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Hadley (565 KP) rated The Turn of the Screw in Books

Mar 24, 2020 (Updated Mar 24, 2020)  
The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw
9
7.6 (7 Ratings)
Book Rating
Well written (1 more)
Ahead of its time
Overly descriptive (1 more)
Vague
The ghost stories of the Victorian era are full of scares and mysteries- - - from the karma-ridden future, past and present ghosts of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to the comedic ghost story by Oscar Wilde called 'the Canterville Ghost." But among all of them, Henry James found another subject to add to the pot in the novella 'the Turn of the Screw.'

With only 93 pages and the viewpoint of a governess, the story is one that has been up for debate as to its meaning for over a century, a story that blends child abuse and ghostly possession way ahead of its time. But even with its great plot, the story falls short and becomes bland throughout most of its short pages.

So why is the meaning of the Turn of the Screw still being debated? There's only one thing that has caused that --- it's in the way that James wrote the story, nothing is explained and everything is vague, these being very important parts that can keep this book from being enjoyable to many readers. Here's a summary of the story: a woman becomes governess of two children, one of which is sent home from school (technically expelled, in today's terms), the entire book has this woman trying to figure out why the child was sent home, but with ghosts thrown into the mix.

The story starts off with a man telling this ghost story from letters he received from a woman (the governess). But, even at the end of the book, the story never turns back to the man finishing the letters, yet this was done so masterfully that when you are done with the book, you completely forget about the man at the beginning, something that isn't easily done today in most writing. The man is reading these letters to a small audience that is also never revealed why, something that will seem completely irrelevant for the reader.

Readers finally get their paranormal fix when our main character, the governess, sees her first ghost in the Turn of the Screw. Our governess goes on an isolated walk when she spots an older man staring at her from a tower on the estate. But not until after a second encounter with this man, she decides to tell a housemaid about it, who quickly knows whom she speaks of. The maid is very certain that the man the governess has spotted twice is a deceased man that used to work for the family, but the maid is terrified by this because this man seems to have been abusive towards the son of the family and now seems to be continuing to torment him even after death.

Our governess seems to go down a path of paranoia as she seems to believe that the children are seeing the ghosts, too, but refusing to tell her so, and she becomes convinced that the key to getting them to confess is to finding out why the boy was sent home from school in the first place. She tries many times to get him to tell her why, but lets him take control of the conversations where he is able to divert the attention to something else. When things seem to be too much for the governess and housemaid to handle, they decide to try to write the childrens' uncle, and ask him to visit - - - this being the uncle that hired the governess and asked to never be bothered by her again, and that he wants nothing to do with his niece and nephew ever again, and especially don't write to him about any problems.

James is considered one of the greatest authors of the English language, but although this novella did very well, he wasn't known for ghost stories. His most popular book is 'the Portrait of a Lady,' which is about a young woman who comes into a large amount of money only to have it stolen by two con-men. Being that he is a Victorian-era writer, you can expect the overly long paragraphs and descriptions that the time was known for in 'the Turn of the Screw.' I personally felt the story had too many interludes of the governess' thoughts and ideas, which border on rambling. There seemed no point in the governess obsessing over why the boy was sent home from school when there are ghosts tormenting them at home- - - how this mode was suppose to work has left me clueless.

It's a usual horror trope to have children being possessed as the core of a book because it's something that can shake adults to their core at the thought that their own children could be that vulnerable. But James was way ahead of his time in the Turn of the Screw. He was able to put together psychological standpoints that weren't even discussed in his time, bouncing between child abuse with those children acting out to the power that abusers can still hold over their victims, even after death.

I'm giving the story a high rating, although I really didn't enjoy it. Why? Because it was a great idea and it was well written. If James hadn't been so vague on key parts, and hadn't left readers with a shocking unexplained ending, then maybe I would have liked it more. I can only recommend this book to people who like Victorian ghost stories, but for paranormal lovers, I think it falls short.
  
Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth
2021 | Action, Adventure, Drama
Story/Plot (2 more)
Actors/acting
Music/Soundtrack
For some the rating being TV-14 (1 more)
Some of the CGI
A Lot of Heart and A Great Story, That Lives Up To The Hype
https://youtu.be/3vw5Un4qmU8
Sweet Tooth is an awesome show. I was pretty excited for this show when I saw the trailer and what it was going to be about. That's because shows and cartoons that have to do with anthropomorphic animal people have a special place in my heart. I think it's because of my love of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles growing up and also because of all the Disney cartoons with talking animals I watched as a kid. Anyways, I really dug this show and thought that it was excellent. I though the casting was pretty spot on for what they were trying to go with and there was some really good acting in this series. I for one, couldn't really see Will Forte as a father before this movie, but he did such a great job as Pubba/Richard Fox Gus's father. I also liked Adeel Akhtar who played Dr. Singh. His performance was really good and I liked his character more than I thought I would. He brought a lot of emotion to his character and his facial expressions really said a lot without having to say it in words. The cinematography was excellent, and there were a lot of this epic shots. Some of the ones I remember the most are these ones from the beginning of episodes showing the scenery like the forest and mountains and others of the cities and just ones where they were really zoomed out showing how big the world is. The plot for me was very interesting because of the whole mystery to it and it being two-fold with the mystery of the virus and then the one of the hybrids. There was the whole speculation on whether the two were related or not and what they had to do with each other if anything. I also liked how even though Gus is the main character, the plot turned into three main storylines following the characters of Gus, Dr. Singh and then Aimee Eden/Dania Ramirez. Aimee Eden is a lady who takes in abandoned hybrids to her sanctuary/orphanage that she creates. I love Dania Ramirez as an actress and you've probably seen her in the shows and movies she's been in like one of my all time favorites, the show Heroes and movies like X-Men: Last Stand, Premium Rush and American Reunion. The soundtrack for the show was really good and very fitting in setting the mood and there were a couple of good songs that stuck out for me like the songs "Dirty Paws" by Of Monsters and Men and "Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest. It seems like the show has a few different themes and they are pretty powerful and universal. One of them is how society shows prejudice, hatred, and fear to those who are different. The series has a generally good atmosphere and mood but I like how the vibe changes in key moments and they do a good job of setting tension in certain spots like when the man approaches the fence near Gus' home in the first episode. The special effects and CGI were decent but nothing spectacular in my opinion from what I remember. There were a couple that could have been better but nothing terribly horrible. The dialogue seemed pretty natural and nothing that stuck out as unusual or something that seemed better on paper or unnatural being said for most of the characters. It was rated TV-14 so for a show that had some mature themes it kind of shies away from the more extreme actions of the plot which I know some people will criticize but I thought it had enough things going on action wise and didn't need to be overly violent or graphic. That being said, I've never read the comic and don't know how it compares to the source material. I thought the editing was rather good and the scenes transitioned well. I especially liked the narration that comes out in the episodes which took me until the end of the season to find out it was actually the voice of Josh Brolin. The pacing was good as well and I liked the way this show places the flashbacks and scenes of the past while still going forward plot wise in the story. I have to say that my favorite character so far is probably the girl called Bear. She's really interesting and has a really cool introduction to the show when she appears. Well that's going to do it for this review, Sweet Tooth is a an awesome show and I give it a 9/10 and it definitely gets my "Must See Seal of Approval". It's on Netflix, so if you haven't seen it yet, you need to give this show a watch.

If you want to read the spoiler review section for my review, check it out on my website by clicking on the link below.

https://cobracharliecr.wixsite.com/charliecobrareviews/post/sweet-tooth-tv-series-review-9-10-a-lot-of-heart-and-a-great-story-that-lives-up-to-the-hype
  
Paris for One and Other Stories
Paris for One and Other Stories
Jojo Moyes | 2017 | Fiction & Poetry
6
7.2 (5 Ratings)
Book Rating
I don’t remember when the last time I read a collection of short stories, but I had to try this one. I have to tell you, it was quite entertaining and attractive. In the book I received, there were eleven short stories, in other publications there might be only nine. I never tried to write a review for short stories, so don’t really know how to do it. I will begin by trying my best to share a short description of each of them.

Paris for One: When reliable Nell is tricked by her boyfriend, and ends up in Paris by herself she is shocked at the beginning. Strange place with no language knowledge makes her stressed at the beginning, but she finds herself, new love, and new adventures during this weekend stay in Paris.

Between the Tweets: When a person named Becca, accuses a known person of cheating on his wife, on twitter, Frank is hired to find out who Becca is. But he is really surprised when he finds out who this girl is, and it brings even bigger twist in the story.

Love in the Afternoon: When the couple, who is exhausted from daily family life, decide to spend a weekend for two in the hotel, they notice, that they actually forgot how to be alone. So, they need to learn it again.

A Bird in the Hand: When Beth and her husband go to a friend’s party, she suddenly meets a man with whom she had an affair. There has been years since they seen each other, but they find out why they fell apart in the first place. Now, Beth has another difficult decision to make.

Crocodile Shoes: When Sam’s gym bag gets mixed up with a rich lady’s one, all she finds in it is a pair of crocodile leather shoes. She doesn’t have any option but to wear them, and it turns her ordinary life around.

Holdups: The Jewellery shop where Alice was working is being robbed by burglars. If there were three according to the owner, why there were only two according to Alice? Mini detective story with unexpected twist.

Honeymoon in Paris: This story is one of my favourites in this book. There are two stories which are happening in Paris. One happens in 2012 and another one in 1912. Latest story is about a couple on honeymoon, where the groom chooses work over his Mrs. The second story is about a newlywed couple, where wife’s mind gets poisoned by an evil woman. These two stories cross each other and shows, that true love always wins.

Last Year's Coat: Evie desperately needs a new coat, but the one she likes cost fortune, and their family can’t afford it. All you need to do is really wish for something, and in some way it will reach you.

Thirteen Days with John C.: One day Miranda finds a phone. Suddenly she starts getting texts from John. She gets very intrigued, even though she is married; she still decides to meet him. The meeting goes not the way she expected it to go, so in the end she has to take some decisions.

Margot: When Em gets stranded in the airport due to delayed flight, she meets this old lady Margot. They spend some quality time together at the airport, and after that go different ways. Only after a while, Em figures out why Margot lives her life to the fullest.

The Christmas List: While running around London for that perfect Christmas dinner with the in law’s, Chrissie ends up in a black taxi. While talking with the driver, she realises, that pleasing needy in law’s, who doesn’t like her, is not what she wants to do this season. And she takes an impulsive decision instead, which might change her life.

