Movie March Week Three

We’re already at week three? March is moving so quickly! Thankfully I was more productive this week than last, and got my butt into gear to watch some movies, most of which I’d never seen before. This week contained some television new and old, some fun re-watches, and, as I move into a new year of uni (where I’m studying classic film this year), some class-assigned movies and a few classics sprinkled throughout my week. What have I seen? What have I been up to? Read below for my weekly roundup:

15/3: Riverdale


Alas, more Riverdale. At this point I’m probably the only person left still watching this show, but it’s a really great vehicle of drama for me – I can take it as seriously or as campy as I want in any given moment. I think we’re ramping up to the end of the series which is a scary thought; what am I going to do without my Thursday night Netflix ritual?


16/3: West Side Story


Oh man, this musical has a special place in my heart. When I was in high school, my school put this on as the school musical, and whilst I wasn’t involved (one of my many school-related regrets), the music, characters and story seeped into school life, and I soon became enamoured with the star-crossed romance of all-American Tony and Puerto Rican immigrant Maria. I’d never seen the 1961 Oscar-winning film until last Friday, but boy am I glad I did now: Richard Beymer as Tony is so lovable, Natalie Wood is sublime as Maria, and Rita Moreno’s Anita is a whirlwind of a performance, equal parts witty and tragic. It’s bound to get its music stuck in your head, but when you hear the score, you know it’s not a bad thing.


17/3: The Lion King


I think the last time I saw the Lion King was actually this time last year, during the inaugural Movie March, and I loved it even more this year, probably because I saw it at the drive-in. I love the drive-in for several reasons, mostly because of its retro aesthetic and the fact that I can talk through a film and nobody gets mad, and the ability to see The Lion King on the big screen for the first time, set against a night sky backdrop, was truly special. I’ve always loved the music and the characters of what is arguably Disney’s most beloved film, but this time around I got even more out of the father-son relationship explored in the movie, and was moved even more by the tragedy surrounding it, and the ideas of dealing with death and becoming the person you need to be after experiencing trauma. Heavy stuff for a movie with a singing meerkat, huh?


18/3: Gone with the Wind


Confession time: before Sunday, I had never seen Gone with the Wind. Actually, I don’t think that’s much of a surprise, since the 1939 Oscar-winning film is incredibly long and incredibly of its time, so most people my age probably haven’t seen it. We all have pre-conceived notions of what Gone with the Wind is like: the epic romance, the epic racism, the Civil War melodrama, but Gone with the Wind really managed to surprise me. It’s still racist, but it’s not quite the epic romance I’d thought it was – although Scarlett (Vivian Leigh) and Rhett (Clark Gable) do have a fantastic report – and this was, in my belief, for the better, because I got to focus more on the main star of the show, Miss Scarlett O’Hara. Scarlett is a feminist icon of her time if ever I saw one: cunning, clever, owning her sexuality and driven, doing whatever it takes to survive the Civil War and ensure that she lives the most successful life possible in the aftermath (‘As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!’). She’s also incredibly emotional, and feels deeply as she struggles with her love and abuse of different men and romantic partners over the film’s almost-4-hour runtime. There’s so much to love about this film, with its melodrama, its Civil War history, its romance and its wealth of great characters, moments, and dialogue – “Tomorrow is another day, Scarlett”, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”, and countless others. I really did love it, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in film or classics.


20/3: I’m Not There

I'm Not There

Skipping over Monday, I’m moving onto I’m Not There, the Todd Haynes-directed biopic of sorts about legendary music icon Bob Dylan. Rather than telling a linear story about Dylan’s life, the film focuses on six different personas, all representative of Dylan in one way or another, with their own mini stories told in separate filmic styles. There’s 70s actor Robbie (Heath Ledger), born-again folk singer Jack (Christian Bale), early-1960s icon Jude (an androgynous Cate Blanchett), young African-American boy Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin), poet Arthur Rimbaud (who was a real person, here played by Ben Whishaw) and older cowboy Billy (Richard Gere). What’s funny about this film is that, although I learned absolutely nothing about Bob Dylan, this film gives me a much better idea of the KIND of person Dylan was: introspective, poetic, and ever-changing. A fascinating film to check out if you’re a fan of biopics, and especially Bob Dylan, as his music plays throughout the film.


21/3: Fresh Meat


I’ve been obsessed with the stand-up comedy of Jack Whitehall lately, and I love his Netflix show Travels with my Father, so I’ve been watching Fresh Meat, a show about university students in Manchester living in a share house together. Whitehall plays JP, a private school lad who takes over the house and seemingly can’t play nice with the rest of the ensemble of students, who include Vod (Zawe Ashton), an uber-cool party girl, Howard (Greg McHugh), an older student who needs to learn boundaries with his fellow housemates, and Kingsley and Josie (Joe Thomas and Kimberley Nixon), who are navigating the awkwardness of sexual attraction whilst sharing a bedroom wall. It’s full of fun, sometimes cringey comedy, and it’s a great way back in to British comedy for someone who used to watch a heap of it.

