Goodbye 2020

I think we’re all glad to say goodbye to literally the worst year in most of our lives. I keep on thinking back to last January and how positive I felt the year was going to be. I had a full calendar, with the wedding, honeymoon, concerts and conventions. It was going to be one hell of a year. As with everyone, near enough all of those plans were scrapped.

The wedding happened in October, only 6 months late. Most of everything else has been rescheulled for this year, even though I’m doubtful that big events will actually go ahead. The honeymoon is still in the future, it’s just waiting for the world to find a new normal and work holiday availability.

I like to look back at the end of every year and think about the highlights. I watched a total of 166 films and read 23 books. I’m not sure how many tv shows I watched, but I imagine quite a few. My first film last year was Us, which came out in 2019. I had been looking forward to that one, just hadn’t got round to it. Looking back through the year, I still think that Tenet is my favourite film. I loved Little Women, Jojo Rabbit, Parasite, Saint Maud and Queen and Slim. Those are my films of 2020, however Tenet steals the top place, purely because I haven’t felt that excited while watching a film, even if it took 2 viewings to figure out everything that was going on.

On a little side story. Another reason I think Tenet is my favourite film of the year is because I wanted to watch it again and again. When Tabby’s parents gave me some christmas money I ordered the Blu Ray. It’s very rare that I buy a film that I’ve already seen in the cinema. That’s something I used to do, but haven’t done in a very long time. The film arrived, and I gave it to Tabby to keep to one side until Christmas. Her brother lives in London and due to restrictions we had to post his present to him. For some unknown reason, Tabby wrapped and posted Tenet instead of the Jo Jo’s Bizzare adventure blu ray that had been ordered for him. I’m still waiting for it to be sent back, so I haven’t been able to watch Tenet again just yet, but I am looking forward to it and the behind the scenes stuff.

I think that Underwater was the worst film of the year. It was Alien, but underwater. It wasn’t scary or tense, just boring and something I had forgotten about before looking back. I also didn’t like The Turning, mainly because the ending was so stupid. I liked the film up until the ending and it was just annoying that they couldn’t stick the landing.

My favourite TV show discovery of the year was Cobra Kai. I had heard about it when it first started, but having never seen Karate Kid, didn’t pay much attention. When the second season first aired I remember Kevin Smith praising it to no end. It made me curious and when they put the show on Netflix along with the first film, I decided to take a chance. The film never appealed to me as a child, but I wish it had done. I feel like I missed out on that. I loved it and watched the 3 sequels very quickly afterwards. Cobra Kai was also pure joy, to the extent that I’ve now pushed Tabby to watch it with me from the beginning and loved it again even though it had only been 3/4 months since I watched it. We are currently towards the end of season 2 and I can’t wait to get to season 3. The second season finale is one of the best cliffhangers in TV history and I honestly can’t think of a better one.

I’ve also spent the last of my christmas money on the Cobra Kai game and am eagerly awaiting that to arrive.

I’m not sure what my favourite book I read last year was. My mind instantly goes to The Dead Zone by Stephen King. I really enjoyed that book, and I think I spoke about it at the time. It’s full of real characters and intrigue, I loved it. I also enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir. I didn’t read many books from 2020. Just 3 I think. Darren Shan’s Archibold Lox is probably my favourite, beating the new Hunger Games and Stephen King’s If It Bleeds…. It’s great to read new Darren Shan and I can’t wait for the second volume to arrive. I read the ebooks back in April and then ordered the hardback book to reread towards the end of the year.

I do still have to get round to Ready Player Two. I loved the first one and am looking forward to this one. I have the audiobook downloaded, which is how I experienced the first one. But without communiting I haven’t listened to many audiobooks recently, so I just haven’t found the time. Soon.

Hopefully 2021 will be a better year, it can’t be much worse. Personally and globally I think 2020 pushed me to my limits, and I know I’m not alone. My aim for the year is to be more consitsant. I want to write more, read more and post on here more. I feel that I kind of lost myself somewhere in the end of 2020 and it’s time to bring myself back from the unknown and get back to what I enjoy most. I hope everyone has a better year and please let me know the highlights of last year and your hopes for this year!

