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GentleGenius

GentleGenius
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    • Damage [1993] (DVD) / DVD / 52 Readings / 48 Ratings
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      17.03.2014 01:59
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      A superbly powerful tale of love, sex and obsession

      RELEASED: 1992, Cert. 18

      DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Louis Malle

      SCREENPLAY: David Hare

      MUSIC: Zbigniew Preisner

      MAIN CAST:-

      Jeremy Irons as Dr. Stephen Fleming
      Juliette Binoche as Anna
      Miranda Richardson as Ingrid Fleming
      Rupert Graves as Martyn Fleming
      Ian Bannen as Edward
      Leslie Caron as Elizabeth Prideaux

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      FILM ONLY REVIEW

      Based on Josephine Hart's novel which I assume bears the same title, Damage tells the story of Dr. Stephen Fleming, a cabinet minister and family man who has a wife, a son, a daughter and an upper-class lifestyle.

      When Stephen's son Martyn introduces his new girlfriend Anna to the rest of the Fleming family, there is an instant, extremely powerful attraction between Stephen and Anna....a clandestine and powerful affair ensues between the two.

      Stephen's attraction to the mysterious Anna quickly mutates into an all-consuming obsessiveness, they spending every possible moment they can steal together in secret, indulging in a passionate sexual relationship.

      As Stephen becomes increasingly distracted by Anna, only just managing to behave as normally as he is able to when in the company of the rest of his family, he is mortified when Martyn and Anna announce they are going to get married.

      Can Stephen take a back seat and leave Anna to his son Martyn, or is he unable to let go?

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Damage is a film which has more of the quality of a play about it, being a simultaneously laid-back and powerful tale of one man's obsessive attraction towards a troubled young French woman....his son's girlfriend and wife to be.

      I haven't read Josephine Hart's novel so am unable to vouch for its authenticity when sticking to the original story, but Damage is one of these films which strongly concentrates on the human element and on first viewing, perhaps demands some concentration despite it being very easy to follow. When I first saw it many years ago, I was hesitant as to whether I'd enjoy the political aspect, but on watching, was relieved and pleased that the main focus of the story is Stephen and Anna's relationship, together with its repercussions, with Stephen's career being off to the side and incidental rather than the main event.

      The acting in Damage is absolutely first class from the whole main cast, with Jeremy Irons giving a brilliant performance as the normally steady-natured Stephen whose world is suddenly thrown into turmoil by the appearance of Anna, his son Martyn's rather manipulative new girlfriend.

      The film score is tasteful, being light orchestral in nature, providing some tension at the appropriate moments in the storyline and being suitably haunting at other times.

      Damage does contain some rather lurid sex scenes which at first even have a slightly sado-masochist flavour to them, but they are tastefully presented and some viewers may find them erotic....I personally don't, but realise they are essential to what the film is all about.

      There is a taut, uneasy mood running through Damage which sometimes can make me squirm a little, possibly due to the aspects of what I can only describe as power without glory. I do very much want to say something about the latter part of the story as it draws to a close, but am prevented from doing so for reasons of not wishing to disclose any 'spoilers'.

      It could be said that some people may find Damage a little unrealistic, but it is my view that such could stem from this film being set in an upper-middle-class environment with equally upper-middle-class characters...a huge mansion-like house in the country, croquet on the lawn, silver service family meals served by the resident housekeeper and other such trappings of wealth - yet, this is a story which draws attention to human nature and its failings, probably showing that no matter what our occupation or how many or few millions we have in the bank, we are all vulnerable to the unexpected when we by pure chance meet 'that' person.....the love of our life!

      Damage is one of these films which draws me like a magnet from start to finish, and even though I know the outcome together with pretty much the whole thing off by heart - so always fully knowing what to expect - my enjoyment levels have never wavered and familiarity continues to breed fascination instead of contempt.

      Overall, Damage is a polished, extremely well-acted and directed film that digs deep into the human condition yet without sensationalising anything. The storyline, very ably assisted by the brilliant performances from the main cast, rolls along at a gripping pace as various stones get unturned. Once the film is over, it is something that can be reflected upon, particularly in the area of which character your own sympathies will lie with when all is said and done. Even bearing its romantic content in mind, it is a film which I feel would equally appeal to men as well as women as it is an intelligent story that is thankfully absent from any kind of mawkish sentimentality. I can inform anybody who may avoid Damage due to expecting a very cheesy offering (bearing its romantic and sexual element in mind), that there is absolutely nothing to worry about in that department.

      Do I recommend Damage? Yes, yes, yes, without any hesitation whatsoever. It is a moving, very powerful, gripping, thoughtful drama about love, lust and its consequences which is riveting from start to finish, is extremely well acted and superbly directed....the only thing I can add is, watch it!

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      At the time of writing, Damage can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

      New: only 2 copies currently available @ £9.90 and £69.00
      Used: none

      Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

      Thanks for reading!

      ~~ May also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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      • The Thing (2011) (DVD) / DVD / 41 Readings / 40 Ratings
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        15.03.2014 13:04
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        OK but not as good as I'd hoped

        RELEASED: 1982, Cert. 18

        RUNNING TIME: Approx. 109 mins

        DIRECTOR: John Carpenter

        PRODUCERS: David Foster & Lawrence Turman

        SCREENPLAY: Bill Lancaster

        MUSIC: Ennio Morricone

        MAIN CAST:-

        Kurt Russell as R J MacReady
        T K Carter as Nauls
        Wilford Brimley as Dr. Blair
        Keith David as Childs
        David Clannon as Palmer

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        FILM ONLY REVIEW

        The Thing starts well, with a flying saucer type spacecraft cruising towards earth, settling in bleak, snow-clad Antarctica.

        The scene then pans to a helicopter cruising over the area, appearing to chase a dog, the dog being one of a pack living with a group of American scientists residing at an outpost, working on some sort of project. Whoever is manning the helicopter is trying to shoot the dog, but keeps missing.

        Close to the base where the scientists are working, they hear the fuss outside, emerge, and shoot down the helicopter, killing the pilot who, on examination of his dead body, appears to be Norwegian.

        Further exploration by the Americans reveals a deserted Norwegian research station some miles away.....deserted except for an extra-terrestrial creature lying inside a sort of carefully carved square pit of ice.

        On their return to their outpost and after a while, the American team of scientists discovers that this creature is able to, when it attacks, take on the form of whatever it has chosen as its target.

        It then becomes apparent that it could have infested any one of the Americans, and it is a race against time to find out who, plus to destroy the creature before it wipes out life on earth.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        From my précis above, it does sound as though The Thing is something from a 1950s action-packed comic book, and I do believe it is a re-make of a film from that decade.