And that’s week three done! I’m hoping to fill the final week of Movie March with some Wes Anderson hipsterism, Alex Garland sci-fi, and hopefully a rewatch of my favourite film of last year. Want to know what it was? Tune in next week to find out!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from


Movie March Week Two

Better late than never for week two!

I look back on last year’s Movie March with fond memories: remember that time I watched three movies in one day? Good times! However, rose-coloured glasses seem to have erased my memories of how hard it sometimes can be to watch a full movie every day for a week – with early morning starts and a busy schedule, sometimes it just isn’t possible to watch a heap of movies, especially when all the ones you are inspired to watch are 2+ hours long (already a struggle for me, as long movies are not my forte).

That said, I managed to watch three movies this week, and well as a host of TV, YouTube videos and podcasts also kept me entertained too. I also promise that week 3 will be much better – so far this week I’ve seen some pretty interesting films! But for now, here’s week 2:

8/3: Riverdale


That’s right, I’m still watching Riverdale. Last year I was borderline obsessed with the show’s addictive first-season mystery, aided very well by its thirteen-episode run; this year’s season doesn’t quite live up to that standard, but it’s still a great teen drama series that has me tuning in every Thursday night like clockwork. Betty’s (Lili Reinhart) still my favourite character, and her tumultuous relationship with now-gang-member boyfriend Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is playing games with my emotions every week, but this season does have the added plus of making Archie (KJ Apa) a much more interesting character, with his dangerous relationship with girlfriend Veronica’s (Camila Mendes) father, and Cheryl Blossom seems to be enjoying a new, cute relationship with Southside firecracker Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan). I’m still addicted, and nothing can stop me now.


9/3: The Empire Podcast

Considering how long I’ve been a reader of Empire Magazine (five years), it’s a wonder how I’ve only just started listening to the Empire Film Podcast, where my favourite writers from the magazine I’ve adored for so long get together and talk about film news and reviews, and interview filmmakers and actors. Unsurprisingly, my favourite writers from the mag – Chris Hewitt and Helen O’Hara – are also my favourites to listen to, James Dyer’s cynicism is always fun, and it’s fascinating how being able to put a voice to a writing style has rekindled my love of the magazine.


11/3: The 13th Warrior


Whilst I love a good historical epic, I don’t watch many, but from what I’ve seen the 13th Warrior is certainly a different entry into the genre. Starring Antonio Banderas as an Arabic man (yikes) who joins a band of Vikings to defeat an evil force, it puts forth some interesting ideas about language and the ways different cultures interact, as well as incorporating interesting mythological ideas whilst maintaining a (relatively) grounded story. That said, it’s overly complex and difficult to connect to personally, even though it’s quite simple at its core, but its interesting ideas are what kept me watching.


12/3: The Lake House


I told you I was on a Keanu kick. The Lake House is one of Keanu Reeves’ few romantic films, in which he and Sandra Bullock share a sweet romance through letter writing – made difficult by the fact that they live two years apart. The premise (and the stars) are what drew me to the film, as I’m a huge time-travel-esque nut (Arrival, Back to the Future, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and it deals with some interesting ideas about time, our abilities to influence the future, and what can be predicted or changed. Even though the film doesn’t always follow its own time-travel rules, and suffers in the chemistry department at times (Keanu isn’t the most charming leading man here), it still manages to take your breath away for the final few minutes and punch you right in the gut at the end, leaving a big emotional impact.


13/3: [Redacted]

So today was a screening for my internship with the website FilmInk! I’m not sure if I can say what the actual film is, since the embargo won’t be lifted for a little while, so I won’t. But I can assure you that, yes, I did actually see a film last Tuesday. Stay tuned for my review over on the FilmInk website!

And so comes the end of my lacklustre week of films! I promise I’ll have many more interesting films to talk about in my next post for Movie March, and even have a few belated reviews come out soon as well. But if you have any recommendations on what I should be watching, comment below so I can give them a go!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from

Movie March 2018! Week One

This exact time last year, I embarked on a project designed to further both my love of films and my love of writing about them: Movie March, a month where I (attempt to) watch a movie each day, and, at the end of every week, post a summary of what I’ve watched. Part initiative to watch more films, part initiative to write about them more, Movie March ended up being a really interesting dissection of my watching habits when I watch films more frequently – and in the end, I truly did watch more movies that month.

