With March feeling fairly never-ending, probably time was going slowly as we inched our way towards the 29th and the first little easing of the lockdown, I’ve managed to squeeze in a lot of films and television. I’ll begin with the telly…
Binge-watching and more Telly
I am continuing to love Snowpiercer, but am reduced to watching the new episodes as they are released weekly. So I picked some new series to start watching and found two outstanding ones on Netflix.
I’d discounted Stranger Things before, not realising it was an adult show. But once I watched the first episode I was totally hooked and binged on all three series, I cried at the end of Series 3. My favourite character (apart from Police Chief Jim Hopper) is Dustin – he is so sweet and geeky. The 1980s setting is perfectly recreated, meaning it has a great soundtrack. It did give me very weird dreams though! The fact that the show is set in Indiana, reminded me of another SF/Horror series from the early 1990s, Eerie Indiana, which had kids in it too – I’d like to rewatch that some day.
Then there is Unforgotten. I tend not to watch much drama on ITV because of the interminable ads, which you can’t skip online unless you pay for premium service. However, series 1-3 were on Netflix, ad-free. I’d watch anything with Nicola Walker in, and DCI Cassie Yates is a superb character for her. Sanjeev Bhaskar as DI Sunny Khan, provides her with superb support. What struck me, apart from the awfulness of the cold crimes they investigate, is the depth of Brit acting talent in the cast list: Tom Courtenay leads an all-star cast in series one, Mark Bonnar in series two, Alex Jennings and Kevin McNally in series 3. The emotional toil on Cassie is so immense that she’s desperate to retire after series 3, but has to return in series 4, currently on ITV, to avoid losing her pension. Superb stuff.
Next is NEXT, on Disney+ starring John Slattery. The story of a tech genius billionaire with 6 months to live. Paul Leblanc (Slattery, whom I adore) and his colleagues had devised an AI that could self-improve, but cancelled it due to worries about it taking over the world. They thought it had been deleted, but someone else has started it up again, and it’s lurking out there somewhere. Rogue AI and John Slattery was enough to get me watching. Sadly it was cancelled after the first episodes aired, but I will stay with it for the series – for Slattery, natch.
Although I loved all the previous series of Line of Duty, series six has yet to full grip me. Arnott is so wet, Fleming annoys me, and Kelly MacDonald doesn’t feel right to me somehow. Add in the jargon, CHIS this, CHIS that – I still can’t remember what it stands for – every time they say it I say ‘informer’. The first episode also had so much bum-covering radio jargon too, I yawned. It’s picking up though – I dare say I’ll be loving it by episode 3.
Big Screen on the Small Screen
I managed to watch ten films this month. Some I deliberately chose, others I discovered browsing, one I was given for Mother’s Day. In no particular order, here they are:
- Snowpiercer – 2013 (Prime). I paid £3.50 to see the original film, directed by Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite). It’s very much more philosophical than the TV series, and has a better, more industrial look. There is a star turn from Tilda Swinton, with huge fake teeth and glasses, spouting platitudes as the mouthpiece of the train’s owner. Loved it.
- Rushmore – 1998 (Disney+ Star). I discovered several Wes Anderson movies while exploring Star. I’d forgotten how hilarious this movie was, and it was wonderful to see it again. The three leads, Schwartzman, Murray and Williams are all wonderful – but we do need more Olivia Williams, she is so lovely.
- The Blues Brothers – MY FAVOURITE FILM EVER (1980) – I saw it the day it reached the UK at Fulham Road ABC and I’m always going to watch it whenever I find it – this time in the depths of Netflix. Obvs bits of it have dated and jar (the Neo-Nazis), but the music and the great quotes haven’t.
- I Care A Lot – 2021 (Prime) – Rosamund Pike stars as an amoral scalper, who gets old folk signed over to her as wards of court when they get ill, and then takes them for every penny she can get. Then, one day, she picks the wrong woman to scam – and ends up with Peter Dinklage on her tail. Very dark, very funny, and a somehow appropriate ending!
- The Dark Tower – 2017 (Netflix) – This film had a troubled route to screen. They gave up trying to condense over 2000 pages of Stephen King’s dark fantasy series into a single film, so took some key elements and did something slightly different with them. If you’ve not read the books, you’ll probably not know what’s going on. If you have read the books, you’ll find it so lightweight, it’s hardly worth watching – except the casting is spot on. Idris Elba turns out to be perfect as Roland, the last of the Gunslingers, but doesn’t get much of a chance to shine; Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black is suitably evil; young Tom Taylor as Jake is super.
- Rebecca (2020) Netflix – This remake was beautiful to look at but didn’t have enough darkness in its soul. Kristin Scott Thomas is a suitably steely Mrs Danvers though, dominating all the scenes she’s in. Arnie Hammer didn’t have enough personality for me – not that Maxim in the novel does either?
- The Circle (2017) Netflix – Hanks is Eamonn Bailey, the ‘Steve Jobs’ like guru of tech and social media giant The Circle. Emma Watson is Mae, who gets a job there through her friend Annie (Karen Gillan). At first Mae finds life at The Circle difficult, being ‘on’ all day and effectively monitored, positively to help of course. Then she comes to the attention of Bailey who picks her for a project all about transparency. The film is a slightly creepy critique of social media, from witch hunts to over sharing. Hanks does Hanks, Watson uses her eyebrows well for her trademark puzzled frowns, and mostly just irritates.
- Bohemian Rhapsody – (2018) Prime. I very much enjoyed this cheesy, cliched biopic of Freddie Mercury and Queen. I sang along all the way.
- The Darjeeling Limited – (2007) Disney+ Star – This is the only Wes Anderson movie I’ve not seen before, and I loved it. Three brothers (Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody) meet up a year after their father’s funeral to bond and take a train trip across India in search of their mother. Loads of funny and surprisingly touching episodes. I particularly loved Waris Singh Ahluwalia as the pernickety chief steward on the train.
Film of the Month – Jojo Rabbit (2017, Blu-Ray)
My daughter gave me this for a Mother’s Day present, so I watched it straight away – and loved it! Imagine a ten year old boy, a Hitler Youth, with ‘Adoph’ as an imaginary friend. When he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johannson) is harbouring a Jewish girl in the attic, his world is turned upside down and all his beliefs are questioned. Adapted by New Zealand auteur Taika Waititi from a novel, he plays the story for laughs, but then throws in some shocking and sad moments (much as Armando Ianucci does in The Death of Stalin). Waititi not only writes and directs, but also plays Adolph. The film’s young lead Roman Griffin Davis is delightful. I particularly liked Sam Rockwell as a one-eyed German captain reduced to running the Hitler Youth camp, and Johansson was lovely. The music is notable for building in snatches of modern pop songs into the soundtrack, and indeed David Bowie’s German version of Heroes (‘Helden’) is over the credits – the second time I’ve heard that in recent weeks as actor Mark Strong chose it on Desert Island Discs.
Watch the trailer here:
So that’s been my month on screen. What have you watched that you can recommend?