What to Watch – Spring 2017

Following on from my What to Watch post late last year, here’s what I’ve been watching since then and heartily recommend:

O.J.: Made in America


Set some time aside to watch this. Seven and half hours might seem a crazy amount of time for a documentary on OJ but it’s worth it. This is NOT the David Schwimmer/Cuba Gooding Jr one (also very watchable if only for the doppelgänger-esque casting for some of the roles) but goes into the history of race relations in California and Los Angeles, OJ’s standing in the community, what happened after the “Trial of the Century” and what a thoroughly unpleasant man he was to the women he was involved with. Beware of the crime scene photos, they are horrendous but give an idea of the brutality of the attack. The whole thing cements in my mind that this killer got away with it in a criminal court. Available on BBC iPlayer.

Big Little Lies


This caught my eye with the exceptional cast, Cold Little Heart song in the titles and Monterey location (to which I’m headed soon!) and I was surprised that it held Hubby’s attention too. The female cast are everything in this. I’m a born again Reese Witherspoon fan (genuinely, her character is excellent) and even applauding Nicole Kidman for some shockingly horrifying scenes with the so pretty-he-makes-my-eyes-water Alex Skarsgard. I loved how the whodunnits story flips on its head with you knowing someone gets killed from the start, but you don’t know who or why but it could be any of the characters. Who knew parenting in beautiful Monterey was so cut-throat?! Available on Sky Atlantic.

Girlboss


I’d heard of the brand and the book by founder Sophia Amoruso but never really followed it until I’d read about the company failing – you can understand why it does from Sophia’s character. It claims it’s loosely based on reality and whilst it probably does take a huge pinch of dramatic salt to flavour things up, you get the marked impression that if this girl was your friend, you wouldn’t be friends for long. She’s rude, arrogant, narcissistic and disorganised with sparks of creative genius which of course makes her a brilliant character played by Britt Robertson. The costumes are amazing – I WANT the leather jacket – and the soundtrack is a playlist of cool, revitalising but angry rock. Plus it was so lovely to be taken back to the Noughties and reminisce my twenties! Available on Netflix.

13 Reasons Why


A girl takes her life and tells us why through recordings on a series of cassette tapes, a moment of retro-ness that comforted me as a child of the 80’s. It’s a simple premise, with a decent soundtrack and a deeply complex story. This really reminded me of the play An Inspector Calls in the sense that it is not one main cause that causes a suicide but a series of related events that leave the protagonist in such despair it becomes an option. One person after another compounds Hannah Baker’s misery until the horrifying scene in the bathroom. I actually thought they wouldn’t show it but I’m glad they do. There is nothing glamorous about Hannah’s suicide – and people who think it is, I suggest you seek counselling. It is painful, distressing, stomach churning, portrayed with care but without sheen and left me sobbing. Available on Netflix

House of Cards


I finally got round to watching this and now I see what all the fuss was about. The only problem was seeing this in a world where Trump was elected president so sometimes I didn’t know whether real life or fake life was scarier/more preposterous, or if the new administration were taking notes. Robin Wright is sensational, Kevin Spacey is tormentingly creepy and conniving. I can’t wait for the new series to air at the end of the month, lord knows it won’t be as bonkers as what’s happening in DC. Available on Netflix.

Line of Duty


I’d heard whisperings about this series and thought it might be too late to catch up, however the lovely schedulers at Netflix and iPlayer had all three series between them for me to view at leisure before waiting for the weekly installments for series four. Allow me to say this: it makes the Top 5 of greatest British crime drama series. My license fee is worth it for this quality. Excellent performances from some of the top names in Brit drama, with a special mention to Vicky McClure who is an integral part of Anti-Corruption 12. Watch this and remember “you have the right to be interviewed by someone at least one rank senior.” Available on Netflix and iPlayer. 

Party of Five

Excuse the trip down memory lane but (*puts on rose tinted glasses*) weren’t the 90’s so awesome?! Not really, but this series was my companion throughout my early teens and it was a comfort to see the Salingers, if only to half crush on Bailey again and realise that I’d go for Charlie now. I fell in love with their amazing house and now about 20 years later I actually get to see it (and San Francisco) for myself in a few weeks. Listen to the soundtrack for more retro reminiscings – Send Me On My Way and Closer To Free anyone? Available on Netflix.

