What do you mean it’s April? Don’t be ridiculous.
After the eventfulness of February, March just kind of trundled along for me. It wasn’t the most exciting of months, and honestly there’s not a lot to report. I got back on some podcasts, failed another marathon attempt (less dramatically than last time, more on this later) but no-one else in my household – or in fact anyone that I know of – got COVID, so there’s that. Let’s skip the preamble and get straight into the movies, shall we?
This was a very light month in terms of films watched, but even more so for films reviewed, because I didn’t review a gosh darn single one. Hell, it’s taken me over a week to write this damn post! Some resolutions are destined to be unfulfilled. Here’s what I did watch, though:
Inspired by new student Lucy and the jock boys at their school ranking all the girls, timid Vivian secretly creates a female empowerment ‘zine called Moxie, and gradually builds a following of fellow like-minded students. I didn’t love Wine Country, but Amy Poehler’s directorial follow-up shows much more promise. The story isn’t revolutionary but the cast are all good and the messages hit hard. Given Poehler’s involvement – she also plays Vivian’s mother Lisa – I’d expected this to be a lot funnier, but I’m glad it wasn’t as that would have taken away from the serious nature of the issues at hand, although there are a few laughs along the way.
Choose Film 7/10
Escape From Pretoria (2020)
In late 1970s South Africa, two white men are sent to prison for their involvement in anti-apartheid protests and, as the title suggests, they try to escape. I generally enjoy prison break movies, and this had the bonus of starring Daniel Radcliffe, who was pretty decent in the plot (along with his Harry Potter co-star Ian Hart as an older inmate). The escape attempts were suitable tense, with the main tactic being displayed being their use of handmade wooden keys, but I felt there was little character given to anyone in the film. The motivation is just that they’re in prison and they want to get out, which to be fair is usually enough, I just would have liked to get to know the characters on screen a little better.
Choose Film 6/10
The Great Escape (1963)
I was honoured to be invited as the first guest on my pal MovieRob‘s upcoming podcast The Great Escape Minute, analysing The Great Escape one minute at a time. The podcast wont be released for a few months, but we recorded minutes 6-10 this month. The Great Escape has long been a favourite of mine, and it was a joy to watch it again. It’s on the lists I’m going through, so I’m hoping to write a full review of it soon. Expect it to be overwhelmingly positive.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
This is, easily, my favourite early Star Trek film so far, by a long way. Is it because it’s the silliest? Maybe. It’s certainly the most fun, and has time travel to boot, so we should’ve seen this coming. In what is one of the most contrived plots I’ve come across recently, a giant space probe threatens to wipe out the Earth when it discovers that humpback whales are extinct. Kirk and his fellow exiled crew must pilot their Klingon ship back in time to 1986 to procure a couple of humpbacks and bring them back to the present. Inspired. Most of the crew get fun little side adventures (except, as always, Uhura, who once again gets very little to do). Kirk and Spock locate the whales, along with Dr. Gillian Taylor of the Sausalito aquarium, Uhura and Chekov track down a nuclear reactor to help power their ship, Sulu steals a helicopter to transport the whales and McCoy and Scott visit a factory to get materials to convert the ship into a watertight whale tank. That’s right, they’re converting a section of a spaceship to hold a couple of whales and a whole load of water, and I love that they just work out how to do this in a matter of moments. There’s some expected future-people-visiting-the-past shenanigans – Kirk encountering money, Scott using a keyboard, McCoy’s opinions on 1980s medicine – and Spock spends the whole film wearing a white bandana to hide his ears and eyebrows. I was disappointed to learn that, in the year 2286, engineers are still familiar with inches. Anyway, I get the feeling that there’s a sharp downturn in quality coming my way, but regardless I had a lot of fun with this one.