        The first feeling I had whilst watching was one of coldness, as the sensation created in me from viewing the stark, snowy Antarctica landscape got inside of my bones and made me shiver. I also liked the rather foreboding atmosphere created, particularly while the helicopter was chasing the dog.

        When the scene moved into the American observation outpost, some of that initial atmosphere dissolved.

        The excitement levels once the Americans manage to work out what is going on are quite high, yet to me (although in a different setting) was too close to the original Alien movie...this being down to filming techniques rather than the story itself. However, I continued watching as I had become absorbed and was eager to see how the storyline would pan out.

        For the duration of The Thing, I was hovering between reasonably healthy levels of interest and a creeping sense of boredom. It didn't help that the acting is well below par, unassisted by a not too good script. The acting came across to me as very unnatural, with the dialogue lacking imagination, not accurately putting forward how people really speak to one another. Much of this dialogue was almost as contrived as something out of an old Dan Dare comic book or movie, and it went a long way towards watering down what is otherwise potentially a great idea for a story....and hell on earth for those concerned if it really happened.

        Quite a few special effects are used in The Thing. Bearing in mind the technology available in 1982 when this film was made, these special effects are rather good, but appear weak when compared to modern-day filming techniques. I do in that case feel it is very important to watch The Thing from a standpoint of casting yourself back to 1982 rather than expecting something more technologically advanced in the area of special effects.

        One very good thing about this film is the musical score, it being typical of Ennio Morricone's work. It is electronic in nature, much of it being on one note, but its mood is tense, dark and haunting, perfectly befitting the dilemma the American scientists find themselves in and blending well with the atmosphere of the bleak, frozen Antarctica landscape.

        There are quite a few scenes in the film which take place in darkness, but thankfully it was made at a time when directors and camera crews still knew how to make creative use of lighting techniques whereby you can still see perfectly well what is happening, yet an impression of darkness is given - that particular skill appears to have been all but lost in many modern-day films.

        For me, The Thing is a film that gripped me from the start and I watched at least two-thirds of it with interest - despite cringing from the poor acting and almost infantile dialogue - yet past that point, it began to limp somewhat, consisting of little more than a group of men running around trying to slay the extra-terrestrial being....this creature taking on quite a few different forms and making a lot of cringe-inducing squelchy noises.

        Although it does have its good parts, The Thing didn't quite come up to my expectations. Firstly it is too long, then couple that with the niggles (such as poor acting) I've outlined above, it ends up becoming somewhat of a farce rather than holding onto its initially grim, dark atmosphere.

        Some sources on the internet describe the genre of The Thing as sci-fi/fantasy and others slot it into the horror category....I'd personally say it is a bit of all of those really.

        Would I recommend The Thing? Up to a point yes, as it does have some very worthwhile parts, but it certainly wasn't as good as I was expecting, and some other people may also be disappointed with the film as a whole. I don't think it is something I shall be re-visiting, but I overall wouldn't completely slam it into the wall as it is one of those films which isn't great, but isn't bad either.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        At the time of writing, The Thing can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

        New: from £2.60 to £24.99
        Used: from 46p to £249.00 (stupid!)
        Collectible: only two copies currently available @ £5.99 and £11.80 (both appear to be used)

        Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

        Thanks for reading!

        ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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        • Man on a Ledge (DVD) / DVD / 44 Readings / 43 Ratings
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          12.03.2014 21:33
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          It's OK but nothing special

          RELEASED: 2012, Cert. 12

          RUNNING TIME: Approx. 102 mins

          DIRECTOR: Asger Leth

          PRODUCERS: Lorenzo di Bonaventura & Mark Vahradian

          SCREENPLAY: Pablo F Fenjves

          MUSIC: Henry Jackman

          MAIN CAST:-

          Sam Worthington as Nick Cassidy
          Elizabeth Banks as Lydia Mercer
          Jamie Bell as Joey Cassidy
          Genesis Rodriguez as Angie
          Anthony Mackie as Mike Ackerman
          Ed Harris as David Englander

          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          FILM ONLY REVIEW

          Sam Worthington books a room in a posh New York hotel. Once inside of his room, he opens the window, steps out and precariously balances on the narrow ledge. A crowd gathers below, wondering if he will jump.

          Police negotiator Lydia Mercer is called in to try and talk Sam inside and off of the ledge. During her conversations with him and after a brief forensic test is performed on a cigarette she offers him which he takes a few puffs on, it is discovered that Sam is both an ex-policeman and a criminal who has escaped from prison. His crime which put him in prison was an alleged attempt at stealing of a priceless diamond from David Englander, a cold, calculating multi-millionaire businessman. Sam has always insisted he was totally innocent of this crime.

          On the ledge and whilst Lydia attempts to draw Sam out, it seems that he is preoccupied, occasionally casting brief glances towards a building across the street and whispering into what I assume is a mobile phone hidden inside the breast pocket of his jacket. In this building opposite, Sam's brother Jamie and girlfriend (Jamie's girlfriend) Angie are, under Sam's instructions, attempting to steal the aforesaid diamond from David Englander's safe in his office. Sam's mock suicide threat and balancing on the ledge outside of his hotel room window is merely a ploy, designed to distract the emergency services and the public from what Jamie and Angie are doing.

          Meanwhile, the crowd below is transfixed, some people even urging Sam to jump from the ledge, simply because they probably want a bit of excitement in their lives.

          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Having read some mixed opinions on Man On A Ledge whilst browsing through various internet sites some while ago, I decided to watch it for myself.

          There is a little opener where handcuffed Sam is allowed to attend a funeral, closely watched over by Mike Ackerman, who he stayed friends with since his cop days. I found this introduction to Man On A Ledge a little dreary, and unless I blinked and missed something important, I couldn't see its relevance to the rest of the film.

          However, things warmed up just a bit once Sam had booked into the posh, several-storey high hotel and climbed out of his room window onto the narrow ledge underneath. At around this point in the film and just prior to it, the camera pans rapidly above the streets of New York, and this distracted me somewhat, plus made my eyes feel strange as the camera movement wasn't as even as I'd have liked. Once Sam was outside, high up above a baying crowd of onlookers, I did get a sense of vertigo, but soon got used to it and my stomach managed to remain in the right part of my body.

          As the storyline unfolded, swapping backwards and forwards between Sam and police negotiator Lydia Mercer having some stilted conversations with one another and Sam's brother Joey with girlfriend Angie conducting a heist in order to rob wealthy David Englander of the precious diamond that Sam had been wrongly imprisoned for attempting to steal, I was a little disappointed because I was hoping the storyline would concentrate on a man who really was suicidal, being talked to, befriended, with the outcome being that he'd either be coaxed back indoors or jump to his death.....so, Man On A Ledge didn't quite pan out how I was expecting.

          The music is of that rather dull type used for American TV cop shows, and that was largely how the film came across to me - something made for TV rather than the big screen.

