Just like March, April just sort of disappeared from under me without anything major really happening. Genuinely I think the most exciting thing that happened was I got a haircut, for the first time since November. What a thrilling life I lead.
April did see the Oscars take place, but I did not. At the time of the ceremony I’d only seen three of the best picture nominees and very few of the films nominated for acting or indeed many other awards. I’d caught all the animated feature nominees, but that wasn’t exactly an exciting race this year. I recorded the ceremony, heard it was terrible, and so haven’t watched a single moment or highlight reel. If there’s some aspect I should check out, please let me know, but otherwise it’ll get deleted from my SkyQ box soon. Anyway, let’s cease dwelling on what I didn’t watch, and get onto what I did, shall we?
Once again no films were reviewed by me, and no attempts were made to even watch some films I plan to review fully. I did watch a bunch of Oscar nominees, but that’s not where my month began:
Ghost Shark (2013)
This was recommended to me by Emily Slade when I guested on her show, Why This Film Podcast (discussing Daylight, the episode hasn’t been released yet). She said it was an amazing film, and I certainly was amazed. The plot concerns a vengeful shark ghost that is able to appear in any body of water, whether it be the ocean, a swimming pool, a drinking cup or even the rain as it falls from the sky. Needless to say, this film is not based on actual events. It’s a super low budget SyFy film that seems to have been aiming for cheesiness and cult status, with awful effects and characters you just want to watch get eaten by a shark spectre, but it wasn’t as fun as I’d have liked it to be, and the plot gets lost in itself towards the end. Also the effects are appalling even for a low budget movie.
Choose Life 3/10
The latest from Cartoon Saloon, and my last Animated Feature Oscar nominee for this year, I was hoping that Wolfwalkers would pull an upset and claim the award from the inevitable Soul (my true desire was for Farmageddon to take it, but there was absolutely no chance of that). I’m not saying Soul didn’t deserve the prize, I’m just getting a bit tired of Pixar always claiming the award whenever they have a good film up, and Cartoon Saloon have released nothing but amazing films. This one sees a young English girl and her wolf-catcher father living in Kilkenny in 1650. The girl encounters a wolfwalker, someone who is human in the day and a wolf at night, and an incredibly beautifully animated adventure ensues. It’s worth watching for the visuals alone, but the story is also very moving and the voice talent (including Sean Bean) is top notch.
Choose Film 8/10
Palm Springs (2020)
An early contender for my favourite film of 2021, and one that I’ve been waiting patiently for since it’s US release last July. JULY! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!? What is going on?!?!?! Ahem. Palm Springs is a very standard romcom format – two broken individuals have a meet-cute at a wedding – filtered through a Groundhog Day setup of reliving the same day over and over again, but even with these two tried-and-tested formulae in place the whole thing felt fresh, entertaining and, most importantly, hilarious throughout. I won’t go more into the plot because I loved experiencing the twists and turns, and the hints at unexplored subplots, but if the premise sounds up your street then consider this a hearty recommendation, I loved it.
Choose Film 9/10
Thunder Force (2021)
This was a background film. I need to put that up front. I did not go into this expecting to like it, I just wanted something on in the background whilst I did something else, and even with that caveat this was still a waste of time. Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer play estranged friends in a world in which sociopaths have been granted super powers. The duo unintentionally team up and are able to grant themselves super powers in an attempt to fight back. This is very light on successful comedy – I chuckled at most a few times, and mostly at Jason Bateman’s crab-clawed criminal – and the gross-out humour fell a lot more into the gross than the humour. Seriously, eating raw chicken is not something I even want to think about, let alone watch several times. Everyone involved can do, and deserves, better, especially Spencer. What she’s doing in this I’ll never know. Actually, director and husband of McCarthy Ben Falcone might not be able to do better, or at least he hasn’t yet, as all the films of his that I’ve seen are abysmal. I appreciated the throughline of calling people smart instead of nerds, but that’s nowhere near enough to redeem all of the terrible here.
Choose Life 2/10
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew are summoned back from shore leave to save hostages captured by a rogue Klingon, who turns out to be Spock’s half-brother in search of the deity at the end of the universe. This is easily the worst of the franchise so far, perhaps tied with The Motion Picture, as both are exceptionally dull and forgettable. I say that, because I watched this a few weeks ago and I can’t for the life of me remember hardly anything that happened in this dreary mess. The antagonist was weak, the action sequences poor, and the plot all over the place. I liked the setting of the rock-climbing opening, but it felt maybe too silly and unimpressive in the wake of Mission: Impossible 2, and the hostage council of the human, Romulan and Klingon was fun – the human is David Warner, Spicer Lovejoy from Titanic! – but they didn’t enter into the plot enough to make it all worthwhile. My current Trek ranking would be, from best to worst: IV, III, II, I, V.
Choose Life 4/10
Another background movie, another mistake. Rogue sees Megan Fox leading a team of mercenaries in Eastern Africa on a rescue mission to retrieve the kidnapped daughter of a governor, but things go awry when there’s more than one girl to be saved, their route out is compromised and they run afoul of an angry lioness. The film is about 20 minutes too long, with a few too many characters and not enough for them to do. I’ve clearly seen Deep Blue Sea 2 too many times as I recognised Tamer Burjaq as one of the bad guy henchmen just from his voice (he’s one of the shark poachers at the start of DBS2). Fox is solid in the lead, but her character is quite unlikeable initially (it takes a lot of persuading for her to not leave a couple of young girls as captives to a crime gang, not an ideal quality for your protagonist) and, unsurprisingly for a low budget film, the effects aren’t great at times, but they could be a lot worse. If you like creature features this might entertain you, but it’s not a standout for the genre.
Choose Life 5/10
Love and Monsters (2020)
After a global apocalypse that kills most of humanity and transforms cold-blooded animals into giant man-eating beasts, unlikely survivor Joel (Dylan O’Brien) sets out on a quest to find his girlfriend Aimee, having been separated from each other for seven years in distant underground bunkers. This is a simple story that has no ambitions to be anything more than it is, and it’s all the better for it. The animation and beastie designs are incredible (the visual effects Oscar nomination was well-deserved) and I had a lot of fun with the set pieces along the way. I could have used a few more colourful supporting characters (as with most films, there’s not enough Michael Rooker) but regardless this is a strong recommendation.
Choose Film 8/10
Promising Young Woman (2020)
Of this year’s Best Picture nominees that I’ve seen so far, this would have been my pick to win. It’s fantastic, timely and very worthy of discussion, and far more captivating to me than Nomadland, which will be covered in next month’s write-up (unless I write a full review of it before then, but let’s face it, that’s unlikely). Promising Young Woman follows Cassie (Carey Mulligan), a former medical student now working as a barista and spending her free time pretending to be completely drunk in order to entice so-called nice guys into attempting to abuse her, before she reveals her sobriety and teaches them a lesson. A friend of hers was abused in the past, and when Cassie learns that the abuser is about to get married, she embarks on a mission of justice on everyone involved in the matter. What follows is not your standard revenge plot, taking turns for which I was wholly unprepared. “Show don’t tell” is a mantra often pedalled in film criticism, but here not showing many events, and us learning of the realities through conversations afterwards, becomes far more effective, allowing our imaginations to run amok as to what could be occurring wherever we are not. Mulligan and a surprisingly deep supporting cast are all mesmerising. This is a strong recommendation.
Choose Film 9/10
Sound of Metal (2020)
If they gave a silver medal for Best Picture, this would currently take that award for me, and Riz Ahmed would’ve been my winner for Best Actor (again, I’ve not yet seen The Father, or Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, or Mank, or Minari, so my opinion is essentially void on this matter). Ahmed is phenomenal as Ruben, a metal drummer and recovering addict whose life drastically changes when he loses his hearing. His career and entire lifestyle are intricately entwined with his girlfriend and lead singer Lou (Olivia Cooke, also great) but Ruben and Lou must become estranged when Ruben enters a rehabilitation centre for the deaf, led by Joe (Paul Raci, superb in a role that echoes a lot of his personal life). This film is incredibly moving, showing a side of life I’m very unfamiliar with but which is fascinating, and the sound design is unbelievably good. It’s one of those films where you don’t want it to end, you just want to keep watching and find out how things continue for these characters, and I really hope the events occurred as they do in my mind.
Choose Film 9/10
A three-person scientific research mission to Mars (crewed by Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim) goes awry when a fourth person (Shamier Anderson) is discovered unconscious on board. The standard space obstacles are encountered – low on oxygen, damaged parts of the ship, environmental dangers of space – but this was a decent-enough background viewing. It’s maybe twenty minutes too long and the ending felt unearned, but the actors are all great especially in the film’s quieter moments, the production design and effects are very well handled and any film that lets Toni Collette use her original accent gets a bonus point in my book.
Choose Life 6/10
Terror Train (1980)
A background watch to catch up with the Gourley and Rust podcast, as 80s slashers go this was pretty disappointing. I liked the costume-party-on-a-train setting, but the kills were pretty tame and the lack of a consistent villain costume prevented memorable iconic imagery. Also it’s easy to see why David Copperfield didn’t continue a career in acting, he’s not great as the on-train magical entertainment, and the resolution suffers from standard 80s “other-ing” of non-traditional characters. To say more would be a spoiler. I was excited to see Hart Bochner (Ellis from Die Hard) in this, but I got to the end of the film and hadn’t spotted him, despite him being one of the main characters. The lack of a beard or calling anyone “bubby” threw me off, I guess.
Choose Life 4/10
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Season 4)
I’ve been watching It’s Always Sunny through for the first time on-and-off since the end of last year. It’s a good length to watch an episode in a lunch break, but literally everyone in the show is such a despicable creature that I cant handle more than a few episodes in a row! Anyway, I finished season 4 this month and it’s my favourite so far, due to a few standout episodes, particularly Who Pooped the Bed?, Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack and The Nightman Cometh. I have no idea what directions this show will be taking in the future but I can safely assume that in each episode every character will make the worst possible decisions for the benefit of themselves and everyone else in existence, and I’m looking forward to watching the world continually crash down around their oblivious minds.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Season 1)
Off the bat, this ain’t WandaVision, but also it’s not trying to be. I was wary of this show because the two title characters are far from my favourites in the MCU, mainly because they predominantly appear in the Captain America films, which are amongst my least favourite films within the MCU. However, I ended up enjoying this far more than I expected, but it is far from perfect and unlike WandaVision I’ve got no plans to watch it again. The overall plot is muddled with too many villains and saddled with the least interesting one being the primary antagonist. Karli (Ellen Kellyman) and her band of super soldier Flag Smashers just didn’t do it for me, which is surprising because of everything the MCU has brought us, the aspect I’m perhaps most interested in that hasn’t been explored enough for my liking is everything that happened during the five year blip period. I’d watch a whole series of Stories From The Blip, following people – super-powered or not – living in the blip with half the population gone. I’d eat that stuff up, especially when you bring in the end of the blip, everyone coming back and the effect that has. We’ve had hints in this show, WandaVision and Spider-Man: Far From Home, but I want more and I fear we won’t really get it. Anyway, the Flag Smashers preferred the world during the blip as they could move around the world more freely and they had opportunities previously denied to them, which have since been revoked with the reappearance of everyone who had those roles pre-blip, but I couldn’t get a handle on their overall mission. Wyatt Russell as a new Captain America-like figure John Walker, and the return of Daniel Bruhl’s Baron Zemo and Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter were much more developed and entertaining, and aside from Walker the other two weren’t in the show enough, and I hope they come back later in the franchise. As for Bucky and Sam, they had great chemistry, good action sequences and decent overall stories, especially Sam. The Isaiah Bradley sub-plot was especially powerful. I wouldn’t consider it essential viewing, but if you’re tempted but not sure then I’d suggest at least giving it a go for a few episodes.
Man Down (Season 1)
Season eleven of Taskmaster continues to be good, but apparently I need more Greg Davies in my life than an hour a week, so I’ve delved into his back catalogue with this being on Netflix. It’s a half-hour sitcom starring Davies as a cantankerous drama teacher (no idea where the inspiration came from) dealing with his girlfriend leaving him, hating the children he teaches and, most notably, his father (Rik Mayall) being an absolute psychopath and torturing his every waking moment. I’m really enjoying the show (Mike Wozniak and Roisin Conaty as Davies’ best friends help a great deal, and I particularly like the child who angrily screams every line of dialogue he has), so I’ll definitely continue beyond season 1, although sadly Mayall, who is a comedy legend and the highlight of every episode, passed away after the first season, so I’m certain I’ll miss his presence in future seasons. We’ll see.
Avenue 5 (Season 1)
When Avenue 5, Armando Iannucci’s sci-fi comedy about a luxury cruise liner in space, was released last year, it got critically panned, but I liked enough of Iannucci’s other work and most of the cast to at least give it a go. Since then I’ve watched roughly one episode every 2 months, and now I’ve finished the first season. This shouldn’t be an indictment on the show, it’s just not something my wife enjoys and it’s only recorded on our TV, so I only watch it when I’m having dinner and she isn’t. That’s not important information, I’m sure you don’t really care. The show is actually pretty good, but falls into the It’s Always Sunny trap of most of the characters being pretty awful people whose personality traits are exacerbated by forcing them into a small, inescapable space and dire circumstances. This is particularly true of Josh Gad’s Judd, the billionaire owner of the ship who is an utterly inept screaming baby. This is probably the sitcom with the highest bodycount I’ve seen, and sadly Judd has yet to appear amongst the fallen. I like most of the other characters and the premise, and whilst I don’t know if a second season will ever arrive, I look forward to slowly watching it if it does.
I finished Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy! I found myself in a position where I couldn’t do much else but read the book for a few hours, and apparently that’s the kind of incentive I need. It’s not a book I enjoyed, at all. Despite having read two of McCarthy’s books before (The Road and No Country For Old Men) I keep forgetting how much I hate his writing style of overly long sentences and minimal punctuation, especially speech marks. Writing style aside, the plot is depressing as all hell and gets progressively worse as the story goes on, and given it starts with an unwanted child of incest being left in the woods to die, it’s not exactly a laugh a minute. Often I’d finish a chapter, close the book on my thumb and gaze up to the sky, muttering “Jesus, what next?” under my breath. It’s the kind of story that I’m certain is laden with metaphors and parables, but I didn’t pick up on any and don’t care to reflect on the events any more than I have to. I’ve opted for a nice friendly Bill Bryson travel book for my next read, just to purge this morbidity from my mind. And yes, I still have four other McCarthy books on my shelf that I’ve not read yet, and I do intend to read them, just not any time soon.
Still nothing. The LAMB site hosting fee is due in a matter of days and once again I’ve put nothing in motion to move it elsewhere, so I guess I’ll be paying that fee for another year. Only got myself to blame.
The cupboard doors are on the alcove shelving, complete with stapled-gunned cane webbing that was a nightmare to install but which looks pretty good now we’re there. And now the shelving is finished, some DVDs have been released from their attic prison! Hurrah! We’ve also got the paving slabs for the patio, and I’ll be helping my Dad fit them later this month. Progress!
Three successful half marathons and no more marathon attempts made this a more sensible month running-wise, but I’ve all but abandoned my twice a week morning weights sessions in favour of getting a little more sleep after a few late nights. I’m fine with that, but I might regret this once the lounge is carpeted and I lose my exercise space – I don’t mind wearing shoes on the bare floorboards, but I wont be doing that once we have new carpet!
Our Deep Blue Sea 2 chapter-by-chapter coverage continues over on Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast. It’s definitely not as good of a film as the original, but watching a film closely once a week for two months allows for a greater appreciation of what could on first viewing appear as a terrible movie. April’s Lambpardy was a GMT-time zone fun time, recorded on a weekday of all things, can you believe it?
How did your April go? See anything good? Get up to much? Let me know!