So, this weekend’s tipple is The Woodsman. It’s to celebrate our last weekend in Manchester! Hurrah! It’s a nicely rounded blend with an oaky aspect. ‘We use a mix of freshly built oak casks and double-scorched bourbon barrels, making The Woodsman especially smooth and sweet, with a hint of smoke.’ Also, it’s only £18 in Sainsbury right now. www.woodsmanwhisky.com
No wonder Bird Box has been one of the most viewed movies in the world during lockdown! This scif-fi/horror film sees humankind struggling to survive when sight of the ‘monster’ outside causes insanity and a suicide pandemic. You can only get about with your eyes covered, and you must never open the front door when someone or something knocks! Don’t let it in! It’ll infect you! A pregnant Sandra Bullock(!) works with a groups of desperate strangers (including John Malkovich), and she gets to raise two young children in ‘the new normal’. But her group dies one by one, until she has to go outside with her kids to try and get them to some sort of safety. They have to deal with all manner of hazard and marauder!
Honestly, it’s a great great movie that plays with your mind. It’s utterly relatable. And the ending is a triumph. I flaming loved it. 9.5 out of 10. My missis doesn’t tend to like horror, but even she enjoyed it.
Six undying soldiers-of-fortune fight in one conflict after another, always trying to be on the side of right, so as to make the world a better place. After thousands of years of dying and resurrecting, it seems that all their effort has been for naught. Sucks, right? Pretty much. Their leader (Charlize Theron) wonders if they should call it a day. Worse, an ex-CIA operative has begun to track them down on behalf of an obsessed geneticist who wants to cage them and ‘harvest’ their DNA/immortality (not for the good of humanity, obviously, but to make plenty of money instead). The Old Guard are now on the run from dozens of baddies. The days of fighting for what’s right are ending.
The Old Guard is a good movie. Yes, there are the sorts of grisly battle scenes you might expect, but the plot is definitely not throw-away. There are strong contemplative character-development scenes. There’s philosophical rumination. It is not a mono-tempo movie by any means. It has dimensions. There are complex and moving relationships. There’s even a very poetic speech about the nature of love. Not what you might expect from your regular Netflix action movie? Well, that’ll be because the movie’s based on the Image comic book series, so there’s plenty of content. Well played, Netflix! It scores an admiring 8 out of 10 from me.
Started watching the new metaphysical fantasy series on Netflix: Warrior Nun. I want to hate it, but I can’t… cos the plotting is pretty tight (based on a Canadian combic book, init), the tempo is high, it understands its genre ‘beats’, there are moral dilemmas and problems to solve, and there’s just enough character development for us to care. Plus: it’s got some freshly original ideas in it. Oh and it’s easy on the eye! That’s a pretty good set of ingredients, all told.
Basically, there’s a Catholic order of female templar knights whose job it is to retrieve holy artefacts so that they don’t fall into the hands of demons and unleash hell. But the lead knight dies in an ambush and her power (her ‘halo’) has to be hidden, in a desperate moment, in the body of an incidental dead girl. Unexpectedly, the halo resurrects the girl and she goes out to enjoy her newfound life… with the forces of both good and evil out to claim her as their own. Neat, eh? It works philosophically and politically.
Watch the first episode and think ‘hmm, alright’. Watch the second and think ‘heh, this is getting quite good’. It scores a respectable 8 out of 10 from me.
So, I’ve written a chapter in the newly published collection from Luna Press: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction. It’s a cool piece about the ‘bromance’, Kirk and Spock, Frodo and Sam, Han Solo and Luke, etc. Check it out maybe!
Let me tell you a story. I was in Sainsbury’s and I’d seen the above whiskey (spelt with an ‘e’) for a number of weeks. I was intrigued, cos the Pogues famously know/knew their whiskey. But the distillery wasn’t evident on the bottle, and so I thought £26 was just a bit too much of a risk. Every week I saw it on the shelf – and it didn’t seem to be selling. THEN! Sainsbury’s reduced it to £18. For 70cl of single malt. ‘I’m in!’ says I. Tried it last night. Veeery good. Will have to get some more. It’s peaty (of course) and a touch sweeter than Scottish whisky (without an ‘e’), but it has complexity (far less wishy-washy than a Speyside, for example) and a pleasing burn. Scores a very good value for money 8 out of 10 from me.