          Although passable, I wouldn't say any of the acting was particularly special, and I wasn't very keen on the personalities of the characters. I found them to be rather dry and soulless.

          I did find the basic concept of the film, that being Sam causing a stir so as to distract attention away from the robbery his brother was committing, to be rather neat and at first, I was intrigued to see how the heist would evolve....but, I soon lost interest in that part as for me, it wasn't put across with any special degree of excitement. I also began to find Sam's antics high up out on the ledge of the building to be rather dreary....it was interesting at first, because until I found out why he was on the ledge (which is made obvious fairly early on in the proceedings), much of the intrigue and excitement evaporated for me.

          However, I continued to watch, but towards the end, I became confused as to who was who and why people were doing what they were doing. The very ending of Man On A Ledge didn't come up to my expectations, as for me it removed any mild sense of intrigue the film had during its earlier parts.

          All in all, I can say that Man On A Ledge is one of these half good and half not so good films that didn't live up to my expectations and it is unlikely that I'll want to see it again. As a whole, it lacked a certain punch that I feel was urgently and desperately needed in order to create a gripping, edge of your (my?) seat atmosphere. There was far too much of the damp squib element present throughout, although it is by no means the very worst film I've ever seen.

          Would I recommend Man On A Ledge? I'm hovering on middle ground, as I do think it is a film which would hold appeal for some people, yet others would prefer to give it a wide berth. The tension levels really need hiking up, the characters need to be given more depth and the ending needs to be far more subtle than it is....plus, a surprise rather than as it stands, which is to a large degree predictable and not all that credible.

          In summary, I'd say watch if you are curious, but don't expect to be especially moved in one direction or another as the film as a whole isn't all that exciting.....well, I didn't think it was.

          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          At the time of writing, Man On A Ledge can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

          New: from £2.49 to £129.00 (ridiculous!)
          Used: from 44p to £10.60
          Collectible: from £4.99 to £10.92 (all copies appear to be used)

          Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

          Thanks for reading!

          ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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          • Sleepwalkers (DVD) / DVD / 39 Readings / 39 Ratings
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            10.03.2014 23:15
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            Very watchable and trashily entertaining

            RELEASED: 1992, Cert. 18

            RUNNING TIME: Approx. 91 mins

            DIRECTOR: Mick Garns

            PRODUCERS: Michael Grais, Nabeel Zahid & Mark Victor

            SCREENPLAY: Stephen King

            MUSIC: Nicholas Pike

            MAIN CAST:-

            Brian Krause as Charles Brady
            Alice Krige as Mary Brady
            Madchen Amick as Tanya Robertson
            Cindy Pickett as Mrs Robertson
            Lynan Ward as Mr Robertson
            Jim Hayne as Sheriff Ira
            Dan Martin as Deputy Sheriff Andy Simpson
            Sparks as Clovis the cat

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            FILM ONLY REVIEW

            Charles Brady and his mother Mary are new to a small Indiana town, both seeming to have a deep aversion to the troupe of cats which gradually amasses outside their house.

            As the local high school new boy, Charles is befriended by Tanya Robertson who is impressed with his writing skills, his personable manner and good looks. After Tanya takes Charles to meet her parents and being pleased that they warm to him, the young couple go on their first date, visiting a graveyard. It is then that Tanya discovers Charles isn't all he initially appeared to be (and that's an understatement!)

            Distressed and overwhelmed by Charles's distinct change of character, help seems to be at hand when Deputy Sheriff Andy Simpson pulls up in his car....Simpson is hunting for Charles who he chased earlier, wanting to book him for speeding, but had been outwitted and lost track of the boy.

            From that point onwards, things go from bad to worse for Tanya, and at home, Charles's mother hungers for human blood and flesh which she was hoping her son would bring home in the form of Tanya.

            That is a brief summary of the first part of Sleepwalkers, which is a difficult film to précis.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            During the first few minutes, Sleepwalkers seems as if it is going to be an intriguing, well-made film. The relationship between Charles and his mother Mary is odd, to say the least. There is a strange kind of intimacy between them which more than borders upon something incestuous. However, the film then quickly developed into something which I found highly entertaining and really enjoyed, but the levels of trashiness soon set in....firstly via some very mediocre acting and secondly via a largely poor script.

            Bearing in mind that Stephen King wrote the screenplay for Sleepwalkers, adapting it from his own story, I guess it sticks as far as it can to his original....hard for me to say as I've not read it....but, whilst listening to the conversation in the film, it came across as something which suited the written rather than the spoken word, hence not suiting a screenplay.

            The acting in Sleepwalkers is average at best, most of the time being distinctly below par from the main cast, except for that of Dan Martin as Deputy Sheriff Andy Simpson. I loved his character, his lines and the way he both spoke and acted, amusing me in a wry sort of way. I also liked the little touch of him carrying out his policing duties accompanied by Clovis, his delightful little cat who seems to go everywhere with him.

            Both the characters of Mary Brady and Tanya annoyed me intensely. Alice Krige as Mary delivered her lines in a very wooden fashion at some points, and at others went way over the top. Madchen Amick is highly irritating as the bubbly, over-enthusiastic Tanya Robertson, although her dialogue delivery is slightly better than that of Alice Krige....but, as pretty a girl as she is (or at least was back when this film was made), I just wanted to grab hold of her and give her a good shaking. There was something annoyingly naïve about the character of Tanya, despite her being a very pleasant girl. However, Madchen Amick did, at appropriate moments, decently express her fear of what was happening to Tanya. I often find in horror films that the actors understate the levels of fear people would experience if the storylines were real, but in this case, I feel Madchen Amick got it just right.

            As far as the music is concerned, it is a mixture of the score being quite dreary orchestral stuff, punctuated with a few bursts of Santo & Johnny's Sleepwalk and a bit of heavy metal whilst Charles was speeding down the road in his car, hotly pursued by Deputy Sheriff Andy Simpson.

            A lot of special effects are used in Sleepwalkers, some of them being rather tawdry and others being borderline good. Basically, this is a vampire film (that's not a spoiler because such is obvious early on in the proceedings), yet I have seen other movies which have dealt with the concept in a much more professional and convincing way. Bearing in mind the filming technology available in 1992, I don't feel that it was used in the best way.

            Although it isn't side-splitting, there is a definite thread of humour running through Sleepwalkers and it isn't a film which I feel should be taken at all seriously. However, there is quite a lot of violence and some very gory scenes which are quite well done. One thing which made me very uncomfortable was that there is some simulated violence against a couple of cats.....of course no cats were really harmed (well I certainly hope not!!), but it was the idea of it which repulsed me.

            Still on the topic of our feline friends, throughout Sleepwalkers there is a gradual build-up of a large troupe of cats settling outside of Mary's and Charles's house and I found them adorable, along with Clovis who eventually joins them.