Over the course of the last year, not much has changed. I still don’t watch enough movies (although I do watch more now on average), and I certainly don’t write about them enough, so Movie March is the perfect opportunity to inspire me to watch more, write more, analyse and engage more. So allow me to kick things off with my first week of Movie March:

1/3: Mad Max: Fury Road and Speed


As I am now entering my fourth year of university, I decided to do something new and fun and join my university’s Film Appreciation Society, which meets twice a week for a screening of a film, followed by discussion. Last Thursday was the club’s first screening of the year, with the double billing of the most recent Mad Max film and Keanu Reeves 90s classic, and I was driven to go both by an interest in meeting new film-lover friends and also to see Speed, which I had not seen before. I had seen Mad Max: Fury Road before (you may remember my post about the GRAPHIC! Talk I saw with George Miller); I am still as fascinated by this film’s epic scope and depth of lore today as I was two years ago. The cinematography is breathtaking, the action electric (or should I say diesel?), and the story, though simple in comparison to the visuals, still feels incredibly personal. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa draws me in every time, as does her complex relationship with Max (tom Hardy), and I especially love how each of Immortan Joe’s escapee wives have their own distinct personalities. And, as I did last time, when Furiosa and the wives get up on the platform amidst celebration and Max stays behind, not having earnt his moment yet, I still wonder what is next for Max, and where he is to go next.



The second film we screened was Speed, which thankfully makes up for my lack of movie watching the day after. I expected to be entertained by Speed, but I definitely didn’t expect to be as invested in the story, and the characters, as I was. It’s a classic action movie conceit: Keanu Reeves plays an LAPD officer who has to think quick after a bomber rigs a bus to explode if it goes slower than 50mph. Young Keanu has this great duality as an actor of both intensity and charm; he may be easy to make fun of with his very 90s voice, but here he has an easy, sexy chemistry with Sandra Bullock (who is also fantastic) and somehow makes a bomb that’s rigged to explode when the bus goes under 50mph believable. The movie walks that difficult line between knowing exactly what kind of movie it is, and still taking itself seriously when things get serious, and that results in an adrenaline-filled, tense, but super fun, action movie.


3/3 (Because I was lazy on the 2nd): John Wick


Sensing a pattern? After Speed, I realised how few Keanu films I had actually seen, so I’ve gone on a bit of a Keanu kick, starting with John Wick, the story of a former assassin who’s dog is killed by the son of a Russian mobster, and goes on a no-holds-barred killing spree to seek revenge. Whilst the story itself is simple and nothing new, it’s Keanu’s performance, the action sequences, and the world building that really elevates Wick to the kind of film that gets a sequel three years later. Keanu is intense and brooding, but still looks like he’s enjoying himself in the most brutal and quick-paced gun fight scenes I’ve seen recently, which are kinetic and inventive, and capitalise on Keanu’s physicality and martial arts skills. But it’s the world building that fascinated me the most, with this underworld of assassins, connected by this hotel that specialises in the assassin industry, that lends credibility and believability to the characters we’ve been following and their motivations. Is John Wick: Chapter 2 on Netflix?


4/3: The Road to El Dorado


How had I never seen this film? Growing up, as many of us did, on Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks classics, I’ve always been aware of this film, but this delightfully quirky film had somehow slipped my radar. Based on legends from the Spanish conquering of the New World in the 16th century, the film follows con artists Miguel and Tulio (Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline) as they search for the lost city of gold and stumble upon a civilisation who mistakes them for gods. Despite its problematic elements, the film is so much fun: it’s brightly coloured, full of fascinating characters – from an opportunistic high priest who uses our heroes’ arrival to control the city to a conning local girl looking to make her fortune and escape, as well as our main protagonists and their conflicting dynamics – and is even peppered with an incredible Elton John/Tim Rice soundtrack that I can’t believe I didn’t know existed. It brought me back to my childhood of watching The Prince of Egypt, Spirit and Sinbad, and all those other cult classic animated films we’ve allowed ourselves, foolishly, to forget.


5/3: Hot Fuzz


Monday was the perfect sick day for me: it was raining, the Oscars were on (hey! You should check out my recap), and after that I got to watch a much more interesting program: Hot Fuzz. I’ve been catching up on my Edgar Wright since Baby Driver last year, and this film was so different to Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim that it reminded me just how interesting a filmmaker Wright is. When skilled London police officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is transferred to a sleepy village, not all is what it seems, as he teams up with bumbling PC Danny Butterman to uncover the dark secret harboured by the town’s creepy residents. Not only is it a love letter to past action and cop films, and the second instalment of the Cornetto Trilogy, but it’s a fascinating (and relatable) treatise on the insularity of small town life and the nature of ambition. It’s a comedy, an action film, and it even functions as a thriller: the second act twist is super surprising and satisfying, and kept me going through a film that, before the twist, I had worried was boring me. Spoiler: it was not.


6/3: Queer Eye

With a couple of busier days ahead of me, I unfortunately didn’t watch any movies for the rest of Week One, so instead allow me to tell you about my TV and other entertainment pursuits. Today I watched the penultimate episode of the new Netflix version of Queer Eye, a reality show where a team of five gay men – the Fab Five – transform the lives of men who are struggling to look after themselves in different areas of their lives. It’s a heart-warming, hilarious, often quite emotional show that not only teaches self-care, fashion and cultural tricks and tips, its strength is in its Fab Five: Tan, Karamo, Antoni, Bobby and Jonathan, who are all so lovable and aspirational that there’s never a dull moment. This show never fails to lift my mood, and by the response on social media, Netflix had better be planning a second season. Soon.

