film reel

What I Watched: May 2023

Although the theme this month was witches, my viewing choices were all over the place. This was mostly because there wasn’t really anything on my watch lists focused on witches and I was continuing with series started in previous months. American Horror Story: Coven and Hocus Pocus 2 would have fit perfectly, but I’d watched those earlier this year already.

Cut, Color, Murder
A Hallmark murder mystery with the usual tropes in place – amateur female sleuth, handsome detective-cum-love-interest, small town. The acting’s pretty awful and the lead character – our intrepid sleuth – swings between being sweet and acting obnoxious. For a sleuth who’s apparently so smart the town’s police chief can’t solve a single crime without her, the irrational behaviour she displays towards the new detective makes no sense. Sure, you have to suspend your disbelief when watching this genre, but the network’s other murder mysteries do a much better job of disguising how silly and implausible these stories usually are. And don’t even get me started on how awful the haircutting scenes are!

Parallel Mothers
This is the latest film from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, one of my all-time favourite directors. It’s a beautiful film revolving around two pregnant women, Janis and Ana, who meet in a maternity ward and are tied together by the most incredible tragedy. Running parallel to their story is Janis’s relationship with a forensic anthropologist who is helping her gain permission to excavate a mass grave where her great-grandfather was buried during the Spanish Civil War. Almodóvar’s trademark themes and motifs are firmly in place: my favourites being the way he weaves colour and food into his work.

I loved the fact that the movie has you on a knife’s edge. It felt like it was going to turn into a terrifying thriller (this is what happens in The Skin I Live In, after all), but plays out in a completely unexpected way. It is so heartfelt and poignant, free of fuss and frills, with the emotions fully but never melodramatically portrayed by any of the actresses, which I respected enormously. It takes a lot more talent to display emotion in a raw and quiet manner than it does to display it hysterically by screaming and flailing your arms around. In fact, I’d call that bad acting and I hate it when actresses do it. Penélope Cruz always shines in Almodóvar’s films (this is her seventh with him) and I’m glad she keeps on returning to these collaborations.

For more on why you should watch Parallel Mothers, check out my article about it here.

Fast X
Cards on the table: I’ve only watched three Fast & Furious movies: 1, 8, and now 10. At some point in life, I might watch the others. They are a lot of fun.

As much as these movies are also about suspending your disbelief, the stunts and set-pieces are just getting really ridiculous. As in the tenth movie, which is so ridiculous that the only way to pull them off is with CGI, detracting from the glory of any real action. In fact, the action I enjoyed the most was the practical stuff, like Jason Statham and Sung Kang kicking each other’s butts and watching Jason Momoa zip along on a motorbike, cackling maniacally all the way…although the flaming bomb rolling through Rome was pretty funny, even if you could see how fake it was.

Fast & Furious is also getting very sentimental as the franchise is wrapping up, with this movie slated as the second-last (the last two films are essentially parts one and two, so be prepared for a cliffhanger ending). As sentimental as it is, it’s fun seeing many of the franchise’s stars return (I may not have watched them all, but I’ve read and written enough about these movies to know who’s who in the F&F fam). But what makes this instalment 100% worth your time is Momoa playing a fabulously vamped-up villain.

Read my Fast & Furious articles here and here.

Seasons 5 and 6
The whole “who killed my mother” story is finally wrapped up. It’s been dragging on for so long, and the resolution (which kind of unfolded over several episodes) felt anti-climactic. At least it now paves the way for a new overarching mystery to be introduced, while still providing the standard, but very fun, episodic, “monster-of-the-week” vibe.

Season 1
This was the only thing that fit my theme. Unfortunately, it’s a very stupid show. Everything about it is uneven – particularly the accents and acting – and although the story’s great, the writing’s bad. I also hate how it’s posited as a female-led show, but the hero is actually John Alden, while the women are evil or weak or both and constantly turn against one another. It gets quite addictive towards the end, and while it has some great bits, it’s ultimately quite forgettable.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The movie, not the series. I loved the latter growing up and have long wanted to watch the movie that preceded it. It does kind of work as a prequel to the series, but ultimately it strayed very far from writer and creator Joss Whedon’s vision of the story, something he finally got to realise with the series. Nevertheless, it’s great for a bout of ‘90s nostalgia – and watching Buffy kick butt and save all the boys is great fun.

Love from a Stranger
The Shedunnit watch party movie for the month. This is adapted from a short story by Agatha Christie and is a great thriller! Ann Harding is excellent as the lead character, but I did not know quite what to make of Basil Rathbone’s acting. His character is very disturbed; but while the creepiness of the character sometimes worked extremely well, it sometimes just became very annoying. It’s fairly obvious from the get-go that Rathbone’s character is one to be wary of, but it means you get a very tense and suspenseful thriller. As much as you’re sure he’s bad news, you have no idea how his dark side is going to present itself and it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the movie. On a musical note (see what I did there): I loved how Edvard Grieg’s music is used. Check it out below.

Love & Death
This was a miniseries I watched for work. As much as I love detective fiction and murder mystery, true crime is not really in my wheelhouse. Nevertheless, this is a good series and the acting (especially from Jesse Plemons, Patrick Fugit, and Tom Pelphrey) is outstanding. The soundtrack (both the original score and the ‘70s hits) was great and it was interesting delving into the true story of Candy Montgomery, as well as reading about how last year’s take on the story, Candy, differed from Love & Death.

Read my article about the show’s music here.

Image credit.

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