A new year rolled around and wouldn’t you know it, in the grand scheme of things not a lot changed. In some ways this pandemic seems to be improving, and in others it feels like any real change is at the very least months away. Nationally, things are grim. For the past four years, no matter how bad things have gotten, we here in the UK have at least been able to mutter under our breath “At least we’re not in America…” but now if the world is looking for a country to look down on, the UK has to be pretty high on that list, what with the double whammy of incompetent leaders and the calamitous Brexit ripples flowing into full on waves of destruction. Wow this post started out negatively! Sorry about that. Let’s abandon the socio-political bollocks and get down to how my year is going on a more personal scale, shall we?
I’ve reviewed four List films so far this year, roughly on par with my one-a-week plan, and there’s a draft of another one waiting to be published in the next couple of days. This means that over the course of one month I’ve written more than in the entirety of last year. Huzzah for me! Granted these reviews are all for films I watched in 2020, but they still count as 2021 reviews.
The Thin Man
Little Women (2019)
The Best Years of Our Lives
Outside of the List, here’s what else I watched in January:
Bad Boys For Life
My first film of the new year, this was mostly a rewatch, but it turns out I evidently fell asleep halfway through that first time around, because the entire third act was new to me. It’s probably the best Bad Boys film, although that’s not saying a great deal, and it works well as a standalone aging buddy cop action comedy if you’re new to the franchise. That being said it’s certainly not essential viewing, but it’ll pass the time entertainingly enough.
Choose Life 6/10
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
I have officially watched a pre-J.J. Abrams Star Trek endeavour, and it sucked. It’s well over two hours, and the majority of that is exterior shapeship shots, including an interminable external silent inspection of the Enterprise, purely for the purpose of spectacle. The mind boggles. The bland uniform colour palette confused me – I was certain there’d be expendable crew members wearing red, but everyone is wearing taupe pyjamas. Finally seeing the original cast was fun, but I couldn’t help comparing them to the remake cast, all of whom I so far greatly prefer, but that could well be a familiarity bias. Let’s see where I stand in a few more films time. If this had been the first Star Trek property, there’s no way it would’ve ended up as iconic a franchise as it is. Let’s hope the rest of the series is better than this, by which I mean at least watchable.
Choose Life 4/10
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
This is on the List, so I’ll be reviewing it soon. It’s better than The Motion Picture, but I didn’t love it as much as everyone said I would.
Another upcoming review. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed this,
The review that’ll be here imminently. Be patient.
I love most of the Pixar shorts, so when Disney+ announced a drop of ten bitesize outings set within the worlds of our favourite Pixar films, I couldn’t wait. However “Popcorn” is exactly the right term for these, because for the most part they are unsatisfying, unnecessary trifles whose main aim seems to have been to keep the Pixar creative team occupied during their lockdowns. Of the ten I only really enjoyed three: Dory Finding has hall of fame character Dory playing with things she finds underwater; Chore Day shows the Incredibles tackling everyday household jobs with some fun help from their powers, and Cookie Num Num is back with the Parr family, all silently fighting over the last cookie. This last one is the only short with a legitimate plot, with all the others showing more slices of life that we didn’t see in their respective films. Also, someone please explain how we got two – TWO! – shorts in the Cars world, and not a one from the Monsters, Bugs, Up or Wall-E universes? What gives? Also we probably didn’t need two Ducky & Bunny shorts, especially given how inane they both were, even though they are the only ones with dialogue.
Christopher Nolan is one of my chosen Film-Makers, so I’ll be hopefully covering this in more detail soon. I liked it in the cinema, and still did at home, although the option to turn on subtitles helped a great deal.
Mark Ruffalo plays Robert Bilott, a corporate defence lawyer in Cincinnati who gets roped into helping out a friend of his grandmother when their farm suffers the death of 190 cattle, seemingly due to illegally dumped chemicals. I’ve said it before – if you want me to pay attention to a real life story, don’t make a documentary about it, I’ll fall asleep or wont even bother turning it on; what you’ve gotta do is what this film does – make the film, fill it with great character actors, and that’s it. Ruffalo heads up a cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Bill Camp, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, William Jackson Harper, Bill Pullman and more, and I was captivated throughout. It helps that Todd Haynes is a pretty great director, and it’s an engaging, infuriating story. This is a solid drama, but don’t expect to feel too great afterwards.
Choose Film 8/10
The great Buffy watch (my first time through) continues with the spin-off, Angel. The vampire with a soul left Sunnydale for L.A., where he attempts to atone for his sins by vanquishing demons and saving those in need. Assisting him are another Buffy holdover, the vapid, aspiring actress Cordelia, and newcomer Doyle, a half-human, half-demon with the ability to receive visions from nearby beings in danger. The show got off to a rocky, taking-itself-too-seriously start, but things drastically improved once holdover number three Wesley showed up for some much needed levity. It’s clear this is definitely trying to be a more grown-up version of Buffy, wherein the demons-of-the-week now regularly involve sex or grievous bloodshed, far more so than in the original series, and Angel spends way too much time brooding – I get it, he’s a tortured soul, but can he lighten up once in a while? We’re halfway through season 2 at this point, and it’s much better than I thought it would be. The addition of Charles Gunn is welcome, rounding out the little family, and there are some fun recurring side characters, like the nightclub-running horned demon who can see your aura and your future, but only when you sing karaoke.
