Movie Review: The Meg

Warning: contains lots of spoilers

It’s been quite some time since I shared a terrible movie with you, dear readers, so I’m going to do it again. This is one you really need to know about.

First, watch this trailer. Admire how the vibe goes from “sinister, terrifying ocean monster” to “giant shark comedy!”

The movie itself is a bit like that, although it isn’t quite so starkly divided down the middle.

I originally watched The Meg on the flight back from the UK in November last year. I also watched A Quiet Place and Get Out because I was trying to do a little horror/thriller fest. Boy, did I misjudge things with The Meg.

I thought it would be terrifying. I have thalassaphobia, so the thought of deep water with low visibility petrifies me, as do giant squid drifting through the gloom. Whilst I’m not scared of sharks in the same way, I do have a healthy respect for them, and the only time I met a shark in the actual ocean I did literally pee myself out of fear. I was under water, though, so I think the impact was lessened. I found Jaws to be scary. I’m also scared of prehistoric sea creatures, like the liopleurodon, and yes, the megalodon. Anyway, I thought that this movie had a really promising combination of things that terrify me. On paper, it was my worst nightmare.

Image description: liopleurodon, which kind of looks like a green slug with a crocodiles head and four flippers.  Kind of cute until you remember it’s 7 metres long and weighs more than 1.5 tonnes.  Image credit: wikipedia

In practice, not so much. The bottom of the ocean was charmingly illuminated by phosphorescent wiggly things and submarine lights, and because nothing could really come up from underneath them (my biggest fear about the ocean is things being beneath you) the first part of the movie lost some punch for me. There was also the utter implausability of the whole “how the megaladon survived” theory. The first death was touching but there was no terror. There was no submarine sneaking through the dark. It was just a “mysterious” large creature smacking into things and causing mechanical failures for a very long time, twice.

Enter the grizzled hero (Jason Statham) and the absurdly pretty Li Bingbing as his love interest and badass marine biologist. She does an impulsive thing, probably because WOMEN don’t listen to MEN and nearly gets eaten by a squid but then she learns that THE MAN is right and a tender romance blossoms, because nothing is hotter than being told you’re wrong and then being saved from a squid (notably by the megalodon, not Jason).

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Image description: Lee Bingbing and Jason Statham sitting on a boat in wetsuits looking serious.  Image credit: Screen Daily

There’s this whole backstory about how several years ago, Jason Statham was on a rescue mission for a submarine which had been attacked by the meg, which nobody except him believed, and he had to leave some people to die, and the doctor who certified him as mentally ill after that is now on the deep sea research station that discovers this megaladon . Other people continue to contradict or not believe Jason Statham, and the movie sort of ends up as a weird giant-shark-infested parable about why you should always believe Jason Statham, even when he’s positing that prehistoric giant sharks are attacking submarines.

Things get a little scarier in the next part of the movie when the folks move back onto the partially-submerged hi-tech deep-sea research station and the shark nearly kills Li Bingbing’s daughter (in addition to her other badassery, she’s a single mother). Then a couple of whales get eaten and I cried a little. Lots of whales die in this movie.

The crew the resolve to rid the earth of this giant shark. There are some boat-based shenanigans, then some shark-cage shenanigans where Li Bingbing shoots the shark in the mouth then nearly gets eaten, then Jason Statham swims around and snatches her from the Jaws of death (see what I did there?), the shark dies from the poison on Li BingBing’s shooty spear, and everyone celebrates.

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Image description: shark cage shenanigans.  Li Bingbing in a clear Plexiglas shark cage in the jaws of the megalodon.  Image credit: Bloody Disgusting.

Then another megaladon leaps from the ocean and eats the carcass of the first one.

Not joking.

Meg 2 smashes the boat the matchwood, kills or seriously injures a number of people, including Li BingBing’s father, then swims to a Chinese holiday resort, crashes a wedding and tries to eat some tourists.

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Image description: top down view of Meg 2 drifting underneath a bunch of Chinese tourists on paddleboards, her fin just breaking the water.  Image credit: Study Breaks Magazine

At this point, the billionaire who owns the station tells the scientist and crew, who for some reason include Ruby Rose smouldering her vaguely androgynous way through the complexities of deep sea computer systems, to evacuate, and that he’s told the Chinese navy and they’ll fix it. He then sneaks off in the middle of the night, having done no such thing, blows up a whale he thinks is the megalodon, and in a very slapsticky sequence gets eaten himself. The megalodon carries on sharking.

