The Watch List – 04/09/2020 – Mulan, Snowpiercer and Bonnie & Clyde.

I’m beginning to think I spend too much time watching films, if that’s possible?

Last week I was working on the weekend so I had a random day of mid-week. My writing was done for the day, and Tabby was working and I haven’t really been playing games lately, so I was just looking through the various streaming sites and saw that Snowpiercer was on Prime video, which had been on my neverending list of films to watch at some point. I thought why not and pressed play. A seriously good watch. A post-appocalyptic future where the whole world is frozen. The only surviving humans are living on a train that circles the entire world, never stopping. The train is split into the front half and the back half. The rich and the poor. Chris Evans and John Hurt lead a revolution from the back half of the train and try to take over the front half.

One of the things I really like about this film is that there is actual risk all the way through it. Early on there is a fight, which pretty much every named character survives, just as in most typical films. It did bother me a little, but then straight away afterwards death and consequence becomes real. This film does not shy away from killing its characters, which is very refreshing. As you watch the film you are drawn into the world lives of those from the back half of the train. Watching them die is heartbreaking and painful. It doesn’t at any point feel like they are killing characters for shock value and each death hits home.

Tilda Swinton is also a highlight in Snowpiercer, but when isn’t she? I haven’t seen many films that she has starred in, but I know I’m going to enjoy a film whenever I see her name pop up at the beginning. Somebody I really should look into watching more from.

The next film that I finally got around to was Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. We watched the first one last year, and seeing that the new film is only a few weeks away from its UK release, we decided to finally get around to the second one. That makes it soud like Tabby and I were putting it off. We weren’t. Keanu Reeves is one of Tabby’s favourite actors and we did both enjoy the first film. The second was actually even better. Laugh out loud funny and the perfect film for a Friday night after work. I think we are both looking forward to the next one in a few weeks time.

Last Saturday I crossed off one of the films from very high on my list. Bonnie and Clyde from 1967 staring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. This is a film that I kept on hearing about. It was mentioned in podcasts, documentaries and books about movies. Each time I heard about it I kept on making a note that I needed to watch it. I love Badlands, True Romance and Thelma and Louise and I kept on hearing that this sub-genre of crime films where the leads are on the run started with Bonnie and Clyde. I could feel the influence that it had over the later films when watching it. It was the worth the wait and I really enjoyed it.

The story of two criminals travelling America with their gang and robbing banks. The film makes you really care for them. While I’m not sure how accurate it was to the true story, I was engrossed and I even though I knew their fate, I really didn’t want them to die by the end and what an ending it was. So brutally bloody. I’m pretty sure it’s not a spoiler to say they are gunned down by the police at the end. It’s the one thing I knew for sure about them before watching. The film takes you on a journey and makes you care about Bonnie and Clyde and even though you know it’s going to happen, it’s not easy to watch. Even by today’s standards it’s a bloodbath.

Funnily enough I spent most of this week watching the 12 part documntary The Movies, which tells the story of the rise of movies from the silent beginnings to the modern superhero blockbuster. It turns out that Bonnie and Clyde isn’t the beginning of this sub-genre. The movie itself was inspired by a french film from 1960 called Breathless, directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Something else I’ve added to my list.

The last film I’ve watched this week was the new live-action re-make of Mulan. Tabby’s favourite Disney film. I didn’t watch the animated film as a child so I don’t hold it in a special place. I did enjoy it when I finally got around to seeing it, but I don’t remember much about it and it didn’t leave the new film a massive benchmark to live up to. For the most part I’m not sure how I feel about the live-action Disney remakes. I’ve liked some, mainly Jungle Book and Aladdin, the others just seemed pointless and Dumbo was just awful. We were supposed to see Mulan back in March, the week of Tabby’s birthday and then the whole world stopped for 6 months. Paying for it on Disney plus was a no brainer for us. A late birthday present for Tabby.

I enjoyed it. A fun family friendly action fantasy film. The story is the same and there are some good laughs along the way. Tabby enjoyed it, emotional from the opening scene. The film is absolutely gorgeous and I do wish we could have seen the breathtaking scenery on the big screen. It is probably worth a watch just for that. There are no surprises here, and like most of the re-makes it stay close to the source material. I wouldn’t say go out of your way for it, but I think if you like the original there is nothing to worry about here. It’s fun and enjoyable.