All the stories in this book are really different, but at the same time similar. Some of them are about love, some of them about family, others, about making those hard decisions of who you really are. Most of the stories have an interesting twist at the end, or as I call it “the right thing to do” action. Even if the situation is not the best one, there is still that action to take, to make it right for everybody. I enjoyed the variety of characters used in this book, that doesn’t make it boring and keeps interest going. I tend to believe, that author has great love for Paris, as some of the plots are set in the city of lights. My most favourite were “Paris for one” and “Honeymoon in Paris”, they were the longest ones, and for me, the most interesting ones. It is a very easy read. The writing style used in this book is easy and understandable; the stories are not dragging, so it is lovely one sitting read. I really enjoyed the topics author was discussing in this book, she found those little day to day problems, and showed possible solutions to them. I enjoyed this book, and if you looking for something light and entertaining but with great meaning to read, give it a try.
  
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
1940 | Classics, Comedy, Romance
10
10.0 (3 Ratings)
Movie Rating
It's as good (maybe better) than you've heard
We all know of movies that you hear are considered a "classic", but you've never seen, and the few clips of the film you've seen does not, exactly, motivate you to check out the entire film. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY was one such film for me. This 1940 George Cukor production is lauded for it's dialogue, direction and the stellar performances of the cast - particularly the 3 leads, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.

Recently, I attended our monthly "Secret Movie Night" where we pack the Willow Creek Movie Theater on the 2nd Thursday of every month and get treated to a "Classic" Film (made before 1970) or a "New Classic" (made after 1970), but we don't know what the film is until it starts playing on the screen.

So...imagine how much my eyes rolled back into my head when I saw that this month's film was the aforementioned THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. I sighed to myself and said "all right, time to endure this one all the way through."

And...I couldn't have been more wrong. Almost from the start the script, pacing and witty dialogue of this Broadway-Play-Turned-Movie swept me away. Most certainly aided by the fact that 3 of the best movie stars of all time - at the peak of their abilities - were letting this wonderful dialogue roll off their tongues. This film is a "classic" in every sense of the word.

The plot is...inconsequential. Basically...Philadelphia socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn) is getting remarried. Her ex-husband (Cary Grant) enlists the aid of a Journalist (Jimmy Stewart) to create havoc at the wedding.

But...this is a film where the journey, not the destination, is the fun of the flick. The 3 leads banter back and forth with each other, arming and disarming (and charming) one another with their quick wit and biting criticism. The Broadway Stage play was written, specifically, for Hepburn and she exceeds in this role. Here is a newsflash - KATHERINE HEPBURN IS A VERY GOOD ACTRESS - and I think this is the very best performance of the very best actress of all time (with apologies to Meryl Streep). She was nominated (but did not win) the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance (losing to a very deserving Ginger Rogers in KITTY FOYLE, I would have voted for Hepburn, but gotta give Rogers her due, she is very good as the titular KITTY FOYLE).

Stepping up to the plate - and matching Hepburn blow for blow - is, surprisingly, Stewart. I didn't really know the story of this film, so I was surprised where Stewart's character-arc went, especially in relation to his relationship with Hepburn. Stewart lost the Oscar in 1939 for his bravura performance in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (inexplicably losing to Robert Donat in GOODBYE MR. CHIPS), so the Academy made up for it's mistake by awarding Stewart the Oscar for Best Actor of 1940. This most certainly was a worthy Oscar-winning performance, but (if I"m going to be honest), pales in comparison to his work in MR. SMITH...

Looming over these two (and Tracy's impeding marriage to another person) is Cary Grant as Tracy's ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven. While Grant's role is the least showy of the 3, he commands the screen just with his presence whenever he shows up and strengthens this triangle with his strength of character.

The supporting cast is just as strong - Ruth Hussy (Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actress) as a photographer, Roland Young (as the lecherous Uncle Willy) and, especially, 13 year old Virginia Weidler who is spunky, fun and smart as Tracy's kid sister. The only performer relegated to the back of the scenery is the bland John Howard as George Kittredge (the man Tracy is slated to marry). With Grant and Stewart on the scene, you know that Kittredge has no shot at getting Tracy Lord to the altar (or does he?).

All of these fine actors and the wonderful dialogue were put into the hands of the great Director George Cukor - who had 1 of his 5 Best Director Oscar Nominations for this film (he will win for MY FAIR LADY in 1964). He handles this film with skilled hands letting the actors (and the dialogue) "do their thing" without letting any of them overstay their welcome. It is a masterful job of directing and with strong actors (and off-screen personalities) like Hepburn, Grant and Stewart, he had his hands full.

Sure...it's a 1940's movie, so some of the "social situations" (mostly male/female dynamics) do not age particularly well, but Hepburn was a strong personality - certainly well ahead of the game in terms of equality of strength of the sexes, so these dynamics do not jump at us as strongly as it might have been in a lesser actress's hands.

If you haven't seen this film in sometime (or if you haven't seen it at all) - check out THE PHILADELPHIA STORY - you'll be glad you did.

Letter Grade: A+

10 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
  
Captain Marvel (2019)
Captain Marvel (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure
Women: Be the Best Version of Yourselves!
So, after much brouhaha and trolling – probably mostly from woman-hating teenage nerds who can’t get laid – Brie Larson‘s hyper-hero barrels onto our cinema screens.

