With Sympathy: The Get Down

Some series capture our hearts, and hang around forever. We loved The Simpsons, and for that reason it has yet to end, despite the fact that it probably should. Some series are however, given a premature cancellation. Though they had so much more to give, they were taken away from us in their prime, for reasons unknown. An example of such is Netflix’s The Get Down (2016-2017). But do not fear, it’s hanging around, ready to binge-watch, so pick it up whilst you still can!

The Get Down aired on Netflix in August 2016, a fact you’d be forgiven for not knowing. It’s a hidden gem, and constantly faces threats of cancellation despite positive reviews. Set in the Bronx in the 1970s, it’s a celebration of nostalgia not unlike the far more successful Stranger Things. This time it’s less bikes and Eggo waffles and more disco and R&B – but there’s an equal amount of Star Wars references. The series’ lack of recognition is confusing, given that its creator is none other than Baz Luhrmann. He’s the man behind The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge. He does here what he does best: an aesthetically pleasing musical, complete with love, comedy and gangsters. Though it may not be quite as iconic as Romeo + Juliet, Luhrmann does not disappoint.

The story is told through the eyes of the loveable Zeke Figuero, a poet who finds his true talent in rap after meeting an aspiring DJ. The show deals with racial struggles and real-life issues facing the Bronx at the time by incorporating actual news footage. Yet these struggles are not historically exclusive, they’re relevant and relatable. Take Mylene Cruz for example: she longs for fame as a disco singer, but is held back by her strict religious father, who thinks her dreams are inappropriate. She’s hard-working, intelligent, fierce and independent. Mylene and her friends are not pit against each other, instead they support each other’s ambitions. They serve as important representation of positive female friendships, something often lacking in television. Each character has their own struggle, from class, to art, to sexuality.

Every actor is individually great, making each character distinct and memorable. Considering Hollywood’s recent whitewashing and lack of representation in general, celebrating black culture with a diverse cast like this is crucial. Perhaps the best addition to the series is Jaden Smith as Dizzee Kipling. In The Get Down, Smith has finally found his footing as a queer, philosophical graffiti artist. Forget his weak acting in After Earth and occasionally annoying tweets, Jaden Smith is a pleasure to watch in this series. He’s compelling, funny and unique. Not only is the series’ acting brilliant, the singing is nothing short of phenomenal. Part one gives us “Set Me Free”, a song you won’t be able to take off loop once the series ends. As always with Luhrmann’s work, each song is pretty much a masterpiece.

Though we might be used to seeing Baz Luhrmann’s work on the big screen, The Get Down is nothing short of a cinematic experience. As opposed to the usual two-hour cinema trip, there are two short seasons waiting for you. The first episode may seem long and drawn out, but it brings us one of the show’s most dramatic scenes, and it’s worth hanging on to see what the rest of the series has to offer. Perhaps the 1970s fashion is enough to sell some people alone. Part two was released in April of this year, and once you’ve run through all eleven episodes, you’ll be heartbroken that no renewal came our way.

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The X Files Season 11 Trailer

I only recently posted about a trailer, but I was spoiled last week with both Star Wars and The X Files. I couldn’t ignore my favourite FBI agents any longer. Even though most X Files content since 2000 has been something of a disappointment, I couldn’t help but be excited about Spooky and Starbuck’s return – and I’ve only waited 2 years, I can’t imagine how the ‘90s fans feel!

Spoilers for the entire series, so don’t read if you plan on watching! If you do, however, I have a non-spoiler list of episodes you should watch to get into it.

IMG_5571 Chris Carter ended the series in an unusual place – how is Scully supposed to be our skeptic after that? As well as this, the barely-breathing Mulder we left on the bridge is gone; he’s looking quite well for someone who has a mystery virus. I’m not too angry about this, after all, the series is only going to be 10 episodes long; if I’m going to suffer through it, I at least want Dana and Fox to be investigating together, rather than on death’s door.

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What I am mad about, however, is the return of Sick Scully. Sure, it’s going to make me weep over Mulder and Scully’s tragic story – but I could just as easily care about them while I watch them bicker on a case. I often think the writers forget what made us love the dynamic between Mulder and Scully: it’s their chemistry, their perfectly balanced relationship, the way they should be opposites who constantly disagree but care about each other. It’s not about high stakes. Besides, Scully is all too often the damsel in, well, a hospital gown. We’ve seen this arch before. I don’t want her wasted on an emotional pull, I want to see Gillian doing something!