            I wouldn't overall say that Sleepwalkers is intended to be a spoof horror film, but at the same time I really don't think it should be taken at all seriously. The vampire element is a million miles away from Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee holed up in a Transylvanian castle, as in Sleepwalkers, it takes place in an affluent small American town.

            Despite finding nine-tenths of Sleepwalkers quite trashy, I nonetheless was glued to the screen, simply because I was being entertained. I managed to push the poor acting and dubious script to one side, merely concentrating on being carried through and absorbed by this extremely silly, but highly enjoyable vampire tale.

            Would I recommend Sleepwalkers? Not to lovers and connoisseurs of the art of serious horror, but for half an evening's light, yet bloody/gory entertainment, then I'd say....go for it! It certainly will never pass into the annals of the greatest films of all time, nor is it anywhere near as good as some other celluloid Stephen King adaptations I've seen.....but, in a cheap, cheerful and somewhat tacky way, it's quite good. It certainly deserves its 18 rating though, as the violence levels are high and there is the issue of the relationship between mother and son being more than a little incestuous. If any cat lovers choose to watch Sleepwalkers though, I'd recommend bearing in mind that it is highly unlikely any moggie was harmed in the making of this film....but a couple of scenes did rattle my cage somewhat, as I worship cats.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            At the time of writing, Sleepwalkers can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

            New: from £2.33 to £19.99
            Used: from 10p to £119.00 !!
            Collectible: from £4.99 to £9.86

            Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

            Thanks for reading!

            ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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            • Poor Cow (DVD) / DVD / 43 Readings / 43 Ratings
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              08.03.2014 21:07
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              A 1960s film of social importance

              RELEASED: 1967, Cert. 15

              RUNNING TIME: Approx. 101 mins

              DIRECTOR: Ken Loach

              PRODUCER: Joseph Janni

              SCREENPLAY: Nell Dunn & Ken Loach

              MUSIC: Donovan

              MAIN CAST:-

              Carol White as Joy
              Terence Stamp as Dave
              John Bindon as Tom
              Kate Williams as Beryl
              Queenie Watts as Aunt Emm

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

              FILM ONLY REVIEW

              Based on Nell Dunn's novel of the same name (she also collaborated with Ken Loach on writing the screenplay), Poor Cow begins when 18-year-old Joy runs away from home and marries Tom.

              Before long, Joy gives birth to Johnny and Tom, who is a selfish, uncaring and abusive husband, is put away for a stretch in prison due to being involved in an armed robbery.

              Although remaining reasonably cheerful and in some ways glad to see the back of Tom, Joy struggles to look after her little boy. She spends a while living with Aunt Emm, an elderly but kindly prostitute, then meets up with one of Tom's friends and partners in crime, Dave.

              Joy and Dave fall deeply in love with one another and move in together. At long last Joy has what she really wants....a supportive, caring, loving (yet not stuffy) man who is very good with her little boy, treating him as if he were his own.

              However, life becomes difficult for Joy once more when Dave is arrested and jailed for twelve years, also for being involved in a robbery.

              Joy visits Dave regularly in prison, both of them just counting the days until his release, vowing to be faithful to one another - of course in prison Dave has no choice but to stick to his vow of faithfulness, but on the outside, it isn't so easy for Joy to stick to hers.

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

              Poor Cow is one of these social message type films, being one of a lot that were released during the latter part of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s, most being directed by Ken Loach.

              Filmed in colour, Poor Cow focuses on the seedier side of life, set in one of the poorer parts of London which although touched by the mood of the 'Swinging Sixties', homes heavily in on the more practical side of a struggling young woman's day to day existence.

              At the time of its release, Poor Cow was rather controversial in that it drew attention to the seamier side of life, dusting it off the shelf and bringing it out into the open. Although a pleasant-natured girl, Joy is rather free with her sexual favours - together with her prostitute Aunt Emm - and this openness regarding all things carnal shocked the older generation during the 1960s. Another aspect which was a hard-hitter for those days is the film drawing attention to various social issues which at that time were starting to rear their heads, such as domestic violence/abuse, inner-city poverty and the class war....racial issues are also very lightly touched upon.

              The acting in Poor Cow is of a style that many younger people possibly could find hard to swallow, it being almost a kind of British style of 1960s method acting whereby as far as possible, the cast deliver their lines in a conversational way as if really happening rather than being staged. Carol White does give a very good performance as Joy, the teenage mother who does her very best to not let life get her down. Terence Stamp is brilliant as the easy-going, kindly natured, good-looking Dave....he was an extremely attractive man back in the days when this film was made and that provided me with something to drool over. Kate Williams gives a decent performance as Beryl, a young woman Joy makes friends with whilst working in a pub and who tries to inject a little fun into Joy's life. This role sees a very different Kate Williams from the rather jaded, downtrodden housewife in the early 1970s sitcom Love Thy Neighbour. Queenie Watts is very much as she usually was when playing parts in many films from the 1960s and early 1970s.

              Sadly, I was very disappointed with John Bindon's acting efforts. It was more the way he spoke his lines that was the problem for me, rather than how he came across as an abusive husband....that part was fine, but he muffed quite a few of his lines and his voice sounded flat, lifeless and unconvincing, almost as if he was reading from an auto-cue. Carol White also muffed a couple of her lines, but for some reason it seemed OK when she did it. Perhaps Carol White's verbal mishaps sounded more natural, whereas John Bindon's presented themselves as glaring mistakes.

              Whilst watching Poor Cow, I recognised many faces of bit-part actors who would not much later in time become well-known TV personalities.

              As far as the music is concerned, it is divided into two parts. One part is the actual score, written by 1960s pop/folk icon Donovan, with the remainder being snippets and sometimes whole tracks taken from 1960s chart music.....such as The Flowerpot Men's Let's Go To San Francisco, The New Vaudeville Band's Peek-A-Boo and a couple of other interesting little additions.

              The overriding focus in Poor Cow is that of homing in on a lower working class lifestyle, combining both the pain and pleasure of everyday living. Another interesting element is the way most men viewed women back in those days, in that they were largely seen as sex objects. This contrasts well in the film with Dave's respectful way of treating Joy during the months leading up to his prison sentence. Dave is just as much of a crook as Tom, yet in his day to day dealings with people he is a thoroughly nice guy, whereas Tom is totally odious.

              The problems of living in slum conditions are also very much brought to the fore in Poor Cow, especially when Joy lives in a tiny tenement flat with her little boy and Dave. The conditions are truly terrible, and people's struggle to maintain a day to day existence is highlighted very well. This was at a time when the old was being speedily torn down to make way for the new, contrasting the crumbling, infested tenements which were due for condemnation standing side by side with shiny new tower block flats with indoor toilets and bathrooms.

