The world’s at a standstill, aliens apparently exist, a new crazy news story breaks about every half an hour, and it was a LOOOONG month doing not a lot but read, write, study and, of course, watch films. Lots of films. So let’s get straight to it-
- Life of Brian
Easter wouldn’t be Easter without Monty Python’s satirical masterpiece. I don’t think I need to say too much about this one, it’s one of the best and most intelligent comedy films of all time. Directed by the great Terry Jones and with the rest of Monty Python offering their immense talents as well, Life of Brian is hilarious and also eternally relevant, as it explores blind faith, tribalism and pushes the boundaries of what a comedy can do whilst mocking all possible sides imaginable. Every scene is iconic, every set piece legendary and it ends on both the most uplifting and also dark note possible with Eric Idle leading a sing-along for the ages. Whilst I still slightly prefer Holy Grail for its more absurdist and sketch based humour, Life of Brian is easily the more accomplished film.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit
A neo-noir set in 1940’s Hollywood that takes place in a world half populated by cartoons- now that’s a premise! Robert Zemeckis directs this fun blockbuster that is incredibly well made and uses groundbreaking special effects to seamlessly bring Disney (and lawyer friendly Warner Bros ones) cartoons into a real world setting, which is a great reason to watch the film on its own. Although it is a family film, you can easily enjoy this as an adult due to the interesting plot, great characters and appreciation for the filmmaking behind it. Christopher Lloyd is amazing as the villain Judge Doom and as someone who grew up with Looney Tunes DVDs seeing all the cameos from the rival company was great. It’s full of laughs, wildly imaginative action and enough cameos to warrant rewatch after rewatch.
- The Running Man
This is less of a Stephen King adaptation and more “Arnold Schwarzenegger is killing people” but as a fan of that kind of film I’m not complaining. Arnie is forced to compete in a deadly arena game, watched by a brainwashed populace, by a government that is trying to hide a truth that he uncovered and is trying to reveal to the world. OK, the plot’s not the main focus here and it’s a bit simplistic and doesn’t lean into the satire as much as it could have but I don’t care- Schwarzenegger is always entertaining and the entire film could’ve been him fighting people in interesting ways for two hours and I probably would’ve liked it. Although I’d like an adaptation that leans more into the book’s satirical bite and plot structure, this is an OK adaptation and a better Arnie film, so if you like Arnie (who doesn’t?) then there’s worst ways to spend an evening.
- The Wicker Man
A haunting and iconic British horror film that is already up there with some of the best horror I’ve ever seen, The Wicker Man is terrifying. Nothing really happens until the final ten or so minutes but it’s the suspense, the mystery, the quaint setting and bleakness of it all that sells it. The MVP of the film, other than the titular structure, is the legendary Christopher Lee as the self appointed leader of the mysterious island where the story unfolds. He’s so good as this charismatic yet menacing individual but the film is still good when he’s off-screen, thanks to a macabre sense of humour and a genuinely unsettling tone and central mystery. And the ending? Oh boy… if I had to pick a contender for all time great horror ending, I’d go with this. A chilling ending to a brilliant film.
- The Orphanage
Produced by Guillermo del Toro, The Orphanage is a fantastic Spanish horror film with the heart of Pan’s Labyrinth and the scares of The Devil’s Backbone. Although the premise may sell a generic ghost film, The Orphanage is in fact a powerful examination of grief, memory and nostalgia. Focusing on Laura, an orphan who now owns her childhood orphanage and who has adopted a child, the film wonderfully depicts the breakdown of her relationship with her son and husband and when the former goes missing, the real scares come not from the ambiguous ghosts but from the realistic and raw portrayal of madness and loss of control. The film’s ending is such an emotional gut-punch I don’t want to discuss what happens as it’ll ruin it for you if you decide to watch it. A really, really good film.
No Time to Die may be delayed but that just gives me more time to catch up on older Bond films. Thunderball might not be the most iconic Sean Connery film but it’s probably one of the most consistently entertaining, with a huge, globe-trotting plot and so many characters it can be quite hard to keep track of all of them. But it doesn’t really matter, as it’s all about the action and espionage that comes with a Bond film, and there are fantastic action scenes in this film, from innovative underwater battles to an amazing car chase. The genius thing about Connery’s Bond films is how they manage to be completely serious yet also completely ridiculous, mostly due to Connery’s charisma and screen presence being so captivating he can make anything, no matter how ridiculous, sound awesome.
- Brotherhood of the Wolf
Talk about a genre mix! This French film is every possible genre on the planet- action, horror, historical drama, fantasy, Western, romance… and somehow, it works. Although the plot is quite convoluted and the ending is very long, for the first two acts Brotherwood of the Wolf is a very unique and interesting take on the historical Beast of Gevaudan, focusing on a knight and his loyal ally as they track the Beast down whilst meeting all manner of colourful personalities along the way. The monster is absolutely fantastic and it’s revealed in a glorious manner and unlike some monster films it doesn’t lose its impact over time, thanks to work by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop making it feel real. There is so much going on in this film and a lot of characters to juggle but ultimately you’re there for the experience and the fun set pieces, the dynamic personalities and the mis-mash of genres.
- The Crow
Last summer I read James O’Barr’s graphic novel so it was only fitting that I eventually get round to Alex Proyas’ film of The Crow. A discussion of this film will ultimately lead back to the freak accident that killed star Brandon Lee but honestly, if you didn’t know it happened you wouldn’t notice. The stunt doubles (one of them being John Wick’s Chad Stahelski) and pioneering CG work hides the scenes he’s not there in very well. And when Brandon Lee is on screen? A commanding and powerful lead performance supported by an atmospheric production and strong visuals to create a sombre and layered examination of revenge and the value of humanity. It’s very much a product of the 90’s but thanks to the moving story the film is still effective as a superhero and action film that really shouldn’t be remade. Hollywood, can we… not remake this one?
Bong Joon-Ho won the Oscar recently for Parasite and I love Snowpiercer so when this weird film is just there on Netflix, I guess I’m checking it out. Okja is weird. Incredibly weird. It’s Miyazaki meets Spielberg meets wacky comedy meets biting corporate satire and it all fits together wonderfully. Bong Joon-Ho is very unsubtle but he’s also not black and white with his statements- this isn’t a pro-vegan, anti-meat film but rather anti-big corporation and industries doing whatever they can to earn a profit through the lens of factory farming. The ending of the film hammers it home wonderfully, and what starts off as a family friendly story about a girl trying to reunite with her “Super Pig” turns into a really clever and multi-layered film that is utterly hilarious and also brutally honest with its satire. Plus, it has Tilda Swinton basically playing herself and Jake Gyllenhaal being utterly insane.