Thanks for reading, and until next time,

Ashley

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 2020

I’m back again. I didn’t post anything during October. I was tired and wanted a break, to be honest. Work is stressful, as I’m sure it is for most people at the moment. Sleep has been limited and it’s taken it’s toll. The good news is that I did get married during October. Only 6 months late. No honeymoon, which is a shame, but hopefully we will be travelling next year.

I can’t believe that November has come aroud so quickly, it doesn’t feel like this year ever really began. I’ve been working from home since April and since then time has blurred together into nothing. I would believe that it was still May.

October was a good month. Not as much writing as I’d have liked, but I had been planning a horror movie marathon for a while now and we got most of them watched in the last couple of weeks. Classics, such as Texas Chainsaw Masacre and The Omen which I hadn’t seen before along with rewatching old favourites like The Thing and Scream. We still have the first 3 Hellraiser films and Haloween from 2018 to watch. We will get round to them all soon, I’m sure. My plan is to write a couple of posts about my favourites that we watched soon.

The other thing I’ve been up to is bingewatching The Kirate Kid. I kept on hearing that the series Cobra Kai was really good, but I hadn’t seen the original film so didn’t want to start straight with the series. I watched the film on a day off, with nothing else to do and loved it. It reminded me of Rocky, which is one of my top 5 films of all time. I found out later it was directed by the same person, John G. Avildsen. I also watched the rest of the original Karate Kid films, which I also enjoyed. None of them are as good as the first one, but they are still worth watching. I got through Cobra Kai pretty quickly as well and loved it. I can’t wait for season 3.

It’s nice to have a new series to watch. For a little while now I’ve been put off by watching TV series. The recent trend of feature length episodes, pointless padding and everything getting cancelled before it ends is just draining. I find myself getting bored in each episode of most things I watch. I started The Boys season 2 and just can’t get into it the same way I did with season 1. Each episode just really drags on and I don’t think I’m going to finish it. There is too much to watch and they take such a big investment, espeially when a lot of shows get cancelled prematurely. Cobra Kai was a real breath of fresh air. Each episode was a long as it needed to be, whether that was 20ish minutes or 40ish. More things should take that approach. Especially if they are all being released at once. I can’t be the only one put off by 8 hours being released at once and trying to figure out how to slot that in? I end up just missing it instead. Too much time needs investing, and what if season 8 ruins it all like Game of Thrones?

I’m still writing my Vampire novel. Maybe not as quickly as I’d like. I’m nearing 35000, which is over half way I think. I have the rest of it plotted out in my head and I’m enjoying it. I’m still planning for this to be finished early next year. On top of that I’ve got a short story that’s nearly ready to be uploaded with a plan for at least 2 more. If I could get some decent sleep then I’m sure things would be moving a lot quicker.

My plan is to release a 2 part post over the weekend about the horror films I watched last month, then next week a new post about what I’ve been reading. Next weekend, fingers crossed I’ll upload the new short story.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Watch List – 19/09/2020

I haven’t seen many films by Wes Anderson, even though I have enjoyed what I’ve seen. Anderson’s Rushmore from 1998 is a film that I hadn’t heard of until rather recently. The premise is about a too smart for his own good student, Max Fischer, played by Jason Swchatzman, who I’m a big fan of, and his friendship with Herman Blume played by Bill Murray. They both fall in love with the same woman, Rosemary Cross played by Olivia Williams. I loved this film. It’s darkly funny, sad and has a real heart that so many high school films seem to lack. It feels unique even 2 decades later and I really enjoyed it. I will be watching more Wes Anderson films soon.

Recently me and Tabby have been making our way through Noah Baumbach’s films. He directed Marriage Story, which was nominated for best picture earlier this year. This week we watched Frances Ha, his 2012 film co-written and staring Greta Gerwig (Who wrote and directed Litte Woman from last christmas, also nominated for best picture this year) as Frances. A 27 year old dancer who is lost in the word. Her life seems to be going backwards while those aroud her are moving on without her. Her best friend is moving in with her partner and at the same time Frances breaks up with her boyfriend.

At first I really struggled with this film. It just didn’t grip me straight away. It feels like a student film and the beginning is very jarring from what I’m used to. After I got over that minor hurdle which was probably more my problem than the films, I really enjoyed it. Frances is a very relatable character and I’m sure that most people feel like their life isn’t moving at the pace they thought it would at some point. There is so much heart in this film and by the end I was rooting for Frances to succeed. A young Adam Driver also makes an appearance in this film. One of the best actors of our time and one of the few who is actually different in each and every film he’s in. I would really recommend this one.