              Aside from Joy's personal story, probably the most significant thing to home in on when watching Poor Cow is change, but it helps to have some memory of how life was before the 1960s took the UK by the throat and altered our way of life forevermore.

              There is one tiny piece of the dialogue which would be considered racist by today's standards, and such may upset some viewers....but it must be remembered that life was very different back in the 1960s to what it now is, and many people found certain things (such as overt sexuality) very offensive in those days, yet wouldn't have batted an eyelid at, for argument's sake, use of the 'N' word when referring to Britain's Afro-Caribbean population whereas nowadays such is considered - and rightly so - grossly unacceptable.

              Looking at Poor Cow as a whole, what really strikes me is how Joy manages to keep her spirits up in extenuating circumstances. She does have her down days, but always comes through cheerful and smiling, despite the love of her life being banged up for 12 long years, an abusive husband just about to be released and living in poverty-stricken squalor with a young child to look after. Perhaps this film carries a message for the people of today?

              I strongly recommend Poor Cow, but in doing so, remind potential viewers that the acting is very much in 1960s vogue, also being a style which was largely reserved for these kitchen-sink, hard-hitting domestic dramas that Ken Loach was so good at directing and Nell Dunn was so good at writing about. Poor Cow probably isn't as harshly gritty as Dunn's Up The Junction, but it isn't many miles away. (As an aside, the TV play of Up The Junction is infinitely harsher and more hard-hitting than was the cinema film, and Carol White also had a significant part in the play).

              If you love those old 1950s and 1960s socially conscious productions and are able to view them in their own right, untainted by modern-day cinematic offerings and expectations, then Poor Cow is something I feel certain you'd enjoy...even if only for the nostalgic element of the era when London 'swung'.

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

              At the time of writing, Poor Cow can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

              New: from £6.24 to £99.00
              Used: from £4.99 to £21.67
              Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £22.00 (appears to be used)

              Thanks for reading!

              ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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              • Ice Cream Man (DVD) / DVD / 42 Readings / 41 Ratings
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                06.03.2014 20:53
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                Give this one a miss!

                RELEASED: 1993, Cert.18

                RUNNING TIME: Approx. 84 mins

                DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Paul Norman

                SCREENPLAY: David Dobkin & Sven Davison

                MUSIC: Richard Lyons

                MAIN CAST:-

                Clint Howard as Gregory
                Olivia Hussey as Nurse Wharton
                Lee Majors II as Det. Maldwyn
                Jan-Michael Vincent as Det. Gifford
                Mikey LeBeau as Small Paul

                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                FILM ONLY REVIEW

                Ice Cream Man begins with flashback where young Gregory witnesses two men in a passing car fire a stream of bullets into an ice cream van, killing the ice cream man inside.

                The film then jumps forward to the adult Gregory apparently being freed from the Wishing Well Sanatorium where he seems to have spent all his life since the fateful day of his childhood when he saw the local ice cream man gunned down.

                Under the observation of batty Nurse Wharton who had taken care of him when he was in the sanatorium, Gregory decides to set up his own ice cream man business....only, his product isn't what one would normally expect when purchasing a summer treat.

                Gregory starts killing local people, chopping their bodies up and adding them to his own personal ice cream recipes which he sells in cornets to the children.

                When young Small Paul goes missing, his friends take it upon themselves to outwit Gregory, not very ably assisted by two bumbling cops.....meanwhile, the bodies pile higher in Gregory's ice cream manufacturing plant.

                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                The only reason why I decided to watch The Ice Cream Man was no more than the picture on the DVD sleeve which shows a smiling, fatherly figure clutching a tempting ice cream cone.

                Right from the start, it is patently obvious that The Ice Cream Man is a spoof horror, but perhaps overriding that is its level of trashy-ness as a film. However, I believe that the strong element of trash is deliberate, forming part of the dubiously un-funny humour contained within.

                Clint Howard actually does give a reasonably good performance as the highly disturbed Gregory, but the character is way over the top and not one that would attract children to his ice cream van. The children in the film are nervous of Gregory, but perhaps not enough! Olivia Hussey is also bizarrely entertaining as Gregory's charge, Nurse Wharton, with her probably being equally as mad as he is....maybe worse.

                During the film there are scenes which take place inside of the Wishing Well Sanatorium, where a barking mad doctor urges his patients to "Have a happy day", piercing their brains with huge hypodermic syringes. These scenes are punctuated with Gregory both in his ice cream van and small processing plant, adding flavourings to his product which most people would find distasteful.....such as rats, worms and various insects - yet, they are perhaps the less repugnant varieties of ice cream Gregory has to offer the small middle America community. Would you like a cornet packed with ice cream made from ground-up human entrails and a human eye pressed into the top for decoration? I prefer chocolate flake in mine!

                Some of the camera work during the film is rather shaky, and I found this difficult as it made my eyes go strange. Also, there are boring stretches which consist of little more than loads of children running around as they try to outwit grisly Gregory. A few parts are moderately entertaining though, with a mild amusement value lacing around the edges. It didn't make me laugh at all, but I could easily detect the parts where I was expected to.

                Ice Cream Man is way, way over the top yet I am convinced deliberately so, probably intended to amuse rather than to shock or sicken. However, the humour content is third-rate in nature, rather slapstick and the dialogue is made up of some agonisingly weak jokes. The pace of the film is quite fast, but after a while the events become repetitive to the point where boredom quickly sets in.

                Although Ice Cream Man is only 84 minutes long, from about the halfway point onwards, it seems as if it is going on forever as Gregory's activities and what he chooses to flavour his ice cream with becomes more gross, the repetitiveness and the outrageously bizarre bits turning into a tedious circus of grossness....totally losing any slight entertainment value present in the earlier part of the film.

                There is some violence in Ice Cream Man, the results of which are decidedly gruesome, but the gore isn't shown in great detail.....more the outcome of the violence than anything else.

                As far as entertainment is concerned, Ice Cream Man rests on the moderate setting for the first half of the film, but from then onwards it merely becomes a ghastly and grisly romp that is so ridiculously outrageous, it lost me completely.

                This probably is one of the silliest films ever made which possibly could have been rescued by an injection of humour that is subtlely clever rather than childish, a decent script, some skilful camera work and for the gore levels to be convincing rather than over the top stupid.

                Ice Cream man has been given an 18 certificate, but despite its content, I personally would lower it to 15 as there is no swearing, no sex and the levels of violence are of a nature that no sane person could ever contemplate taking seriously. Any fool would be able to tell instantly that this film is a complete spoof, and if they can manage to stay awake until the end, I very much doubt if it is something that would have a dangerously negative influence on young, impressionable minds.

                Would I recommend Ice Cream Man? Overall no, but perhaps it may be slightly worth watching for the first 45 or so minutes, during which there is a modicum of entertainment value.....not much though. Also, I never did work out why Gregory had a fascination with his victims' trainers. Such was obviously relevant as the trainers scenes were in repeat mode through the whole film, but I couldn't work it out for myself.