Stan Lee tribute.
First off, what a Marvel-lous idea to pay tribute to Stan Lee in the Marvel production logo for this film. Michael Giacchino‘s rousing Marvel anthem leads to a simple title card: “Thanks Stan”. Poignant and touching.

Lee makes another cameo in this film. I wonder how many more of these they have in the can? Will they “do a Princess Leia” in future films and CGI in his cameos? I’m not a great fan of this, but he’s such a staple part of the show that – with his family’s permission of course – I would actually welcome having that happen in this specific case.

The Plot.
The movie opens on the Kree home world of Hala where Vers, a member of Starforce (“a race of noble warrior heroes”), is being put through her paces by her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). But she is one mixed up lady, having some exceptional powers but no memory of her past. As an example of this, when she communes with the ‘Supreme Intelligence’ (who looks different to everyone) she sees a woman (Annette Bening) who she clearly admires but she has no idea why.

The Kree are at war against the race of terrorist thugs known as the Skrulls. (Their name reminds me of a classic Mitchell and Webb Nazi SS sketch – “We have skulls on our caps…. does that mean we’re the baddies?”). After a Skrull ambush and some judicious brain-delving, Vers surfaces memories that leads her back to the Terran home world and a past that is set to redefine her future.

What’s good.
A lot. I really enjoyed this Marvel outing. With all the nay-sayers, I went in with low expectations, but the story actually built well and Brie Larson makes the role her own. It goes without saying that she looks gorgeous and fills out that costume very nicely! (The zero gravity ‘hair scene’ is spectacular). But she manages to convey with that style superhero grit with an essence of quirky humour running underneath it. In doing so she holds the whole film together.

Also spectacular were the ‘youngified’ Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). The effect could have been ‘uncanny valley’ with knobs on, but is actually done so well I didn’t even notice. The chemistry between Jackson and Larson is great.

In the strong supporting cast Annette Bening is pure class, and a well-toned Jude Law seems to be having enormous fun. Elsewhere, Ben Mendelsohn (of “Rogue One” fame) is the leader of the Krulls and “Goose” is played by Reggie, Gonzo, Archie and Rizzo! (Flerkin hell!)

 The Marvel/DC Laff-ometer.
A key characteristic of the Marvel/DC films is the humour injected (more it has to be said in Marvel than DC), and in terms of the Marvel/DC-laffometer, this film probably lies fairly in the middle of the range. It’s not the snort-fest of Ragnarok or GotG, but neither is it at the po-faced Man of Steel end. Much fun is made of the 1995 setting with gags from Arnie in “True Lies” to computer loading times being well-exploited.

There are also lots of great Marvel in-jokes, not least of which is the story behind Fury losing his eye: hilarious!

What’s not so good.
The problem I have with “Transformers” films is that there is little tension for me in seeing robots hitting ten-bells out of each other. I’ve similarly commented that many superhero movies have the same flaw that (Thanos aside, as things stand) they are pretty much indestructible and there is little threat implied. Captain Marvel however takes this to entirely different levels: the Hulk smash is a mere gnat-bite compared to what Carol Danvers can deliver; storming through planet-busting nuclear weapons and starships without a scratch. It’s so over-the-top that a showdown scene in the finale, although played for a laugh, also becomes laughable in the wrong way.

The film also ladles on female empowerment as if it was gravy in an Australian chip shop! (I bet Theresa May has the film on permanent loop in the Downing Street home cinema). Don’t get me wrong, I am a big supporter of #MeToo (and indeed #SheDo), but the film is a bit too heavy handed in its messaging in this area.

A troop of monkeys.
There are two extra scenes in the end titles (“monkeys“) and they are both corkers. The first bridges directly from “Infinity War” to “Endgame”, picking up (literally) that pager that Nick Fury was no longer able to hang onto; the second a nice sight gag featuring Goose that links the end of this film to the “monkey” at the end of Thor! Well worth waiting for!

Final Thoughts.
This was a Marvel film I really enjoyed, and which I would definitely re-watch. It’s been written and directed by ‘indie’ writing duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (with Geneva Robertson-Dworet also contributing to the screenplay), and very well done it is in my view. Not everyone seems to have liked it: but I did!

On April 25th, the Danvers vs Thanos match is going to be a bout that will be worth buying tickets to see!
  
Love, Simon (2018)
Love, Simon (2018)
2018 | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Time to Exhale.
I saw this as a Cineworld “Secret Unlimited Screening” event (for non-UK readers, Cineworld is one of the main movie-theater chains), so went in – like the majority of the audience I suspect – predicting early sight of Lara Croft in skin tight shorts! This was a bit different! A secret screening is an interesting concept, and really tests the metal of a film in engaging its audience early. This one failed to some degree, with seven people (I was counting) walking out in the first 10 minutes. (To be fair on those seven, the film’s first 20 minutes are rather laborious; and to be fair on the film, this was a pretty full auditorium so as a percentage drop out it was low).