We rounded up the weekend with Unforgiven, staring and directed by Clint Eastwood. I haven’t seen many western films, barely a handful so I don’t have many expectations of the genre. I really enjoyed this film. It follows a retired assassin played by Eastwood who comes back for one more job so he can feed his children. Right from the opening scene it had me hooked. It’s so brutal and shocking right from the start. There are also no conrete good guys and bad guys in this film. You would think te assassin’s would be the bad guys, but you still care for them. Gene Hackman’s sheriff should be the good guy, but he is so unrelentlessly brutal and uncaring that he isn’t.

I really like the way the film deals with killings and death. It really shows the weight of ending someone’s life and how hard it would be to actually kill someone in cold blood. Any ideas I had of how fun western films are, were completely subverted and taken apart. This isn’t a fun a watch. It’s dark, gritty and grouded. The last 15 or so minutes are also some of the most tense scenes I’ve seen in a long time. I really enjoyed this film and I’m going to make an effort to watch more of Eastwood’s films.

The New Mutants has also finally been released, after being i deveopment hell for the better part of 3 years. The final film in Fox’s X-Men series. I’ve never been a fan of the X-Men. I like First Class and that is pretty much it. I was still interested to see The New Mutants. I like the idea of a superhero horror film. The problem is that this film isn’t really scary. It’s creepy in places. The smiling men are unsettling, but that’s it. It’s not scary and it’s not that exciting once the action kicks in. The whole cast is really good, especially Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor-Joy. The biggest plus for this film is the characters. They are real and I did want to know what happened to them. Beyond that there isn’t much to say. The New Mutants is the perfect example of a film that ‘is what it is’. It did make me want to read some of the comics, which is another plus.

The best of the bunch this time is Frances Ha. Which to be honest I’m suprised about. This is a film that really grew on me as I watched it and I know it will stay with me for a long time.

The films on the watch list for this weekend are Blue Iguana, Moonrise Kingdom and While We’re Young. I don’t know anything about these films, but I’m excited to watch.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

I wrote a couple weeks back that Tenet was confusing the first time I watched it. I don’t think that’s by design, but poor sound mixing. I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the new Charlie Kaufman film on Netflix, is confusing by design. I watched this last Saturday morning, thinking that it would be a dark and twisted comedy, which in some ways it is. I wasn’t prepared for how strange and perplexing the film would be.

The story follows an unnamed protagonist, listed as young woman in the credits, who is travelling with her boyfriend, Jake, to meet his parents for the first time. The problem is that she doesn’t see a future in the relationship and is thinking of ending things, hence the title. The main plot is intersected with a seemingly random janitor who works in a school. The first half of the film is unsettling and creepy and works really well. Something isn’t right and just a little uncanny. The young woman, who is given several names throughout the film can sense that there is someting wrong. There are parts of the film tha feel so tense and I was holding my breath waiting for the horror to happen. Even at the halfway point when things were getting werid, I was still invested and drawn into the surreal world.

It all falls apart though at the last hurdle. The last section of the film takes a turn and goes from being unsettilng and strange to just confusing. I didn’t know what was going on for the last few scenes. For those who have seen it, from when the young woman enters the school to the end. I don’t have a problem with films that don’t explain themselves, as long as I’m still feeling something. A couple of years ago, Mother! did this perfectly. For the most part I had no clue what was happening, but I was reacting to what I was watching and it was unsettling and I loved it. I’m Thinking of Ending Things walks this tight rope so well for the most part, it just falls off towards the end into a pit of pretentious rubbish. It was just strange for the sake of being strange and I didn’t get anything from it.

I had my own theory for what it all means and what actually happened. I like that. I like films where I can question things and make my own mind up. This leads me down a rabbit hole where I can read things online, discuss with others and engage with a film in a deeper way. While I don’t think the ending works, the film is interesting to watch and for the most part I did enjoy it and it has to be said that the whole cast are on top form for this film.