S-Town


A curveball as it’s a podcast but it’s so full of descriptive commentary and the personalities within the story are so vivid it’s worth a mention. From the team at This American Life and Serial comes the tale of John B. McLemore and the eponymous Sh*t town he lives in. It’s complex and weird and wonderful and shows how fascinating people are as well as carrying a hefty warning on never mixing chemicals for gold plating in enclosed spaces. Available on iTunes/Podcast. 

Must See Movie… La La Land

This is the easiest review I’ve ever written.

GO SEE THIS FILM.

That’s pretty much all I need to say about it. Seriously!

You want more? Fine. But no spoilers…

I went to see La La Land with my lovely friend Maddie *waves* who had purchased tickets to the London Film Festival in October as a BFI member and had a spare. I jumped at the chance to go see one of the most talked about films of the festival and see it before everyone else!


Director Damien Chazelle and two of the film’s producers takes to the microphone to answer questions at the BFI London Film Festival

 

Check out this video from the BFI’s London Film Festival premiere and you might spot me and my lovely blonde friend Maddie just behind director Damien Chazelle’s shoulder at 0:52. I’m looking down at my phone filming this video… as Maddie rightly put it, it’s very meta!

These days everything seems to be turning in to a musical. This isn’t just your everyday, regular musical though. It’s a modern musical that acknowledges the fine history of musical films but puts it in contemporary settings and themes and the music, dancing and singing enhances the experience.

There’s a richness to the colours in the costumes and sets with jewel tones throughout that are such a beautiful change from the usual seedy portrayal of Los Angeles – it almost makes me want to spend time in LA – shocked face!

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling shine in this film and I’m genuinely not surprised to see them do so well at the Golden Globes. Stone’s performance in particular is funny, heartbreaking, lovable and relatable.

Ultimately, this film is exactly what we need right now. It feels like the apocalypse is coming and horrors from the cinema are unfolding before our eyes on a daily basis. The escapism offered by the movies is very much needed now.

If you don’t leave the screen with the unbearable desire to sing and dance your way home (like I did-twirling through Leicester Square tube station thanks to a wonderful saxophonist) then I suggest you are most likely dead/nearly dead/mostly dead and require a heart and soul transplant STAT.

Go see this film.

Must see movie… Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

So… How do I write a review with zero spoilers? Hmmm…

I can’t tell you about that scene in that place with that big thing happening. Or about when good person said that to bad person. But I can tell you that I really enjoyed it. 

I’m not the world’s biggest Star Wars fan. I remember seeing the original three repeated on Sunday afternoons and grew up with the legend. I saw it make stars of some actors whilst others disappeared straight-to-VHS. It became part of modern culture and new modern references spawned from it (err, Friends’ The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy, anyone?!) plus I grew up with it like so many kids in my generation. I watched the prequels with fascination but when you know who’s the daddy, it kind of takes the surprise out of things.

The Force Awakens hype machine spiralled out of control with trailers, detailed synopses of trailers, tenuous links to merchandise were exploited and every screen became saturated. I was SO over it. I knew I had to see the film as soon as possible before I turned completely to the dark side and/or stumbled across a spoiler online – *uses the force* curses be to spoiler-sharers, may you forever have the urge to pee right in the middle of an important scene.

  
The Wimbledon Curzon was my screen of choice (comfier, quieter, which of course makes it pricier) and I ended up watching in 3D. Major side note here: for people who already wear glasses, why are we punished so awfully when we want to watch a 3D film?! Two pairs of glasses resting on the bridge of my nose is a sure-fire way to give me a sinus headache. We can land a rocket vertically but we can’t have a solution to this nonsense?!?

So what bits can I tell you about? Well, the two British leads, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are brilliant. Spunky and bright with some lovely moments between them and the other cast. Everytime I saw the bad guy, Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver, I half expected Hannah from Girls to appear half naked on screen too. He annoyed me, an emo Darth Vader wannabe which probably wasn’t the desired effect. Original cast members were fine although a special mention has to go to Harrison Ford. The man is 73 and most of us still probably would. *raises eyebrow* My award for best robot goes to BB-8. Emotive and adorable, everyone will want one for Christmas and every other occasion, from here to eternity. 