7/3: My Obsession with Podcasts

Whether I’m cleaning or using public transport, at some point during the day I’m listening to a podcast, always film related, of course. And I’ve discovered so many great new ones lately that I’m obsessed with: there’s the Cine-Files, hosted by John Rocha and Steve Morris, where they break down a movie, often scene by scene, and talk about the film’s history, the filmmaking, and the actors and creatives involved. Not only is their analysis fascinating, as they each bring different views to the films (Steve’s more technical, John’s emotional), and often have on guests that give even more insight into the history of that genre. John Rocha also does another podcast, The Top 10, with comedian Matt Knost, where they compile top ten lists of different categories of films, whether it be an actor’s or director’s work, a genre, you name it, and I’ve loved that one for years.  I also discovered that the Director’s Guild of America also do a podcast: they have a director with a new film be interviewed by a fellow director on the film they’ve just released, and it’s different to a regular interview, as it’s two peers discussing their field rather than a simple question and answer. I’ve also been loving Alicia Malone as the host of the Filmstruck Podcast (she has an interview with Edgar Wright that’s wonderful), and I’m trying out the Empire Podcast for the first time after years of reading their magazine.

And that’s been my week in (mostly) movies! I’ll try to watch more movies this week, but who knows what’ll end up in next week’s recap. I just bought a heap of new DVDs so you’ll probably see some more Keanu Reeves sneak in there, as well as maybe one or two classic films, as that’ll be a big focus of my movie watching this year. Also, if you’d like to join in, leave me a comment telling me what you’re watching, or anything you recommend I check out. Until next week!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from

Oscars Recap 2017!

After last year’s debacle, it can’t go anywhere but up, right?

The 90th Academy Awards have just wrapped up the wonderful year of film that was 2017, celebrating the best films and highlights of the last year that redefined cinema and changed pop culture. Though many of the winners were the frontrunners throughout the awards season and the ceremony didn’t prove much of a surprise, all of our favourite films and performances were represented during the show, whether it was through nominations or presentations, celebrating the likes of trailblazing filmmakers and actors like Kumail Nanjiani, Gal Gadot, Chadwick Boseman, Greta Gerwig and Daniel Kaluuya. And ultimately, most of the recipients were deserving winners, recognising films and performances that truly captured us as we sat in the theatres. What more can we ask for? Here’s what happened at the Dolby Theatre during the 90th Academy Awards:

In an opening monologue that was much lighter than years previous, yet fit the theme of the evening, Jimmy Kimmel welcomed us to an evening that was bereft of surprise and felt hours longer than it actually was. He did, however, provide one of the best running gags of the night: he promised a prize to the person who ended up giving the shortest speech of the night, a jet ski, in the style of a game show host, that would then be riffed on by several of the night’s winners.

Then, starting the show off, as they often do, with Best Supporting Actor, I’d hoped this would be the only acting category that might offer us something of a surprise. Sam Rockwell won the Golden Globe for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri at the beginning of the season and was the main performance that everyone was talking about (even if it was about how controversial it was), but it was such a tough category, and he certainly wasn’t a sure thing. However, he managed to come out on top of Dafoe, Jenkins, Harrelson and Plummer, and even dedicated his award to late friend Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Following this was two of the technical categories: Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. While Darkest Hour stylists Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick were a lock for Makeup and Hairstyling, mostly for Gary Oldman’s prosthetics and Winston Churchill, it would’ve been an absolute crime if Phantom Thread, itself a film about fashion design, hadn’t won the award for Costume Design. No surprises there!

Best Documentary Feature provided our only real upset of the evening, with Icarus, a documentary about a major international doping scandal, beating out favourite Faces Places, the French documentary film following director Agnes Varda and photographer JR through rural France. This was then followed by an absolute robbery in my opinion: Dunkirk took out achievements in both sound editing and mixing, whilst Ansel Elgort and Eiza Gonzalez, stars of the film that truly deserved those awards, Baby Driver, presented the statues. As much as I liked Dunkirk, Baby Driver could not have worked as a film without its sound engineering, and it’s a real shame they didn’t win.

After the Shape of Water collected the award for Best Production Design (because that film was STUNNING), a beautiful moment for the night happened, as Chilean film A Fantastic Woman won Best Foreign Language Film. Starring transgender woman Daniela Vega in this very personal story about a transgender singer after the death of her boyfriend, this was a huge moment for inclusivity and representation, the first of many for the evening.