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Image description: Ruby Rose pulling a quirky yet very attractive face at someone off-screen.  Image credit: Bloody Disgusting

The team back aboard the station then twig that the billionaire is an arsehole and that they need to do this shark hunt themselves.

Thankfully, Statham and Co have another boat, two submarines and a recording of whale song, so they are able to lure Meg 2 away from the tourists and into their fiendish trap. Their fiendish trap seems to mostly involve barely functional torpedoes. When the torpedoes inevitably fail, Jason Statham drives a twisty bit of metal poking off his damaged sub through the Megalodon’s belly, jams another poison needle in its eye (because apparently a massive gut wound is only a minor inconvenience to a shark), and a bunch of ickle great whites, hammerheads and other more usual sharks spring forth and eat it. The Chinese wedding is able to continue and the dog we all thought got eaten turns out to be fine.

Let’s be totally clear about something. This is not a thriller in the same way that Jaws was. There’s no sense of suspense or terror. There’s a couple of moments where you tense up, but generally its because you can see exactly what’s about to happen. It’s not scary. It’s an action movie with some shark slapstick.  The only real suspense comes when you realise that the directors are going to let anyone but Statham and Li get eaten, so you don’t know who is on the menu next.

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The movie takes itself sooo seriously, which is really funny. The acting is actually quite good given what the cast have to work with. The CGI could be a lot worse. The shark is actually properly huge, unlike in the computer game Stranded Deep, where the megalodon is not much bigger than your standard great white. If you are willing to suspend quite a lot of disbelief and ignore all the massive holes in their sciencey theories, it is a very fun, action-packed movie with some light bits of comedy and genuinely likeable (and some hateable) characters. If you find yourself with 130 minutes of nothing to do, they would not be wasted if you filled the void with this.

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Image description: a poorly rendered megalodon leaping from the sea.  There is a poorly rendered dead whale underneath it and a poorly rendered shipwreck behind it.  Image credit: NOGAMEdoesPC on youtube

10/10 would watch again.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?

Movie Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

I’m not usually a fan of the modern chick flick/romcom.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them, they just don’t really do anything for me.  I have an equal apathy towards movies about sports or music.  To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, though?  Sign me up for a rewatch.

The movie follows Lara Jean, a high school student who sort of has a crush on her sister’s boyfriend, and over time has had crushes on four other lads.  To each of these lads she has written a love letter and keeps said letters in a pretty box in her wardrobe where no one will ever see them.

The story begins with Lara Jean’s older sister (the one with the boyfriend) going off to university in Scotland and leaving said boyfriend (Josh) back in the US with a broken heart.  Lara Jean is naturally filled with conflict and angst, until her helpful younger sister finds those letters and mails each and every one of them off to their intended recipients.  Two of them (Josh and a boy called Peter) go to Lara Jean’s school.  Peter has, very fortuitously, just broken up with his girlfriend Gwen, Lara Jean’s nemesis.

After some brief and enteraining hijinks, Lara Jean and Peter enter into a contract; they will fake date.  Peter will do it to fill his ex’s heart with jealousy and make her come back to him; Lara will do it to convince Josh and everyone else that she is not in love with him, because the awkwardness of being in love with your sister’s very recent ex is pretty extreme.

You can see where this is going, of course.  Slowly, adorably, and with many complications, Lara Jean and Peter realise that their fake relationship is becoming the real thing.  It becomes a big old will they/won’t they thing.  It’s really sweet.

I don’t know what it is about this movie that makes me so happy.  It could be that we have not one but three Asian American women, one of whom is the lead, and none of whom are token or stereotypical.  Maybe it’s that the people who spread rumours about Lara Jean are shot down by Peter, who could have bolstered his reputation as a stud by letting them spread.  Maybe it’s the adorable dynamic in Lara Jean’s family, the bonding over absent family members between Lara Jean and Peter, or even just the really sweet, cathartic ending that didn’t feel cliched even though you could see it coming a mile off.  The characters are well-rounded and well-developed.  Lara Jean’s little sister is hilarious and adorable.  Lara Jean’s relationship with her very feminist and slightly wacky best friend is super fun to watch.  I was never bored.