Teen heartthrob Nick Robinson (the older brother from “Jurassic World“) plays the eponymous hero who has a well-buried secret: he’s gay. Growing up in Pleasantville (I almost expected someone to yell “Cat!” and the fire brigade turn up) he feels unable to come out to either his high-school friends or his loving family (“Apple pie cooling on the window-sill anyone?”). But striking up an email relationship with another closeted male from the same high school – nicknamed “Blue” – allows him to explore his feelings about his sexuality and fall in love all at the same time. But neither coming out or love run terribly smoothly for Simon…

Happy families. From left, Nick Robinson, Talitha Bateman, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel.
I am forty years adrift from being able to directly relate to the stresses and strains of modern high-school life (though I AM still 17 on the inside people!) But even to me, this film doesn’t feel like it should be set in the present day. While it needs to be for its tweeting and blogging story-line, surely there are few backwaters in either America or Western Europe where gay people have to stay so silent? An 80’s or early 90’s setting would, I think, have worked so much better. (Ironically, its not his gay-ness or otherwise that his friends get upset by, but something far more fundamental in the human condition).

Definitely set in the present day.
That aside, this is a sweet and ultimately quite engaging film that I’m sure will be a big hit with a teenage audience. While for me it didn’t come close to ticking all of the coming-of-age boxes that the inestimable “Lady Bird” did, it does cover old ground in a new and refreshing way, and I’m sure it WILL be very helpful for many gay people in getting the courage to come out. Times are different today, but I still can imagine few things requiring more bravery than declaring you are gay to your parents and closest friends (even though, deep down, they surely already suspect).

So, it’s sweet, but also for me (although far from its target audience) rather flat. As a comedy drama, the moments of comedy are few and far between, with only one or two of the lines making me chuckle rather than smile. A quiet auditorium is not a good sign for a film with “Comedy” in its imdb description. It does however occasionally break through with something memorable: a full on college “La La Land” scene (“Not that gay” – LoL) is a case in point. And all of the scenes featuring comedy actress Natasha Rothwell as drama teacher Ms Allbright add much needed energy and humour to the film.

Someone should tell him… regardless of gender preference, sex is never going to work like this.
Of the teen actors, Robinson is fine but it is Katherine Langford as Simon’s friend Leah who stood out for me. Talitha Eliana Bateman (“The 5th Wave“; looking a whole lot younger than her 16 years!) is also impressive as Simon’s culinary sister Nora. Simon’s parents are played by Jennifer Garner (“Dallas Buyers Club“) and Josh Duhamel (a new one on me… he’s been in the “Transformers” films apparently).

Simon says walk this way. From left, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Nich Robinson, Alexandra Shipp and Katherine Langford.
The screenplay is by movie virgins Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, and is a slightly patchy affair. There are scenes that worked well (a cringe inducing sports stadium scene for example) but other times where it seems to be trying too hard for T-shirt captions…. a line from Ethan (Clark Moore) about hate crime was a “Ye-what?” moment.

Some of the characters really don’t quite work either: Tony Hale (so memorable as the useless PA in “Veep”) plays almost a school-ified version of Stephen Stucker’s Johnny from “Airplane”. Perhaps that would work as some sort of whacky hall monitor guy… but it transpires that he is the headmaster. No, I don’t think so.

A bit OTT. Veep’s Tony Hale as the principal with a surfeit of bonhomie.
So, in summary, after a bit of a bumpy start, its a pleasant watch that culminates in a feel-good ending. Feel good, that is, providing you have liberal views: I can’t see it pleasing many Trump supporters. I also can’t see it getting a cinema release in Gambia or Nigeria, though God only knows they could use one. If I could give half stars I would give this one an extra half as I applaud both the theme its trying to promote and for bringing something fresh to the screen…
  
40x40

Bob Mann (447 KP) rated It (2017) in Movies

Sep 29, 2021  
It (2017)
It (2017)
2017 | Drama, Horror
4
7.9 (355 Ratings)
Movie Rating
IT… didn’t really float my boat.
IT is based on the Stephen King novel, and tells the disturbing recurring events that happen within the town of Derry in Maine. Kids keep disappearing and sightings of a spooky clown, other visitations and red balloons occur. A group of bullied high school kids – one directly impacted by the disappearances – work to get to the bottom of the supernatural goings on. (Fortunately they don’t have a dog called Scooby).
I had in mind that with the disturbing and dangerous “clowning around” that happened in the summer of 2016 that this film had been shot a while ago and the release delayed until now for fear of adding ‘clown-flavoured fuel’ to the fire. But it appears that filming only completed in September of last year, so that appears not to be the case.

The film starts memorably and brutally with the “drain scene” from the trailer. And very effective it is too. “Great!” you think… this is a spookfest that has legs! Unfortunately, for me at least, it all went downhill from there. The film really doesn’t seem to know WHAT it’s trying to be. There are elements of “Stand By Me”; elements of “Alien”; elements of “The Conjuring”, all thrown into a cinematic blender and pulsed well.
The most endearing aspects of the movie are the interactions of the small-town kids, with this aspect of the film bearing the closest comparison with J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8”. This is carried by the great performances of the young actors involved, with Jaeden Lieberher (so memorable in “Midnight Special”) as Bill; Jeremy Ray Taylor (“Ant Man”) as Ben (‘the chubby one’); and Finn Wolfhard, in his big-screen premiere and sporting an absurd set of glasses, as the wise-cracking Ritchie.

Standout for my though was the then 14-year old Sophia Lillis as Beverly (the nearest equivalent to the Elle Fanning role in “Super 8”). This young lady has SUCH screen presence, reminiscent of Emma Watson in the Harry Potter films. I think she is a name to watch!