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Speaking of which, it does seem as though Gillian might be doing something this time around after all. This scene looks fantastic. In the ‘90s episodes, it was often Scully who fought off the bad guys with her gun whilst Mulder lost his whenever he ended up in trouble. I’m excited to see that pattern again, if just for the nostalgia. Scully was a revolutionary role, let’s not forget that’s why half of us are still watching this show.

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The villains look good this season. There’s an actual monster, grey aliens, some suspicious men and this woman. This screencap reminds me of a scene in season 1’s Eve, where one of the Eves laughs hysterically in her cell – since that’s my favourite episode, I’d be very happy if a similar one came this season. Thankfully, this season will have 8 Monsters of the Week and only two mythology episodes. Given that Carter has become lost in the web of his own meaningless mythology, I’m glad to see MOTW outweigh. Monsters of the Week give Mulder and Scully room to interact with each other, as well as giving us a compelling plot. Where mythology is concerned, there’s usually time for neither. As for the rather ridiculous looking grey aliens, they feel very Darin Morgan to me, which can only mean good things.

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Then of course, there’s this. Look, I was glad to see CSM last season. I mean, I know he got pushed down the stairs, then a missile hit him in the literal face. It’s silly and it takes away from the show, but it was a fun call-back to the old episodes. Now it just seems silly. He once had a tube in his neck to breathe, now he’s sat in Skinner’s car, smoking. He can’t be taken seriously as a villain. Anyway, did we ever clear up whether he’s Mulder’s dad or not?

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There are characters I’m glad to see making a comeback, especially after I caught a glimpse of this in the trailer. The Lone Gunmen were a brilliant part of the series. They humanised Mulder and made him a bit more weird. I imagine this shot is a video taken by Langley before he died, but their return in any meaningful capacity would be fantastic. Last season’s drug-induced hallucination was a huge disappointment, so I’m glad we’ll be having none of that. I hope we see some Monica Reyes, who would’ve made a way better Mulder replacement than Doggett ever was – why didn’t she partner up with Scully from season 8 onwards? As for Skinner, I’m glad he’ll be a series regular this time, I always love the episodes where Mulder and Scully have to explain their bizarre situations to him.

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Let’s not forget, this is a Chris Carter series, so not everything can be perfect. It’s almost certain that agents Miller and Einstein will return this season – in a very small capacity, I hope. I don’t want a remake of the series featuring some less likeable twins of Mulder and Scully. If I wanted that, I’d watch Bones or Castle or Criminal Minds. I don’t want two new agents with a ‘TXF’ sticker slapped on them. I’m not invested in them and I won’t be, because the whole point of this revisit is the nostalgia. I just want to see Mulder and Scully investigate some cases and end up happily ever after – but when did we ever get that?

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However, I am looking forward to William. This plot has needed some resolution since the final season, but somehow I don’t feel we’ll get it. It seems as though William will become a villain of sorts. Is this final shot in the trailer William, channelling his (maybe) paternal grandfather? Well, he’s should only be 17, and there are some grey aliens behind him, so I’m not too sure. I’d just like to know a little more about William, if they’re focusing the mythology on that plot, and have it resolved once and for all.

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Most of all, I’m looking forward to some episodes in the woods, where Dana and Fox argue about existence and whatever else. A few gags and laughs, some aliens, some senseless-sensible Scully science and a pinch of muddled Mulder mythology. This trailer suggests we’ll get some of that. If we don’t, and the series is hilariously bad, at least we’ll get a laugh. But please, please, please no clliffhangers!

All pictures from The X Files Season 11 Trailer.

The Last Jedi Trailer

As an (occasional) film blogger and a huge Star Wars fan, I absolutely had to post my thoughts about the trailer for the second film in our new trilogy. You should know that I like to go into these films mostly blind, I only watch the main trailers – I avoid news from the set, rumours and TV spots. So, don’t worry, this won’t be as frustratingly pre-spoilery as the usual articles on upcoming films.

