To me, May felt like an exceptionally long month that was both eventful and really dragged along. It’s been a pretty dour month for reasons I’ll soon get into, but I’m aware that many friends of mine, some of whom may be reading this, have had a horrendously tough go of things lately and I want to let them know that I’m here if they ever want to chat. I’ve told most of them this personally, but if you’re having a rough patch and need someone to talk to, drop me a line. So what was up with my May? Well, it was a bit of a rollercoaster, and much of it I don’t want to dwell on too much, so here’s the highlights:
– Murphy, our beloved 6-year old labradoodle-slash-tornado, had a bit of a scare that required an urgent rush to the vets one weekday night. He was really down, off his food, unresponsive etc. Turns out he was absolutely fine, we still don’t know for certain what was wrong with him, he’s all better now and we’ve found out he has an exceptionally large spleen but it’s nothing to worry about. That’ll be £360, please and thank you.
– I received my first vaccine shot, very unexpectedly. For those of you not in England, the vaccine rollout here has been pretty slow, with it initially being available only to those most in need (the elderly, at-risk and frontline workers, which absolutely makes sense and I have no problem with) then they gradually decreased the age at which people were eligible for it. Very gradually. I’m now eligible, but in early May when I received my shot I wasn’t, but the mother of a friend at work heard of some spare vaccines that would otherwise be thrown away if we didn’t get there shortly. Long story short, we waited for almost 2 hours, received shots, and whilst my buddy’s arm went completely dead soon after I received no ill effects whatsoever. Hooray!
– I was due to have a weekend all to my lonesome – something that hasn’t happened in a very long time – when my wife took the dogs up to see her parents now that travelling and staying over is allowed. It also coincided with the cinemas reopening, so I put two and two together and came up with at least one solid day of theatre-hopping to see whatever might be showing, but at the very least Kong Vs Godzilla (or vice versa, who cares?). Alas she had a work emergency that delayed her leaving for a day and required my assistance (which, I want to clarify, I didn’t mind offering at all), and my Dad got wind of me being alone without those pesky pups and figured it’d be the opportune time for he and I to lay a patio together, and that the next day I could then pop round to their house and see my grandparents, who I hadn’t seen in well over a year. As in literally not even seen on a phone, they don’t quite comprehend Zoom calls. It was great to see them, and my sister’s new house, and to make progress on the patio, but it was far from the relaxing me-focussed weekend I’d been hoping for.
– And yeah, at the time of writing I still haven’t been back to the cinema, and to be honest I’m not really that bothered. I don’t miss it, mainly due to the time factor. If I’m going to see a 2-hour film, you need to add at least thirty minutes either side for travelling, and as my local cinema showings vary from having 10-30 minutes of ads and trailers, you can’t afford to be very late at all. So that 2-hour films is now eating up at least 3 1/2 hours of your day, and my days are already pretty full! Obviously I’m going to go to the cinema again sometime, but looking ahead at upcoming movies there’s precious few for which I’m not thinking “Meh, I can wait ’til that’s streaming.”
– Easily the main event that’s got me down this month, and which is sparking my recent obsession with time, is that I’m now working back in the office full time, whereas I’ve been mostly working from home for about 4 months now. I’ve loved working from home. There are fewer distractions, lunchtimes are accompanied by doggy playtimes and often involve better food and the company of my wife, and the lack of commute has been heaven. I cycle to work, which allowing for getting changed takes about 45 minutes each way, so that’s an hour and a half I’ve now lost every day. Yes, it’s good exercise and a decent decompress after the day of work, but I’ve been doing better and more varied exercises – weights, yoga, longer dog walks – without the need for the bike rides. And my stress levels have gone up and sleep times dropped way down since I’ve been back in the office. It’s not good at all, but I am of course grateful to have a job, and to have had one all throughout the lockdowns.
– All that being said, because I was having such a shitty month and I had a little extra cash rattling in the bank account, I decided to treat myself to the Jurassic Park Gate and T-Rex Lego set I’ve been ogling since its release. It’s due to be discontinued next year, and I finally broke down and bought it. I haven’t finished building it yet – it’s huge and I’m pacing myself – but expect some photos next month.
So that was supposed to be a brief run through of the month, but I’ve already rambled on for way too long. Let’s skip to the movies, shall we?