While commenting on the acting I do need to acknowledge Bill Skarsgård (“Atomic Blonde” and son of Stellan Skarsgård) who is creepily effective as Pennywise the clown.
Having a film that just centred on the pubescent interplay between the youngsters and their battles against the near-psychopathic school bully Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton, “Captain Fantastic”) would have kept me well-entertained for two hours. However, in the same way that the hugely over-inflated Sci-Fi ending of “Super 8” rather detracted from that film, so the clown-related story popping up all the time just irritated me to distraction. (“WILL YOU JUST FECK OFF AND LEAVE US TO FIND OUT WHO BEVERLY GETS OFF WITH???!!”)

While the film has a number of good jump-scares, a lot of them – especially those with excessive use of CGI – just don’t really work. There are normally no “outcomes” from the scares. It’s all a bit like a ghost train where the carriage rounds a corner, something jumps out, and then the carriage moves on round the corner again! What makes a great horror film is where the “science” of the horror is well thought through. “Alien” was an exceptional example of that, where the science wasn’t just “physics” but also “biology”. Here (and I’m not sure whether this is true to the book… this is one of Stephen King’s I haven’t read) there seems to be no rules involved at all. Things happen fairly randomly: shape-shifting and effects on physical objects happen with no rational explanation; the kids can see things adults can’t see. (Why?). In fact the “adults” – the usual mix of Stephen King dysfunctional small-town crazies – seem to have no significant part in the story at all. It’s all like some lame teenage fantasy where actions (a number of individuals in the story meet their demise) seem to carry no legal consequences whatsoever. I half expected Bill to wake up – Dallas style – at the end and realise it had all been an “awful dream”!

In particular, the denouement is highly dissatisfying. An opportunity for a (very black) twist in the plot is discarded. Pennywise the clown’s departure is both lame and unconvincing. And there are numerous loose ends that are never properly tied down (what was that “floaters descending” dialogue about?…. it was just never followed through!).
It’s not all bad though. The location shoots in Bangor, Maine and the Ontario countryside are all beautifully rendered by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (“Stoker”) and where the film clicks with the young cast it clicks well and enjoyably. I just wish that the overall film wasn’t just such a jumbled-up mess. Blame for that must lie with the screenwriting team and director Andy Muschietti (“Mama”). I’m going to give it a kicking in my rating, since with all the marketing build-up it was certainly a disappointment. I see though that at the time of writing that this film sports an unfathomably high imdb rating of 8.0/10 so I’ll acknowledge that somebody must have seen something more in this than I did!!
  
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
2017 | Action, Adventure
When I heard the news last year that Spider-Man was going to be rebooted yet again, I was like “are you freaking serious”? After the successful Toby Maguire trilogy (though the less said about “Spider-Man 3” the better) and the mildly successful “Amazing Spider-Man” duo with Andrew Garfield only finishing in 2014, did we REALLY need another reboot? More dramatic spider biting? More Uncle Ben spouting then dying? The same old – same old, rewarmed in a pan with a bit of red wine added just to stop it feeling so dry and tasteless.
And I still feel the same way. I understand that its more to do with rights ownership between Sony, Marvel and Disney that this got made so quickly…. but in the words of Ian Malcolm “they didn’t stop to think if they should”.

But actually, although I still don’t really approve of it, they’ve done a pretty good job in rebooting in a different manner. I commented in my review for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” that that first reboot was “much less earnest and quirkier than the original Tobey Maguire series, and reveling more in the fun to be had around a superhero’s schooldays.” This latest reboot moves even further along that scale, being very much more of a high-school comedy that a pure superhero flick.
Wearing the suit this time is a far more age-appropriate Tom Holland, winner of last year’s BAFTA Rising Star award. And very personable he is too. The suit in question has been jizzed up by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr) – perhaps I could have rephrased that better! Because here the Spider-Man story carries on from the brief cameo in “Captain America: Civil War” that crossed Spidey into the mainstream Marvel timeline.

Within the high-school setting, Peter Parker’s geeky, and almost too deliberately multi-racial, gang includes his pal Ned (Jacob Batalon), very funny with a “chair guy” sequence, the unattainable Liz (Laura Harrier) as the love-interest, Betty (the excellent Angourie Rice who made such a great impression in “The Nice Guys” but didn’t really move the meter for me here I’m afraid), Flash (Tony Revolori) and best of all for me the almost horizontally laconic Michelle (Zendaya, of Shoshone heritage) – uber-cool but harbouring a secret crush on Peter.

Chris Evans pops up for comic relief as Captain America doing motivational high-school videos. And older viewers might want to have fun watching out for Tyne Daly: Lacey in the old cop show “Cagney and Lacey”.
But stealing the show in the acting stakes is Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes (aka “The Vulture”) who could for all the world be auditioning for “Birdman 2”. The well-judged thing about this villain is that he is no hyper-galactic being with superpowers, or a typical “rule the world” Bond villain, but just an ordinary Joe in search of financial profit to keep his family in the manner to which they are accustomed. I really liked that. The script (an army of people, but led by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who also wrote the story) also nicely counterpoints the thin-line between the “good arms dealer” (Tony Stark) and the “bad arms dealer” (Toomes).