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The general feel I got from this trailer is that this film is, tonally, far darker than the previous instalment. Perhaps darker than all other previous movies – bar Rogue One, which was almost don’t-take-your-kids-to-this-movie dark. Whilst The Force Awakens had its dark moments, it was certainly the freshman film – it still had fun, and room to play with quirky new characters. Perhaps one of the problems of the prequels were that they weren’t dark enough (I’m looking at you, Jar Jar Binks). The first prequel was happy-go-lucky, the second lovey-dovey, and the third too jarring a shift in tone to fit in properly with the others.

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The point is, I’m glad that this film is going to be darker because it’ll segue more easily into the final act of the trilogy. I’m also excited for the darkness of this film because it’s going to be interesting. As we have established, there is some darkness inside Rey; our heroine seems to possess some interesting Jedi powers that I can’t wait to see explored. Also, emo hermit Luke seems pretty scared of Rey’s power. It’ll be interesting to see a hero who struggles with her abilities, rather than the clean-cut, black-and-white Luke. This grey area the new addition to the Star Wars films that we needed.

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On to the addition that I’m not sure we needed: Porgs. Sure, they’re cute and they’ll inevitably fly off the shelves come Christmas, with your child crying when Santa can’t get his hands on one because they’re taking pride of place on the fanboys’ shelves. But, remember what ruined Return of the Jedi? Ewoks. These guys might just be the new Ewoks, a frustrating waste of space whose cute-factor wears off within twenty-minutes. Besides, Force Awakens did so well in balancing a merchandisable yet genuinely likeable non-speaking side character in BB-8. Why couldn’t we have quit while we’re ahead, and left it at BB-8?

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Speaking of side characters, I need to talk about Finn. He’s had an outfit glo up that I completely approve of – even better when you remember that this is the first time Finn has been able to choose his own clothes, and is not dictated by what the First Order tell him to wear. I love Finn’s story – it’s never been done before in this universe, yet it still has that quintessential unlikely hero for which Star Wars is so well known. We see Finn fighting Captain Phasma, with the TR-8R weapon – both of which I am so glad to see return. Captain Phasma is such an interesting villain, she had that silent but impossibly interesting factor that made us love Boba Fett. Not only does the clip from this scene ensure more Captain Phasma for us, it tells us that Finn will continue to fight against the oppression he faced.

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It’s not only Captain Phasma who is a villain that needs exploring – let’s not forget Snoke. I was so relieved when Snoke turned out to be a hologram, as I was worried that he’d be a forgettable, silly villain. In this screencap he looks genuinely scary, but perhaps a bit too much like Palpatine. I want to know who he is and what his agenda is, and it looks as though we may get some of that in this film. Hopefully there are also some good guys we’ll get to know a little bit better, glad to see more Poe, hoping to see a lot of Kelly Marie Tran!

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A fight I’m less excited to watch is what looks unsurprisingly like the Hoth battle. We all know how to beat AT-ATs now, anyway. It could be a fun little call back if something very different is done with it, but perhaps this is a case of too much reliance on the original trilogy, once again. I’m not too concerned about the possibility of this film being another training montage, though that would be relying quite heavily on Empire Strikes Back, and I do not want this film to be the less good version of Empire. However, the training montage set up could be an effective way to have our characters better set up, more fleshed out and explored in depth. It’s not certain whether Rey or Kylo are good or bad, and this film could make them who they are, motivating us to care about them as we follow them into the final film.

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Kylo Ren is a touchy subject for me. I don’t know why everyone went wild for him, he strikes me as a little bit boring. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see a whiny man with anger issues as a villain for once – but that’s all he is. I wasn’t sure how he’d last a whole trilogy, but perhaps he isn’t. Will Kylo defect to the Resistance? Has he been brainwashed by Snoke? I somehow doubt he’ll end up as a good guy – people already lust after him as a villain (ew), why would the producers want to make him likeable. Let’s not forget, he killed Han Solo, how would a character who did such a thing ever be redeemed? Stranger things have happened, I suppose. Let’s not forget the title, which suggests that only one of Kylo, Rey and Luke will be left standing when the credits roll for The Last Jedi. One thing I’m very glad of is that his silly helmet is finally gone, I’m glad that was just a tease to attract us to the first film.

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I’m excited to see how Kylo and Rey relate to each other, whether they balance each other as equals, or team up. This shot has me wishing for December, and questioning everything I thought about The Last Jedi.

All pictures from The Last Jedi Trailer.