To dive deeper into the hole I ended up buying and reading the novel by Iain Reid. I wanted to see if that made any more sense. I’m glad that I did take the time to read the book. It works so much better on the page. The premise is the same and the scenes are petty much identical. To use a cliche the book is a page turner. There is so much tension that slowly builds from the opening pages and you always know that something isn’t right. Most chapters end with a couple of pages of a conversation between two unnamed characters and it’s through these pages that we get our first glimpse at what is actually happening.

Unlike the film, the book stays grouded. It’s still strange and unsettling, but it just doesn’t try too hard to be clever. My theory from the film was confirmed. I suppose that means the film works to some extent since I understood it, I just didn’t think I did. Overall I would recommend the book. It’s short and you could probably read it quicker than watching the film. It’s also better. Read the book and skip the film.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Watch List – 14/09/2020

It’s been a busy week watching films. and I want to talk about a few of them here.

The first film that I watched last weekend was Greed, which came out earlier this year. Part policitical satire, and part an attempt at a hard hitting expose on the fashion industry and the clothes so many of us wear. This film just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t that funny or revealing. Most people know about sweatshops and that so many designers use them to make their clothes. It isn’t shocking. The story shows the life of Richard McCreadie, a retail billionaire, played by Steeve Coogan. The main focus is on the planning of his 60th birthday and his life is shown through flashbacks. His character wasn’t really believable. He comes across as an idiot, and not a loveable one. He isn’t likeable enough to be funny and not unlikable enough for me to want to watch him suffer. He treats those aruond him horribly and that’s where most of the humour is attempted from. It just doesn’t work. A backgroud film at best. David Mitchell was good in it, as he is most of the time. I wouldn’t recommend this at all.

Angel Heart is a film that I have seen the cover for since I was a child, although I knew nothing about it before pressing play. I honestly thought this was a gangster movie, since Robert De Niro was in it, and the cover screams that to me, with De Niro sitting on a throne like chair in a suit. It’s not a gangster film, but a neo-noir private detective story. Robert De Niro plays Louis Cyphre who hires Harry Angel, played by Mickey Rourke, to find a missing person. Both are fantastic in their roles. Even though the final twist is blaringly obvious within the first 10 minutes, the film is still worth a watch. It’s dark, gripping and a little strange in places. There isn’t much I can say about this one without spoiling parts of it. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but it’s not the worst film I’ve watched.

The next film we watched last weekend was Official Secrets, staring Kiera Knightley and Matt Smith. The film tells the true story of Katherine Gun, who broke the Official Secrets Act to try and prevent the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It’s a story that I didn’t know about, I was too young at the time, although I do remember it being in the news vaguely and I also know the that the war wasn’t prevented. The film is still definitely worth a watch. Both Knightley and Smith are fantastic in this film and it does make you qustion your own morals in whether you would do the same in a similar position. Matt Smith plays Martin Bright, a reporter who breaks the story based on the memo that Katherine Gun leaks. That portion of the film feels similar to The Post, also a true story and another film I really enjoyed. I like films that are based on true events, especially when it’s about a period of time I lived through and wasn’t aware of. There is so much tension in this film and it was hard not to pause the film to see what actally happened. I can only wish I would be as brave as Katherine Gun. I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it.

The last film I’m going to talk about today is The Peanut Butter Falcon. I watched this last Saturday pretty much solely based on the short 90ish minute run time. I’m glad I did. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen Shia LaBeouf in a film. I’ve not really followed his carear since Transformers. I know it’s taken some odd turns, but beyond that I haven’t really paid any attention. The Peanut Butter Falcon follows Zak played by Zack Gottsagen, who is a man with down syndrome living in an assisted living facility. With the help of his roommate he breaks out one night and runs into Tyler, played by Laeouf, who is also on the run. Together they travel south. Tyler is heading towards Florida, and Zak wants to go to a wrestling school which has been his obcession since seeing it on an old VHS tape. This film has so much heart and I really cared about the characters from almost the second it started. It is one of the best feel-good movies ever. I really loved it.

The Best of the Bunch this time is easily The Peanut Butter Falcon. I loved it and would happily watch it again.

Next time I will be writnig about Rushmore, Frances Ha, Unforgiven and The New Mutants. Let me know if you’ve seen any of the films I’ve mentioned and what you thought of them.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment