“Where’s he been?” you may ask. I’d like to say that I’ve been dedicating my time to working on my new novella or doing charity work, but I’ve just been dicking about on Assassins Creed Valhalla (clocking up 106 hours on it so far), finishing a 2,000 piece jigsaw I got for my birthday (took me 9 weeks to finish because of over 600 pieces of blue sky) and watching hours of mind-numbing spirit-crushing TV. Oh, and there’s been some changes at my job, but if I have one rule for this blog then it’s not to talk about work – it’s like not mentioning the war in Fawlty Towers.
So with that half-assed apology for not writing any posts last month, here is a roundup of the scant few movies I managed to watch in between episodes of Celebrity Catchphrase, The Masked Singer and Celebs Go Dating: The Mansion, and pretending to be a Viking called Eivor.
Parasite (2019) is by far the best film of this bunch and greatly deserves the 4 Oscars and all the other awards it won. Director Bong Joon Ho appeared on my radar with the release of the original movie adaptation of science fiction graphic novel Snowpiercer which I found a bit underwhelming and has certainly had a more impressive result with Parasite.
Parasite has many surprises and so it’s hard to write much about it if I want to avoid spoilers (which I most certainly do). Suffice to say that it is quite obviously a metaphorical story about two families – one rich and one poor – which has more to say about the class systems, attitudes and inequalities endemic in developed societies.
The plotting is tight, the cinematography very thoughtful and the performances all excellent. It has a largely satirical core and could be viewed as a dark comedy, but its success is in spanning a number of genres with an easy confidence. I would hate to see a Hollywood remake of this film and I hope its success at the Academy Awards puts it into that rare untouchable category of foreign films. The familiarity of the story set in a (to a Western audience) foreign frame is central to its magic as a film.
Black Mass (2015) is a biopic of violent gangster Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), the brother of a state senator from South Boston (Benedict Cucumber Patch). Depp gives a really good performance as Bulger and for once it was easy to forget his prancing about as The Mad Hatter to Captain Jack Sparrow.
Cumberbatch is trying on the American accent he perfected recently in The Grinch and there’s a good performance from Joel Edgerton who always seems to be the bridesmaid and never the bride in these films.
Hotel Artemis (2018) is a far-fetched action-thriller set in a near-future riot-torn version of Los Angeles and stars Jodie Foster as a nurse running a secret members-only hospital for criminals in much the same vein as the hotel in the John Wick films. The film was written and directed by Drew Pearce (co-writer of Iron Man 3 and Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation) and feels, in a good way, rather like a graphic novel adaptation.
The cast is a bit of a Marvel love-in and includes Black Panther‘s Sterling K. Brown, Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Dave Bautista and Thor Ragnarok‘s Jeff Goldblum. Also filling in for Black Widow and kicking various asses is Kingsman‘s Sofia Boutella. Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto joins Foster in trying to add some dimension to this very two-dimensional story filmed in trope-o-scope, but gets so little screen time he may as well of not bothered. Don’t get me wrong, it was a far better film than I first thought from watching the trailer, and certainly better than the next film in this list, but it pales in comparison to most other films Foster, Goldblum or indeed Bautista have starred in.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) tries very hard to have a better storyline than the original film which I mostly despised, and while it manages to be a lot less sexist it is still grossly violent and stupider (is that a word) than even a Fast & Furious film. It’s not a patch on an Austin Powers or a Bond film. The action sequences are too obviously shored up by computer graphics and the jokes mostly fall flat.
The only saving grace perhaps is a surprising comedy performance from none other than Sir Elton John and a rare comedy role from Julianne Moore as the drug-dealing mastermind behind the titular Golden Circle.
Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) (2018) probably had a fraction of the budget that was squandered by Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It is the story of a suicidal writer, Dunkirk‘s Aneurin Barnard, who pays an aged hitman (Tom Wilkinson) to kill him after he has failed on a number of occasions to take his own life.
It would be a very short film if everything went to plan and things are more or less immediately complicated by the arrival of Ellie, played by new face (for me) Freya Mavor, who works at a book publishers. It has limited time left on Netflix, so if you want to watch it best do so before the end of this month.