Surprising no one, frontrunner Allison Janney won best Supporting Actress for her role as LaVona in I, Tonya, taking to the stage and declaring, ‘I did this all by myself’, followed by much laughter. Dear Basketball was named Best Animated Short Film, giving us all a very surreal moment as Kobe Bryant received his first Oscar, and then Coco, the beautiful and well-deserving Pixar film, took out Best Animated Feature.

Rounding out the technical categories, Blade Runner 2049 won its first Oscar of the night for its Visual Effects, followed by Dunkirk once again beating out Baby Driver (among others) for its achievement in Film Editing. Again, another robbery, even in a category where I, Tonya could’ve just as easily taken out the top prize. Both these awards were also presented by Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph who, holding their shoes in hand, complaining about their feet, and shouting out to Meryl in the front row about being Tiffany’s real mum, led many of us to wonder: why the hell is Jimmy Kimmel hosting when they could have?

The Best Documentary Short Subject was then rewarded to Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, and Best Live Action Short Film was won by The Silent Child, where winner Rachel Shenton signed her speech as she said it, for the star of the film, Maisie Sly, at home.

The screenplay categories are often where the smaller, incredibly loved films find success (see: the Big Short, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Little Miss Sunshine, etc.), and this year was no different. James Ivory took home Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me By Your Name, adapted from the book of the same name by Andre Aciman, become the night’s oldest winner at age 89. Jordan Peele was also met with great applause and cheering as he was announced the winner of best Original Screenplay, for his landmark breakout film, Get Out. Accepting his award, he said, ‘I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone would let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it. I want to dedicate this to all the people who raised my voice and let me make this movie.’

History was made in two ways this evening in the Best Cinematography category – not only was Rachel Morrison, nominated for her work on Mudbound, the first female cinematographer ever nominated for an Oscar, but Roger Deakins, the 14-time Oscar nominee, was finally recognised for his work on Blade Runner 2049, earning it its second award of the night. Alexandre Desplat also won his second Oscar for Best Original Score, for his work on the Shape of Water’s transcendent score. And, in a win that wasn’t certain yet definitely deserved, Coco’s emotional core of a song Remember Me won Best Original Song, a win that was a highlight of the evening for me as it is arguably the crux of the film.

After Jordan Peele’s best Screenplay win, the Directing category looked a lot less certain that it had previously, especially as Emma Stone announced the nominees with ‘These four men and Greta Gerwig created their own masterpieces’. Yet it was Guillermo del Toro, the favourite for many (including myself) who won for the Shape of Water, giving yet another heartfelt speech, saying, ‘I am an immigrant. The greatest thing art does is erase the lines in the sand, when the world tells us to make them deeper.’

The night’s biggest influence was, of course, the Time’s Up movement, and in recognition of this, there was a video presentation celebrating the industry’s diverse talent and their achievements from the past year, including Dee Rees, Greta Gerwig and Kumail Nanjiani. In fact, it was Nanjiani who stole the show during this, poignantly saying, ‘some of my favourite movies are by straight white dudes about straight white dudes. And now straight white dudes can watch movies about dudes like me, and you relate. It’s not that hard. I’ve done it all my life.’

After Gary Oldman collected what was a career win (but a deserved one) for his role as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, emotion in his voice and his eyes, it was then time for Best Leading Actress. Frances McDormand’s win may not have surprised anyone when she won for Three Billboards, but what she did next was certainly a welcome surprise: setting her Oscar on the stage at her feet, she invited every female nominee in the room to stand with her, and implored the room to look around at all their wonderful talent, and to help them get their projects made. She then concluded her speech with two words: inclusion rider. As a clause in an actor’s contract that requires the cast and crew of the film to be diverse in order to work with them, this big statement summed up the entire tone of the evening and capped off a wonderful season of McDormand speeches.

There was a pretty sure winner throughout the entire night for Best Picture – that is, if they didn’t screw up at the end, as several jokes through the show continued to remind us. The presenters, the recipients, and even the envelopes seemed to remind us of last year’s big mess up, with the category’s title printed on the front of each one in BIG BOLD LETTERS. Yet as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the Best Picture award, it was no surprise when The Shape of Water was called out. Guillermo del Toro gave a nice speech, and then, just like every year, the show ended pretty abruptly. But not before Kimmel gave away his jet ski! The winner was Mark Bridges, the winning costume designer from Phantom Thread. The real winner of the evening!

All in all, it was actually the smaller categories this year who provided the greatest surprises and intrigue. Baby Driver’s complete shutout! Roger Deakins finally winning! Like always, watching the Oscars gave me great hope for the films to come this year, since that’s what the Oscars are all about: shedding light on smaller films and recognising their achievements so more people will go and see them. And I hope this year’s Oscars drives more people out there to see Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards and The Big Sick.