I really enjoyed the way the story was told, too.  Sometimes we get flashbacks to little Lara Jean and her historic crushes (really cute!).  Sometimes we see her talking to imaginary versions of Peter and Josh.  Sometimes she narrates the story, and at other times is totally oblivious to things happening around her.  Keeping it switched up like that helps keep you engaged, but also keep it firmly in the cutesy chick-flick arena.  It also helps build your sympathy and affinity for Lara Jean as the protagonist.  She’s already likeable, but this puts you in her head.

If you want your teenager to have a healthy view of how relationships should be and understand the importance of communication, this is a great movie for them to see.  If you want to watch something cute and satisfying and just plain nice, this is a great movie for you to see.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?  What other Netflix originals have you tried of late?  Let me know in the comments.

TV Spot: Mossad 101

Do you like NCIS?  Love a bit of James Bond?  Then you’ll adore Mossad 101.

Called HaMidrasha (or The Seminary) in Hebrew, the language in which it is predominantly filmed, Mossad 101 follows the selection process and training of a bunch of would-be Mossad agents.  They come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of dark secrets – an Iranian man with a gambling problem, a secretive but beautiful Brazilian woman, and an Arab-hating French-Israeli extremist to name just three.

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Dramatically striding teachers and trainees.  

Trained by the enigmatic Yona Harari, played by Yehuda Levi, the course and the series get off to a very exciting start.  The trainees are at a course commencement party when armed men suddenly storm the beachhouse, sending them fleeing into the night.  They have to get to the Seminary, where the course will be taught, before their time runs out, without being arrested by police (unless, of course, you turn that into your strategy, as one of the trainees did).  Real bullets are flying, real injuries sustained, and the course commanders immediately get into conflict with each other.

In addition to the interesting missions and personal development of the trainees, we also learn about the fascinating backstory of Yona Harari, aka Kinder.  He used to date Abigail Lerman (Liron Vaisman), who is the course commander by the end of the episode.  She’s now having a fling with the Deputy of Mossad, Micha (Shai Avivi).  Kinder is the jealous possessive type with either a serious personality problem or just standard male entitlement warped beyond control by his life as a spy, so his behaviour degenerates to straight-up stalking within the first episode.  Micha becomes similarly problematic down the track, and the ground is set for jealous enmity between the two.

We also discover that Kinder has been assigned to the training course because a mission went wrong in Bulgaria, and it was his fault.  The oldest trainee, Doris, is the wife of a Mossad agent (Aaron) who died as a result.  As the series progresses, we get to Kinder doing a lot of stone-cold badassery, but we also see him obfuscating about what actually happened on that mission.  Eventually, all the remaining trainees get suspicious, and then the action really kicks off.  I won’t give you any more spoilers.

This is an enthralling show.  Each character is unique and fascinating (with the possible exception of the two American-Israeli brothers in the course, who are interesting but very similar to each other).  They all have some sort of secret that no one else knows.  Most interestingly, you cannot predict who will go and who will stay.  I thought one character was strong-willed, clever, interesting and fun, but they got eliminated relatively early.  Others I thought were sure to go made it to the end.  The show constantly keeps you guessing.

The show also puts viewers in a weird place about Kinder.  He is likeable, charming, funny and quite supportive of Abigail on one occasion when she is clearly having a hard time.   However, he is also possessive and manipulative in the extreme.  One moment you think he is an awful person; the next he kind of redeems himself.  In one way, it is realistic to show a handsome, charming man with such a dark side, because domestic violence can be perpetrated by handsome charming men with perhaps even greater ease than ugly, socially-awkward ones.  On the other hand, making Kinder so likeable seems almost like a way of excusing his awful behaviour, particularly with the way the show ends (watch it and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s too good for me to spoil it).  It is vaguely satisfying to see him get punched in the throat by Micha a few episodes in.

Kinder’s handsome face and stalker qualities aside, Mossad 101 has incredible pacing.  It’s not like 24, where I find myself constantly on the edge of my seat, but there are some incredibly tense moments.  The action keeps driving forward and, despite most episodes having a cathartic ending with a bit of room to breathe, curiosity drives you on to watch the next one.

If you like TV shows about agencies like NCIS or police dramas, but also enjoy reality tv with eliminations, but also want to watch a spy movie, Mossad 101 has something for you.  By its nature it can be graphic and cover some disturbing stuff, including testing the characters to break their own moral and religious codes in multiple ways, but it would be far less realistic without that.

