So it seems I haven’t written a Watching Lately post since April, say whaaaat. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching plenty of stuff, though, so this is just a wee selection of a few of the films and TV shows that have stuck in my mind from the past few months.
Netflix recently released another original series, this time a prequel to cult film Wet Hot American Summer. A parody of all-American coming-of-age teen films, the original featured actors way too old to play their parts, exaggerated storylines and absurd jokes. Almost 15 years on, the vast majority of the original cast have returned for the series (including big names like Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper) which follows the “teenage” camp counsellors on their first day at summer camp in 1981. Whilst I do appreciate the satirical element of the show, it’s just not as funny as I was hoping it would be. It’s very silly and random and is not un-funny, but… meh, it just felt a bit too forced and obvious. I’m not sure whether I liked it or not. (A helpful review for you, I’m sure).
Starring only Mark Duplass as Josef and Patrick Brice as Aaron, Creep is a found-footage horror film which, despite its minimal cast, simple premise and sprinkling of dark humour, manages to create an extremely unsettling atmosphere. After responding to a Craigslist advert for a videographer, Aaron heads up to a remote cabin in the mountains to film a “day in the life” video for terminally ill Josef. But, all is not as it seems, and as the day progresses Josef changes from eccentric to weird to downright frightening. Although there are plenty of jump scares to put you on edge, it’s really the unsettling (and very natural sounding) dialogue which amps up the creep factor. I’m not usually affected by horror films, but I can honestly say this one lives up to its name and it is probably the creepiest film I’ve ever seen. Creep is the first of a trilogy of films, and I am simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the next installment.
Focusing on the “Central Park Five”, a group of black and Latino teenagers accused of brutally beating and raping a woman in New York in 1989, this documentary explores the story of their arrest, imprisonment and the subsequent overturning of their convictions after a serial rapist confessed to the crime 13 years later. Set against the backdrop of a manic 1980s New York City, rife with crime, drug problems and social and racial inequality, the story of these five young men is heartbreaking; the course of their entire adult lives was destroyed simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time and then being forced by police into confessing to a crime which they did not commit. Interviews with the five men, along with family members, lawyers and journalists involved with the case, is interspersed with archive footage to uncover the failings of the legal system which looked to blame the “Five” simply because it was convenient. You can’t help but feel moved by this story.
And now for something a little bit more light hearted! I wasn’t expecting to like What We Did on Our Holiday at all – it seemed far too twee and family-friendly for my liking – but it was surprisingly enjoyable. Starring David Tennant and Rosamund Pike as a recently separated couple, they decide to keep this a secret from their extended family during a trip to Scotland for the family patriarch’s birthday. But, of course, with three young children in tow it’s hard to keep it secret for long and things become increasingly strained – especially when the children somehow manage to set their recently deceased grandfather (Billy Connolly) on fire and send him out to sea (no, seriously). Harriet Turnbull steals the show as youngest daughter Jess, with plenty of hilariously weird one-liners that seem to have come straight from the mind of a small child rather than a scriptwriter. Funny and heartwarming, without being sickeningly sweet, it’s worth a watch even if you’re not usually a fan of this genre.
I first heard about Life After Beth when it was showing as part of the Edinburgh Film Festival a couple of years ago, but I didn’t get round to seeing it then so I was very pleased to see it pop up on Netflix recently. An indie zombie rom-com, my fave Aubrey Plaza stars in the titular role as Beth, a recently deceased high schooler who has somehow returned from the dead. At first her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) is understandably pleased to have her back and is determined to make the most of every moment they have together, but as time goes on Beth starts to display increasingly strange behaviour and before long their suburban surroundings are beginning to turn into a zombie wasteland. It’s not the best or most sophisticated film I’ve ever seen, but it’s very entertaining and somehow manages to seamlessly weave together teenage angst and comedy zombies.
A cult classic (which I had never heard of), Cube is a vaguely sci-fi thriller which sees a handful of strangers wake up in an enormous cube structure with no idea of how they got there. Each room in the cube is connected to six more rooms, and the people stuck inside soon realise their only option is to navigate their way through the rooms to safety. But, of course, it’s not that easy; some of the rooms contain gruesome traps and the seemingly endless combination of routes means it’s more or less impossible to find the exit. I was expecting this film to be rubbish, and to be honest it is a little bit, but it’s also strangely compelling viewing and I can see why it has become a cult classic. I think part of the appeal is that very little is explained about what the cube actually is and why these people were put there. Cube has also spawned two sequels, neither of which are as good as the original but both of which are excellent viewing if you find yourself accidentally becoming a big Cube fan.
What have you been watching lately?