                I do think at the end of the day this film is probably worth a miss, as in my opinion, the mildly good bits don't have anywhere near enough pulling power. My own copy will no doubt end up on the shelf of my local charity shop and I just hope whoever buys it enjoys it more than I overall did.

                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                At the time of writing, Ice Cream Man can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                New: only 2 copies currently available @ £6.00 & £69.00
                Used: from £2.67 to £9.99

                Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                Thanks for reading!

                ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                • What Richard Did (DVD) / DVD / 44 Readings / 42 Ratings
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                  03.03.2014 23:30
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                  One that perhaps needs a second viewing to make proper sense of

                  RELEASED: 2012, Cert. 15

                  RUNNING TIME: Approx. 88 mins

                  DIRECTOR: Leonard Abrahamson

                  PRODUCER: Ed Guiney

                  SCREENPLAY: Malcolm Campbell

                  MUSIC: Stephen Rennicks

                  MAIN CAST:-

                  Jack Reynor as Richard
                  Lars Mikkelsen as Peter
                  Lorraine Pilkington as Katherine
                  Roisin Murphy as Lara
                  Sam Keeley as Conor

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                  FILM ONLY REVIEW

                  Based on Kevin Power's novel entitled Bad Day In Blackrock, What Richard Did is set in one of the more affluent parts of Dublin.

                  Richard is a typical whiz kid, popular, good at everything, an adept rugby player and he fancies Lara, who is his best friend Conor's girl. Once Richard manages to snare Lara, tensions run high when she remains friends with Conor.....and, Richard's green-eyed monster gets out of hand during a pub fight.

                  Whether by design or accident it isn't clear, but during the pub fight, Richard kicks Conor in the head and kills him.

                  Burdened with guilt and grief and whilst turning to his father for support, Richard has to decide whether to stay quiet about what he did, or to own up.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                  Originally made for Irish television, What Richard Did very much has the quality of a play about it rather than a film.

                  Simply going by the title of the film, I was drawn to it, needing to know what Richard actually did. However, I for the most part found the experience of watching somewhat unenlightening and I didn't feel the initial scene was set too well as it lacked the 'grab factor' that I need in order to keep me engrossed. However, I plodded on.

                  The acting is very good, with my pet favourites being Jack Raynor as golden-boy Richard and Lars Mikkelsen as Peter, his softly-spoken father, supportive yet somewhat guarded once he was made aware of what his son had done. There are a couple of rather touching father/son scenes where both men appeared to give a lot of themselves as actors, even though such scenes are brief.

                  The music is pleasant, being largely made up of some quiet guitar and equally quiet piano pieces that have a slight Celtic flavour to them.

                  I am usually charmed by most things Irish, but What Richard Did left me not cold exactly - probably a touch on the baffled side as although it is a short film, I felt that it dragged somewhat during the first two-thirds, with the final third being far too rushed. During the first two-thirds, I had a lot of problems clearly understanding what was going on, as it seemed to be little more than a series of young people's social gatherings where there was a lot of banter happening and some off to the side nooky. I also found some of the actors' accents very strong with them in addition speaking very fast. Consequently, I missed out on a fair bit of the conversations which took place. These things combined gave me a sense of 'bitty-ness' about the film which rendered it lacking in cohesiveness.

                  However, despite those above-mentioned difficulties, What Richard Did contains an under the surface depth which I did manage to link into from about the halfway point onwards, and it was then that I sat up and took more notice. I felt as if the film was trying hard to pull me into something substantial that I couldn't quite put my finger on, as if there were deep and meaningful undercurrents I was perhaps blinking and missing.....well I could sense their presence, but couldn't work out or unravel them.

                  On examining my sum total of feelings about What Richard Did, I conclude that I think it would hold much more appeal if it had been directed by somebody who perhaps is accomplished in the field of gritty, hard-hitting plays.

                  I think the overriding thing about What Richard Did is that to me it seems to lack the sense of 'Irishness' which could turn it into what it should be, by drawing out the characters and pulling the storyline together by adding more depth to the lead-up to what Richard actually did, making that part of the film much shorter....then going for the jugular once Richard blots his copy-book of perfection....placing much more focus and depth into his feelings of angst, and adding a decent, tension-laden court case.

                  This film has left me very much on a seesaw in the sense that one part of me wants to say it largely is shallow, yet another part of me sees a depth in it which I feel wasn't drawn to the fore.

                  Maybe one day in the not too distant future I shall give What Richard Did another chance, just to see if I can make more out of it as I do sense something hovering in the shadows that I couldn't quite link into on first viewing.

                  This definitely isn't a film for people who like action, suspense and sensationalism as it's about the everyday lives of a small group of Irish teenagers on the verge of going to university...when something goes very wrong. I'd hazard a guess that What Richard Did would hold limited appeal as it stands, but if given a re-working, may develop into something deep, sensitive and thought-provoking. As to whether I can at the moment recommend it, I honestly am not sure,

                  To sum up....I feel What Richard Did has a lot of untapped potential, yet it needs some more work in order to make it completely watchable and completely comprehensible.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                  At the time of writing, What Richard Did can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                  New: from £5.69 to £119.00
                  Used: from £3.41 to £16.99
                  Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £21.67 (appears to be used)

                  Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                  Thanks for reading!

                  ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                  • Walk the Line (DVD) / DVD / 47 Readings / 47 Ratings
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                    02.03.2014 13:20
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                    One of the best films ever!

                    RELEASED: 2005, Cert. PG

                    RUNNING TIME: Approx. 136 mins

                    DIRECTOR: James Mangold

                    PRODUCERS: James Keach & Cathy Konrad

                    SCREENPLAY: Gill Dennis & James Mangold

                    MUSIC: T Bone Burnett

                    MAIN CAST:-

                    Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny cash
                    Reese Witherspoon as June Carter
                    Ginnifer Goodwin as Vivian Cash
                    Robert Patrick as Ray Cash
                    Shelby Lynne as Carrie Cash
                    Dallas Roberts as Sam Phillips

                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                    FILM ONLY REVIEW

                    Adapted in part from Johnny Cash's self-penned books Man In Black and Cash: The Autobiography, Walk The Line begins with a small insight into Johnny Cash's early life. When his beloved older brother has an accident and dies from his injuries, Johnny's already difficult relationship with his father worsens. In order to escape his unhappy home life, he enlists with the Air Force and spends some time in Germany. It is there that Johnny buys his first guitar and composes his first song.

                    On his return to the USA, Johnny marries Vivian, his childhood sweetheart, and they have a couple of children. The family struggles to make ends meet on Johnny's low income as a door-to-door salesman, and Vivian is slightly resentful of his practice sessions with his small band.