Some critics have said that you can’t spoof Eurovision because it’s already so self-aware that it’s a satire of itself. Those critics are nitwits. Let me tell you: if you like anything about Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams or Eurovision, you’ll love this movie, and you’re guaranteed to cry like a baby at the end (unless you are hard-hearted, in which case you don’t like Eurovision anyway). The thing that works so well about the film is that the humour is affectionate rather than spiteful, and the film absolutely gets the ‘spirit’ of Eurovision.
Ferrell and McAdams play two musical Icelanders from a small fishing village who are obsessed with making it in Eurovision. They make offerings to the local elves, they play weddings to perfect their skills, and they suffer the mockery of everyone they know (including Pierce Brosnan, who wonderfully plays the role of Ferrell’s long-suffering father). The head of the Icelandic bank is dead-set on Iceland never winning Eurovision (as it will bankrupt the country and reveal he’s been syphoning off funds), so he sees to it that the worst possible Icelandic band wins the national competition: Ferrell and McAdams (who are the band ‘Fire Saga’), by hook and by crook, therefore win through the nationals and make it to the semi-finals in Edinburgh. Enter the conniving Russian act (played superbly by Dan Stevens, with his entry song ‘Lion of Love’) looking to split up our romantically innocent Icelandic couple!
What more could you want? Oh, yes. Costumes. Check. Cheese. Check. Extreme camp. Check, darlings, check! Look, it’s the most watched movie in the world right now (making Netflix very happy), and there’s a good reason for that. The lockdown really isn’t that much fun, and this movie reminds us that we might just have fun again one day.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams give us some brilliant laughs in this new Amazon Prime movie. It’s a feel-good satire of middle-class rivalry (#FirstWorldProblems). A group of childless friends live for their Friday games’ night. They are ridiculously competitive. Then, Jason’s older brother comes to town and declares he’s gonna take games’ night ‘up a notch’! A real-time kidnapping and murder-mystery role play begins… and all too soon we’re not sure what’s real and what’s pretend. The stakes are raised when the older brother’s mafia friends start getting involved, closely followed by the FBI and so on. But our friends have brilliant ‘game skills’, including lateral thinking and problem-solving, meaning precious little can get the better of them. It’s the game of their very lives!
I’m a bit of a writer, and this is one of those movies I wish I’d written myself. There’s a laugh out loud joke every 5mins, and such a variety of joke-type that there’s something for everyone, including the hard-bitten viewer. Coming to the end of lockdown, this film is just what I needed. 8.5 out of 10 from me!
So, there was a nuclear war and a new ice age wipes out humanity… except for three thousand of us who managed to get on a train/arc powered by a perpetual-motion engine. The poorest of the three thousand end up in cattle class (called ‘The Tail’ of the train), then there’s third class, second class and first class. Segregation of the classes is brutally policed. Resources are scarce in The Tail, where it’s dog-eat-dog. Meanwhile, the decadent elites are drinking champagne at the head of the train. That is the way of things: the order and balance of things. Until there’s a murder in first class! Yikes. There’s only one murder detective on the train (played by the very cool Daveed Diggs, of Hamilton fame), and he’s stuck in The Tail. He’s taken out of there by Jennifer Connelly (who runs the train) and ordered to track down the killer. But our detective has some demands he wants met first!
This new Netflix show is great, great fun. If you’ve ever read (or seen) J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise (or A J Dalton’s Gateway of the Saviours), it’s sort of like that laid sideways and sent hurtling along rails. At the same time, there was a (rather superior) movie version back in 2013, apparently. Aaaanyway, there are neat ideas, great visuals, a decent mystery and interesting social commentary. What more could you want during lockdown? (Okay, okay, many things, but it’s a start.) Check it out. It scores 8 out of 10 from me.