Choose Film 8/10
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
I had no intention of watching this for two reasons: 1. It’s four hours long and who has that kind of time? And 2. I haven’t really enjoying any of the DC films to date, especially the ones with Zack Snyder’s involvement, so I didn’t see why allowing him to double the runtime would improve anything. I circumvented the first issue by having this mostly on in the background whilst I did other things, watching it more to stay up with the rest of the internet than any great desire to see it. It’s definitely a significant improvement on the Joss Whedon version, in that it actually gives everyone in the cast something to do, with Ray Fisher’s Cyborg receiving the award for Most Improved Player by making him almost the primary protagonist. There’s also greater establishing of Aquaman and Flash, although the fact that there’s been a whole Aquaman film since the original Justice League does help somewhat. Adding a bigger villain of Darkseid above Steppenwolf was a good idea, as was the extra explanation of the mother boxes. However the story and most of the characters are still dour as anything. The trouble with placing Cyborg front and centre is that his storyline is a huge downer; he’s just no fun at all. This isn’t a light and fun Marvel movie, which is certainly allowed and helps differentiate the franchises, but I’ve got no intentions of returning to this soon. Like I said, it’s an improvement, it makes a lot more sense structure-wise and the directions Snyder set up for future films are certainly intriguing, regardless of whether they’ll actually happen or not (although I didn’t care for the epilogue, that just felt like a tease) but I don’t think it needed to exist and I still don’t like the concept of directors re-cutting films after their release.
Choose Life 7/10
Over the Moon (2020)
Very few of this year’s Oscar nominees have been released in the UK so far, but all the nominees for Best Animated Feature have been, so I figured I’d at least watch them. Over the Moon is on Netflix, and is a pretty standard children’s film story but with a kaleidoscopic colour scheme and some fun-at-the-time but ultimately forgettable songs. Fei Fei is a young girl in China whose mother passes away. When her father moves on and befriends another woman, Fei Fei believes that if she can prove the existence of the Moon goddess Chang’e, it will stop her father from replacing her mother, so she sets out on a mission to do just that. This was a fun, diverting watch with some entertaining set pieces that should amuse little ones, but I’ll probably never watch or think about it again.
Choose Life 6/10
The Why This Film Podcast is a great show I’ve started listening to recently, hosted by Emily Slade. She asks a guest to bring a film they liked as a child, to re-evaluate it from a more adult perspective, and for my upcoming appearance I selected the 1996 Sylvester Stallone forgotten classic Daylight, which shockingly no-one had picked before, presumably because pretty much no-one remembers it. Well I do, I loved it as a child, and still like it today, despite its trope-laden plot and complete lack of any kind of character arcs. The most unique element is that Stallone’s character is named Kit Latura, one of the best 90s action movie names, and other than that this is basically a remake of The Poseidon Adventure, but set in a collapsed New York tunnel and with a slightly less endearing cast of survivors. I’ll put a link to the podcast episode when it goes live, Emily and I had a really fun time recording it. For now, though, I still kind of love this movie, but not enough to call it a must-watch.
Choose Life 6/10
Angel (Season 3)
Yay, Fred stuck around and joined the crew! I liked her in season 2, glad she became a major player, but why the heck isn’t Andy Hallett’s Lorne in the opening main cast credits? He’s easily one of the best parts of the season. Also, where did baby Pete Campbell come from? I was shocked to see a young Vincent Kartheiser, and we’ve already started watching season 4 so I know he’s not going anywhere soon. Not sure how I feel about this, as introducing a child into Buffy didn’t please me, but we’ll see. As with Buffy, the most annoying aspects of these shows are that everything is more entertaining and enjoyable when the team is together, working together, and generally being pals, but the showmakers do everything in their power to throw spanners in the works, have friends turn against each other and make everyone miserable. Dammit, I’d like some fun, not more angst! Holtz and his crew were decent antagonists, and their story took turns I didn’t expect, plus we got David Denman as a laconic demon security guard named Skip, great!