The script also very wisely leaps several months into where the reboot could have started. None of the tedious spider biting. No Uncle Ben – just a sly reference to “what Aunt May’s been through”. Now this might confuse anyone not familiar with the Spider-Man story, but the percentage of people in the Western world in that segment must be less than 2%.
There are however also significant character changes that may annoy Spider-Man devotees. Aunt May herself is no longer the frail old lady of previous depictions, but a hot and attractive middle-aged woman (AILF?) played by Marisa Tomei (who does indeed look ‘Mila Kunis‘).
Many of the action scenes are well done, with a scene at the Washington Monument being particularly exciting. It all gets rather overblown though with a later scene aboard the Avenger’s plane. And this scene sums up my problem with many of these films: the superhero characters are pretty well indestructible. You know they are. So the scenes of peril, that might thrill in an Indiana Jones, an M.I. or a Bond film, lack any sort of tension. Even when the protagonist does have a superhero on the ropes, they don’t carry on kicking the proverbial c**p out of them until they are “dead”…. they lay off so the superhero can recover and kick their ass in a few minutes time!


The director is Jon Watts in only his third directorial outing (with only the much praised “Cop Car” to pretty up his CV). With such a lot on his shoulders he does a good job.
At 133 minutes its a tad over-long (I watched this in a double bill with “War for the Planet of the Apes” so my eyes afterwards were 16:9!). But it’s a fun summer flick that both amuses and entertains. If you have the choice between this and Planet of the Apes though for your Saturday night at the movies, I would personally choose the latter.
By the way, in terms of “monkeys” – yep, it’s a Marvel film, of course there are monkeys! One early on in the credits and another one at the end… which is actually very funny indeed.
  
Their Finest (2017)
Their Finest (2017)
2017 | Comedy, Drama, Romance
8
8.3 (3 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Keep Calm and Carry on Writing.
In a well-mined category, “Their Finest” is a World War 2 comedy/drama telling a tale I haven’t seen told before: the story behind the British Ministry of Information and their drive to produce propaganda films that support morale and promote positive messages in a time of national crisis. For it is 1940 and London is under nightly attack by the Luftwaffe during the time known as “The Blitz”. Unfortunately the Ministry is run by a bunch of toffs, and their output is laughably misaligned with the working class population, and especially the female population: with their husbands fighting overseas, these two groups are fast becoming one and the same. For women are finding and enjoying new empowerment and freedom in being socially unshackled from the kitchen sink.

The brave crew of the Nancy Starling. Bill Nighy as Uncle Frank, with twins Lily and Francesca Knight as the Starling sisters.

Enter Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton, “The Girl with all the Gifts“) who is one such woman arriving to a dangerous London from South Wales to live with struggling disabled artist Ellis (Jack Huston, grandson of John Huston). Catrin, stretching the truth a little, brings a stirring ‘true’ tale of derring-do about the Dunkirk evacuation to the Ministry’s attention. She is then employed to “write the slop” (the woman’s dialogue) in the writing team headed by spiky Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin, “Me Before You“).
One of the stars of the film within the film is ‘Uncle Frank’ played by the aging but charismatic actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy, “Dad’s Army“, “Love Actually”). Catrin proves her worth by pouring oil on troubled waters as the army insist on the introduction of an American airman (Jake Lacy, “Carol“) to the stressful mix. An attraction builds between Catrin and Tom, but how will the love triangle resolve itself? (For a significant clue see the “Spoiler Section” below the trailer, but be warned that this is a major spoiler!).
As you might expect if you’ve seen the trailer the film is, in the main, warm and funny with Gemma Arterton just gorgeously huggable as the determined young lady trying to make it in a misogynistic 40’s world of work. Arterton is just the perfect “girl next door”: (sigh… if I was only 20 years younger and unattached!) But mixed in with the humour and the romantic storyline is a harsh sprinkling of the trials of war and not a little heartbreak occurs. This is at least a 5 tissue movie.

Claflin, who is having a strong year with appearances in a wide range of films, is also eminently watchable. One of his best scenes is a speech with Arterton about “why people love the movies”, a theory that the film merrily and memorably drives a stake through the heart of!

Elsewhere Lacy is hilarious as the hapless airman with zero acting ability; Helen McCrory (“Harry Potter”) as Sophie Smith vamps it up wonderfully as the potential Polish love interest for Hilliard; Richard E Grant (“Logan“) and Jeremy Irons (“The Lion King”, “Die Hard: with a Vengeance”) pop up in useful cameos and Eddie Marsan (“Sherlock Holmes”) is also touching as Hilliard’s long-suffering agent.
But it is Bill Nighy’s Hilliard who carries most of the wit and humour of the film with his pompous thespian persona, basking in the dwindling glory of a much loved series of “Inspector Lynley” films. With his pomposity progressively warming under the thawing effect of Sophie and Catrin, you have to love him! Bill Nighy is, well, Bill Nighy. Hugh Grant gets it (unfairly) in the neck for “being Hugh Grant” in every film, but this pales in comparison with Nighy’s performances! But who cares: his kooky delivery is just delightful and he is a national treasure!