Halloween Watches for Horror-Haters

I am a massive scaredy-cat. I didn’t see It. I’ve never seen Saw. I think the last horror film I watched was Paranormal Activity 3 behind a blanket on my 14th birthday. Since I hate horror films, there’s some conflict between what Halloween is for me. I don’t like the blood and guts side of it, I like the fun side! Here are my top picks to watch this month for those of us who love Halloween but hate horror.

 

Rewatch Riverdale

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What better way to ring in the autumn than with a murder mystery set at the end of summer? It’s dark and snowy, and it has that vintage-Autumn aesthetic. Though Riverdale has its creepy moments – especially the weird zombie scene – it’s never genuinely scary.

Let’s be honest though – the story is weak and the twist isn’t nearly as shocking as it could have been. If you’re looking for an easy watch and some gorgeous upstate New York scenery, refresh your memory of this maple syrup conspiracy before the new season begins this month.

 

Start Stranger Things

Stranger Things is the antithesis of Riverdale – it’s about brave kids who care about each other, rather than a town backstabbing teens. If you haven’t yet touched this 2016 summer hit, this eight episode series is perfect to binge-watch this autumn. The new season drops on October 27th, making this a must watch for this month in particular.

The nightmarish Upside-Down and the dark themes of a missing child could have made this a horror, but somehow it isn’t. The characters are optimistic, kind kids who grow up before your eyes. If you’re a massive scaredy-cat don’t be put off.

 

Watch Practical Magic

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Every Halloween, my mum and I sit down with some chocolate and a cup of tea and watch Practical Magic. It’s the perfect horror-hater pick for Halloween. It centres on two sisters who are complete opposites, but happen to be witches. It’s not Hocus Pocus with the costumes, but it’s just as Halloween-y.

Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as the sisters, and wear an array of ‘90s autumn aesthetic clothes. There’s also a scene where everyone drinks tequila all night. Could you ask for much more?

 

Revisit your Favourite Childhood Show’s Halloween Special

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As a kid, whilst I decorated our house for Halloween, I loved watching the seasonal specials of my favourite shows like The Simpsons or The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Autumn is a very nostalgic season, so think about what used to make Halloween so spooky when you were a kid and revisit those things. I would love to know your favourite Halloween specials in the comments!

The Limehouse Golem – Review

Bill Nighy investigates a Jack the Ripper-esque murderer who plagues London, whilst we deduce the culprit’s identity from the testimony of a troubled woman in court – sounds a bit boring, but it’s quite interesting.

It was a strange film. There are far too many themes which the film never fully utilised: Kildare’s sexuality is touched on, but never explored. Lizzie Cree’s gender identity is brought up, appears to be a plot point, but is somewhat glossed over. Dan Leno is underused. The film’s presentation is rather unique, told in flashbacks, beginning at the end. This ultimately falls flat, it feels repetitive, it’s hand-holding. Speaking of which, the killer’s identity doesn’t appear as much of a mystery. The plot-twist at the end? Completely expected. It’s obvious from the first twenty minutes.

The one thing that stands out in this film – the thing that perhaps saves it? Olivia Cooke’s performance. Her other notable appearances, such as Bates Motel, have her down as a New Scream Queen. She’s a horror actress, a damsel, a victim. In this film, however, she shows her real acting ability. She’s versatile, a unique period woman. Her performance in the final 20 minutes of the film will have you wanting to go back and watch it all again, just to take her in.

My main issue with this film is that it was coined ‘A feminist twist on Jack the Ripper’ by the Telegraph. In no way does simply including female characters make a film feminist. Ultimately, both female characters are bad people, they’re horrible stereotypes of women. One is the over-sexualised Aveline Ortega, the other is the pure-looking Lizzie Cree. Aveline uses sex as a weapon, and has no other depth to her personality. This film does not even appear to pass the Bechdel test, as each time Lizzie speaks to Aveline, it concerns her husband, John Cree. Do not expect a feminist triumph out of this film, any feminist messages are destroyed in the film’s final moments.

Cooke saves this film, watch it for her. If you’re big on period and gore, but prefer a slower pace, this is for you.

My Top 5 Studio Ghibli Films

I’m back! Finally. It’s been far too long! I’ve absolutely hated not having internet this week, I’ve been so lost. But what comes with being so bored is finding something to pass the time. Luckily, I had some DVDs. I’ve really been enjoying Studio Ghibli lately, something I’ve been into for some time. I thought why not tell you about my top five Ghibli movies!

