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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Movie Reviews

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)

escape-room-tournament-champions-movie-reviewDirector: Adam Robitel

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Horror

Runtime: 88 Minutes

Main Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Isabelle Fuhrman, James Frain, Indya Moore, Thomas Cocquerel, Holland Roden, Carlito Olivero

Plot: Following the events of the original movie, Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) travel to New York with the aim of exposing the terrible deeds of the mysterious company known as Minos. They find themselves caught in yet another escape room, and the fight for their lives begins once again.

My Thoughts: It is a CRIME that I missed both Escape Room movies at the cinema. The first one because I wrongly assumed it was pure horror (at the time I was avoiding horror) and the sequel because the only showing of it at my cinema was at like, 10pm and…that’s my bedtime. Rock and roll, me. When I eventually gave the original a chance, I loved it, for all it’s goofiness and dumbness. If you enjoy puzzles and/or if you’ve ever done an escape room yourself, it’s really hard to not find something to enjoy. The one thing I really hated was how it ended, I wanted it to stay a stand-alone movie but now? I’ve changed my mind.

Not every movie has to be considered for multiple awards. Some of them can exist just for enjoyment, mediocre movies that are simply fun to watch and let you forget about the real world for a while. I can see now that this is going to be a franchise that carries on for a few years at least. I’m happy with that for the meantime, now. These escape rooms are crazy, deadly without being gory (apart from that opening scene) and just about smart enough that you won’t figure them out too soon before the characters do.

I realise that within the space of 2 days I’ve hated on the classic Casablanca whilst also singing the praises of dumb movies, but you should come to expect that from me now. There’s a reason this is a hobby and not a job for me, ha! I’m sure the third installment will be worse, but in my honest opinion, the Escape Room sequel was actually better than the original.

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Best Bit: I’m struggling to decide on my favourite room. I think overall, the bank was the best one for the sheer number of puzzles it contained, but the acid rain in the city room was intense! I actually felt my whole body tense up for that.

Worst Bit: I wish I was at the cinema for the moment a character uttered a line along the lines of “What is this? A tournament of champions?” so I could have groaned aloud. But other than that, have these characters not learned yet that the rooms are designed to kill someone off each time and going back to save someone destined for their doom is a really bad idea?!

Fun Trivia: The Escape Room Company got its name after the mythological king Minos. Minos had Daedalus create a labyrinth in which the Minotaur would dwell. Seven boys and seven girls were given to the monster to be eaten every nine years.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 umbrellas that aren’t going to be of much use if you happen to find yourself caught in an acid downpour…

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Lists · Movie Reviews

Top 5 Friday: Best Movies of 2021 So Far

Happy Friday, folks! Oh boy it’s been a tough old week. The UK weather gave us one final, freak heatwave that’s over now, and my little girl is having a hard time. She was born a few weeks after the school cut off so loads of her friends at pre-school left at the end of summer to start proper school, and she won’t start until next September. I feel so sorry for her.

But you’re not here for my rambles, are you? You’re here because it’s Friday, it’s time for another Top 5 list and this week I’m bringing you what I feel have been the best movies of the year so far. Yes, we’re well past the halfway point of the year, but the last quarter is when all the hard-hitter movies come out so this top 5 will doubtless look completely different by the end of the year.

So here you go, my Top 5 Movies of 2021 So Far!

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#5 Oxygen – Well, this little Netflix release took me by complete surprise. I didn’t even know of it’s existence until it was there one day on my home screen. I’m so glad I gave it the chance though! If you’ve ever seen Ryan Reynolds in Buried (2010), then this is like the Sci-Fi version of that. Very claustrophobic, not relaxing in the slightest but it hooked me straight away and the twists and turns all surprised me.

top-5-movies-2021-suicide-squad

#4 The Suicide Squad – If you told me at the start of 2021 that I’d be putting The Suicide Squad in a ‘Best of’ list, I would have laughed at you. Firstly because at the time it felt like we would never be getting big releases in cinemas, but secondly because, well…we all saw the first one, didn’t we? The reboot/sequel/whatever it is surpassed the 2016 version in every single away, apart from the soundtrack maybe. They’re both great but the original soundtrack was killer.

top-5-movies-2021-vivo

#3 Vivo – I’m still riding the Vivo hype train, listening to the soundtrack every single day, so just know that it took a lot for me to be sensible and not make this my number 1. Maybe it’s not the best animated movie out there (it isn’t even the only one in this list!) but I appreciate a family story and I’m a sucker for a musical, especially written and performed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Give it a go if you haven’t already, it’s on Netflix and while I can’t guarantee you’ll love it, I bet it’ll make you smile.

top-5-movies-2021-free-guy

#2 Free Guy – I thought Ryan Reynolds was going to swoop in at the end of 2020 and save the day with Free Guy but the Delta variant had other ideas, and Free Guy got pushed back again into 2021. To say it was worth the wait is an understatement. I was expecting something generic and full of references, but something I would enjoy regardless and it ended up being so much more than that. It’s funnier than I ever thought it could be, and at it’s core it’s also a really great romcom!

top-5-movies-mitchells-machines-2021

#1 The Mitchells vs. The Machines – Still haven’t forgiven the name change, Connected was a perfect name. This is actually the only movie of the year so far I’ve given a full 5 stars to. Sony Animation are on a winning streak right now and I’m excited to see what they do next. The Mitchells vs. The Machines has such a great story at it’s heart, and somehow crosses into several genres without becoming too muddled. I’ve always appreciated animated movies so this will no doubt still be in my Top 10 at the end of the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something knocks it off the top spot.

Movie Reviews

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

shang-chi-legend-ten-rings-movie-review-2021Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Runtime: 132 Minutes

Main Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Wah Yuen, Florian Munteanu, Ben Kingsley

Plot: Shaun/Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is forced to face the past he thought he left behind when his father’s organisation The Ten Rings comes looking for him.

My Thoughts: I said it before and I’ll say it again, after all the lockdowns and cinema closures it feels so good to see and hear that Marvel opening on the big screen. Even more so on opening weekend with a good crowd! I’ll admit to not being hyped about Shang-Chi, only because I’m not the well-versed in martial arts movies, but I’ve come to trust now that Marvel continually make movies that I highly enjoy, so I wasn’t worried. And too right! Shang-Chi might be a martial arts movie first, but it’s got the classic Marvel stamp all over it. It’s funny, it’s action-packed and the choreography is stunning.

That was my main take-away from the movie. Yes, there are a lot of fight scenes, but they’re all meaningful and for me, there were four stand-out sequences. The bus, the skyscraper, when Shang-Chi’s parents met, and of course the final showdown. All of them I would happily watch again and again. I’ve seen mentions of it before in blogs and on Twitter but surely there’s a case to be made for a Best Choreography award during awards season? I’m grateful that the trailer didn’t give a lot away because there were some breathtaking moments that could have been spoiled for a sell, not forgetting to mention a particular furry creature!

Also, consider this post my petition for Awkwafina to be cast in, like, everything. I love her so much. Her comedic timing is everything and her chemistry with Simu Liu was just perfect. That sappy part of me really wanted them to have a romantic arc to their friendship but I’m also glad they didn’t, in a way. I can’t wait to see how Shang-Chi fits in with the other MCU characters, he’s such a likeable character and this was a promising origin story.

shang-chi-2021-movie-simu-liu-awkwafina

Best Bit: It’s impossible to pick just one bit, even after thinking on it for a couple of days. On the comedy side, it’s the karaoke every damn time. For action, the fight between Shang-Chi and his father for the pure epic-ness of it. But my heart would say the fight sequence between Shang-Chi’s parents when they first met. It was half fight, half dance and I felt all the emotions.

Worst Bit: This is going to be an unpopular thing to say but I really wasn’t a fan of Iron Man 3. I’m going to be as vague as I can now but the character brought back from that movie was funny, but didn’t add anything to the story for me. That character’s companion however, was a very welcome addition!

Fun Trivia: This is legendary Hong Kong film actor Tony Chiu-Wai Leung’s first role in an American film and his first English-speaking role, even though he has always spoken it fluently.

My Rating: I know I always give ratings out of 5, but it feels wrong in this instance so for today only, Shang-Chi gets 8 out of 10 rings!

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