Slightly less convincing for me was Rachael Stirling’s role as a butch ministry busybody with more than a hint of the lesbian about her. Stirling’s performance in the role is fine, but would this really have been so blatant in 1940’s Britain? This didn’t really ring true for me.
While the film gamely tries to pull off London in the Blitz the film’s limited budget (around £25m) makes everything feel a little underpowered and ’empty’: a few hundred more extras in the Underground/Blitz scenes for example would have helped no end. However, the special effects crew do their best and the cinematography by Sebastian Blenkov (“The Riot Club”) suitably conveys the mood: a scene where Catrin gets caught in a bomb blast outside a clothes shop is particularly moving.

As with all comedy dramas, sometimes the bedfellows lie uncomfortably with each other, and a couple of plot twists: one highly predictable; one shockingly unpredictable make this a non-linear watch. This rollercoaster of a script by Gaby Chiappe, in an excellent feature film debut (she actually also has a cameo in the propaganda “carrot film”!), undeniably adds interest and makes the film more memorable. However (I know from personal experience) that the twist did not please everyone in the audience!
Despite its occasionally uneven tone, this is a really enjoyable watch (particularly for more mature audiences) and Danish director Lone Scherfig finally has a vehicle that matches the quality of her much praised Carey Mulligan vehicle “An Education”.
  
Miss Sloane (2016)
Miss Sloane (2016)
2016 | Mystery
9
9.0 (2 Ratings)
Movie Rating
“I never know where the line is”.
In a roller-coaster year for political intrigue on both sides of the Atlantic, and with all hell breaking loose again between Trump and ‘The Hill’, here comes “Miss Sloane”.
Jessica Chastain ( “The Martian“, “Interstellar“) plays the titular heroine (I use the term loosely): a pill-popping insomniac who is working herself into an early grave as a top-Washington lobbyist. The game of lobbying is, as she describes, staying one step of the competition and “playing your trump card just after your opponent has played theirs”. But all is not going well for Elizabeth Sloane. For the film opens with her being on trial for corruption in front of a congressional hearing, chaired by Senator Sperling (John Lithgow, “The Accountant“).

Through flashback we see how she got to that point, moving from one firm headed by George Dupont (Sam Waterston, “The Killing Fields”) to another headed by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong, “Kick Ass”, “Kingsman: The Secret Service“) against the backdrop of the high-stakes lobbying around a new gun-control bill. Her fanatical drive to ‘win at all costs’, and the trail of destruction, through her cutthroat work ethic, that she leaves behind her, digs her an ever-deeper hole as the political and legal net closes in around her.

Jessica Chastain has played strong and decisive women before, most notably in “Zero Dark Thirty”, but probably never to this extreme degree. Here she is like Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada”, but not played for laughs. Miss Sloane is an emotionally and physically damaged woman, but a formidable one who takes charge both in the boardroom and in the bedroom, through the unashamed use of male escorts (in the well-muscled form of Jake Lacy, “Their Finest“). As such her character is not remotely likable, but one the I could certainly relate to from past business dealings I’ve had. (And no, I don’t mean as a male prostitute!)
I found Sloane to be one of the more fascinating characters in this year’s releases: I was never being sure whether her actions are being powered from a background of strong moral conviction (fuelled by a devastating childhood incident perhaps?) or through pure greed and lust for power. I thought Chastain excelled in the role, but for balance the illustrious Mrs Mann thought she rather overplayed her hand at times.

Outside of Chastain’s central performance though, this is a very strong ensemble cast. Mark Strong – not with an English accent for once and not playing a heavy – is great as the frustrated boss, as is the seldom-seen Sam Waterston (who, by the way, is the father of Katherine Waterston of current “Alien: Covenant” fame). Christine Baranski (so good in “The Good Wife” and now “The Good Fight”) pops up in a cameo as a flinty Senator. But the outstanding turn for me was Oxford-born Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Belle”, “Beauty and the Beast” – and yes, I’m aware of the irony in this pairing!). Playing Sloane’s colleague Esme Manucharian – both a lady with a secret in her past as well as possessing a great name – Mbatha-Raw is just riveting and deserving of a Supporting Actress nomination in my book.

What binds the whole two hours together is an extraordinarily skillful script by debut writer Jonathan Perera, which has both a gripping and ever-twisting story as well as a host of quotable lines. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have a new Aaron Sorkin on the block! It’s a brave script, dealing as it does with 2nd amendment issues, since there seems to be nothing that stirs up American comment like gun-control. For those living in the UK (where gun deaths are over 50 times less per capita than in the US) the whole topic is both fascinating and perplexing and there were a lot of nodding heads during Sloane’s TV rant about it being an archaic ‘Wild West’ throwback that should no longer be set in stone. (But it’s not our country any more, so you Americans can do what you like!)
The marvelous Cinematography is by Sebastian Blenkov – the second time this gentleman has come to my attention within a month (the first time being “Their Finest“).


The director is Portsmouth-born Brit John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) and he does a great job in sustaining the tension and energy throughout the running time. This all makes it a great shame that the film has not done well at the US box office, perhaps because ( the film was released in December 2016) the public had more than their fill of politics after a bruising and divisive election. (I’m not sure the UK release date now – just before our own General Election – is wise either).
But for me, this was a memorable film, and come the end of the year it might well be up there in my top 10 for the year. I’m a sucker for a good political thriller with “All the President’s Men” and “Primary Colors” in my personal list as some of my favourite ever films. If you like those films, “House of Cards” or remember fondly TV series like “The West Wing” or (for those with even longer memories) “Washington Behind Closed Doors” then I would strongly recommend you get out and watch this.