What I Watched… In February.

A week into March seems like the perfect time to cast my mind back and let you all in on what I’ve been spending my precious free time watching in February. With the change of my reviewing style, I’m claiming it to be resourcefulness, as my time writing reviews has limited itself since I started to write, record and shoot other projects, on my non-stop journey to take the “aspiring” out of aspiring film and gaming journalist.

Parasite

I started the month of right with an impromptu trip to the closest cinema that was showing Parasite, before its surprise win at the Oscars. I found the film every bit as funny, tragic, and nerve-wracking as the reviews and word-of-mouth had been saying with the slightest tinge of overrated added to the mix. Not to say the film does not deserve its award, because it most certainly does.

My pang of film critic snobbishness came from the incessant proclamations that Parasite should win over X, Y and Z merely due to its “foreign” nature over the others in the Oscar race. Like-mindedly, I also believed that Parasite should have won over almost all of the other films, yet in the never-ending politics of ranking a film on matters outside of the actual film, left me slightly guarded towards Parasite.

All of that said, I think it was an incredibly original film, with an impeccable sense of direction from Bong Joon-Ho, and is probably the most interesting Oscar win in years.  

Brokeback Mountain

Upon the request of a friend, I finally struck a film off the ever-growing watchlist; that film was the Brokeback Mountain. After watching the mind-numbingly terrible Gemini Man from Ang Lee, I could not even fathom that such a director could have made this poignant, naturalist tragedy of two gay men in 60s American West.

This was the salt in the wounds to see the late Heath Ledger deliver such a powerful and wholly relatable performance as a man so closed off and fearful, spending his whole life denying who he truly is. Similarly, Jake Gyllenhaal offered the softer and more embracing character of the romantic duo, expertly complimenting Ledger performance.

Through its use of still observational cinematography, this is a film that, ironically lets the words to the talking, with the camera merely there for a visual medium. It doesn’t try to be flashy; it doesn’t distract you with blinding bokeh effects; it just points it at the actors and lets them do all the work.

Brokeback Mountain was emotional, engaging, and left a lingering uncomfortable feeling, similar of that to the harshness that these two men face, leaching onto you long after the credits roll.

The Lighthouse

Another trip to a cinema out of town, and I found myself optimistically awaiting the start of Robert Eggers The Lighthouse, after being a massive fan of his previous work The Witch. The Lighthouse noticeable still has that penchant for vernacular, with both Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson hosing excellently time-specific accents.

Yet The Lighthouse is on another level from The Witch, not quite offering the easily accessible entertainment value, as events transpire that leads its lead duo down an increasingly wacky, often comedic, and insanely disturbing path.

This is a film that will leave you perplexed and in an immediate need for a second viewing, however I have been unable to make that second viewing since. It is most certainly a film that a majority of modern audiences will not enjoy, with a specific leaning towards the film critics and scholars, however it has plenty of narrative threads, and visual symbolism to leave you picking its bones clean for meaning for months to come.

War For The Planet of the Apes.

On the whim of seeing some inspirational clips of the trilogy, I finally decided to rewatch War for the Planet of the Apes, unwrapping the cellophane from the blu-ray which I had bought on day one of this film’s release.

While War does not have the impressive leap in visuals that Dawn did, the motion capture performances, particularly from Andy Serkis as Caesar are phenomenal. Utterly life-like and teeming with emotional range, War manages to leave most of its runtime communicated through sign language and quiet broken sentences, yet still keeps you engaged and entertained.

Noticeably, I found this film lacking the bravado of the Dawn, which dumped us right in the middle of ape-centric apocalypse. It still drags Caesar through the proverbial wringer and delivers a fitting and emotional end to the character’s legacy but does so in a story that feels smaller scale than the previous entry. Nonetheless, the Planet of the Apes reboot will go down as one of the greatest trilogies in recent memory.

Underwater

With Ridley Scott’s Alien being one of my all time favourite films, I couldn’t miss out in a film that wore Alien’s influence on its sleeve. From the gradual title reveal at the bottom of the screen, to the company trucker jacket on the back of a shaved-headed female protagonist, Underwater has you wondering the discrepancies between homage and rip off.

That being said, Underwater wastes absolutely no time getting the action started, and has the submerged drilling site collapsing before a single sentence is even uttered. This is your typical disaster film, as a group of survivors crusade their way across the wreckage of a station at the bottom of the sea, dying grizzly deaths one by one. Yet I cannot deny that I will enjoy a predictable movie every now and again, and with its leanings towards Alien, and heavier aspects of sci-fi than I was expecting, I left Underwater feeling no smarter, no dumber, but thoroughly entertained.

To All The Boys: P.S I Still Love You.