I want more people to watch this show so I have more people to talk about it with!  So get yourself onto Netflix and binge Season 1 – Season 2 has just come out and it promises to be a cracker.

Have you watched this show?  What else on Netflix has you hooked right now?  Any foreign-language dramas?  Let me know in the comments!

TV Spot: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2

Trigger warning for pretty much anything bad that could ever happen to a person.  Also spoilers for anyone who hasn’t completed Season 2 of the TV series.  In fact, this review won’t make much sense at all if you haven’t seen the series.

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood shortly before the first season of the Hulu television series aired on Netflix.  As soon as I’d finished the book, I binge-watched the tv series.  I probably should have thought that through a bit better, because watching and reading material that focuses so heavily on fertility, pregnancy, and women’s bodies may not be such a great idea when you are in the middle of an endo-flareup and people keep discussing infertility and pregnancy in relation to you.

For those who haven’t heard (somehow), The Handmaid’s Tale is a story about America after a civil war.  People stop having healthy babies and the far religious right sees this as a punishment for the moral failure, so they take over and institute a harsh regime with clear social classes, calling their new country Gilead.  Men can be Commanders (the elite, boss men), Guardians (the soldiers of the new regime), or Economen, the peasant class who do the manual labour.  Women (who aren’t allowed to read, write or drive) can be Wives (married to the Commanders), Aunts (older women who care for and enforce the rules on Handmaids), Marthas (the servant class who work for Commanders and Wives), or Econowives (the wives of the Economen).  Or, you can be a Handmaid.

Handmaids are based off the Old Testament story of Rachel and Leah, sisters who were both married to a man called Jacob.  It’s a particularly sad story to me, but I won’t go into that here.  Anyway, the two sisters get all hung up on having lots of babies for their husband so they can be the favourite wife, and both offer up their handmaids to sleep with him.  Jacob and the relevant wife can then consider any child of that union as their own.  In Gilead, infertile Wives and Commanders get their own Handmaid.  The Commanders have sex with the Handmaid while she lies in the Wife’s lap.  It’s bizarre, awful, and ritualised rape.  In Gilead, it’s considered totally fine, because it has Biblical precedent and babies are the most important thing ever.

The story follows a Handmaid called Offred (Handmaids are named after their Commanders – thus, Of[Commander’s Name].  Offred’s Commander is Fred, so she is called Of-fred.)  She is assigned to Commander Fred Waterford and his Wife, Serena Joy.

I love the book.  It’s poetically written and really captures the despairing awfulness of Gilead without losing this tiny glimmer of hope and rebellion.  It ends on a real cliffhanger, too, but it’s not done in a frustrating way.  The first season of the TV show followed pretty closely to the book, although it expanded the backstory of the characters and we meet Offred’s husband.  His story gets followed a bit too, although personally I find it much less compelling than Offred’s story.  We get much more involved with other characters, such as Emily and Janine, two other Handmaids, both with extremely tragic story arcs.  The series overall captures the tone of the book extremely well and makes the whole thing really come alive.

The second season is a bit wack.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like it.  I love the agonised hope you feel rooting for the Handmaids, who have such overwhelming forces arrayed against them.  I enjoy the character development of Serena Joy, however frustrating it may be, and seeing what I assume will be the inevitable rebellion growing tiny roots.  I think that the development of Emily into a stony, angry killer who is still a bit confused and terrified is realistic and heartbreaking.

Unfortunately, the season also gets weirdly repetitive, and a lot of the decisions don’t make sense.  Offred escapes, then is recaptured, then escapes, then hands herself in, then escapes, but chooses not to leave Gilead.  Serena Joy flips between hating Offred with a passion, and getting along in a frenemy sort of way.  Most astoundingly, Janine and Emily, who begin the series labouring in the radioactive colonies, are returned to Gilead on the very flimsy excuse of a “Handmaid shortage.”  Desperate as Gilead may be for fertile women, I do not for a moment believe that they would bring back woman who, the previous season, murdered a Guardian, or the one who nearly committed a murder-suicide with Gilead’s most precious resource, babies.  I mean, I love the characters, and I adore this hard-core Emily that excuses and minimises nothing and has nothing to lose, but it makes no sense that they’d bring them back.

Some of the storylines are extremely frustrating, rather than unrealistic.  You can just tell that things with Nick’s child-bride, Eden, are not going to end well, and I spent the whole time just thinking, “Nick, show her just one ounce of love, please,” because I could plainly see that tragedy was looming otherwise.  And guess what?  Tragedy loomed very large.