WandaVision (Season 1)
I loved this show. I know a few people who have had issues with every Marvel movie being “the same”, something I don’t entirely agree with (yes there are a few running themes and similarities, doesn’t make the great films any less great) but that’s a criticism that cannot be applied to WandaVision. The sitcom homages, the visuals, the “what in the blue blazes is really going on here?” plot, I dug the whole thing. The final couple of episodes were maybe the weakest given their break from the established format, but I’m not sure how else the show could have come to a conclusion within the existing structure. Regardless it was still incredible, and as with literally the entire internet I need to see Kathryn Hahn finally get the recognition she’s deserved for so long.
The Great (Season 1)
It’s like if Armando Iannucci directed a Russian version of The Crown. Elle Fanning stars as Catherine the Great (although this is prior to her obtaining the moniker) as she marries Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) and lives with him, his staff and the court of officials and buffoons around him. My knowledge of Russian history leaves a lot to be desired, so how much of this “occasionally true” story is to be believed I cannot say, but I can say that I enjoyed the ride. The two lead performances are committed, funny and often shocking, and the supporting cast are all doing fantastic work too. If you enjoy period dramas and adult farcical comedies, this is a nice mesh of the two.
Resident Alien (Season 1)
Alan Tudyk has long been one of my favourite actors, ever since I discovered Wash from Firefly was somehow also Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball and Wat in A Knight’s Tale. What a ridiculously varied career Tudyk has had. Anyway, here he’s playing an alien – already perfect casting – intent on destroying the Earth, but who is stranded in a small town looking for lost parts of his “Device”. Whilst there he must take a human form, and the Alan-Tudyk-looking guy he picked happens to be medically trained, so when the local town doctor is murdered, he is forced to step in and help solve the mystery. There’s maybe slightly more human drama with the supporting characters than I wanted (a marriage in trouble, a sheriff not respecting his deputy, the identity of an adopted child etc.) given that the hook of the show is the alien in town, but it all comes together nicely at the end and I’m very much looking forward to the next season. Also, Linda Hamilton crops up, which is fun, and the main character actively despises children, so it’s nice to have that entirely correct and justifiable viewpoint on screen for a change.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 6)
Season six is good, I liked the relatively low key running villains being a trio of incels who have been thwarted by the gang in the past, but becoming a much more serious threat as the series progressed, and the often comical nature of their plot balanced out the more serious tone of Willow’s addiction to magic. Good, great, grand. But can we talk about the musical episode!?!?!? I. LOVED. IT. Hell yes, this is what I’m here for, give it to me now. I knew it was coming at some point, and that my wife wasn’t looking forward to it (she finds this sort of thing too “silly”, but she married me, what does she know?). Everyone performed better than I expected, and for some reason I particularly enjoy Giles’ “Tell me!” in Where Do We Go From Here?, and Spike’s “Bugger this” when he realises he can just walk away at the end. Plus the cheekiness of Tara hitting that first syllable in “complete” whilst Willow is pleasuring her off-screen. Ahem. Outside of all that, I love that the setup for the episode was that a bunch of characters had secrets or misgivings they were hiding from the others, so of course the best way to reveal these hidden truths was to have all the characters feel compelled to sing their inner thoughts. Genius. Outstanding. Delightful. Am I listening to the soundtrack right now? Yes. Oh, and to follow that up with Tabula Rasa, an episode where everyone forgets who they are and tries to piece everything together, misconstruing their relationships and everything else was also so much fun! We watched these two episodes back to back one evening and damn, that was fun. The villain is a shark in a suit! And Spike realising he was British and being annoyed about it is “chef’s kiss”.
