Margot’s disappearance it also sets up their relationship really well. The beginning is genuinely touching and gave me the feels not ten minutes in.

I’m trying very hard not to hone in on any of the details for a reason but this was impressive and the screen life format kept my interest throughout, much as it does in Unfriended. I think it might get tired quicker than found footage but here it successfully builds up suspense – and makes you want to upgrade your five-year-old acer laptop for something quicker and shinier (just me?).

My Rating

4/5.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan with the help of a white surrogate, who eventually becomes head of the local branch.

*Minor spoilers*

There’s a lot to say about this movie and yet I don’t think I’m going to go all in. I enjoyed it very much and found it very moving in places. It also made me laugh, shake my head, feel disgusted – basically most of the emotions you would associate with a Spike Lee movie.

The narrative focuses on Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a black cop who, with the help of his team, manages to infiltrate the KKK. While he charms a number of organisation members over the telephone, he has an obvious issue when it comes to meeting them face-to-face. Enter Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) then, Ron’s Jewish (and white) body double.

Will Flip be able to keep his end up in person, while Ron cons KKK founder David Duke (Topher Grace) over the phone? And will he come to realise, as Ron warns him, that he has more stake in the game than he knows?

Given the pressure being piled on him by tightly wound Klansman Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen), who knows?

Meanwhile, Ron tries to romance the lovely activist Patrice (Laura Harrier) who doesn’t know who he really is, which is a bad scene given that she hates pigs. Having experienced more than her fair share of police brutality, she kind of has a point – can he persuade her that he’s one of the good guys, changing the system from the inside?

BKKK is very much a Spike Lee movie with some very clear Lee signatures. It pays homage in tone to some of the great blaxploitation movies and blends dark humour with even darker imagery. The final scenes splice truly frightening KKK rhetoric with real life terrorist footage – and it’s a hard pill to swallow. As it fucking should be.

Denzel‘s boy John is remarkable as Ron while Adam Driver is as dreamy as ever. He’s so tall I would like to climb him like my favourite childhood tree. Which might be missing the point a little. One of my favourite scenes is the one in which Flip muses how little he’s cared about his own heritage up until this point.

I also have to say that Pääkkönen, as the truly frightening Felix is a stand-out for me. He’s repugnant obviously but is played to perfection, a ticking time bomb of a character, hell bent on exposing Flip as Jewish and a cop to boot, something no other member of the Klan believes.

My Rating

4/5.

Marrowbone

The Secret of Marrowbone (2018) or Marrowbone (original and much better title)

IMDB Synopsis

A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.

*Spoilers*

Sometimes I’m in the mood for something gentle and spooky, much like the Gothic novels I like to read in the Autumn.

Marrowbone is perfect for these occasions and ticks all the creepy boxes nicely. It also offers up a genuinely moving tale of loss, secrecy and familial loyalty which plays out in the hands of a good-looking young cast, which includes The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy, Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton and A Cure for WellnessMia Goth.

When the family matriarch (Nicola Harrison) passes away after an illness, eldest son Jack (George MacKay) is left to keep the family afloat. Having promised his mother on her death-bed to keep her passing a secret from society, lest the children be split up, Jack keeps his siblings mainly indoors. This arrangement is far from satisfactory to Jane (Goth), Billy (Heaton) and little Sam (Matthew Stagg) but needs must and all that.

Marrowbone

Especially when the family harbor more than just this secret. Comfort and normality does come to the children however, in the form of the lovely Allie (Taylor-Joy) who befriends them instantly and becomes a joyful part of their every day life. But, as the romance between Jack and Allie deepens, love rival Porter (Kyle Soller) becomes dangerously jealous – and this in turn threatens to bring the true story of the Marrowbones out in the open.

And what’s with all the weirdness going on at the house while we’re at it?

What I like about Marrowbone is that for a long time we can only feel the tension and the fear as it manifests itself around the family home and for a contemporary ghost/horror not to play its hand so soon makes it stand out more to me. You can’t accuse this of being scary really but it has some effective moments and I enjoyed it as a thriller that sometimes has the vibe of a Sunday night BBC drama. (Not necessarily a bad thing).

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As the story unfolds it leaves you feeling more and more sympathy for the family and the climax is a bit of a corker, in a heart wrenching way. It also looks at mental illness from an interesting perspective and in a way I haven’t seen that much before on film.

Not bad at all.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

*Spoilers*

This film has a crazy cool cast which doesn’t hurt it one bit.

While our leads, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin are supported by the mighty Catherine Keener, some of the best performances come from the younger cast members, namely Isabela Moner and Elijah Rodriguez (both of whom I suspect we may see again in this very franchise).

I enjoyed this movie so much more than I thought I would and I think that’s because this time around it takes us under the skin of Del Toro’s Alejandro, who we first met in Sicario

Where Sicario focused on the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico, Day of Soldado examines the evolution of drugs trafficking into smuggling terrorists over the border. Which is distressing to watch anyway but in the current climate, it is brutal. One of the first scenes follows a handful of ISIS suicide bombers as they enter a supermarket and let’s just say the scene is devastating.

As a result of this particular bombing, the US government enlist the services of CIA Agent Matt Graver (Brolin), who is given permission to use any means necessary to combat the Mexican drug cartels (who are the ones doing the smuggling). AMN really means extreme measures and who better to call on for help than Black Op Alejandro Gillick (Del Toro) himself?

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Graver and the Department of Defense figure the best way to solve their problem is to start a war between the cartels, and Gillick is just perfect for the mission. First he murders a high-profile cartel lawyer in Mexico City, then the team kidnap the daughter of a rival kingpin (played by Isabela Moner) – and man does it all kick off from there.

Not everything goes according to plan though (go figure) and we follow both sides as the tale unravels. Gillick finds himself in a protective role as he and Isabela (the daughter) are accidentally separated from Graver and team.

As relations between the US and Mexico reach breaking point (following an explosive head to head between the team and Mexican police), the US government grow keen to distance themselves from the whole operation. Graver is forced to put Gillick in a tough position, and as choices are made and lines are drawn, the friendship is tested to the extreme.

sicario-2-soldado-josh-brolin-image

While all this pans out, we also follow Miguel Hernandez (Rodriguez) as he becomes more and more embroiled in his role as a Mexican-American “coyote” (people smuggler). What will become of Graver, Gillick and the rest of this crazy bunch?

Sicario: DotS may not be technically as brilliant as Denis Villeneuve‘s Sicario (it’s not very far behind though) but I found myself enjoying it just as much. While we don’t witness the war through the eyes of Emily Blunt‘s idealistic FBI agent this time around, we do have Isabela, whose peepers are forced firmly open when she learns of the crimes of her father.

I’ve got a theory that we’re going to meet Isabela in the next installment and that her story will run parallel to Miguel’s. Good and bad, if you will – the light versus the darkness.

I can’t wait. 

My Rating

4/5.

I fancy Brolin and De Toro SO MUCH. Damn, boys.