DISCLAIMER: HIS POST CONTAINS MANY, MANY SPOILERS. STOP READING RIGHT NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS.
1) Squid Game, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021
This show is terrific. It was so hyped up that I figured I’d be disappointed but I was very pleasantly surprised. It is highly entertaining and addicting to watch. I thought the first episode was a bit slow but we do need to establish all the characters and their backstories. After that, the show really ramps up.
I thought about it and there’s no way I would have made it through all the games. I probably would have made it through Red Light, Green Light, and maybe even the Cookie Challenge but I never would have gotten through Tug of War unless I was lucky enough to be on a strong team. My survival through Marbles and Glass Panels would be very much based on luck. Unfortunately, there’s no way I would have made it through the final eponymous Squid Game as there is no way I’d win in a knife fight. I’m clumsy and have little upper body strength.
My #1 favorite death was the one when player 212 (female con artist / semi-comic relief) pulls player 101 (the bully gangster with the face tattoo) to his death during the Glass Panel game. Deok-su, she said she’d kill you if you betrayed her. Weren’t you listening? The side story where Jun-Ho, the police officer who sneaks onto the island, and finds himself in the middle of an organ harvesting scheme, was super interesting. I’m very much looking forward to season 2 when we learn more about the Frontman, the VIPs, and the backstory of how the games came to be.
The actors were also very well-cast. Below is live footage of me when I saw the salesman, played by Gong Yoo (he played the father in the terrifically fantastic zombie action thriller Train to Busan).
I always like to read ahead and find out what’s going to happen so I knew that Player 1 was the mastermind behind all the games. I then carefully watched for all the clues showing that this was the case. Although I had many questions about the logistics of pulling off these games and didn’t believe that super rich people (the VIPs) would bet on other humans in such a manner, this really is a show where you have to suspend disbelief and just enjoy. Squid Game is really terrific and I highly encourage everyone to watch it.
2) Casino, Martin Scorsese, 1995
This movie is fantastic. I thought it was going to be some sort of mob movie but it is really so much more than that. Sharon Stone is very, very good. Her role really needed an actress who was not afraid to go crazy and look ugly. Her descent into madness was heartbreaking. Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci are also terrific but Sharon steals the show. Movie is a bit long but it moves fast and is highly entertaining.
3) Born Free, James Hill, 1966
I loved, loved, LOVED this movie so much. Anyone who knows me knows I never shut up about big cats. This is based on a true story about Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood, and released her into the wilderness of Kenya.
Virginia McKenna, the actress who played Joy Adamson, later created a wonderful non-profit called the Born Free Foundation, an international wildlife charity that campaigns to "Keep Wildlife in the Wild".
4) The Girl, Julian Jarrold, 2012
I’m a big fan of Tippi Hedren due to her work with big cats at the Shambala Preserve. Before Shambala, Tippi was a very famous actress. She got her big break after being cast as the lead in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, The Birds. She later followed it up with Hitchcock’s Marnie.
The Girl is about Hedren’s relationship with Hitchcock throughout the filming of both movies. Basically, he was a creep and sexually harassed / assaulted(??) her. We should keep in mind that this is all alleged behavior but there doesn’t appear to be any reason why Hedren would lie about this. If what Hedren said is true, I’m impressed that she didn't give in. She was the sole breadwinner of her family, a single mother, and there is an insane amount of competition in the film industry. She was easily replaceable. She and Hitchcock never worked again after those two films.
I read Hedren’s biography Tippi: A Memoir, and she has had an incredibly full life. Not only was she a successful actress, but her daughter, Melanie Griffith, and granddaughter, Dakota Johnson, have followed in her footsteps, she founded the Shambala Preserve, and she was surprisingly instrumental in the development of Vietnamese-American nail salons in the US. However, I’m most impressed with her work at Shambala. She has given hundreds of big cats an amazing life.