Purists will probably pick a million holes in this film because it deserves it; a few occasions test your suspense of disbelief quite heavily (yes, even for a sci-fi film!!) mostly due to plot irregularities but if you’re sat in that cinema open and ready to watch a film then I genuinely think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Kids who were taken to the original films at the cinema are taking their kids (and grand kids!) to see it. No wonder it’s broken box office records. I agree with Coach Kibs – people who grew up with the films in the late 70’s/early 80’s will likely enjoy it more. We loved it when we didn’t have access on demand and could overanalyse every scene for significance. There are all the same themes (nearly the same storylines and scenes) as the original three, so it feels like a fresh take on an old friend. 

Roll on Episode 8 I say. I’ll be watching. 

Must See Movie… Spectre

 

 I make no secret of being a Bond fan. I LOVE Bond films and I want to be a bad ass Bond girl. I like the old ones, I adore the new ones. When I first watched Casino Royale I thought that this was the Bond for me. I remember actually shedding a tear (shocker, I have emotions) at certain scenes and thinking we finally have a Bond that can hold a scene and not rely on quips/silly tech/pretty ladies to fill the viewing minutes.

Of course Quantum of Solace wasn’t anywhere near the amazingness of CR. It simply couldn’t be. Skyfall took us back up to the dizzying heights of greatness on the Bond rollercoaster – it was a seriously decent film – but I remember watching it and thinking it wasn’t what anyone expected. It had heart and soul but wasn’t your typical Bond film. 
An absolutely stunning continuous tracking shot throws you right in to the action following Bond during a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City. My mind boggles at the sheer number of extras used. (Funnily enough I was watching on Day of the Dead before heading home to watching the Mexican GP!) Action ensues and is as thrilling and high-flying as you’d expect. Bravo number one to the stunt guys. 
As for Bond girls – two words: Monica Bellucci. She’s barely on screen and yet still manages to smoulder and seduce with every look. I would not mind to look like her at any age, nevermind 51. Where she is dark and mysterious, Lea Seydoux is soft and (for me) a tad bland but it balances out as it seems to bring out Bond’s gentler side, one we haven’t seen since his scenes with Vesper.
I wasn’t all that keen on the theme song when it first came out. I liked it as a Sam Smith song but thought meh as a Bond tune. I will gladly eat my words. I’d been warned I might. The pre title sequence flows so seamlessly into the music with an exquisite array of visuals that are luxurious and luscious. The accompanying music and lyrics actually make sense. It’s a beautiful audio visual treat for the senses. (But I still think Goldeneye is a better tune by itself!)
Think of some of the most iconic Bond sequences and they’ll probably involve car chases, stunning cityscapes and vistas, somewhere snowy, a train journey that I’ve never seen in all my commuting history or a spectacular fight. Well Spectre has all of the above. 
The cars are gorgeous. Mr Hinx’s baddie drives a devilishly divine Jaguar C-X75 chasing after Bond’s dainty-by-comparison Aston through the empty streets of Rome – reminding me I must head back to my honeymoon city before everything left to crumble collapses in a puff of dust – and deserving of a bravo number two to the stunt guys. The fights are visceral, bloody and exhausting. Take note of the train fight; it’s old school Bond with a modern punch. Bravo number three for the stunt guys. 

Costumes are beautiful, suave and debonair. I’m currently wondering whether I can carry off a bias cut, pale silk dress (I can’t) or if any of my jackets could work with a bustle (they won’t). 
I won’t spoil the film anymore – I’ve written way more than I should have! – but the baddie deserves a mention. He’s perfectly callous, cruel and chilling, although it’s a role he’s played before. 

For me, Spectre is the truest James Bond of the Daniel Craig era.

Spectre is out now. GO SEE IT!

Must See Movie… Sicario

Don’t worry, I’m not going to post a massive, spoiler-y review. It’ll just be a few words to say how awesome I think this movie was!  

The brilliant Den of Geek were holding a screening at the Prince Charles Cinema thanks to the kind folks at Lionsgate and I managed to nab two tickets to go along.

The film centres around an FBI agent working to bring down a Mexican drug cartel. I’d been looking forward to seeing this as the word on the street had been so positive. Rightly so. From the opening scene our audience were enthralled and enraptured. The soundtrack was jarring, foreboding and incredibly dark, like a horror movie score on crack. Coupled with some beautiful shots from above of the arid landscape, you’re filled with a sense of dread. City scenes have you looking round every corner awaiting attack. The paranoia is contagious. 