My favourite movie of the bunch is Snowpiercer. Original and thrilling. I wish I had watched it sooner and can’t recommend it enough. There is a TV series as well, which is a retelling of the film’s story. I will give it a go at some point, but I know it won’t live up. Some stories just don’t need more than 2 hours.

There are 3 films we have for the weekend. Official Secrets, Greed and Angel Heart. Not 100% sure what to expect, but I’m excited to find out. I’m also hoping to find time to watch I’m thinking of Ending Things. The trailer looked interesting enough and it does looks like something different.

Let me know if you’ve seen any of the films I’ve mentioned or have any recommendations. What are you watching this week?

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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The Watch List – Tenet

I ventured out of my home for the first time in months, not including a handful of trips to see my parents. This time, I pushed myself to go to the cinema. The world is very slowly returning to normal and as eager as I am for that to happen, I think being couped up for so long has made the outside world seem alien and uninviting. If I didn’t push myself then I don’t think I would ever get out there again.

Tenet was well worth the trip out to see it. It was good just to be back in the cinema, something I had missed. As soon as the trailers started, it was like a breath of normality. Even seeing the new Bond trailer for the fiftieth time felt fresh and exciting. Tenet itself was a captivating film. Right from the beginning it holds nothing back and carries on running all the way through at a quick pace. There are moments that I wasn’t sure what was happening, I just knew I was enjoying it. It was worth the wait and I think it’s something that will improve on future watches.

The only downside was wearing a mask for the entire film. It wasn’t as uncmofortabe as I thought it was but it is an almost contstant reminder of the world we are living in. It does make me question whether I would rather just wait for the films to come out on Blu Ray and/or streaming. It’s a question for a later date, but something that I will be thinking about over the next few weeks. I love going to the cinema and have used my Cineworld Unlimited card a ton since I got it 4 years back. It may be time to call it a day on that.

Before then, at the weekend, Tabby and I watched our 2 weekly films. This time it was, The Invisible Man and Glass. Both highly anticipated films on my list. Before lockdown, as distant as that seems, we couldn’t fit The Invisible Man in at the cinema, as much as I wanted to. I think the advert giving the whole plot away made it less of a priority. Early on in lockdown, when all of the podcasts I listen to were singing its praises, I just couldn’t justify the price to rent it, as much as I wanted to. It would have been worth it. From the opening scene the film is tense. It grabs you and for two hours doesn’t let you go. I really enjoyed it. I wish I knew how they filmed some of the scenes, considering it’s really low budget. One of the most tense films in recent times, and even got a scream out of Tabby at one point. Highly recommended.

I was a little worried about Glass, the final part of the Unbreakable trilogy. I’d seen the reviews and knew it wasn’t supposed to live up the first 2 parts. I was surprised, I really enjoyed it. It may have been low expectations, but it just clicked for me early on. It was good to see the characters again and the twist at the end worked. I didn’t see it coming. I wouldn’t recommend it to people who hadn’t enjoyed or seen the previous films, but it is worth watching just for James McAvoy. Such a good actor in everything he’s in. I’ve now seen 4 of Shyamalan’s films, and I plan on seeing a lot more. So far I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve seen.

A couple of months back, Tabby and I binged the new series of The Twilight Zone. Well worth a watch. I haven’t seen any of the originals, although I did see the 1980s film with my dad a few years back. Tabby hadn’t seen it, and this led us to watching this. The film is an anthology of stories, most of which are retellings of stories from the original TV show. The film is plagued by the on set death of one of its stars, Vic Morrow and two children. It does make you wonder why they kept that segment of the anthology, which ends abruptly. As good as the premise is, a racist and prejudiced man experiencing the racism and prejudice himself, there is a morbid feeling while watching it. I suppose most people watchign it now wouldn’t know about it, I didn’t when I first watched it and Tabby only knew as I told her at the end of the film. It probably shold have been cut out. The rest of the tales are enjoyable and fun to watch. From Speilberg’s wholesome ‘Kick the Can’ segment to a tetelling of ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’, staring John Lithgow instead of William Shatner, each one offers some enjoyment, even if the film is unremarkable as a whole. It’s definitey not the worst way to spend an evening and Richard Matheson’s writnig still shines throughout the film.