Congratulations to everyone who came out on top!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

The Shape of Water


I have a deep, deep love for Pan’s Labyrinth. In a film class at university, I was lucky enough to not only study Pan’s Labyrinth in depth, but write an assignment about it – two things which, for a film geek like me, never ruin a film for me, but make it even better. As if Pan’s Labyrinth could ever be ruined by more study! I love its historical storytelling, but mostly, I love its fairy-tale aspects – and more importantly, I love the way director Guillermo del Toro twists them.


His new film, The Shape of Water, is also a fairy-tale in many ways, and here del Toro also infuses a darkness into the film to hold a mirror up to our society, as all the best fairy-tales do. The Shape of Water follows Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute janitor who works in a top-secret government lab, as she falls in love with the mysterious Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) creature they keep captive there, and this classic tale of man and monster has never been so beautifully told. It’s a sweet tale made spellbinding by del Toro’s vision: the haunting 1960s setting; the watery cinematography that casts a slightly bluey-green tinge to the film; the infrequent yet startling moments of violence that remind us of the reality of the world, and of course, the “monster” himself – Doug Jones’ delicate yet powerful performance is made perfect by the iridescent costume and makeup that transforms him.

The story is relatively simple: a woman falls in love with a creature and plans to rescue him, and del Toro does employ some classic fairy-tale elements to his magical story Sally Hawkins is sublime, as Elisa and the Amphibian Man grow to trust each other and form their special bond; the elements of forbidden romance and star-crossed love here come into play, with Elisa’s closest friends helping her to fight for the creature’s freedom. But, as always with del Toro, there is a layer of darkness to each scene that twists this classical story; he explores the villainy of humanity in alienating the other, whether it’s more overtly through the Amphibian Man or contextually through the discrimination of Zelda and Giles (Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins, both in Oscar nominated – and deservedly so – roles). This makes us question who is really the monster, especially with the terrifying Michael Shannon as Mr Strickland, a ruthless government leader as chilling as Pan’s Captain Vidal. Paired with the sexual undertones of the film, both romantic and disturbing, this leaves the viewer horrified by the world in which The Shape of Water takes place – a world that is unquestionably our own.


Yet del Toro balances this melancholy horror with his love for creatures, fairy-tales, romance, and cinema; his entire film is dripping with nostalgia for both the Golden Age of cinema and the Silent Era before it. Del Toro’s lifelong love of The Creature from the Black Lagoon is an obvious influence, as is the dance scene from Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire’s Follow the Fleet, but Mr Strickland’s irredeemable villain, Sally Hawkins’ homages to silent film actors Chaplin, Laurel, and Hardy, as well as the cinema she loves above, all pay references to earlier films which inspired del Toro’s love of cinema.

The Shape of Water is Pan’s Labyrinth’s sister film in many ways: fairy-tale storytelling, classical filmmaking, a twist of horror and a love of monsters. I like to think they are a near-perfect double feature. And yet The Shape of Water is such a distinct, different film in that it challenges the ways we see our own world, urging us to see the beauty and defy the evil. It takes risks and embraces the unconventional storytelling which del Toro is known for, making it one of the most original films of the year.


And here’s my list of my top five favourite films starring the cast of The Shape of Water:

  1. The Help – Octavia Spencer
  2. Call Me By Your Name – Michael Stuhlbarg
  3. Midnight Special – Michael Shannon
  4. Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones
  5. Hidden Figures – Octavia Spencer

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from

Top Ten Films of 2017 – Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! In Film, As In Life may have taken a short break for the last few months of 2017, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t spending time at the cinema, catching up on all the films I could see. Sadly I didn’t get around to reviewing them all last year, but it’s a new year, and I plan to be back with a new review or post for you each and every week.

To catch you all up on some of the films I’ve seen since I last posted (the last review I posted was back in September, for Atomic Blonde – can you believe it? Did you miss me?), and to look back at the year gone by, I’ve compiled my Top Ten Films of 2017 list – I hope you enjoyed these films as much as I did!

  1. Logan



The best superhero movies are the ones that don’t feel like superhero movies, and Logan blew me away with its bold choices, depth of character development, and simple yet emotional storytelling. Hugh Jackman gives a career-best performance as Logan, who’s looking after a severely deteriorating Professor X (Patrick Stewart, also giving a devastating performance) after the demise of the X-Men, when a mysterious young girl with familiar powers (Dafne Keen) appears with news of young mutants living in North Dakota. Filled with a brutal brand of violence that Wolverine deserves, Logan is a raw, heartbreaking culmination for a character we’ve loved for decades, and the perfect end to the Wolverine franchise.

  1. Wonder Woman


Almost the antithesis to Logan, but also fantastic in its own right, Wonder Woman was every bit a superhero movie – and everything a superhero movie should be. Taking the breakout character from 2016’s Batman vs Superman and giving her a WWI-set origin story, Wonder Woman sees Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) travel journey from her warrior’s paradise on Themyscira to the world of man, to fight Ares, the God of War, and save humanity from the devastation of the Great War. Though much of the film’s sincerity and heart comes from its director Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot carries the film on her shoulders as the charismatic, fierce, loving hero Diana, a role model for women everywhere as she bursts onto No Man’s Land and defends those she loves, and a step forward in representation for women onscreen. An optimistic film in a cynical time, Wonder Woman was the breath of fresh air 2017 definitely needed.