For the record, I am a huge fan of Princess Mononoke, but I have no idea how to talk about it! It’s such a huge film with so much in, and I’m not sure what it is that makes me love it so much.

  1. Ponyo

For when you’re feeling lonely. Ponyo is The Little Mermaid of Ghibli movies, by which I mean, it’s nothing like Disney’s version, but it is about a tiny redhead who turns human. It’s this really charming little story about a fish who becomes a girl, she and the boy who finds her end up going on this little mission when the land is flooded and they must find the boy’s mother. Nothing bad happens and it’s just nice. It’s sweet, visually beautiful, kinda funny and obviously odd.

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle

For when you’re sad and you need the comfort of a fairytale. Howl’s Moving Castle has a lot in it. A lot. There’s war, selfishness, curses and the question of what exactly beauty is. It is perhaps the most ‘teenage’ Ghibli film as the love story is all about this girl who doesn’t believe she is beautiful, and a boy who is far more powerful than her, but he’s troubled, difficult, and unattractive on the inside. They both learn what beauty means, and become better people. It’s feelgood – it doesn’t have that painful part that most of these films do. I like this one because of its simplicity. It’s comforting.

  1. Only Yesterday

For when you’re feeling homesick. Ironically, I watched this film for the first time yesterday. The English dub was only recently released, and features the talents of Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel. What’s really nice about this film is the way it feels. I’m not sure I loved the story very much, and there are a few things that went over my head as it’s set in Japan in the 60s and 80s. But I understood the protagonist so well. She was sick of the city, longing for the countryside. It was a place that wasn’t exactly her home, she didn’t come from there. But it felt like home to her, she wanted to make it her home. That longing for a peaceful, simple existence is something we can all understand.

  1. When Marnie Was There

For when something’s bittersweet. I can’t find another word to describe this film. It’s bittersweet. It’s a mystery, with a really great payoff – if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I see twists coming from a mile off, but this one was a complete surprise. It was a surprise that made sense! It’s one of those Ghibli films set in a beautiful idyllic place. It happens over the course of a summer, so it’s a great one to watch while summer ends. The characters look fantastic in this one. The houses are beautiful, the lakes, the scenery. It’s quiet and calming, sweet and shattering.

  1. Kiki’s Delivery Service

For when you don’t feel like you can do it. If you’ve seen one Ghibli film you’ll know how well they do female protagonists – they’re always these young, unassuming but headstrong girls who learn who they are and what they’re looking for. There isn’t one where the protagonist doesn’t come out of the story a better person. No other protagonist exemplifies this the way Kiki does. She’s a witch, who’s only just old enough to leave home and train away for a year – she needs to work out how her abilities as a witch will aid a community. It so easily parallels that feeling of going off to university, or starting a new job: you’re all on your own and you know you can do something but you haven’t quite worked out how to do that yet. Every set back only makes Kiki better, stronger. Confidence knocks are so accurately presented – that slipping feeling of losing what you’re good at. Slowly we watch Kiki work out who she is, regain those abilities, and become the woman she’s meant to be. If Kiki can, you can.

 

I wish I could have included Spirited Away – but that film is an essay in its self!

 

I’m sorry for the lazy post today, but I can’t wait to be blogging every other day again!

My Top 5 X Files Episodes

January of 2016 was an uncertain time. I fell out with friends, university offers were rolling in, A Level exams were creeping ever closer as I entered the final few months of school. Ever. However, I discovered The X Files and let Mulder and Scully make it a good time for me. I feel kinda rubbish again, and we’re getting a new season next year, so I thought it would be nice to revisit my favourite series.

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So, I’m not old enough to have the 90s nostalgia, but I’m a massive fan of The X Files – shoulder pads, big phones and all! In celebration of The X Files’ 24th birthday, here are my top 5 favourite episodes:

  1. Eve (1×11)

I’ve seen love at first sight in countless Disney films, and this was the first time I experienced it for real. Sadly, it was with a TV series. The moment I watched this episode, I knew I was going to binge The X Files so fast. The episode follows Mulder and Scully as they try to understand how two identical girls were caught up witnessing an identical murder, on opposite ends of the country. It’s creepy. The twist is genuinely good, and brings some frustratingly fantastic dramatic irony. Mulder and Scully’s teamwork is really present in this episode, not to mention they act as pseudo-parents for a section of the episode. The aesthetic in this one is beyond good – it’s autumnal and the twins’ matching red outfits are unforgettable. It really is one of my favourites, but it comes in at number five because it’s probably not that good of an episode, especially since it was the first really good episode I watched.                                                                                                