5) Unorthodox, Anna Winger and Alexa Karolinski, 2020
This TV show is based on the hugely popular book “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” by Deborah Feldman. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but I’ve listened to many of Feldman’s interviews and am so impressed with her poise, drive, and bravery. She is truly living her best life now in Berlin. I went through something similar a while ago. I was in a situation where I didn’t fit in at all and was quite unhappy. Once I left, my life improved dramatically. If I had known how much happier I would have been, I’d have left a lot sooner. My situation was nowhere as dramatic as what happened with Deborah but the happiness she felt after leaving and starting a new life was something I could relate to.
The TV show does dramatize a few things but overall, it’s very good. Shira Haas is terrific as Esty. Everyone else was very good as well. I wish Deborah continued happiness and joy.
6) Predator 2, Stephen Hopkins, 1990
Predator 2 is such a fun joyride. I forgot how great it was. The first Predator with Schwarzenegger gets all the attention but this sequel is actually really good. It takes place in the late 1990s in a dystopian Los Angeles. Danny Glover is very effective, Bill Paxton is very funny, and I just, quite frankly, am biased toward movies set in Los Angeles.
The best scene is probably when the Predator crashes an apt bathroom in DTLA and the resident gets a broom ready to beat him down.
7) A Fish Called Wanda, Charles Crichton, 1988
There are some movies that make me laugh out loud every time I watch them, no matter how many times I’ve watched them. Some that come to mind include Jonathan Lynn’s Clue, Woody Allen’s Love and Death, Tom Shadyac’s Liar Liar, and more. A Fish Called Wanda has joined that list. It’s a comedy heist film starring Jamie Lee Curtis, one of my favorite actresses, John Cleese, and many others. I love physical comedy and snappy dialogue.
James Cameron said he hired Jamie for True Lies after watching her performance in this movie. What’s interesting about Jamie is that she started her career acting in horror flicks but was able to very successfully transition into comedic roles as well. Despite her very famous parents, Jamie has worked hard to establish a successful career of her own. You don’t necessarily see that with nepotism hires and it’s great to see that she’s an exception.
8) Jacob’s Ladder, Adrian Lyne, 1990
This movie consistently shows up in every “Best Horror Movies” list and there’s a reason for that. I finally watched it and it’s creepy as ****. The movie is about a Vietnam War veteran played by Tim Robbins who experiences some weird (to put it mildly) things after the war.
This movie perhaps has the most frightening “descent into Hell” sequence I’ve ever seen, when he gets wheeled into the nightmare hospital. I’m not going to link to it because it’s really NSFW. Although you could view the ending as “It was all a dream??” type of ending, the movie is so visually powerful that you almost don’t mind.
Tim Robbins was great and I was very impressed with Elizabeth Pena. It’s unfortunate that she didn’t have a bigger career, she’s a fantastic actress. There are some deleted scenes on the DVD that are even more freaky. I wish Lyne had included them in the movie. I’d highly recommend this movie. It will stick around in your mind. Those are really the best movies, the ones you don’t forget.
9) The Girl with All the Gifts, Colm McCarthy, 2016
This movie presented a very interesting twist on your typical zombie movie. I really like zombie movies so I do like to watch different interpretations of this subject. Most are forgettable but The Girl with All the Gifts was quite good. The cast, especially Sennia Nanua, the young actress who plays the eponymous character, is really terrific. The storyline is unique. The movie was entertaining and also had a lot of heart. I think that with zombie movies, it’s very important to root for the human characters.
10) Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder, 2021
I’m going to be upfront here: This movie was not that great. The trailer was good and I was SO EXCITED for this movie but it just wasn’t good. There are too many characters that you don’t care about and it has no heart. However, I loved the concept, the zombie tiger, and Tig Notaro replacing that gross guy who I will not be naming. I’ve gotten bad vibes from this actor for a long time and the stories that came out were not surprising. I’m glad Snyder decided to cut out all his scenes and replace him with Tig, someone significantly more appealing. The movie was done when Tig was cast so she just acted against a green screen by herself. I’m glad Synder and Netflix went this route. Now let’s have Tig replace some other people!
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.