Movie Reviews

What I Watched: September 2021

Spooky season is upon us! I’m a bit all over the place these last two weeks. Furlough has come to an end in the UK and I’m back to work full time, which is great to be honest because I’ve really missed having a full wage at the end of the month. I’m also back in the office one day a week (for now) as of today so that’s pretty cool! I’m starting to feel like a normal person again. Anyway, September sucked for new releases and thankfully October is looking much better. It gave me the time to catch up on a few 2021 movies I’d missed though, so it’s not all bad.

You know the drill by now, I’m here with a few words on all the movies I watched last month but didn’t find the time to write a full review for.

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He’s All That (2021) – Wow, I actually forgot this movie existed until I loaded up my film diary to remind me what I watched. Did you know there’s a scene in He’s All That where one of the characters is doing karaoke and because of the green screen their arm disappears for a second? It came up on my Twitter feed and it’s the only thing I remember from the whole movie and that’s all you need to know.

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Vacation Friends (2021) – Lil Rel Howery has been in everything this year, I swear. I barely knew who he was until the start of 2021 and now he’s one of my favourite comedic actors. This movie, also starring John Cena sounds absolutely awful on paper but it’s actually pretty decent thanks to the chemistry involved. I regret only half-watching it whilst doing chores so I’m going to rewatch it soon.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Full Review

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Wrong Turn (2021) – This was awful. I had no idea it was part of a franchise but Netflix was throwing it in my face so often I watched it in the hopes it would stop. Terrible characters, some fun gory deaths but a dull plot and I very almost gave up and turned it off.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)Full Review

Fargo (1996)Film & Wine Club Review

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The Green Knight (2021) – The hype got me so excited to see this! I was gutted when the UK release got shelved for a while. It’s definitely one of those arty movies that feels like style is favoured over substance but I was kept interested throughout and any movie time spent watching Dev Patel is good movie time.

Malignant (2021)Full Review

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Best Sellers (2021) – What an adorable little movie! Once I knew the leads were Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine I didn’t care what the plot was, I was in. Aubrey’s character runs a failing publishing company and Michael Caine plays a once great author roped into writing another book. It didn’t turn out to be as amazing as I would have hoped but it was still really enjoyable and had some stellar moments. Aubrey Plaza really knows how to yell at someone!

Fear of Rain (2021)Full Review

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People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan (2021) – I’d never heard of this BBC show until my brother explained it to me, I saw the trailers for the movie and genuinely thought Kurupt FM were a musical act I just wasn’t cool enough to know about. I’ve since watched a few episodes and it’s really funny. I don’t know how well British comedy holds up overseas but if you’ve watched and enjoyed The Inbetweeners then you’ll like this too. I’m told there are inside jokes that are funnier when you’ve seen the whole show but it’s definitely not required to enjoy the movie.

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The Many Saints of Newark (2021) – I was clearly having a dumb week because the very next day I went to see this at the cinema. I’d never heard of it, I hadn’t seen a single trailer but like I mentioned, September was awfully quiet at the cinema and it was this or nothing, basically. Despite not being a fan of gangster movies I quite enjoyed this, but I was hoping the questions that I raised would be answered by the end and they weren’t. Turns out this is a prequel to the hugely popular show The Sopranos…which I’ve never seen. Doh.

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The Starling (2021) – If you can get past the awful CGI bird and the first 10 minutes of this movie, the rest isn’t actually that bad. It desperately wants to be an Oscar movie and falls well short of the mark, but it wasn’t as melodramatic as I first thought. Melissa McCarthy is someone I always enjoy watching, and I’m a huge fan of Chris O’Dowd. For someone who plays comedy almost exclusively, he does an amazing job here.

I also watched Smashed (2012), Luce (2019), and Paradise (2013) as part of Mettel Ray’s Hidden Gems Challenge. September was Octavia Spencer month, and you can check out my post here.

TV wise, I’m still watching Season 2 of Ted Lasso although I’m 2 episodes behind right now. I’m loving this season just as much as the last one, but oh my goodness Nate is irritating me. I was so happy he got the confidence boost he needed but he’s getting close to irredeemable for me now. The reason I’m behind is because I finally gave into the hype of Squid Game, and everything else got put on hold. That show really is as good as everyone is saying! I get the feeling we’re going to see a lot of those tracksuits around Halloween this year. I also gave the first episode of Midnight Mass a try but it hasn’t gripped me like I hoped it would. Does it get better?

Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Octavia Spencer

September has been a strange month for movie watching, and I hate to say I lost my passion for blogging a little too, but I’ve come so far in this challenge that there’s just no way I’m going to give up now. I’m blaming the lack of new movies at the cinema right now which hopefully is going to pick up again in October. If you aren’t familiar with Hidden Gems, it’s a challenge created by Mettel Ray, where you pick an actor or actress for each month of the year, pick 3 movies of theirs you haven’t seen yet and give them a watch in the hopes of finding a gem. This month is dedicated to Octavia Spencer!

Why Octavia Spencer?

I feel like Octavia Spencer was my underdog choice for the challenge. Without checking I think I’ve seen quite a few movies that she’s starred in, but almost always in a minor role. She lights up the screen in whatever movie she’s in though and has such a comforting presence, I’m always glad to see her. And that’s why I chose her, I wanted to find out if there were movies out there I didn’t know of where she played a bigger role.

Statistics

It’s definitely easier using IMDB for the numbers, Letterboxd is great for tracking what I’ve watched but the filmographies contain too many limited series, unreleased movies and shorts that are difficult to sift through. So, IMDB has 76 feature-length movies listed under Octavia Spencer’s name. Of those, I’ve seen 20, which I guess isn’t so bad. Some of my favourites include Hidden Figures, The Help, Ma and Fruitvale Station (the latter is one I watched for another Hidden Gems pick!)

I’ve also seen The Shape of Water, Zootopia, Snowpiercer, Spider-Man, Onward, Gifted, Instant Family, The Witches, Dolittle, Bad Santa, Dinner for Schmucks, Thunder Force, Miss Congeniality 2, Bad Santa 2, Superintelligence and The Nines.

This was the moment I realised I’d seen most movies where Octavia played a lead role, and so my 3 choices ended up being Smashed (2012), Luce (2019) and Paradise (2013).

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Smashed (2012)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul are the leads in this drama about alcoholism and becoming sober. Octavia Spencer plays a small role as Jenny, a woman Winstead’s character meets at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It’s a minor role for Spencer but she’s the perfect woman for the job, being both sympathetic but stern.

I enjoyed this movie about as much as one can enjoy watching alcohol ruin a life. Smashed has a lot of heart, an interesting story and some stellar acting, but it was missing the spark needed to elevate it to a higher level. It’s very generic as far as movies about addiction go. I’m glad I watched it, though!

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Luce (2019)

Now here we have a movie with a bigger role for Octavia Spencer. There are arguably two leads in Luce. Kelvin Harrison Jr. who plays Luce, born in war-torn Eritrea and adopted in the USA, an all-star school athlete and accomplished speaker, who has animosity towards one his teachers. That teacher is Harriet Wilson, played by Octavia Spencer, who got Luce’s friend kicked off the running team and has multiple concerns about Luce which she shares with Luce’s parents.

This movie has so many layers, I think it takes two viewings to really wrap your head around it. It’s a complete mind game between Luce and Harriet and I kept swapping my mind back and forth between who’s side I was on. To begin with, I was completely on Luce’s side. Then we got to learn more about Harriet and her situation at home and I fully empathised with her. By the end of it I didn’t have a clue who to root for.

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Paradise (2013)

What, and I repeat WHAT, is this movie? I had to triple check I had the right year for it because everything about Paradise screams early 00’s. It’s about a young girl raised in an extremely religious town who suffered horrific burns over her entire body as a result of a plane crash, and has lost her faith in God as a result. That sounds like it’s going to be a powerful drama, doesn’t it? That’s where you’re wrong, because what happens next is she uses her settlement money to run away and party in Las Vegas with Octavia Spencer and Russell Brand.

If anything, this movie toes that line of ‘so bad it’s good’. The first half at least is a barrel of laughs, if you can see past the racism that wouldn’t be tolerated in movies nowadays (or in 2013 I would have thought?!). The second half eases on the humour and tries to be a more serious movie and that’s where it really fails. It’s hard to believe Paradise is directed by the same person as Juno!