In a very bizarre turn of events I managed to, completely unintentionally, watch at least three films this month where someone dies on the toilet, and a whole bunch more involving female leads who, for some reason or another, doubt whether what they are seeing is truly there. One of the toilet death movies is, of course, Jurassic Park, because what else am I going to watch whilst building a Jurassic Park Lego set, but I haven’t singled that out for a review because it’s Jurassic Park, come on, it’s the greatest movie ever made, what more is there to say?
This year’s Best Picture Oscar winner was not a film that I enjoyed. To be honest I didn’t expect to love it – I’d heard comparisons to Terrence Malick, one of my contenders for the worst directors in the history of film, or at least amongst the most over-rated (he cannot be a good, or at least an efficient, director if he films so much unnecessary footage that gets thrown out. It’s so wasteful and disrespectful to literally everyone else who worked on those elements, why cant he edit his vision of the film before he films it? He makes me so mad! Also his films are long, dull, aimless but yeah, they sometimes look nice. Whatever.) and I get the comparison, but I’d also been told that, if nothing else, I’d find Nomadland gorgeous to watch because of the beautifully shot American landscapes. I thought Nomadland looked like dogshit. It was actually impressive how awful Joshua James Richards’ cinematography made the usually awe-inspiring North American landscape appear. Aside from that, this just generally isn’t a film for me. There’s not much of a plot, which is often the main reason I watch a film, and instead we follow Fern (Frances McDormand) as she decides to live a nomadic lifestyle after a family tragedy. Life lessons are learned, friendships are made, buckets are pooped in. McDormand won the Best Actress Oscar too and, whilst I’ve always liked her as an actress and do not begrudge her the two Oscars she already has, this performance falls into the Leonardo DiCaprio in Revenant category, where it’s more like watching someone literally doing things rather than acting like they’re doing them, if that makes sense? McDormand’s performance is believable and true because she was literally doing most of what her character was going through, which detracts from the acting in my opinion. I’d have much rather seen the award go to Carey Mulligan. Film-wise I appreciated the message and the areas of life and society this shone a light upon, but also I was very bored and struggled to stay awake, and have no desire to watch a single frame of this ever again. I’m interested as to what director Chloe Zhao will do with a bigger budget with the MCU’s The Eternals soon, as I’m certain it will be a fresh take for the franchise, but there’s also a very real possibility that it’ll be my least favourite MCU film so far. Which is fine, not all films need to be made for all people, and me disliking Nomadland guarantees that many of you will absolutely adore it, and I’m very happy for those of you for whom that is the case.
Choose Life 5/10
The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)
Straight out of the gate, this is rivalling Palm Springs for my movie of the year, I loved it. It’s a non-stop kaleidoscopic barrage of the senses, but it also has a great story, relatable characters and it’s hilarious. Obviously I loved Monchi the dog, and the reaction he provokes in technology. I didn’t know much about this before going in and that may have helped with the enjoyment, so I wont say anymore other than this is a strong recommendation and I’m looking forward to watching this again sometime.
Choose Film 9/10
Emily and Elwood over at the Through Dangers Untold podcast invited me on to discuss a chapter of Labyrinth, a film I’d only seen once before for a Movie of the Month Lambcast a few years ago. I figured this would be the perfect time for a rewatch, and I could review it too and cross it off all the Lists it appears on. Turns out I’d already reviewed it but had no knowledge of doing so, isn’t getting older a wonderful thing? As it happens, I agreed with most of the points of my initial review, in that I only really enjoy Labyrinth for the parts that don’t involve human characters. David Bowie feels like stunt casting as Jareth, and the scenes that are just him with mostly puppet characters felt like some of the more awkward skits from The Muppet Show, the kind where a musician plays a song whilst some puppets just sort of aimlessly frolic around them for 3-4 minutes. And Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is of course an incessantly irritating character – she is a child, after all – and no matter how much of her irritation is intentional, it still makes her a pain to watch. Also I cannot buy into the film’s premise of Sarah’s baby half-brother being kidnapped by the Goblin King because everything is so very clearly happening just in Sarah’s head so there are no stakes whatsoever (and before you say anything, yes I have this exact same problem with The Wizard of Oz, another film I do not enjoy), and the core concept of Sarah needing to grow up and leave her childish things behind her is entirely undercut by the last scene in which she both does and doesn’t do that simultaneously. All that being said, the puppetry and production design are incredible, some of the best from the 80s, Sir Diddimus remains a delight, and you should listen to the aforementioned podcast.