Finally, the last episode is just far too convenient.  Emily literally gets away with murder, because she just happens to be landed with this Commander who is all sympathetic about that.  He’s a member of the group of men that manufactured and maintains the existing system.  How is he going to be ok with a Handmaid who kills another of its supports, let alone take on the risk of smuggling her out of the country and concealing the crime?  I don’t agree with the argument that he is just a good person.  A good person would not be in a position now to be a Commander, because he’d have spoken out against the regime when it first started, and that would have got him demoted AT BEST.  And this secret network of Marthas rising out of nowhere to replace Mayday?  I love it, but I don’t buy it.

I’m not even going to talk about Offred’s ludicrous cliff-hanger-making decision in the last minute.  What the actual heck.

I still love the overall feel of the series.  I’m still rooting for the Handmaids, I still want more of Moira, and I still want to see more of Serena Joy’s transformation (although I don’t think it is a redemptive transformation given that she only saw the shortcomings of the system when they personally effected her and hers).  However, I think I was largely carried through this season on a wave of nostalgia from Season 1, and hope for Season 3 (in which we had better see some Hunger Games-style rebellion with Canadian backing).  I didn’t not enjoy it, but I think it made some strange choices that just didn’t work.

What did you think of it?  Where do you think Season 3 is going?  Let me know in the comments!

TV Spot: Churchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits

It’s no secret that, if you’re sick a lot, Netflix is an almost invaluable tool.  One of my latest Netflix binges is “Churchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits.” It follows 14 people from very different backgrounds as they attempt to pass the training that would have let them into the SOE (Special Operations Executive) in World War II.

The SOE were Britain’s covert operations group during WWII.  They supported the French Resistance, conducted acts of sabotage, and generally engaged in bad-assery all over Nazi-occupied Europe.  Some of their most famous operatives include New Zealand-born Nancy Wake, aka the White Mouse, and Pearl Witherington, after whom my corgi is named.  One thing I love about the SOE is that it was not afraid to include women.  Women were taught exactly the same skills as the men, had to pass exactly the same training, and were sent out on the same dangerous operations.  Read more here about some of the brave men and women who served in the SOE, and their surprising backgrounds.

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Nancy Wake
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Pearl Witherington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Netflix series consists of five episodes, each around 45 minutes long.  The 14 trainees are taught and assessed by three British Army officers as they learn to fire a pistol and a rifle, complete an assault course, sneak through forests dodging Nazis, pick locks, withstand interrogation, send and receive Morse code, and kill a man with their bare hands.  As each new challenge is introduced, viewers also learn a little bit about the SOE, its agents, and some of its operations.  The trainees dress, eat and act as if it were the 1940s throughout, including only having access to the wireless and 1940s newspapers at breakfast.  Like the original agents the trainees are of a mix of ages and backgrounds – there’s a mathematician, a paralegal, a real estate agent, a drama teacher and a former paratrooper, among others.  One Polish lady actually had family in the resistance during WWII, and her great-aunt was killed for her work against the Nazis.

Some of the trainees are clearly unsuited for the training, such as the lady in the first episode who won’t crawl under some barbed wire in the assault course because it will mess up her hair.  Others ace the assault course, including a gentleman with only one leg and a lady who is incredibly good at literally everything despite standing no taller than I did at age 10.

In addition to their success in the tasks set, the instructors pay close attention to the group dynamics and personalities, and aren’t afraid to fail people out who can’t adjust their personalities to the situation at hand.  Overconfidence is not appreciated any more than timidity.  Some trainees actually realise themselves that they are not up to the demands of the course, and bow out gracefully.

It is fascinating to see the trainees learn the different skills, and to hear them developing immense respect for the real SOE agents.  I really enjoyed the development of those who made it through, and confess to being surprised at some of them.  I won’t give away any spoilers about who does make it to the end, because it really is worth watching.  You wonder throughout, “Could I do this?  If I had been alive during the war, could I have done this?  Would I have been prepared to put my life on the line?” It does encourage you to engage in a bit of self-analysis as well as analysis of the people you are watching.

10/10 for this show.  Beautiful Scottish highlands, stately homes, an education and entertainment all at once.  It doesn’t take long to watch, and I definitely recommend it.  Just fast-forward the bit with the rats.  You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

Movie Review – Kong: Skull Island

I’ll be very honest with you – Tom Hiddleston is the only reason I watched this movie.