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming


My love of the Spider-Man movies is well known and documented – I was a huge Tobey Maguire-web-slinger fan as a kid, and after the MCU debut of Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, I was hooked and ready to see Tom Holland’s solo debut in Homecoming. And he didn’t disappoint: part superhero film, part teen comedy, Spider-Man: Homecoming focused just as much on Peter’s growing pains as a high schooler whose life is going through major upheaval with his powers, as it did with the heart-stopping action scenes that we’ve come to love and expect. Not only was the film sweet, fun and funny, but Tom Holland was perfect as the precocious Peter, making me even more excited to see him fight alongside the Avengers later this year in Infinity War.

  1. The Beguiled


The Beguiled was a very different kind of female-driven movie this year: set in the South during the Civil War, it centres on a small girls school led by headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and her young pupils, who take in an injured Yankee soldier and nurse him back to health. But things get dark when jealousy erupts between these women, all of whom have spent much of their lives isolated from men, and none of the young women know who they can trust – or even who the real villain of the house is. Filled with nuanced, powerful performances across the board, the Beguiled is a fascinating film about the complexity of female relationships, coming of age, sexuality, and the importance of sisterhood.

  1. Baby Driver


Baby Driver was by far the coolest movie of 2017. It may even be director Edgar Wright’s coolest movie to date, which is saying a lot. Starring Ansel Elgort as Baby, a talented getaway driver with tinnitus who listens to music constantly to drown it out, almost the entire film is choreographed (and edited) to its amazing soundtrack – which means we get car chases set to the Damned, and coffee runs set to Harlem Shuffle. Its fantastic ensemble cast (Jon Hamm, Lily James, Jamie Foxx) is second only to its originality of storytelling, and as you watch it, you feel like you’re watching something fresh, new, and satisfying.

  1. The Big Sick


The Big Sick was the little indie darling that could this year, a hilarious yet emotional romantic comedy written by real-life married couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon about the fascinating story of how they got together. Kumail (playing himself) is a Pakistani-born stand-up comedian struggling with his family’s more traditional views of marriage; Emily (here played by a wonderful Zoe Kazan) is a psychology grad student who heckles him at a gig, but their newfound relationship soon finds trouble when Emily falls into a coma due to a mysterious illness. The Big Sick is a heartfelt look at love and the importance of family, with a poignant, yet very funny, script, and is filled with career-best performances from Ray Romano, Holly Hunter and Nanjiani himself. And it’s just been nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award! Not only was the Big Sick one of the most genuine, feel-good films I saw this year, but it was one of the best romantic comedies I have ever seen (it’s both extremely funny, and very romantic), and if you didn’t see it this year, I highly recommend you track it down.

  1. Wind River


Wind River was an even smaller film this year, but it probably had one of the biggest emotional impacts on me as a cinema-going experience. Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, Wind River follows a veteran tracker (Renner) who is still grieving the death of his young daughter, as he helps a naïve FBI agent (Olsen) solve the murder of a local young Native American woman in the dead of winter. Jeremy Renner gives a heartbreaking performance as Cory, a white man whose life has been torn apart by violence, and is seeking retribution for the family of the murder victim, who was best friends with his own murdered daughter. Olson also gives a very complex performance as an outsider in this Native American community, and as the mystery behind what really happened becomes clearer and even more devastating, the film gives you only a few small moments of catharsis, with the film’s final emotional punch as unrelenting as the breathtaking blizzard that rages throughout the entire film.

  1. Ingrid Goes West


Continuing my trend of fantastic independent cinema, Ingrid Goes West is a biting satire of social media, authenticity and LA culture. Aubrey Plaza is captivating as Ingrid, an Instagram-addicted stalker who has just found her new obsession: photographer and “lifestyle guru” Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). She moves to LA and constructs this fake life and personality around herself as she befriends Taylor, but, the further into the lie she entangles herself, the further she has to fall when it all unravels. Movies about social media rarely work, but this one does on so many levels – it’s realistic, and terrifying, but also incredibly dark and comedic, a cautionary tale about oversharing and the authenticity of our online selves versus reality. This is Plaza’s best role since April on Parks and Rec, but Elizabeth Olsen is also fantastic, as is Billy Magnussen as her coked-up brother and O’Shea Jackson Jr as an aspiring fanboy screenwriter. Ingrid Goes West is probably my favourite film of the year, and if you can find it anywhere, I promise you it’s worth your time.