  1. The Post-Modern Prometheus (5×5)

This one has a problematic plot, it wouldn’t fly on television today. Modern-day Frankenstein is ‘helping’ women to conceive. Hey, it was the 90s. Besides, the plot really isn’t the best part! The entire episode is filmed in black and white, once again, the aesthetic is unbeatable. This is one of the (surprisingly many) funny episodes of The X Files. Every deadpan look is made even funnier in black and white, making some iconic scenes. The ending of this episode is what makes it: Cher (sadly not the real Cher, she had other commitments) sings Walking in Memphis to the episode’s cast. Mulder stands and extends his hand to Scully, who accepts his invitation to dance. If you love Mulder and Scully – who are you kidding, nobody watches this show for the plot, it’s all about the agents – this episode has one of the loveliest scenes between the two, and it’s just as weird and wonderful as they deserve.

  1. Bad Blood (5×12)

Again, I keep choosing the funny ones. I think X Files did funny best, and I think the second-best writer as Vince Gilligan – season 5’s Bad Blood is proof of this. It’s a classic unreliable narrator story, with Mulder and Scully explaining their sides of a case that could lose them their jobs. Each agent’s story is acted out, giving us a brilliantly goofy out-of-character Mulder and an unusually whiny Scully. It shows us how Mulder and Scully see each other, and the flaws in their relationship – whatever that is at this point. There’s plenty of bickering between the two, and some very funny scenes. Honestly, they’re more iconic than The Post-Modern Prometheus. This is also Gillian Anderson’s favourite episode, one of the few episodes she actually remembers. She talks about it a lot. A lot. And so should you.

  1. Irresistible (2×13)

A horrifying death-fetishist serial killer targets women, Mulder and Scully have to catch him. This one isn’t for the faint hearted. It’s genuinely unnerving. Donnie Pfaster is nightmarish, because he’s human, and he could exist (let’s ignore the season 7 revisit of this character). As Scully is just recovering from her own abduction, this case hits her particularly hard. Scully episodes are just so great because there’s so much about her character to sink your teeth into. She’s also so badass in this one, and the Mulder-Scully hug at the end of the episode really signifies a change in their relationship. Don’t watch it at night, and maybe watch Bad Blood straight after to lift your spirits. This episode is a reminder that whilst The X Files does funny best, it did scary really, really, well. 

  1. Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (3×4)

Season 3 is the best season. Well, it’s a tie between seasons 1 and 3, but this is where the show really found what it was – there’s not too much focus on the mythology, there are funny/quirky episodes, and some of the best writers, Darin Morgan and Vince Gilligan, got their most iconic episodes out there. This episode is Darin’s second, but probably his best. It follows Mulder and Scully, but mostly Scully, as they deal with someone who appears to be a genuine psychic. It stars Peter Boyle, who, rightly so, won an Emmy for his performance. The focus is mostly on Scully, as her sceptic ways are challenged by Bruckman, and we see more of her character than ever before. It’s poignant, it’s quirky, and it’s funny at times. Queequeg also shows up for the first time. So it’s a winner.

Everything, Everything

I saw Everything, Everything last week in the cinema, because it didn’t release in the UK until August 18th. I had read and reviewed the book not long ago, and wasn’t a massive fan. Now that I’ve finally seen the film, does it hold up? Mild spoilers ahead!

The casting was good. Amandla Steinberg did a great job of portraying Madeline. Amandla was relatable, sympathetic and strong. I had a few problems with Nick Robinson’s Olly – he looked the part and acted the part, but they stripped his character of most things that made him unique – especially his active, fidgety, free-runner personality. The side characters were good – Ana de la Reguea portrayed Carla as I imagined: motherly, friendly and gentle. Madeline’s mother (portrayed by Anika Noni Rose) was probably my favourite portrayal – she was much more sympathetic and kind than she was in the book, which makes the ending so much more heartbreaking.