Kong: Skull Island is a slightly updated take on the original, but it has more or less the same basic elements.  Giant monkey?  Check.  Woman he becomes attached to?  Check.  Men who want to kill him?  Check.

Read on for spoilers, if you haven’t already seen it.  It’s been on Netflix for ages, so you’ve had time.

The original

In the original 1933 movie, a producer takes a pretty blonde woman called Ann for a location filmshoot on Skull Island.  She gets kidnapped by the local tribes who offer her as a sacrifice to King Kong.  Enamoured with her, he kills a dinosaur or three to protect her (yes, there are dinosaurs).  She gets

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The poster for the original 1933 movie

rescued, Kong gets captured and taken back to New York and put on display.  He escapes, snatches up Ann and climbs the Empire State Building, where he gets shot by a bunch of biplanes and dies.  On the deep and philosophical line, “twas Beauty killed the Beast”, the movie ends and the citizens of NYC presumably get on with cleaning up the massive mammal that just plummeted 102 stories onto their streets.

The new plot

The 2017 reboot is a little different.  Set in 1973, the expedition to the island is for sciencey reasons instead.  We have a mad scientist and his team who provide the impetus for the expedition but then really don’t do much at all, the gorgeous Brie Larsen as the pretty anti-war photo-journalist (the new Ann, only useful), Tom Hiddleston as a beautifully spoken mercenary who is apparently an expert at exploring uncharted territory, and Samuel L Jackson as the slightly unhinged commander of a bunch of American troops.

They all go flying into the island in a bunch of big helicopters and start dropping depth charges, allegedly to measure seismic echoes or somesuch.  This confirms Team Mad Scientist’s theory that the island is hollow.  Unfortunately, it wakes up Kong who beats 10 bells out of the helicopters, leaving the survivors (of which there are a surprising amount) scattered across the island.

After some initial fumbling around and the discovery that everything on this island is super-size, including the spiders, the expedition is split into roughly three groups: Team Explorer, made up of the two younger scientists, Brie Larsen and Tom Hiddleston; Team Kill Everything, led by Samuel L Jackson and composed of the surviving soldiers and the oldest scientist; and Team I’m Clearly Going to Die, which is a single soldier who writes a touching letter to his child.  Team Explorer start bush-bashing optimistically but cautiously through the wilderness in search of the choppers coming to pick them up on the other side of the island.  Team Kill Everything do much the same, but are instead searching for Team I’m Clearly Going to Die.

Team Explorer come across a tribe of very quiet native people who have been looking after an American soldier (played by John C Reilly) who crashed on the island in WW2 and became besties with a Japanese pilot who also crashed there, after their initial attempts to murder each other.  He’s long dead by the time Team Explorer finds his American buddy, presumably because we already have a black man in a lead role, two black supporting characters who get actual spoken lines AND an Asian lady in a supporting role who gets at least two words, so we’ve filled our racial diversity quota.  Anyway, we find out that the tribe worships Kong, who protects them from giant two-armed lizard things who killed his family.  Kong is the last giant ape.  There is a myth that when he dies the most giantest of giant lizards will arise from the earth and kill everyone else.

Meanwhile, having taken on killing Kong as his life’s purpose, Team Kill Everything are continuing on their merry way doing as the name suggests.  In a twist NOBODY SAW COMING (I mean, he’d written a heartfelt letter to his child) Team I’m Clearly Going to Die gets murdered by a giant lizard thing (but not the really big one.  Just a little giant one).

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Giant Lizard Thing

After various shenanigans, the two surviving teams meet up and instantly have a difference of opinion.  Team Explorer wants to escape; Team Kill Everything wants to kill Kong.  Because Team KE has all the guns, Team E has to sort of capitulate and starts to run away to the choppers.  Unsuprinsgly, because they are main characters and clearly have some simmering sexual tension, Brie and Tom, joined by John C Reilly, tell the supporting characters to leave and then go and try and stop Team KE.  They make a nice attempt but Kong still gets mostly murdered and super-lizard arises.  There’s a long battle with multiple “is he dead?  No, he’s got a last reserve of strength!” moments and eventually Kong survives, the lizard and Samuel L Jackson are both dead, and the remaining characters chug into the sunset on their makeshift boat.

Worth watching?