There are too many films for one post, so there will be another one on Friday. Thank you for reading, and until next time,

Ashley

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The Book Pile – 28/08/2020

Horror at its finest

Last time I wrote about books, I said that I had my next 3 reads picked out. Like always that changed quickly. I did read, as planned, Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, which I absolutely loved. It is one of those books that you start and can’t put down. It’s so tense. I didn’t know the story which helps. I was figuring it out along with Rosemary. One of the best horror books I’ve read in a long time. Rosemary and Guy have moved into a nice new apartment, the one they have always dreamed off. Everything is perfect, especially the overly friendly neighbours. Their friend Hutch gave them a warning before they moved in, and depsite ignoring that, Rosemary soon starts to notice that things aren’t what they seem. The tension builds slowly through the story, developing at what at first feels like a snail’s pace and then picks up at the end, just as it’s already too late. The best thing is thinking back over what has happened, every little event is there for a reason and it’s all adding to the reveal. At some point, I plan on re-reading the book and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it just as much knowing what was going to happen and seeing all of the little hints throughout.

After finishing Rosemary’s Baby, I was craving more. Tabby had The Stepford Wives on our shelf, also by Ira Levin. I thought that it might scratch the itch. The Stepford Wives, doesn’t need explaining, even if you’ve never heard of the book, or films, then I’m sure you’ve heard the term before. I didn’t really know the story beyond the obvious and even that’s too much. It’s pretty much what I expected. The tension is there and it’s definitely a page-turner. Not as good as Rosemary’s Baby but at 140ish pages, it’s well worth a read. Again tension builds over the course of the story and similar to Rosemary’s Baby, the perfect neighbourhood is hiding a secret. I read it in one day, pretty much in one sitting. With payday this week, it’s very tempting to buy the rest of Ira Levin’s books, especially Son of Rosemary. I might be a little too tempted. Not that our shelves can hold the weight.

After reading those two books, I wanted more of the same. Horror/thriller. I know I mentioned last time that I had a plan of which books I was going to read, but that was thrown out of the window. I went up to my too read shelf and pulled out The Dead Zone by Stephen King. King is one of my favourite writers. Everything I’ve read by him is seriously good. He has a grasp of character that most writers would envy. I watched the film adaptation of The Dead Zone a while ago, purely because Martin Sheen was in it. I really loved the film and it ranks very highly in my personal favourites and is definitely my favourite King adaptation. The book was no let down. It’s quite a long story, following Johnny Smith a seemingly normal teacher who had an accident as a child and again as an adult. Both accidents seem to bring forth an ability of premonition and Johnny has to choose how he can use that ability for good. The first half of the book is really just a tale of loss and recovery. After a car crash, Johnny loses 5 years of his life and is trying to get his life back on track and deal with the loss of time and his true love who has moved on to someone else. Like most of Stephen King’s books, I could have just read that story and didn’t need the supernatural element to drive the plot. The characters all feel so real that nothing beyond them needs to matter. They are so real that everything that happens in the later half of the book have higher stakes and matter so much more. Overall I really liked this book. I still think that IT is my favourite Stephen King book, but this comes in my top 3.

Finishing The Dead Zone, left me wanting more of Stephen King. I picked up Night Shift, a collection of early short stories by King. A real mixed bag here. The opening story, Jerusalem’s Lot, which is connected to Salem’s lot is disappointing to say the least. God knows why it was chosen to to start the collection. Graveyard shift, the second story, is the highlight so far. Mutant Rats, and a growing sense of claustraphobia. The Boogeyman and trucks are also pretty good. The Lawnmower Man is very strange. I haven’t read many short stories before, even though we were told to, during the first year of uni. I’m enjoying this one so far. Taking a break between each story and doing something else. Letting each story sit with me for a little while. I’ve got a collection of Lovecraft stories upstairs, which may jump up a few places on my too read list.

After I’ve finished with Night Shift, I have Midnight Sun to read. Tabby has finished it, and now it’s my turn. It’s been a decade or more since I read the Twilight books, and I’m interested to go back. I remember enjoying them and I am looking forward to revisiting the story from anoter perspective. After Midnight Sun, I’m going to finish Darren Shan’s latest book and then see what takes my fancy.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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The Watch List – 21/08/2020

Last Saturday, I was watching something on youtube and a trailer came up for Cursed Films, a documentary about horror films on Shudder. It caused a conversation between me and Tabby and that led us to watch Halloween. The original 1978 film. I’ve seen it before, but Tabby hadn’t.