                    Johnny and his band approach Sun Records producer Sam Phillips. Sam isn't initially impressed with their efforts, but he signs them when Johnny performs one of the songs he wrote in Germany....Folsom Prison Blues.

                    The story then follows through Johnny's rise to fame and his powerful attraction towards who much later was to become his wife, country singer/performer June Carter.

                    Johnny's life moves through the 1950s and 1960s, where he becomes friends with legends such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Carl Perkins. His drug addiction and fame cause further problems in his marriage to Vivian, and as June Carter continually plays hard to get despite being Johnny's good friend, he plummets into a downward spiral of heavy drinking and drug addiction.

                    No matter how much money Johnny made, his sights were always firmly set on the vivacious, attractive June Carter.

                    The story ends as the 1960s draw to a close, where we see a new Johnny emerging, finding the happiness he had been seeking and which many would say he truly deserved.

                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                    I've never really liked country music in general, but Johnny Cash has always been somebody I've had a great admiration for, so I was intrigued to see how this film would deal with giving an insight into his life.

                    Immediately I was gripped, fascinated by the young Johnny Cash and his older brother, the two boy actors giving brilliant performances, despite their roles in the film being brief. I also felt sad for Johnny in that he was constantly put down and made to feel inadequate by his bullying father.

                    When the film moved into Johnny's adult life and his climb up the music business ladder, I was a little hesitant at first, wondering how on earth an actor could characteristically nail the country music legend's persona, but I needn't have worried as Joaquin Phoenix gives an astonishingly brilliant performance right through. I almost had a lump in my throat at his utterly compelling portrayal of Cash, a man who tried so hard to please everybody, yet was tortured with inner demons that stripped his self-esteem almost down to nothing at times. I don't know if Joaquin Phoenix received any kind of award for playing the part of Cash, but if he didn't, he surely deserved a shiny Oscar as he put so very much into what must have been a difficult role to perfect.....he superseded perfection!

                    Reese Witherspoon is also brilliant as June Carter, the bubbly, charming young woman who Johnny fell in love with at first sight, his unwavering passion for her causing him so much emotional pain.

                    As far as the music is concerned, I watched and listened with interest as I had a feeling that side of the film may have been its downfall, but I was wrong. The musical performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon were spot-on and utterly faultless....at times I almost felt as though Phoenix was the real Johnny Cash singing and performing. Reese Witherspoon's singing voice actually is much better than was the real June Carter's, and I found that very pleasing.

                    In addition to Johnny Cash's and June Carter's performances, there are brief little snatches of actors playing the parts of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. The actor chosen to represent Jerry Lee Lewis was fairly close to the real thing, but I do feel the film's production team perhaps could have found someone a little more convincing to play Elvis. I'm sure there must be hundreds of young Elvis impersonators across the USA who would have been more suitable, but I don't consider this to be a flaw in the film as the emphasis and focus is on Johnny Cash and June Carter, their music and their relationship.

                    There are also a couple of snatches of incidental music, consisting of a little Bob Dylan and a tiny dose of my all-time hallowed blues performer, Blind Willie Johnson. I was very impressed with the piece of music that plays the film out whilst the closing credits roll....a lovely guitar piece with a part country, part blues feel.

                    One thing I always admired about Johnny Cash and which shines through in this film, was his dry wit and wryly accurate observations on the human condition and the people around him....one example being, during a brief conversation with the manager of Folsom Prison, the manager urges Johnny to modulate what he says and sings to the inmates so as not to remind them that they are serving time in prison. Johnny's reply, spoken in a quietly deadpan voice was.... "You think they forget they are in prison?"

                    Right from the very first frame of Walk The Line to the last, I was utterly transfixed, lapping up every moment of this wonderful film which is so beautifully acted and directed. Despite it being over two hours long, I was sorry when it came to a close as I just wanted to carry on watching. I would have liked to see the storyline taken further, perhaps into the 1970s and gradually working through the passage of time up until Johnny's sad death a few years ago, but such would have resulted in a film of ridiculous length, suffice to say that I am more than happy with how it stands.

                    Walk The Line has certainly wedged itself into my brain, as since I saw it yesterday, I can't help re-playing parts of it in my mind. I'd go as far as to say it completely overwhelmed me, but in the best possible way. It definitely is a uniquely powerful film where the quality of acting is flawless, with Johnny's troubled early life being portrayed with a depth and sensitivity which I feel would be impossible to improve upon.

                    Would I recommend Walk The Line? Absolutely, without any hesitation, as this honestly is one of the very best films I've ever seen and I was completely taken by surprise at how carefully and sensitively crafted the whole thing is. I don't think it is even important to be a Johnny Cash fan or even like him in order to appreciate this film, and for younger people who may not be familiar with "The Man In Black", it still stands tall and proud as a storyline in itself.

                    My advice? Hunt down this surprisingly brilliant film and watch it!

                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                    At the time of writing, Walk The Line can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                    New: from 97p to £9.50
                    Used: from 1p to £7.73
                    Collectible: only 2 copies currently available @ £11.71 and £14.99 (both appear to be used)

                    Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                    Thanks for reading!

                    ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                    • The Straight Story (DVD) / DVD / 42 Readings / 41 Ratings
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                      28.02.2014 12:02
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                      An exquisitely enjoyable film for all ages

                      RELEASED: 1999, Cert. U

                      RUNNING TIME: Approx. 112 mins

                      DIRECTOR: David Lynch

                      PRODUCERS: Neal Edelstein & Mary Sweeney

                      SCREENPLAY: Joan Roach & Mary Sweeney

                      MUSIC: Angelo Badalamenti

                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                      FILM ONLY REVIEW

                      Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) is an elderly man whose health is failing. He lives in rural Iowa with his daughter Rose (Cissy Spacek), and they have a good relationship with one another.

                      When Alvin gets a phone call informing him that his brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) has suffered a stroke, he decides to travel to see him. The two brothers had apparently fallen out ten years earlier after an argument and hadn't seen or spoken to one another since.

                      Alvin has poor eyesight, walks on two sticks and has other health problems largely caused by drinking too much earlier in his life and constantly puffing on huge cigars, so is unable to drive.....another problem is that if he could drive, he doesn't own a car. After giving the matter some thought as to how he is going to make the journey to Wisconsin to see Lyle, Alvin comes up with the idea of travelling there on his motorised lawn mower.

                      Despite worrying about how her ageing, ailing father is going to make the long journey from Iowa to Wisconsin on his lawn mower, Rose helps him pack for the journey, piling a trailer high with fuel and a mountain of smoked sausage which Alvin loves to eat.....and once the trailer is fixed to the back of the lawn mower, off he sets on his long journey.

                      During his slow travels, Alvin is overtaken by various vehicles....even a troupe of cyclist racers....he picks up a young girl hitchhiker, and a few other things happen to him as he drives his lawn mower through the rural mid-West.