If you want a straight-up action movie with good CGI and a plot that doesn’t get deep, yes.  If you want to watch Tom Hiddleston play a badass who secretly has a heart of gold but also a dark past we never really talk about, then yes.  If you want to see Samual L Jackson act a little crazy and get trigger-happy with the napalm, then yes.

Nothing about this movie is mind-blowing or unexpected, but it is a good little action romp with gorgeous scenery, some funny characters, and the occasional moment that tugs on the heart-strings.  Brie’s character actually gets to do some stuff rather than just being scenery, which is nice.  Tom Hiddleston’s character is a little inconsistent (stone-cold but also really not?) but he carries it off, largely due to speaking so beautifully you forget any other problems with what he’s up to.  Samuel L Jackson’s character is almost bizarrely sympathetic – he clearly feels like he has no purpose with his role in the Vietnam war ending, he’s mad as hell that his men got killed, and he wants to avenge them.  However, because Kong is also clearly sympathetic – he reacts to his home being bombed by coming out and taking out the bombers, and is actually largely pro-human – we as the audience expect Jackson to just get over it, forget all his dead soldiers and learn to be a functional civilian.  He plays the character with just enough madness to take away just enough sympathy for us to be happy casting him as the bad guy (a spot he shares admirably well with Giant Lizard).

It’s clear that a great imagination has concocted this world, populated by a range of bizarre and beautiful creatures, and some phenomenal artists have clearly worked very hard to make this movie a thing.

The biggest let-down of the movie is its intense predictability.  Yes, it is a remake, but they change so much about the plot that you’d have thought it wouldn’t be as clear where it is going.  It is, though.  In terms of the overarching plot, there wasn’t a single narrative point that surprised me.

Would I watch it again?  If I was in the right mood.  Does it rank amongst my top ten?  Not even close.  Is Tom Hiddleston’s voice still to die for?  100%.

 

Nailed It: The Netflix Show for Bad Bakers

Do you love pinterest fails, french accents and cooking competitions?  Then Nailed It is probably for you.

Hosted by Nicole Byer, with chef Jacques Torres as head judge and a random guest judge (usually also a culinary expert but sometimes not), the show follows the same format each week.  Three enthusiastic but amateur American folks stroll onto the show and are asked to recreate a variety of professionally-made cakes.  There are two rounds.  The first one, “Baker’s Choice,” requires the contestants to choose one of three cakes, biscuits or other confection, to recreate.  We’ve seen emoji biscuits, lip-shaped cake pops and people-face cookies, and even a football grandstand made up of guacamole and various dippy bits.  Whoever wins Baker’s Choice gets a sparkly gold hat and some sort of fun kitchen thing, like a cake decorating kit, knife block or stand mixer.

Round two, “Nail It or Fail It,” really brings out the big guns.  All three contestants have to recreate the same cake, which is usually massively complex and heavily decorated.

Image result for nailed it netflix
Source: https://www.tastingtable.com/culture/national/nailed-it-netflix-show

There’s been the above shark chomping down a diver, Rapunzel in her tower, a unicorn, a volcano, a hovering teapot pouring tea down into a cup, and even Donald Trump (highly recommend watching that episode if you ever wanted to know what Trump might look like if he was a zombie cake).  Some bakers do surprisingly well (although rarely well enough for it to not be funny), but most create horrifying nightmares.  The cakes are all tested on taste as well as appearance, and the winner of this round gets $10,000 and the allegedly soon-to-be-collectable Nailed It trophy.  Then everyone jumps in for a group selfie and we move on to binge-watch the next episode.

Delightfully, the show is not actually particularly judgey.  The panel isn’t scared to have a giggle at some of the disasters plated up for them (my favourite was one that looked quite good but had all the judges spitting it out because the contestant had muddled sugar and salt), but they are supportive of the contestants’ efforts and quick to point out what they have done well.  It seems like most contestants feel they actually learn something.

Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres work well together, with Byer’s rather sarcastic enthusiasm working well as a counterpoint to Torres’ quiet humour and to-die-for french accent.  Seriously, he says “buttercream” a million times on this show, and I could still listen to him say it a million more.  Torres also teaches Byer and the guest judge some tips and tricks whilst the contestants are working, which is helpful for viewers.

Overall, it is an incredibly fun show to watch, and with each episode only lasting half an hour it is a really nice way to have a quick moment to unwind and fill you with the lust for cake and biscuits.  10/10 would watch again.