Choose Film 6/10
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Another really fun Star Trek movie! This one has a murder mystery, a prison escape, a fight between two William Shatners (Williams Shatner?) and Christopher Plummer playing a Shakespeare-quoting villain (after a while I started guessing what quote he’d say next, and was correct a few times, which made me very happy), what’s not to like? I had so much fun with this all the way through, from Kim Cattrall playing a Vulcan to a truly shocking blink and you’ll miss it early role from Christian Slater. My current Star Trek ranking puts this in second:
The Voyage Home
The Undiscovered Country
The Search For Spock
The Wrath of Khan
The Motion Picture
The Final Frontier
Next up I’m led to believe we’ll meet a new cast or, as my wife described them, “the main Star Trek people”, as she saw some of The Next Generation on TV when she was younger, whereas I did not. Will I be so inspired by the next few films that I seek out the older shows? Check back in soon to find out!
Choose Film 8/10
Deep Rising (1998)
Over on Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast we finished our chapter-by-chapter, 11-weeks-long coverage of Deep Blue Sea 2, and before we started plunging the depths of Deep Blue Sea 3 we opted for a special one-off, looking at Stephen Sommers’ pre-The Mummy effort, Deep Rising, a film that had come up in conversation on the podcast before but which I had never seen. It is by no means perfect, not even close, but I loved it, all the way through. If you’re unfamiliar it follows John Finnegan (Treat Williams), the captain of a small boat hired by mercenaries to head to a secret location in the South China Sea. It turns out their goal is to rob a cruise liner, but they didn’t bargain for some monstrous aquatic sea beast taking out everyone it finds. I’d argue there are too many characters (there’s like five different groups or factions who converge together in the small band of potential survivors), but that just allows for an incredibly deep supporting cast – Wes Studi! Jason Flemyng! Famke Janssen! Djimon Hounsou! Cliff Curtis! – and for some very entertaining and often both disgusting and surprising death sequences. Also Kevin J. O’Connor, aka Beni from The Mummy, has a very significant role and he’s great in everything. You can hear more of my thoughts on the podcast episode here, which was just as entertaining as the movie.
Choose Film 8/10
The Brood (1979)
Watched to keep up with the Gourley and Rust podcast (if anyone can point me in the direction of Body Double and/or Motel Hell, I’d appreciate it). I’m pretty sure I’d never even heard of The Brood before, so I had no idea what to expect. If I had to guess it would have involved demonic children in some respect, just based on the title, which isn’t completely wrong, but the directions this film takes would have been completely outside of my predictions. This is almost more of a mystery with horror elements than a straight-up horror movie, as Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) tries to uncover who is behind the deaths of people in his life, and also the bizarre psychotherapy treatments being inflicted upon his wife (Samantha Eggar) by Dr. Hal Raglan (only Oliver bloody Reed!). Reed is fantastically magnetic, and Eggar is delightfully creepy, but Hindle just doesn’t have anything to work with, his character is so dull. It’s not the fastest paced film in the world but it’s also only 92 minutes long and has some interesting scenes along the way, so I’d give it a recommendation based on that, although one character gave me nightmare flashbacks to the Hugh Jackman/Kate Winslet segment of Movie 43, which would be unforgiveable had this film not come out 34 years prior.
Choose Film 6/10
Alexandra Aja is a director I’ve enjoyed (Piranha 3D, Crawl) so when his latest film popped up on Netflix I couldn’t wait to watch it. A woman (Melanie Laurent) wakes up in a futuristic medical pod with no memory of who she is or why she is there, and with her oxygen level perpetually decreasing. She is able to make phone calls, but that’s about it. Calling this a more technology-focussed version of Buried, the film in which Ryan Reynolds woke up in a buried coffin with just a mobile phone and a lighter, may sound reductive, but the two films share a lot in common premise-wise, just not in the plot developments or overall tone. Where Buried retained an air of claustrophobia by never letting us leave the coffin, Oxygen plays with the mind of the protagonist by showing flashbacks or brief, confused snippets of memory, or perhaps fantasies she believes to be real, who can say? Aja managed to work in some trademark icky gore, but not too much to be overly off-putting. I was a little disappointed by the ending, as it felt like it contradicted some points made earlier in the film, but that could be something I misunderstood. Regardless, Laurent is terrific, and the film is a strong recommendation.