Final Thoughts

No gem this month, although once I started to look through Octavia Spencer’s filmography I could almost guess that would be the case, I think I’ve seen her greatest movies already, unless there’s something still hidden you can recommend me? Next month is Emily Blunt, and I’m feeling quietly optimistic there’s a gem to be found there.

Movie Reviews

Fear of Rain (2021)

fear-of-rain-movie-review-2021-posterDirector: Castille Landon

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 109 Minutes

Main Cast: Katherine Heigl, Harry Connick Jr, Madison Iseman, Israel Broussard, Eugenie Bondurant, Julia Vasi, Enuka Okuma, Hudson Rogers

Plot: Rain (Madison Iseman) suffers from schizophrenia and terrifying hallucinations. After returning home from the hospital after another episode, she is convinced she sees through her window that her neighbour has kidnapped a child.

My Thoughts: I’ve two lessons for you today. Number one, don’t judge a movie based on it’s title because I really thought this was going to be a horror movie about someone, or a bunch of people, terrified of actual rain. Number two, I should hand in my (non-existant) blogger badge because it seems that just lately I love trash movies and hate on good ones. I’m sorry, okay! But I loved the heck out of this one and because I went in totally blind, I didn’t realise how much it’s been bashed until I logged my rating in on Letterboxd.

If you’ve been thinking about watching Fear of Rain, it’s best enjoyed knowing as little as possible. I won’t talk openly about spoilers (I’ll hide them if I mention something) but if you want to find out more, you’ve come to the right place. I un-apologetically enjoyed it, but I can’t defend it’s issues. The whole ‘mentally-unstable, unreliable narrator’ plot device has been used time and time again, most recently in this year’s The Woman in the Window, so there’s nothing original here. There are several characters you want to scream at for making terrible choices. You know straight away there’s only one question to be answered – did Rain witness a real crime or was it a hallucination? But.

Here’s the but. The story takes so many twists and turns that I found it impossible not to enjoy. I didn’t really care what the outcome at the end was going to be, I was just along for the ride. I was surprised several times! I never see the twist coming, though. And that’s a great trait to have when it comes to movies, I think. It must suck if you can sniff out a plot twist before the reveal!

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Best Bit: I’m going to as vague as I can here so I don’t have to censor too much. But there’s an ‘oh s**t’ moment when a twist is revealed and it’s pretty awesome. What’s better? The twist that comes after that one!

Worst Bit: I know I said I didn’t care too much about the outcome, and I didn’t, but there’s one detail that bugs me that could have been easily fixed. *SPOILERS* Did we ever find out what the neighbour’s motive was? It just felt so random!

Fun Trivia: Many of the medications that Rain takes (around 19:33) for her schizophrenia diagnosis are listed atypical anti-psychotics (many are prescribed for mood disorders as well).
I’m stretching the meaning of the word ‘fun’ here, aren’t I? In my defence, this was the only bit of trivia on IMDB for this movie!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 umbrellas that you can use if you have a fear of rain, unlike anyone in this movie.

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Movie Reviews

Fargo (1996) – Film & Wine Club

fargo-movie-review-1996-posterDirector: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 98 Minutes

Main Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Kristin Rudrüd, Harve Presnell, Tony Denman, Steve Reevis, Larry Brandenburg

Plot: Jerry Lundegaard is in a lot of financial trouble and is running out of options. Asking his wealthy father in law is out of the question so he hires two henchmen to kidnap his wife, with the aim of targeting her father for a hefty ransom fee.

My Thoughts: Mine and my parents’ Film & Wine Club had to take an extended break thanks to a COVID-related false alarm and a holiday (not mine) but we’re back watching great movies, eating tasty snacks and drinking fine red wine. Last week was one of my picks, the classic crime-gone-wrong movie Fargo. I first watched it years ago just before the TV series started, but here’s something strange. I remember loving it, hence me picking it for the club but I went back to my old blog to find my review in case I’d written anything smart or funny I could shamelessly reuse (I hadn’t) and I only gave it a 7/10. I guess it grew on me with time!

Fargo is just such a crazy story, it’s really hard not to enjoy it. From the conception of this awful idea of Jerry’s to him trying to cancel the whole thing, to the string of bodies left in the wake, it’s a wild ride from start to finish. We have no idea whether to feel sorry for Jerry or to hate him, and then there’s Marge (Frances McDormand), my favourite cop ever, possibly. Anything you can do, Marge can do better. Whilst heavily pregnant.

It’s the dark humour that does it for me most of all. When else can you laugh about such tragic events and have it not feel strange to feel that way? Steve Buscemi plays the character that brings the most laughs, I think. Him forever bickering with his partner in crime who barely says a word, driving through a car park as fast as possible holding his wounded face that’s bleeding everywhere, and finally being far too greedy for his own good, he just plays a really interesting character! Definitely a movie you have to watch if you haven’t already.

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Best Bit: Let’s face it, is it possible to watch this movie without endearingly using the word ‘yah’ in excess afterwards? Because it wasn’t for us, and I just love the Minnesotan accent.

Worst Bit: It bugged me the first time, and it bugged me the second time too, I’m just not a fan of the dinner scene with Marge and Mike. I get that it served a purpose to show us how Marge thinks, but it’s the only scene that feels out of place in my opinion.

Fun Trivia: When Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) character calls Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) for the deal to be done, he tells him, “Thirty minutes, and we’ll wrap this up.” From that moment, the film’s running time left is exactly 30 minutes.

My Rating: 4 and a half wood chippers, that you’d be surprised to learn can shred a lot more than wood…

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I should point out that I’m a little behind on my Film & Wine Club posts, we’ve already watched another of my picks, The Nice Guys (2016) AND picked the next movie out of the hat which also happened to be another of my picks! It was Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

Movie Reviews

Malignant (2021)

malignant-movie-review-poster-2021Director: James Wan

Genre: Horror, Crime, Action

Runtime: 111 Minutes

Main Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Mckenna Grace, Jean Louisa Kelly, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jake Abel

Plot: After suffering a traumatic experience, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is haunted by shocking and gruesome visions of murders being committed. Things go from bad to worse when she realises that these visions are actual real.

My Thoughts: Malignant might be one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. I knew next to nothing going into the cinema, and that’s how I recommend everyone experience this movie. I won’t talk about spoilers here but I urge you to not seek them out if you’re thinking of watching it yourself. I’d seen trailers at the cinema but mostly tried not to look because I hate jump scares, but Twitter couldn’t shut up about how good it was so I had to find out for myself. Yes, there’s jump scares and yes, I spent a lot of time studying the fire exit sign when things got too tense but I also had an absolute blast!

Have you ever been to a theme park and gone on one of the big, themed rollercoasters or rides, where in the queue you get loud music and a cheesy intro video? That’s what vibe Malignant has. At face value, the acting seems terrible and the script feels lazy, but I realised early on that it was all intentional. If you’re looking for a smart, compact story then this isn’t the movie for you. But if you like the sound of gory murder scenes, and crazy plot twists then like me, you’re going to really enjoy Malignant.

You have to wait a while for it all to pay off, I’d say at least the first 30 minutes were pure, generic modern horror movie scenes, but once the seed of the mystery is planted in your mind it’s really hard to focus on anything else. There are some twists you’ll guess straight away but others that will shock you for sure. Was Malignant enough to convince me to dive into the Conjuring movies? Absolutely not. However, I think I’m in deep enough now that I can stop throwing around the phrase ‘I’m not into horror movies’.

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Best Bit: This is easy. The moment it gets revealed it just gory, gloriousness. I guess you could call it ‘gore-ious’! Copywrited that word now, sorry. It’s daft and it’s silly but it’s gross and just the right portions of horrifying and hilarious. Being in a crowed cinema room would be great, but I went early and it was quiet.

Worst Bit: I’m quite good at knowing when a jump scare is close, and that’s when I let my eyes drift away from the screen so ease the tension. There was still one scare that took me by surprise though and what made it worse is that I’m pretty sure it was in the trailer, too!

Fun Trivia: The Seattle Underground is a real tour open to the public. (Yeah, no thanks!)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 toy telephones that I’ll be making doubly sure my daughter neither owns nor plays with after this movie.

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