I will never forget Tabby’s shock that Michael Myers was just a child in the opening scene of the film. The opening is from a first person perspective as Michael stalks his own home and kills his sister. Spoilers, maybe. The camera then switches to a third person showing Michael on his front lawn, knife in hand. I knew what was going on before I’d even seen it the first time, so it was never a shock to me and I took it for granted. Tabby’s shock just proves it’s better to go in blind. The story then jumps 15 years into the future and Michael Myers is back to stalk three teenage girls on halloween. Even though it is 42 years old and some parts are date, the whole film does a very good job at creating a chilling atmosphere with, especially since it had such a low budget. One of the best horror films of all time with one of the most iconic scores as well. A film with an influence that is still felt today.

The next film we watched was the 2nd part in the Unbreakable trilogy, Split. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting with this film. I wanted to see if when it first came out, but thought I needed to see Unbreakable first. I finally watched Unbreakable a couple of weeks back and absolutely loved it. Split had a lot to live up to and it more than does that. James McAvoy is absolutely fantastic and is so creepy throughout. He plays Kevin, AKA The Hoard who has at least 23 personalities. Each one is dinstinct and you can tell whose in control just based on the way McAvoy holds his body. The film is gripping throughout and very unsettling. I really enjoyed it, not as much as Unbreakable and it was a little long in places, but it was very good. Next week, we will watch Glass and finish of the trilogy.

A few weeks back we were watching a film that I borrowed from my mum. It was either, Florence Foster Jenkins or Happy Death Day. I can’t remember which, but before the film there was a trailer for Denial starting Rachel Weisz. I’d never heard of the film, but it looked good from the trailer. We got round to watching it this weekend. A true story about a trial between historians. David Irving sues Deborah Lipstadt for libel. It becomes a case of trying to prove whether the holocaust happened or not. It’s stuns me that there are people like David Irving in the world and scary that there are people who believe him. The film does a good job at showing the horrors of the second world war. There is one scene where people are clawing at the door inside the gas chamber that kind of comes out of nowhere and is a horrific image that I think will stay with me for a long time. It’s a film that is worth watching and shows that there there is a frightening amount of evil in this world.

Next week I have tickets for Tenet. A film that I’ve been really looking forward to since I first saw the trailer. I have a love/hate relationship with Christopher Nolan. I thought Dunkirk was a cold film, that looks good but there was no heart. I love Batman Begins, Dark Knight, Insomnia and Memento. All very good films. Didn’t think much to The Prestige. Inception is one of the most overrated films of all time and Dark Knight Rises is absolute trash though, one of the only 3 films that I’ve ever hated (along with A Quiet Place and IT Chapter 2). I’ve never seen Intersteller or Following. I have Intersteller on DVD so will get round to it at some point.

I’m nervous about going to the cinema at the moment, with all honesty. I might cancel the tickets before the time comes. I haven’t really left the house since April apart from to see my mum a few times. I think staying inside has made me more fearful of going out. I’m trying to push myself, just so I can get used to a new kind of normal. I’m sure everyone feels the same to some extent.

Other than that, this weekend’s films will be Glass and The Invisible Man. I really wanted to see The Invisible Man in the cinema before lockdown, but being able to see it now will hopefully be as good. I’ve enjoyed Unbreakable and Split, so hopefully Glass is a fittting finale to the trilogy.

Thanks for reading, and until next time,

Ashley

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The Roommate – Short Story

There is a spider that lives in the corner of my bathroom, right above the door when you walk in. Every day it is curled up pretending to be dead, but last night I couldn’t sleep and went to the bathroom just to break the never ending silence. It wasn’t in the corner, but half way along the ceiling. I watched it spin it’s web and curl it’s legs outwards and walk along its tightrope. I know it’s alive now. This morning it’s back in the corner again, curled up into a ball thinking that I’ve forgotten. Thinking that I don’t know it’s alive. I know. It thinks that I was half asleep last night and didn’t realise or maybe that I’ve forgotten. I have done none of those things and it doesn’t suspect that. I sit on the rim of the bath, starting at it. He’s planning something. I can tell. What, I don’t know yet, but I will find out. I scream out at the world, not making eye contact with him. Scream that I know everything and nothing gets passed me. I bang on the wall, keeping a distance away from him.