Choose Film 8/10
The Rocketeer (1991)
It turns out I’ll often just stick a film on if a podcast I listen to is covering it. Boars, Gores and Swords did a special episode on The Rocketeer, a film I remember enjoying a great deal, but which I hadn’t seen for many years – and it just so happened to be on Disney+! Guess what? It’s still great, and I’d forgotten just how many character actors fill out the cast. Timothy Dalton is perfect casting as the Errol Flynn-type actor not-so-secretly behind the dastardly deeds of the film, and it’s so disappointing that this film never had a sequel picked up, and not just because it could have saved us all from Joe Johnston directing Jurassic Park 3.
Choose Film 8/10
The Woman in the Window (2021)
This should have been great. A Hithcock-esque mystery thriller starring Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Wyatt Russell, Anthony Mackie and Tracy Letts, the latter of whom also adapted the screenplay, what could go wrong? Alas this somehow treads a fine line between bonkers and boring without ever being entertaining or engaging. Adams plays a child psychologist with agoraphobia, who befriends her new neighbour and becomes convinced that she has been murdered. The twists are pretty generic and the third act is frankly atrocious, but at least the performances were good and some effort was made with the cinematography, but not enough to actually watch this thing.
Choose Life 4/10
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
A first-time watch and damn was this a good time, I completely understand why this has such a cult following. This is by no means a well-made or finely crafted piece of cinema, resplendent with dreadful costumes (so many crop tops!), sub-par effects and performances either bordering on comatose or filled with nothing but over the top choices and line readings. However the story is fun, the deaths inventive and original – seriously, this has some kills you will never see anywhere else – and some moments of this will likely stick with me for a very long time.
Choose Film 7/10
Army of the Dead (2021)
Like The Woman in the Window, this could’ve been great. Dave Bautista leading an international team of seasoned zombie-killing badasses into a walled-in, zombie-filled Las Vegas for a giant heist? Awesome. Throw in some exploration of a potentially evolved zombie society? Hell yes. What’s that? A zombie tiger? Sure thing! Unfortunately Zack Snyder had to bloat it out to two-and-a-half hours long and waste a whole heap of our time on extraneous character scenes that don’t feature a zombie tiger or further explain the zombie society that somehow involves hostage taking. In fact the zombie society being established but so shallowly examined is frustrating beyond belief, that could have been the whole film! That’s maybe the main problem here, that this is neither committed to being a big action zombie heist movie, or a delve into this undead city, it’s a hodge-podge of both that satisfied neither despite being at least 30 minutes too long. It’s a real shame, as the cast is great, the characters well established with good scenes together and a couple of surprising moments, but then you have Omari Hardwick being set up as a guy who just loves using a circular saw to kill some zombies, and then he barely ever does. C’mon! I just want Omari Hardwick to take out a bunch of zombies with power tools! Is that too much to ask? Also Tig Notaro is, easily, the best part of the whole thing, and whilst I could occasionally see the seams and pick up on the awkward energy (maybe I’ve edited too many podcast conversations?) I’m amazed at how well she was integrated into the film in post-production, well done everyone.
Choose Film 6/10
Last Christmas (2019)
Yes, we watched a Christmas movie in May. If you have questions, please direct them at either my wife, who was watching this when I sat down to join her, or whatever damn TV channel felt it was acceptable to be showing a Christmas movie in May. Whatever, it’s not great. The story is laughable, predictable and hokey, but the performances are sweet enough, although I’m not entirely sure why Emma Thompson, who also produced the film as well as co-wrote the screenplay, opted to cast herself in the role of Emilia Clarke’s Yugoslavian mother, but whatever, I’ll watch Emma Thompson in anything, and Michelle Yeoh is delightful as well. Also I understand the point of comedic cameos, but when the rest of the film is so bland you can’t just drop Peter Serafinowicz, Rob Delaney and Sue Perkins in for tiny moments and not expect me to want them to be in the entire rest of the film instead of the drivel I’m left with.
