Last Christmas

Me: “I’m not going to review as many films anymore…”
Also Me:

Last Christmas (2019)

Nothing seems to go right for young Kate, a frustrated Londoner who works as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop. But things soon take a turn for the better when she meets Tom — a handsome charmer who seems too good to be true. As the city transforms into the most wonderful time of the year, Tom and Kate’s growing attraction turns into the best gift of all — a Yuletide romance.

Director: Paul Feig
Stars: Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Yeoh

*Minor spoilers*

It’s funny how much we can forgive in the name of Christmas spirit, huh? This Paul Feig Christmas movie is enjoyable for a second but it definitely doesn’t hit the notes of The Holiday. It’s no Love Actually – it’s not even The Family Stone.

Maybe my hopes for it were a little too high. All I know is that both the central characters were annoying twits. I haven’t always been wowed by Emilia Clarke but I do enjoy watching her and she was as gorgeous as ever as self-destructive Kate. Her eyebrows do the most of the acting work though, they’re here, there and everywhere.

Golding’s Tom is 2D as they come and I don’t understand why I’m supposed to give a shit about such a condescending character. Stop telling everyone to “look up” you boring prick – let them live. None of this is a good sign when you’re expected to invest in their burgeoning ‘love’ story.

Thankfully, the supporting acts are the movie’s saving grace (and London by night, obvs). Some of the characters we meet down at the homeless shelter are priceless, including Kate’s fellow volunteers and her father Ivan (Boris Isakovic) is a laugh riot. The true stand-out for me though is Santa, Kate’s Christmas-loving boss (Michelle Yeoh), that woman lights up the screen more than all those Christmas lights combined. Thompson delivers as per but considering she also has writing credits, why is this so bland?

I guessed the hidden premise half way through which is very unusual for me. It’s so damn literal! And honestly, there’s not much to the rest of the movie. Somewhere in this mess is a message about Brexit and being there for our fellow man in unity, rather than pushing everyone away and I liked that. Especially at Christmas.

I also like the idea of a messed up individual putting their life back together, one brick at a time, with or without a terrible illness to motivate them. It’s just a shame that Kate (or Katarina) is more fun when she’s being a thoughtless little tramp.

Judge for yourselves, I guess. Maybe I’m just dead inside. (I know I’m not though because despite everything I still did a teeny cry every time a George Michael song came on.)

2.5/5

What are you watching?

Earthquake Bird

Earthquake Bird (2019)

An enigmatic translator with a dark past is brought in for questioning after an ex-pat friend, who came between her and her photographer boyfriend, ends up missing and presumed dead.

Director: Wash Westmoreland
Stars:  Alicia VikanderKiki SukezaneKenichi Masuda

*Spoilers*

This is a film that should have been so much better. The premise is actually pretty fantastic and I was well up for an ex-pat in Japan murder mystery – unfortunately it does fall a little flat. I don’t think it’s really anyone’s fault – the central performances are fine – the set pieces are lovely and Japan continues to be utterly beautiful.

The landscapes here seem a little more subdued than they usually appear on film. Sure we get some neon lit karaoke bars but for the most part the backgrounds are low key and functional, the apartments no frills. I think you could probably say the same about the characters.

We centre around translator Lucy Fly (Vikander) who begins a relationship with local photographer Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi). Things are fine enough until Lucy starts to show signs of suspicion, breaking into Teiji’s apartment and going through his things. When she finds a file of photographs of his old girlfriend, she torments herself with questions about their relationship.

These feelings of jealousy are exacerbated further when she meets Lily (Riley Keough), a young American woman. When she is persuaded to help Lily find an apartment, the trio grow closer and Lucy is not amused to note that her new friend and boyfriend appear to be attracted to each other. When she shows her jealous side, Teiji encourages it because she is his “girlfriend, after all”.

Lucy is should be said is rather a buttoned up person and at times, and as we learn, an unreliable narrator. That means that the whole sorry tale as it unravels might not even be the truth and we never really know whether we can trust her version of events. The story is unpacked across two timelines, the ‘present’ (e.g. Lucy being interrogated by police who have found the remains of a woman who may or may not be Lily) – and flashback, in which we are party to the development of this awkward love triangle.

The main question is: is Lily dead and did Lucy do it? 

This does go on quite a big longer than necessary but there are some nice moments. I enjoy the concept of blame and responsibility – and as I mentioned, I really love how late 80’ Japan looks. There’s also a very shocking scene involving a freshly waxed staircase that I can’t get out of my head – so this is probably memorable for the wrong reasons.

3/5

What are you watching?

Doctor Sleep

I’m introducing mini reviews to the blog for the films I really enjoy and first up is this really rather decent adaptation of Mr King’s novel of the same name.

 

Doctor Sleep (2019)

Years following the events of “The Shining,” a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.

In the hands of Hill House‘s Mike Flanagan I knew this wouldn’t be rubbish but I was surprised by how much I liked it. The book (which admittedly I might read again) was quite meh and I could barely remember most of it. So I was happy to have it brought back to me by one of my favourite horror directors and a pretty solid cast.

It must be said that Rebecca Ferguson‘s Rose the Hat is the stand out of the piece, bringing real evil to the character while still encouraging you to kind of root for her. I mean, the Baseball Boy scenes are horrifying and testament to the fact she ain’t messing around – but there’s real love between The True Knot who are just like a genuine family. Plus, I like Rose a lot more than I like Danny and Abra. LOL.

Obviously the revisit to The Overlook is the money shot and the director’s respectful attention to detail is really something. We revisit beloved characters from The Shining, both central and sideline – and it is magical.

Flanagan is definitely not Kubrick and he’s not trying to be. His own signature style really suits this story and I’m all over his take on the hotel.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this movie since I saw it yesterday and I don’t really have many negatives. I didn’t warm to Abra much and Dan Torrance was fine but I really enjoyed spending time with The True Knot. The fantasy elements are sublime too – the segment in which Rose the Hat goes searching for Abra in her mind is breathtaking and very effective.

Colour me impressed.

4.5/5

What have you been watching?