I spend most of the day away from the bathroom. Apart from my little outbreak he has no reason to suspect that I know anything he’s planning. There’s been an itch on my arm that won’t go away, no matter how much I scratch. It’s getting red there now. Every so often I go to the toilet, just so he knows I’m still there. I don’t look at it. I don’t want to let it know that I know that it’s alive. Not yet. Not just yet. Not yet. The itch won’t go away.

The itch is bothering me now. I want it to go away. There’s a little red bump where the itch is, probably from scratching too much. That’s what my bitch of a mother would tell me. Don’t scratch too much. I can do whatever the hell I want. Don’t you understand that? I’m not a child anymore. I can deal with this itch however I want and I can deal with this spider like an adult.

For dinner I had chicken, peas and some roast potatoes. It wasn’t cooked long enough to be delicious but it will do. It was late when I put it on and I was hungry. I left it long enough just to eat it and that’s enough. I will do the washing up tomorrow. I don’t want to do it now. I will leave it out until I want to do it. It’s my house now.

I’ve been waiting for nighttime, all day. I want to see if it comes out again, taking over a little bit more of the room. Earlier, when it was still light I had gone in with a duster and destroyed its webs. I didn’t get close enough to the corner to touch it though. I didn’t start with the webs I started with the dust and cobwebs near the showerhead that had been building up since you know when. I stopped to scratch my growing red itch and then moved around the room, cleaning surfaces, giving the impression that this was just something I needed to do. I then reached up and got rid of the strands that he had made in the night. I could see him out of the corner of my eye, curled up again, pretending to be dead. I didn’t look at him directly, that would have gave away too much.

It’s finally time. My alarm went off at three in the morning, not that I was sleeping. It was finally time. I got out of bed and still in my pyjamas walked across to the bathroom, as if I need to go to sleep again. I was going to catch it out finally and then what? I don’t know, but it was going to be good. I reach out and grab the door handle tightly, twist it and open the door. Before I step inside, I reach around the corner and pull the light cord illuminating the room in front of me. I take my first step and my eyes inch upwards towards the corner. I don’t look straight away, but step into the room and close the door behind me. I even lock it, not that it can escape anyway. Once I’m ready, I turn and face the corner and the spider isn’t there.
I’ve caught you! I scream out, scanning the room looking for him. I can’t find it. Where did he go? It isn’t anywhere along the ceiling and I can’t see him on the walls. Where the hell is it? I don’t know. I can’t find him. How did this happen? I spin around, panic setting in. Where, where, where, where? He must have left. I don’t know when I started, but I’ve been scratching the itch. I stop myself and notice that the bump is still there. How did he do it?

I didn’t think it would be so sneaky to even try and get away with something like this. I throw open the door, letting is slam against the wall. I don’t care if the neighbours hear, I’ve got to get this thing out of me. In the spare bedroom is a tool box and inside it is a retractable knife. I take it in one hand and steady my arm, looking at the itchy bump. I don’t know how, I tell him. I actually say it out loud. Addressing it directly. I don’t know how you found out, but I’m going to get you out and kill you. You hear me? I’m screaming now. I WILL KILL YOU. I pierce the bump with the tip of the knife, blood pooled around the tip of the blade for a moment and then runs down my arm. Are you dead now? I don’t think so. I push the knife in a little harder and more blood rushes out. It doesn’t hurt at all and that means it’s his blood. I move back the knife and look at my arm. I can’t see the spider yet. I can’t see him. I put the knife back to the bump and dig it in further, this time at an angle, pushing it into the already pierced hole, digging it under my skin. I haven’t found him yet but I will. I will find you. I twist the knife around, letting more blood fall onto to the table in my spare room. I drop the knife, letting it bounce of the table and land on the floor near my barefeet. It’s deeper inside my arm than I thought. I push my finger into the wound and try to find him. He’s not there. How did I let him get away. I need to get him out now. I don’t have time to pick up the knife. I pinch my skin on the edge of the wound. I lose my grip instantly in the blood but try again and peel it back, tearing my skin back. More blood covers my hand and runs down my arm, dripping onto the floor. I can’t see him. Some how it is hiding inside of my arm. I keep peeling and peeling.

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