There were a few changes I disagreed with, however. Rosa became an actual character, as one of Madeline’s friends instead a character who was only mentioned. This would have been a great change – it would have made Madeline’s condition much sadder as they tried to focus on her only friend going off to college soon. It humanised Madeline, rather than making her that ‘princess in a glass castle’. But they didn’t. Rosa barely had any lines, or any larger role at all. I question why they even bothered. The other big change they made was taking away the detail that Madeline can only have specially-sealed, untouched books. In fact, it is Carla who gives her a copy of Flowers for Algernon. This makes the whole used-bookshop-wish-and-scene devoid of significance.

The overall aesthetic of the film was brilliant. The house was gorgeous, with everything pristine and white, touches of greenery and glass everywhere. I loved the block colours and the simplicity of Madeline’s clothing as the film progresses. However, the glass room that’s supposed to make Madeline feel like she’s outside was unimpressive. It had yellow walls as opposed to the tangible rock walls that Olly could climb. It had a boring blue sofa and no hint of that flowing water.

Some scenes felt displaced, as if they belonged in a different film. When Olly wrote messages with a sharpie on paper, it all felt too You Belong With Me. It wasn’t its own film, its own unique entity. Another scene was the strange Annie Hall-esque subtitled scene. It was silly, it took me right out of the film, it just didn’t work! However some scenes were totally unique to Everything, Everything, and there should have been more of those. These scenes were set in Madeline’s architecture models, set in her mind as she built them. Madeline and Olly’s texting conversation took place in the diner she’d built, complete with her astronaut. It was memorable, unique and quirky. I really loved those parts.

Overall it was an average teenage film. As per usual, with book adaptations it had that occasional unnecessary narration I wish I could have taken away. I wish they would just present things to the audience in conversation with other characters, or hint at it, we’re smarter than you give us credit for. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t know if I’d watch it again. It was quite faithful to the book, so if you liked that, I imagine you’d enjoy. If you haven’t heard of it and you like teen dramas like TFIOS or If I Stay, this is definitely one for you.

The Big Sick Review

Movie Rundown is a take on upcoming movies, recent releases and film news. It’s about what’s worth seeing and what’s worth a miss.

Quirky, funny, relevant. This is an accurate description of both Kumail Nanjiani and his true-story-romcom-drama. The film is touching, the characters are believable yet funny and it’s worth seeing. That said, those 124 minutes felt as though they dragged on for far longer, and as with any dramedy, the pacing was a little off. Yet Kumail’s comedy always feels this way, the awkwardness, the strange pace, the poor timing, it only adds to his character and the inevitable laughs. So perhaps that’s only a personal criticism.

Kumail Nanjiani plays himself, a struggling comic whose Pakistani family is desperate for him to enter an arranged marriage. Instead, Kumail falls in love with Emily, who is equally awkward and adorable. Their relationship is believable, probably because it’s based on Kumail’s real life. They have some very cute ups and a traumatic down. Emily falls ill, ending up in a medically-induced coma. Kumail must befriend her parents, deal with his parents’ reaction to their relationship, and handle his own feelings about Emily’s health. The best part? There’s no rush to the airport. There’s no screaming at the sky. There’s no kissing in the rain. Their emotions are raw, but real and understated, which makes it all the more poignant.

The Big Sick has a broader appeal than it may seem. It’s not niche. The laughs across the cinema were plentiful, to the point where I missed a handful of dialogue. Though it may come across as a millennial-hipster movie – he’s an uber driver who likes old horror movies – it’s pretty relatable. Kumail struggles pursuing a passion that his family don’t suport, he falls in love with a girl his parents disapprove of, and he really really loves The X Files. The tensions of interracial relationships feel very real in this film, it alerts us that even in 2017, this is still a controversial topic, one which is not nearly explored enough in films. There are so little people of colour on our screens, and even less interracial couples, this was honestly a breath of fresh air.

However, I do have criticisms for this near-perfect film. I feel that the ‘sick partner’ plotline is a little tired at this point, but it’s excusable since it’s a true-story. Not only did it actually happen, it was believable and necessary to the plot unlike many films who simply use the ‘ailing lover’ trope. Though it didn’t feel like an empty use of the trope, I’m upset we didn’t see more of Emily and Kumail interacting, who are one of the best movie couples in recent years. The film’s big problem was its run time. Though it wasn’t a long film, I felt as though I was watching the extended edition. There were many points where I thought the film would end and it didn’t. Though most scenes are interesting, emotional or funny, a few could’ve been cut to help balance the tone.