Little Fires Everywhere
I had no real interest in this but my wife just read the book and wanted to watch the adaptation. However after about 3 or 4 episodes it became apparent that the book was much better than the show, and also numerous plot elements had been changed, so she abandoned ship and left me to finish it solo. It’s a compelling enough story – in 90s Ohio a seemingly perfect wealthy white family’s lives are disrupted by the arrival of a black mother and daughter who move into the former’s spare rental property – and there’s plenty of unexpected (but also numerous expected) developments along the way, but the climax is wrought with unsatisfying disappointment. Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Rosemarie DeWitt and most of the child actors are all doing great work throughout though.
Big Mouth Season 4
Big Mouth continues to be a source of hilarity and shame in equal parts. The addition of Tito the Anxiety Mosquito (Maria Bamford) is painfully accurate. In fact the cast for this show is at this point bananas. Maybe one of the best ensemble animation casts I’m aware of these days.
The Great, The Crown Season 4, WandaVision
So far we’re mid-way through these seasons, I’ll cast my thoughts when we’re done because some of these, especially WandaVision, feel like they’ll be best appreciated as a whole. All three are high recommendations.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – I haven’t finished it yet, but American Dirt is gripping, telling the story of a mother and her young son as they attempt to escape a cartel in Guadalajara by heading north to the United States. I knew nothing before I started it (it’s a recommendation from my wife) and I’ve no idea where it’ll end, but I can’t wait to get there. I’d have finished it by now if it wasn’t for all that pesky sleep I need.
Nothing has changed here, but I’ve been wading through the backlog of new LAMB applications over on that site. Almost done, and next up is a big ol’ list of all the active members. It’s spreadsheet time, baby!
Most of the big jobs on the resolutions list require tradesmen to get us started, and they’re not available just yet. I’m waiting on a friend to drop his spare shed shelving round, which technically isn’t allowed yet for quarantine reasons. We’ve started stripping the paint from the understairs cupboard, which is proving no fun whatsoever, and hung a bunch of pictures on the stairs, and a new mirror and shelf in the bathroom. Little jobs, but they all count.
I’ve gotten pretty good at my new exercise routine. I’m still running every Tuesday, Thursday and most Saturdays and Sundays, and on the alternate weekdays I do some weights and core work instead, trying to mix things up a bit as my upper body rarely does anything but type. I’ve also, shock horror, tried yoga. I reached out to my friend Heather (from the MILFcast and Headertime) who is an avid runner but also does yoga every day, and she recommended Yoga with Adriene and Yoga with Kassandra, both free on YouTube. I found Adriene a little too chirpy, whereas I got on better with Kassandra, so I’ve done a few Beginner sessions and one ill-advised Intermediate that I won’t be trying again for at least a year. Do I feel any more flexible? No, but it’s only been a few weeks, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For the past few weeks I’ve also been mostly working from home, meaning I’m missing my daily commutes of cycling and running, so my step count has been significantly lower. I’m trying to improve that, but it’s not always possible, especially when you consider I’d run maybe 25-30 miles and cycle another 30 just getting to work and back each week.
Being home more means I’m further away from the Tesco Express next door to my work, but I’m also considerably closer to the biscuit barrel in the larder. That barrel has been getting emptier a lot faster than normal recently, and I just can’t help but fill it back up again almost immediately. That, coupled with the lack of a commute and my wife taking over one of the dog walks over half the week (she’s not working at the moment, and it keeps on raining just as I finish work, so it makes sense for her to walk them in dry daylight rather than wait for me and the wet darkness) means it’s no real surprise that I haven’t lost any weight. Good thing I’m doing those morning exercises then, isn’t it? I did start getting back into the calorie counting, but it immediately reminded me of why I stopped last time around, in that it’s a big faff, especially when you cook from scratch like we often do.
As per the intention, I’ve gotten at least 5.5 hours of sleep almost every night so far this year. Not a lot more to say about that,, other than it’s preventing me from accomplishing other things so, as usual, I resent the bed and having to spend any time in it. Also I’m probably not going to hit that target tonight, purely because I’m up late writing about how I should be going to sleep right now. Funny old world, isn’t it?
Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast continues, although we’re sadly recording our final episode on the original Deep Blue Sea very soon. Sad times, but check back here next month for our plans for the future.
I’ve also returned to the Lambcast to host a monthly game of Lambpardy. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a Jeopardy-inspired movie trivia game that the Lambcast’s new host Richard didn’t want to continue hosting, and I didn’t want to see end, so I’ve stayed on as host. It’s a shorter show that’s a lot of fun but does require a fair amount of prep in terms of all the questions, but I’m getting help on writings those too. Any extra assistance is always welcome though!
How did your January go? See anything good? Get up to much? Let me know!