The cast are spectacular. Emily Blunt is a strong lead; representing the Everyman/woman, with an idea of what’s right and wrong. I expect award season will be a busy one for her. I suspect Benicio del Toro might be busy too. His supporting role is perfectly understated and seriously creepy.

It’s not all doom and gloom though; just as in life, the most surreal and awkward situations present the funniest moments. Despite feeling constantly on the edge, our audience properly chuckled. Look out for the excellent use of a wet finger in the ear.

I genuinely don’t want to spoil the film by revealing anything more. All I can say is go see it. And don’t forget to breathe. 

Sicario is released in the UK today, 8th October 2015. 

It’s the end of the world!

A long time ago I was a huge WWF/WWE fan and The Rock was doing his thing, making smells, cooking and what have you. I now follow him on Instagram, you should too, here – he’s a big hoot of a bear, and saw that he was making San Andreas, an epic disaster movie about the fault line, a while back. Now the trailers have hit the TV screens for the movie’s release on May 29th and I’m seriously looking forward to having my nightmares played out on the screen.

You see, I have a thing for end of the world films, the more terrifying, the better. I think it’s because I’m a catastrophiser – I definitely have to write a post on that – and so I imagine the worst-case scenario in most things. It doesn’t help fears or my extreme phobia of the dentist. I’m surprised I’m not a really gloomy person (I’m a ray of effing sunshine!) but it seems that seeing total annihilation on the screen makes me feel better – whatever thing I’m worrying about isn’t as bad as the end of humankind/mass destruction etc. It’s simple logic really. There’s nothing I like more than seeing an apocalyptic film on one of the movie channels at night so I can fall asleep soundly. Weird I know, but the super weird dreams are slightly less weird when I do.

So here goes… not in any order of preference, a list of some of the best – in my very humble, very biased opinion:

Independence Day – global alien domination and America saves the day with a computer virus. Plus this brilliant dog –>independence-day-dog-avoids-explosion

Cloverfield – the marketing in the run up to this had me fascinated and hooked. One of my favourite cities in the world being totally trashed, loved the handicam “found footage” style and they didn’t show the monster too early (a pet peeve, where’s the suspense?!) I want a Cloverfield 2 already – never going to happen.

28 Days Later – deserted London streets and fast zombies. ‘Nuff said.

Deep Impact – the tsunami scene on the beach always makes me cry. Much more human than Armageddon, always preferred it.

Terminator films – mainly Judgement Day & Salvation – Linda Hamilton is beyond kick ass in T2. The beginning and dream sequences are truly chilling. Salvation was awesome in my eyes, Bale was the perfect John Connor, the bleak Californian landscape was spot on.

I am Legend – killer vampire zombies. I’ll admit I cried when *spoiler* the dog gets sick. I usually stop watching five minutes before so I don’t get upset. Mature, I know.

Reign of Fire – Bale, McConaughey and Butler in a destroyed Britain. AND DRAGONS.

Doomsday – another UK based one (why should America have all the destruction?) with a quarantined Scotland and scary cannibalistic marauders. Love the lower budget feel of it. Plus the lead role is female with a glass eye.

The Day After Tomorrow – climate change goes postal on the planet and everyone goes to live in Mexico. Sort of.

These films also deserve a special mention:

2012 – The Neutrinos are mutating!!!! Total nonsense but brilliant fun

World War Z – more super fast zombies that can form zombie pyramids to clamber over walls. Plus BRAD PITT.

Zombieland – The super awesome cast, Bill Murray is beyond brilliant, and a quest for Twinkies. I totally would adhere to the rules too. Makes sense, no?

Dawn of the Dead – Romero’s original is grand and all, but I prefer the 2004 remake. Zombie baby and the question of surviving in a shopping mall. Yep, I could do it.

Wall-E – the cutest apocalypse film ever. A world full of rubbish and humanity on the brink of turning into jelly blobs in space. That’s scary.

Pacific Rim – Monsters from another dimension, super bots and Charlie Hunnam topless… Sorry, I got distracted there…

War of the Worlds – Alien machines that suck your insides dry. I remember seeing this at the cinema. At the end Joe’s hand was covered in half moons from my nails digging in.

There you have it – my choices. I’m sure I’ve missed a bajillion others, I’m sure you’re right. Let me know what you would have included in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

C x