Thursday 8 April 2021

Rob's Movie Night Roundup - F (Fighting With My Family, The Frozen Ground)

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I decided that we'd like to watch more movies. There are 52 weeks in a year, 2 of us, and 26 letters in the alphabet. What better way to choose some movies than to go alphabetically? The only rule: Where possible, it should be a movie that one or more of us had never seen before. Oh, and ideally it should be part of one of the copious online streaming services we're already subscribed to, because why bother paying for a rental when we're not short of options?

Incidentally, if anyone from the big online streaming service providers is reading this (your Notfluxes or your Prims, for example), please make it easier to search for/sort movies alphabetically. Thanks.

Also, fair warning: There may well be movies that appear on this list that you'll find hard to believe I haven't seen before. It happens.

Previous letters are here: A B C D E


Fighting With My Family
Director: Stephen Merchant
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn

Synopsis via IMDB: A former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment.

This was one that we chose out early on in our alphabetical odyssey, and thankfully unlike other films on Netflix, it hadn't been dropped off the service just before we came to it.

This movie was of significant appeal to me, as my moderate but enduring fandom of professional wrestling (gone are the days of watching it weekly, but I do still keep up) combined with my love for the writing of Stephen Merchant aligned in this one movie. For my money, Merchant is the underrated one of the partnership back in the days of The Office and the subsequent collaborations with Ricky Gervais. That's not to take away from Gervais, either, who I think is also excellent. But I digress. I keep doing that on these.

The cast for this one on paper is excellent, and they all do their damnedest to make this one come alive. Nick Frost and Lena Headey, though they take somewhat of a minor role, do a great job undergirding the warmth and comfort that Paige leaves behind to try and make the dream come true. Credit is understandably given to Florence Pugh, who plays Paige in the movie, and has no doubt had to deal with quite a different preparatory regime in order to learn the ropes (as it were). The standout performance for me in this one, however, is Jack Lowden, who plays Zak Knight.

In general, the movie is a really heartwarming story of overcoming adversity, and not giving up on things just because they are challenging. While it takes some artistic license in order to sell the story, the film is really entertaining, and made us laugh out loud in places. Well worth a watch, especially if you like pro wrestling.

The Frozen Ground
Director: Scott Walker
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens, John Cusack

Synopsis via IMDB: An Alaska State Trooper partners with a young woman who escaped the clutches of serial killer Robert Hansen to bring the murderer to justice. Based on actual events.

Up until the day of watching this one, it was pretty much a certainty that we would be watching Fury and enjoying the excellence that is Brad Pitt. I think he's a tremendously talented actor. However, for whatever reason (and I literally have no idea, my brain has been like an Etch-A-Sketch recently), we were late to sitting down to watch our movie for the week. Despite probably being great, Fury clocks in at over 2 hours so I started looking for something a bit shorter. Enter The Frozen Ground.

On paper, this one looked right up my street. A detective movie, with Nic Cage in the lead role, featuring John Cusack (one of my favourites). I've never really experienced the works of Vanessa Hudgens, but that was fine; Zac Efron turns up in stuff I've watched before and it was fine, so it's not like the presence of a High School Musical cast member sends up red flags in my head. Plus, it's a movie based on actual events so it's not like Nic Cage can go all Face/Off on this movie, unless Baron Von Munch-A-Set was a crucial figure to the case.

This one ended up being a really enjoyable movie too! It's by the numbers to a degree in terms of the detective movie formula, but generally speaking I'm a fan of that formula so I was good with it. It's especially nice when it's late one evening, and you just want something you can take in without having to think too hard. The performances throughout are well done, and Nic Cage plays a pretty decent detective lead role! I was also impressed with how well Vanessa Hudgens played a darker character, given that so many of her previous roles were quite happy and clappy. I caveat that this might just be my ignorance of her work speaking; she might have gone straight from High School Musical to hard-hitting drama non-stop since then for all I know.

I didn't think I'd enjoy John Cusack in a villanous role, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I disliked the portrayal by the end. I mean, he is playing a serial killer. If I came out of it thinking he was a legend unironically, I'd probably have some questions to ask myself. Honourable mentions have to also go to Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who had a small role in this one. I get the feeling he's a fun bloke, and he does a good job here.

In summary, I really enjoyed the movies under F very much. While I'm sure I'd have found stuff to like about Fury (which narrowly lost out to The Frozen Ground because of how late it was when we finally got to sit down and watch our film on the day), there was something comforting about watching something detective-themed and somewhat formulaic. I realise that the whole "based on true events" thing makes that a somewhat foregone conclusion, but they did a good job. G has already started off strong, and I look forward to telling you more in a couple of weeks!

Did you enjoy the roundup? Let me know! If you have thoughts on the movies chosen and their respective writeups above, you know where to find me. Maybe you don't, but there are buttons everywhere to make that happen. Comments, Twitter, you name it. Moreover, if you want to make use of this movie night format, bearing in mind you're a few weeks in and might have to double up to get up to speed, feel free to do the same - I'd love to know what you chose too!

Rob Wade

Rob Wade blogs about stuff he likes. Whether it's video games or geek media for Emotionally14 or writing about speculative theories for future films on Talk Star Wars, the focus has always been on the stuff that brings the most pleasure to his life within media.

Rob is the editor of Emotionally14, and showrunner of the E14 podcasts "The Crazy Train", "The E14 Gamecast" and "Talk Star Wars", as well as the host and guest of a number of pieces on E14's Youtube channel over the years.

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