  1. Coco


Oh, man. Coco is the latest film to come out of Pixar, so grab the tissues and prepare yourself. It follows Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy who loves to play the guitar, but his family despises music, after his musician great-great grandfather abandoned his family years and years ago. On Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, and must find his great-great grandfather, the legendary singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) to receive his blessing and return home. In their most stunningly colourful animation since Inside Out, Pixar have created their emotional film to date, a beautiful story about passion, family, and remembering where you came from. Miguel’s journey through the Land of the Dead is breathtaking, both visually and through the lore of what happens after you die, and is filled with vibrant music in traditional Mexican style, as well as heartbreaking moments that would melt even the coldest heart. Coco is truly a Pixar film to make you feel human again.

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi


Unlike the many, very vocal, people on the internet, I actually loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi so, so much. It accomplished many of the things a truly great sequel must: it took characters we were familiar with and helped them grow across their journey, with Rey coming to terms with a Luke that is barely recognisable and growing stronger in the ways of the Force herself. It established new, complex and interesting relationship between characters we’ve barely see interact before, as Rey and Kylo Ren’s fascinating Force connection and Leia and Poe’s more lighthearted friendship showed us. It expanded upon the lore of the previous films, with the Force working in new and interesting ways, and it also gave us some of the best fight sequences and moments ever seen in Star Wars. Whilst much of Finn, Rose and the Resistance’s storyline clearly didn’t work and was quite boring, I can commend it for bringing into the story powerful themes about the blurred lines between good and evil, an idea which will surely come into greater focus in the trilogy’s final instalment, but I think the thing I enjoyed most about The Last Jedi was that it was unafraid to take risks. Things don’t turn out exactly how you expected them to, and people change, and whilst this may have rubbed some people the wrong way, it made me even more excited about the future of Star Wars. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” Star Wars will only remain great if it stays fresh and new within itself, and after Last Jedi, I have hope that it will.

And that’s my top ten of 2017! What was yours? Let me know in the comments!

Also, I know I’ve been pretty absent for the last six or so months, but this time I plan on sticking around, so stay tuned for reviews of my favourite films through the year ahead!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from

Atomic Blonde

Does a film need to have a good plot to be a good film? Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is an undercover MI6 agent who is sent to Berlin at the height of the Cold War to investigate a fellow missing agent, James Gascoigne (Sam Hargrave) and recover a list of the world’s intelligence agents. But no one is ever what they seem in spy movies like these, and Lorraine and her allies are keeping secrets from each other that threaten not just their cover in Berlin, but their lives and the lives of others.

Atomic Blonde is one of the rare movies where almost everything is working so well together – action, performances, soundtrack, stylistic direction, everything – but the plot is both overly complex and wildly non-existent at the same time. I may have seen it a while ago, but I forget almost all of the film’s big reveals and why they mattered, because they were almost inconsequential to the film as a whole; as Lorraine liaises with the drunken, roguish agent David Percival (James McAvoy) and becomes involved with the French newcomer Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), as they attempt to recover the list, the audience is unsure of who’s lying to who, who’s trusting who, and whether we can even trust Lorraine. But rather than create intrigue and mystery, this leads to nearly two hours of jumbled together scenes and forgettable communist bad guys; none of the plot twists gave the film any more tension, stakes or compelling moments, so it just operates on one emotional level: “this is cool, but what’s going on again? And why do I care?”

That being said, the film is somehow still ridiculously entertaining, with director David Leitch taking his John Wick coolness, turning it up to 11, adding neon 80s style and lesbian sex scenes and reminding us, “oh, that’s why we care.” The brutality of Lorraine and 80s underground Berlin is perfectly encapsulated in the savage stairwell fight, as well as many others, and Leitch has crafted some of the year’s best and most realistic fight scenes, mashing them perfectly against the Brit-pop-punk, edgy fashion and frenetic direction that makes Atomic Blonde feel fun, fresh and like nothing else we’ve seen this year.

Because in a year of heralded heroines (Diana Prince, I’m looking at you), Theron’s Lorraine is worlds away from the impassioned fight of Wonder Woman, yet equally as kick-ass. The strength of Charlize’s performance and fighting skills is on show here, from the brutal Stairway Fight to the shock-twist final battle, and her chemistry, particularly with Sofia Boutella, is piercing. But everyone is doing well here, from James McAvoy as the drunken spy to John Goodman’s secretive CIA agent, and even new Pennywise-to-be makes an appearance as Lorraine’s dapper friend. 

So, DOES a film need to have a good plot to be a good movie? Apparently not, since Atomic Blonde is a good film, albeit a confusing one at times. The intense action, charismatic performances and edgy-80s-Berlin vibes created an atmospheric film that was easy to enjoy – this was definitely a case of style over substance done right. 


And here’s the list of my top five favourite films starring the cast of Atomic Blonde:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road – Charlize Theron
  2. X-Men: First Class – James McAvoy
  3. Captain America: Winter Soldier – Toby Jones
  4. Kingsman: The Secret Service – Sofia Boutella 
  5. The Emperor’s New Groove – John Goodman

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from