I won’t lie to you, I enjoyed the first of this Netflix romance series a lot more than I should have when I watched it last year. Maybe I was just in the right frame of mind for a romantic film that night, but suffice to say, that was not the case this time around.

I don’t want to waste too much time on this film, so through a series of cringe-inducing events Lara Jean flirts with the idea of cheating on her boyfriend for the entire runtime of the movie, and is never once truly questioned on her actions. It was so ridiculously bad that when the eventual romantic climax has Lara Jean reunited with her boyfriend, admitting that she loves him, I found myself begging the guy to dump her, and more appropriately for the movie to end.

Happy Death Day 2U

Working may way through this series of films has me noticing the depreciating quality throughout the month of February, and the quality kept going down as I pressed play on Happy Death Day 2U. The first in this time-loop slasher horror franchise kept me hooked with the Groundhog Day schtick, despite it being of noticeably lower quality. Yet, similarly to To All The Boys, Happy Death Day 2U tried to stick us in the loop yet again, this time with added comedy, some extra tragedy, and a big dollop of a bad time for you.

This film reeks of the straight to video level of quality, with such ridiculousness as a man being beat up by someone who deliberately fumbles around as they pretend to be blind; to a group of college kids being hired by DARPA and sticking said fake blind person in an endless torturous loop for experimentation.

The Day After Tomorrow

What ever happened to proper disaster movies of old? Tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, the works. The last disaster movie I can remember was Geostorm and the less said about that the better. Sitting down to The Day After Tomorrow with the family – as it is unequivocally my Mum’s favourite film – was the trip down memory lane that I was hoping for.

With a boatload of nonsensical science, TDAT pits our heroes up against a new ice age, and boy is it entertaining. For a film now released sixteen years ago, the visuals hold up surprisingly well, and Roland Emmerich’s direction make the destruction equally as awe-inspiring as it is heart-pounding.

Where I think TDAT succeeds past other disaster movies, is its focus in the aftermath. It isn’t all people running through falling buildings with collapsing streets hot on their heels a la 2012 (which coincidentally is also a Emmerich flick). It has a focus on the quiet, with the eerie, frozen streets of New York playing home to a majority of the film – with drifting ships and roaming wolf packs.

They may not quite make ‘em like this anymore, but at least we have the heroic Dennis Quaid, a young Jake Gyllenhaal, and a rare dose of Roland Emmerich making a watchable movie.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.

So, to not be in complete despair, I ended the month with a relative surprise. Not being the biggest fan of the Harry Potter franchise, I appreciated the more serious and dread filled atmosphere that this entry had donned. The stakes felt high, the characters are tested, and the jovial charm that had snaked its way through most other entries had vanished. 

All of the leads provide exponentially improved performances, and the action compared with the previous instalments felt gritty, faced paced, and most importantly, stacked high with danger.

While at the time of writing it has been a number of weeks since I watched this film, and I have yet to watch Part 2, it had me reconsider a franchise I was often too quick to write off as either childish or overrated.

What about TV?

To tack on at the end, these shows have no order to them or Letterboxd styled site to keep track of their chronological watching order, therefore they will be bundled together.

I have tried to get back into Bojack Horseman, having now completed its third season. Being spurred on by the show’s finale airing at the end of January and the fact that I actually did enjoy its first two seasons. Yet while it does a lot for serious storylines an animated comedy where a central character is named Mr. Peanutbutter, it loves to stick itself in the rut of self-depreciation, as Bojack moves from one misdemeanour to the next. This repetitive form of misery porn can often become monotonous, and has already led to my stalled watching process, which I may or may not pick up in the future.

Throughout the month I’ve been tediously watching The Outsider, being the first show I’ve watched in a while on a weekly episode release. This is another of HBO dark, gritty, and excellently shot murder-mysteries. Its episodes are never going to have you counting the days down for the next one, however it’s a bigger picture sort of series, with the hope that it will deliver on the brilliant set up it has built over its first eight or so episodes. With the finale just days away, here’s hoping that it doesn’t fall at the final hurdle.

However, the real hit for the month of March was the unexpectedly brilliant Sky Comedy show The Righteous Gemstones. With Danny McBride, Adam Devine, John Goodman and Edi Patterson amongst others, this brief yet hilarious take on a spoilt televangelist family, offers up laughs, drama, and suspense all within its neatly packed half hour episodes. With each character cast to perfection, and played even better than that, The Righteous Gemstones was a thrill to watch start to finish, and I can’t wait for more to come.

Published by Aaron Bayne

I’m a film and video games journalist based in Scotland. I write stuff about them on my website, talk about them on my podcasts and film videos about them for BBC The Social.

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