The Walking Dead (Season 10, pt 3)
The Walking Dead team decided to do their best and film six episodes in the early months of lockdown, in an effort to keep things going and provide content for the fans. Whilst I appreciate this, the results are a mixed bag of shows I mostly didn’t care for, with each one focussing on one or two of the main characters. There were two gleaming highlights, though. The Gabriel and Aaron episode, which sees them hunting for supplies in a depleted town, only to run across Robert freaking Patrick, was a rollercoaster, and the final episode, depicting Negan’s origin story, was something a lot of us have been clamouring after for years. It helped that Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s real-life wife, Hilarie Burton, is also an actress so got to play his in-show wife Lucille, allowing for real intimacy in a season understandably devoid of it. The Princess episode, Splinter, has garnered a lot of acclaim for it’s realistic depiction of mental issues, which I commend, but the episode itself was predictable from the off. It was better than the episodes focussing on Daryl, Carol and Maggie though, they were all slogs to get through.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Season 1), Taskmaster (Season 1)
I’ll write proper posts for these once their seasons are finished, but I’m enjoying them both. I like how Marvel have a knack for taking the worst-reviewed properties in their saga and making them integral to the future of the franchise, thereby somehow improving the quality of the lesser previous projects. They did it with Thor: The Dark World in Avengers: Endgame, Age of Ultron in WandaVision and now Civil War in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Good move, Marvel, well done, I’m expecting The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 to have revolutionary plot points soon. With Taskmaster, I’ve not yet been wowed by the new slate of contestants. There was a lot of hype and build up for Lee Mack “finally” being on the show, which has yet to be justified, but I’m enjoying Mike Wozniak and Sarah Kendall’s esoteric approaches to tasks. Jamali is chaotic and antagonistic, but not always in an entertaining way, and I just sort of feel sorry for Charlotte. I like her, she’s great in Ghosts, but here she’s very good at not doing very well in any task.
I’m still plodding through Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy. My reading pace shouldn’t reflect on the quality of the book, I’m just really struggling to make time for reading right now.
Fart noise. Nothing happening. Move along.
Progress has continued on the lounge: the alcove shelving has been installed and the window has been replaced! These both had to be pushed back after our COVID scare, but now they’re in and we’re onto painting the shelving, then I can finally unbox some DVDs from the attic! Next up is the lounge window sill and carpet, then maybe onto the patio. Oh, and once again we’ve learned that you should start weeding a garden as soon as you see weeds, otherwise you’ll have to spend literally 6 hours on a sunny Saturday on your hands and knees weeding. I mean, there are worse ways to spend a day when you’re normally stuck inside, but there are most certainly better things to do too.
Kind of tried another marathon, but also didn’t really plan it until I started doing it. I had to pick up a new printer cartridge (Hell froze over again) and figured I’d take a detour run along the beach, swinging home via Sainsbury’s. As long as I did at least a half-marathon, I’d be happy. I wildly underestimated the distance from my house to the beach starting point of Hengistbury Head, expecting to get there within 10km but it actually being over 15km (getting lost around the backroads of Christchurch certainly didn’t help) so I thought sod it, let’s see if we can run a full one. Then I foolishly ran up a big hill I did not need to run up, and then instead of taking a route with, you know, a path and pavement and hard, solid ground, I ran along loose pebbles for a good few kilometres until the path appeared again. By this point my legs were exhausted and I was no-where near Sainsbury’s, so I made it back to Bournemouth pier, headed inland towards home and my angel of a wife came to once again pick up her foolish spouse, drove him to Sainsbury’s (after supplying him with a much-needed Brunch bar) where he waited in the car whilst she went in to get the ink cartridge. Not my most successful run, but I cross “Running to and up Hengistbury Head” off my bucket list, and in total the distance was just shy of 30km (18.6 miles). Did I learn anything from this endeavour? Almost certainly not.
My morning workouts and yoga have taken a little back seat in favour of sleeping, as there have been a few late nights helping my wife out with her workload, so I’m OK with that. I figured it’s more important to get 5 hours sleep than fit in a few squats and planks.
We had a bumper month for Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast, as we had the star and director of Deep Blue Sea 3, Tania Raymonde and John Pogue, on to talk about making it! It was super exciting and stressful talking to them, but the interview turn out great and you can listen to it here. March’s Lambpardy was a bit of a hyper shit-show with rambunctious guests and a bunch of question errors on my part, but it’s still fun!
How did your March go? See anything good? Get up to much? Let me know!