The movie was an Odeon Screen Unseen, and it was a perfect choice. It was unconventional, something most of us wouldn’t choose to see. In my case, my local cinema usually doesn’t get anything other than the blockbusters (we didn’t even get Carol). As I don’t think it would have been shown, it’s something I’m very glad I got the chance to see, and I’m thrilled I could see it early! I would always recommend Odeon Screen Unseen as it costs £5, which is far less than any cinema ticket, and it’s always a great surprise. This film is not a must-see, but a you-should-probably-try-to-see-it. It’s offbeat and funny and takes on racism in a way that should happen far more often. Romantic comedies need more people of colour as love interests, The Big Sick is a shining example.

Movies like What If wish they were this movie.

ICYMI Review: S-Town

In case you missed this podcast from March of 2017, here’s a review of it to urge you not to forget to watch it.

We love conspiracy theories. The rise of YouTube conspiracy theory videos is upon us, and it’s created a thirst for mystery, which may be quenched by Brian Reed’s gripping and grim account of life in the rural American South. In 2012, the staff of podcast This American Life were alerted to an alleged cover up of a young boy’s murder in Woodstock, Alabama. It is not a surprise that such a premise was taken on to be produced as a podcast – a new genre of true crime documentary has emerged since Netflix’s Making A Murderer. We want a mystery where we have to work out the answer. S-Town could have quite easily taken this approach, but it didn’t. It’s not about the distrustful establishment or a gruesome murder mystery, but about the man who contacted This American Life’s staff: John B. McLemore.

 

McLemore initially appears unlikable, rude and hysterical. He raves about every potential disaster currently facing the humanity, depressing himself with hopeless statistics. Throughout the first episode, one question looms over the audience: is he a conspiracy theorist desperately seeking attention? As Reed investigates the alleged murder of Dylan Nicols, he quickly discovers that not only is there no cover up, but Nicols is alive and well. The podcast could have ended then and there on episode two with no apparent mystery, but even after this deception, McLemore keeps in touch with Reed. They email for three years. Reed’s connection to McLemore grows, as does the audience’s. The mystery returns when a very real tragedy faces Woodstock: McLemore’s suicide. Reed’s reaction is harrowing and raw, shown in the audio of the moment he is told of McLemore’s fate. It’s difficult not to catch the lump in his throat.

 

The following five episodes focus on the life of John B. McLemore and those who are left to deal with his loss. More and more people come forward with their stories about McLemore, creating more mysteries. He was once a kind, funny man with many friends. He repaired antique clocks, making him one of America’s best horologists. His life was one simply weighed down by the bounds of an inescapable, intolerant small town. More than a mystery, McLemore becomes a protagonist. Though he is a real man who once lives, he seems to go through dramatic character development, once we learn others’ views of him. Reed contacts a list of people McLemore wanted contacted as soon as he died, and some of them seem as though they’re talking about a different man altogether. The podcast is a journey through his life, uncovering what led to his untimely demise.

 

The people of Woodstock are unforgettable: the troublemaker saved by McLemore, the ailing mother, the apparent money-grabbing relatives. They seem like characters, each serving a different role in McLemore’s story, with a different perspective on who this man was. Reed’s conversations with these people allow us to understand them and their intentions. By the end, no one is black and white. No one seems completely bad or completely good. However, this understanding solves no mysteries. The most intriguing, if not cliché of which, is the rumour of John B. McLemore’s gold. He owned a great deal of land, and many people in the town believe it is buried somewhere in those acres. Although the mysteries keep appearing, McLemore’s sad fate has an unexpected kind of resolution in the final episode, which is worth the time spent on the series.

 

The lack of visuals could be off-putting for some, especially as found footage is a staple of the documentary genre. Yet the podcast incorporates hours of audio from the others involved in the story. We hear exactly how McLemore and Woodstock sound and feel. It is a candid window into the town. The conversations included involve the audience even more, as though we are searching through hours of audio for clues; we are the detectives. Emotions are presented: despair, anger, deafening silence. All 7 episodes are around an hour a piece, and are perfect for binge-listening while you do anything else – cooking, cleaning or as background noise for that writing. Although, you might want to save yourself a day to listen to it. Once you turn on the first episode, you won’t be able to stop.