Choose Life 4/10
Angel (Season 4)
This is the darkest season of Angel, and probably my least favourite so far. As always I like these shows the least when the team members are at odds with one another, so the spotlighting of Angel’s son Connor (Vincent Kartheiser) causing a hefty rift, alienating Wesley and sending Cordelia on her own spiral, was not welcome. It doesn’t help that Connor is a whiny brat of a character (yes it’s justified by his upbringing and age, but that doesn’t make it any more entertaining to watch). Gina Torres as a recurring antagonist was a great addition, but this season had far too many occurrences of me yelling at the characters’ actions than I’d have liked. The way the season ends is bonkers though, and should lead to a very different season five if handled well.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 7)
The final season! Essentially having one long plot running the length of the season did start to drag after a while, but it was a decent plot and something different than what we’ve seen before, with Buffy having to step up not just as the leader of her crew, but training a small army of potential slayers from the next generation. I did not need Andrew (Tom Lenk) to join the gang, and the last minute death that happened near the end of the season was brutal, unwarranted and inconsequential, so what even was the point? Just to piss people off and make them sad? Uncalled for. However adding Nathan Fillion as a villain for a few episodes at the end was wonderful. As final seasons go it was overall pretty good and mostly satisfying, but I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that Oz didn’t pop up to help out at some point. Ah well. Just one season of Angel left and we get to move onto a whole new TV world, I wonder what it will be!
Taskmaster (Season 11)
The second Taskmaster season since the move to Channel 4, and the second at least partly filmed during the various lockdowns. Hopefully I’ll update my Taskmaster contestant rankings soon, and if I do so then the top of the leaderboard will be receiving a jostling courtesy of Mr. Mike Wozniak, who absolutely stole this season in entertainment value. He’s been described elsewhere as the human embodiment of a muppet, and I cannot agree more. It saddens me that there doesn’t exist footage of him attempting to complete every task that’s ever been set on any season. The rest of the contestants were all fun too, as were most of the tasks, but I was a little disappointed by the final result, with one of the safer, more down-the-middle players being victorious, but that strategy has worked in the past so I can’t complain too much. Also the sugar/salt task was diabolical and I did not approve.
I have started reading another book! Digging around in the attic revealed a whole swathe of Bill Bryson travel books I’ve never read, and with the UK opening up again gradually it seemed the perfect opportunity to read The Road To Little Dribbling, his second tour of the smaller locations around the UK, after the fantastic Notes From A Small Island. Bryson is a travel writer I’ve enjoyed greatly in the past, but so far in this one he seems very mean and snarky. I think that’s always been the case, but I’ve recently been attempting to have a more positive outlook on life (as suggested via therapy) and Bryson does not share this goal. A lot of his criticisms also seem quite basic (moaning at someone in McDonalds for asking “Do you want fries with that?” when he didn’t order any fries, despite it being their job to ask and they get reprimanded if they don’t). As such I haven’t got very far in the book (I’ve also been busy again, as usual) but I shall persevere.
Still nothing. The LAMB site renewal has been paid for another year, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay there until next May. If anyone out there knows literally anything about website hosting and moving such a thing to a more reliable site, then congratulations you know more than me and I would appreciate some advice.
We have a patio! Almost! I mean, the slabs are down, but there’s no grout in between them yet because of numerous reasons involving specific grout colours, whether they are compatible with solid-base patios and, most frequently, the bloody weather. There have been so many sunny weekday-days when I’m at work and then rain-lashed evenings and weekends when I’m not that it seems the sky has a personal vendetta against my garden, but at least the plants are enjoying it. There’s also now carpet in the lounge, and I knew I’d missed it but I had no idea how much. Have I laid down on the lounge floor, just to feel the carpet? Absolutely not, but I’ve thought about doing it, and I’ve made fists with my toes and pretended it was Christmas Eve, and what do you know, I don’t have jetlag.
Being back in the office full time means the commute has returned, so every weekday comes gift-wrapped with either an hour of cycling or up to 3 hours of running, depending on the route and whether the dogs seem up for a pre-work jog. Alas this means there’s precious little time during the week for any other exercise (other than twice-daily dog walks, of course), and less time during the week means more things that need doing at the weekend. Basically, travel-based exercise is up, home-based exercise is down, and gaining lounge carpet means I’ve lost my impromptu weight studio, so the weights have gone up into the attic until a better plan is formed. Yoga on carpet is a god-damned delight, though.
We’ve finished covering Deep Blue Sea 2 over on Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast, and are now onto Deep Blue Sea 3! Will this ever end? Well, yes, because so far this is the last in the franchise, and sad times lie ahead when we run out of DVD chapters. Fear not, the podcast is not yet over, and we have plans for the future, so keep watching that horizon. May’s Lambpardy was another good time, and I was also a guest on the aforementioned Through Dangers Untold podcast to discuss a chapter of Labyrinth, and my Why This Film episode with Emily Slade on Daylight has now been released for your listening pleasure.
I started writing this post in early June, and now July is a day away. I need to get on top of these things as I go along or I’ll finish the next post sometime around Christmas. Everyone wish me luck!