It’s been some time since I gave a running commentary on some of the film and TV I’ve been binge-watching, even though it’s how I spend a good 80% of my personal time.
A new year has done nothing to dissuade me from plunging headfirst into as many big and small screen outings as possible. In fact, I’ve been encouraged by the sheer raft of choices on offer.
I’m allowing myself the downtime though, having got off to a promising start at work. My productivity is seemingly at an all time high so the least I can do with my brain is allow it some leisure time.
Watchability – 10/10
I’ll hold my hands up right now and admit it; I’ve never been into war films.
While Alex could happily sit through back to back tales of the battles that have been fought around the world, I’ve always leaned more towards true to life dramas centred on family or a good ol’ fashioned horror movie.
As we settled into our seats to watch 1917 – albeit very comfy seats thanks to Warrington’s newly refurbished Odeon Luxe – I was apprehensive. Set on an April day during the First World War, the film follows two young soldiers hand-picked by the top brass in their trench (in this case, Colin Firth) to deliver a vital message to another British battalion across enemy lines; halting the ‘big push’ and saving lives in the process.
Except the journey means they’ll need to traverse the corpse-strewn battlefields of no-man’s land and cross enemy lines without being blown to bits by Germans.
As the two lads set off on their journey, I found myself instantly gripped by their courage and (seemingly) their acceptance of the mission as ‘just another day’ on the front line. As they wind their way through the trenches, over the top and out into the barren wasteland that awaits them, you can’t help but feel a tightness in your gut as you wonder what lies in store for them over the coming days.
Directed by Sam Mendes, the main draw of the film for cinephiles is the way in which it’s shot, as if in one long, continuous take. This also means you’re left following the film (almost entirely) at eye level with our main protagonists, as if you’re walking every footstep with them; something which makes it even more difficult to unclench during certain moments.
In the age where people will happily take to Twitter in a strop when they find the one broken biscuit in a fresh packet, 1917 is just the kick up the arse we all need to snap us back to reality.
While the story itself might be a work of fiction, the events that inspired it serve to remind us of what can be achieved when you make the ultimate sacrifice for other human beings. As the credits rolled, I was left in awe of the courage of past generations.
Watchability – 7/10
True, there was the occasion years ago when he spent time getting to know the ladies of a legal brothel on the west coast of America, but this would be different.
This time, our Louis was visiting some of the ladies of Britain who work as escorts i.e. call girls who deliver their ‘services’ in hotels and, in some instances, their own homes with their husband’s consent. All with men who, as it turns out, have just as much of a yearning for real intimacy as they do for the casual sex.
There were three women under the microscope in this documentary but of the case studies here, it was Victoria whose story was the most heart-wrenching for me.
Whenever I watch a documentary that involves sex workers, there’s always some troubling back story that has led them down the garden path to selling their bodies. Victoria’s case was no exception.
As Louis set the scene, you could be forgiven for thinking that Victoria was a well-adjusted young woman who was making a choice based on her desire to provide for her family. A mother of four, she explained that she just wanted the best for her kids and selling herself was simply a means to put food on the table.
However, as Louis has the innate ability to do, he manages to tease a painful childhood out of his interviewee, which includes homelessness and a 25-year-old man who took advantage of a vulnerable 14-year-old for sexual favours. Leaving behind a young woman with a perfunctory view on sex and limited self-worth.
I’d like to be able to say the other women featured in the programme were strong, confident go-getters who’d simply chosen a career path that some people deem to be unsavoury. Sadly that wasn’t the case and, as the minutes ticked on, it was evident that each of these women had been touched by trauma, tragedy, or low self-esteem which left them feeling as if this void could only be filled by the need to be desired; no matter what the emotional cost.
Watchability – 8/10
James May has always been my favourite of the three (former) Top Gear presenters. Mainly because he’s a bit nerdy, awkward and well…the most relatable for me.
This Amazon Original series tracks James as he makes his way across Japan, covering all of the things you’d expect from a trip across this vast country steeped in history, tradition and of course, the kookiness most of us already expect from everything we’ve seen and heard about Tokyo.
The best thing about this eye-opening travelogue is the depths to which James is willing to plunge himself headfirst into everything the culture has to offer. In spite of the fact that in some parts he’s clearly uncomfortable (I’m talking doing karaoke in a booth you couldn’t swing a cat in with a group of drunken business men), he fully embraces the situation without offending or getting all British about it.
Making his way from north Japan via Sapporo and Tokyo to the south, enjoying everything from a penis festival, to professional snowball fighting and sumo wrestling, it’s a taster of the country that gives you all the nonsense you’d expect from James May with the cultural insights that leave you craving more.
I should probably clear the credit card first, though.
Image credits: 1917 – Universal Pictures; Selling Sex – BBC; James May: Our Man in Japan – Amazon Prime Video