                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                      Regular readers of my film reviews will probably notice that for this one, I've not listed the main cast members in my heading. This is because in a way, every single character in the film could be viewed as a main cast member which would result in a very long list....so, I decided omission to be the better course of action this time. Also, Harry Dean Stanton only has a very tiny part in the film but he is one of the significant main characters.

                      Onward!

                      I was interested in seeing The Straight Story, particularly as it was directed by David Lynch, and I'd both heard and read that this film is completely different from anything else he has ever done.

                      The Straight Story begins with Alvin being found lying on the kitchen floor by his daughter Rose....he is helped up, and that's when the phone call comes with the news that Lyle has had a stroke.

                      Immediately, I warmed to the characters of Alvin and Rose....a father and daughter team who seem very easy and close to one another. There is the merest touch of a slight humour in their interaction, together with some bantering which takes place between Alvin and his friends.

                      Once Alvin took to the road perched on his lawn mower, I became intrigued, wondering what would happen to him on the long journey and, if he would even make it to Wisconsin to see Lyle.

                      The characters of Alvin and Rose are brilliantly played by Richard Farnsworth and Cissy Spacek, and they gel together perfectly as father and daughter characters. Also, when Harry Dean-Stanton puts in an appearance as Lyle, he acts his tiny part with the brilliance which one would normally expect from him - he holds the world in his eyes which with their expression, probably sum up the whole point of this film.

                      The Straight Story is very easy to watch. It flows along nicely, and I liked the element of not really knowing or being able to predict what was going to happen at any given moment in time. There is a kind of a wry sadness present in that we see Alvin as a spirited individual who is in his twilight years and with failing health, yet apparently refuses to let the world get the better of him despite occasionally becoming frustrated that he is unable to do what he used to when younger.

                      Alvin's journey is almost as if it were a light-hearted pilgrimage, where he trundles through the countryside on his lawn mower, sheltering from storms, making progress when the weather is more clement and sharing a little of himself with each person he encounters.

                      There is a touch of sentimentality about The Straight Story, but it is easy to be with as it isn't really a tear-jerker of a film....more of a heart-warmer. Being financed and produced by Disney Films, it does have the hallmark of those Disney movies which have real people in them rather than cartoons, always being suitable for family viewing. Probably what went a long way towards creating that touch of sentimentality for me was the music, which is pleasant, but rather sugary.

                      The Straight Story really isn't the sort of film I'd normally go for or even enjoy, but I stayed with this one and became thoroughly absorbed in this charming man's travels on his rickety lawn mower through the cornfields of Iowa, to the point where I can say it really is worth watching. I'd hazard more than a vague guess that David Lynch's directing skills went a long way towards creating this delightful film, but must stress to fans of his work that it really is a complete all-change from anything else he has created as a director.

                      Other pleasing parts of The Straight Story are some of the camera angles used which at first I took for granted, but studying them in more detail, I realised that they are very clever in a way that it is difficult to explain other than saying that for me they helped to create the whole atmosphere of the film brilliantly - I was also very impressed with the scenery and how good use was made of weather conditions, the characteristics of nature as autumn approaches and a carefully constructed dialogue which does touch upon giving a little food for thought here and there.

                      Even though this kind of film is for the most part outside of my comfort zone, I honestly can't fault it in any way and would highly recommend it to anybody, male or female from any age group.....it being perfectly suitable for family viewing too. Very little children may not understand the finer points of the storyline, but I consider it more than possible they'd enjoy at least some parts of it.

                      In summary, The Straight Story is a thoroughly enjoyable, beautifully acted and directed film which I think I may wish to see again some day. My recommendation is......go for it!

                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                      At the time of writing, The Straight Story can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                      New: from £3.34 to £79.00
                      Used: from £2.55 to £7.00

                      Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                      Thanks for reading!

                      ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                      • Untraceable (DVD) / DVD / 46 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                        26.02.2014 12:47
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                        Acceptably OK, but nothing special

                        RELEASED: 2008, Cert. 18

                        RUNNING TIME: Approx. 101 mins

                        DIRECTOR: Gregory Hoblit

                        PRODUCERS: Andy Cohen, Hawk Koch, steven Pearl, Gary Lucchesi & Tom Rosenberg

                        SCREENPLAY: Robert Fyvolent, Mark Brinker & Alison Burnett

                        MUSIC: Christopher Young

                        MAIN CAST:-

                        Diane Lane as Agent Jennifer Marsh
                        Colin Hanks as Agent Griffin Dowd
                        Billy Burke as Det. Eric Box
                        Joseph Cross as Owen Reilly

                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                        FILM ONLY REVIEW

                        Jennifer Marsh is a special FBI Agent who, with her colleagues, works at uncovering cyber crime.

                        When Jennifer and her team stumble across a website where the public can watch a serial killer at work initially torturing his victims, the speed with which death takes place depends on how many viewers are logged onto the site at any given time, they (Jennifer and team) pull all the stops out to try and track down the killer.

                        The killer is very clever in that he has set up an advanced computer networking system which conceals his whereabouts.

                        As the FBI struggles to locate and identify the killer, the grisly murders continue....with millions of people worldwide watching them on their computer screens and typing comments and messages of encouragement to the killer into the website's blog section.

                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                        Untraceable begins fairly well and tumbles along at a decent pace. The general scene is set, with Jennifer and her colleagues studying the way the killer moves in on his victims as they try to establish who he is and his whereabouts.

                        Jennifer is a widowed single parent of a nine-year-old girl, and her work often results in having to disappoint her daughter each time she is called to attend to an emergency situation. On those occasions, Jennifer's mother steps in and looks after the child. Although Jennifer's frustration at having to continually let her daughter down is apparent, I feel as though it could have been put across with a little more sense of regret.

                        The acting throughout by the whole main cast is acceptable, but merely average....although I personally would have liked to see a stronger performance from Joseph Cross as Owen Reilly, the very disturbed serial killer.

                        The music to Untraceable is typical of pretty much everything else for which Christopher Young writes the score.....orchestral, fairly dramatic-sounding and pleasant, but fervently grim in parts. I'm not really too sure if the music absolutely suits this film, as I feel it is one of these rare productions which may have come across more convincingly without any music at all.

                        The whole atmosphere of Untraceable is quite bleak, yet it jogs along at a tidy pace and there are none of those dull stretches which some films have that can make the viewer lose interest in the plot. However, I found the camera work somewhat clumsy in that it pans too fast from scene to scene, and this is a little hard on the eyes. Also, the colour on the film isn't too good in that it doesn't look entirely natural, everything seeming to have a slight greenish/blueish tinge.

                        Untraceable isn't a 'whodunnit' tale, because the identity of the killer is revealed quite early on, but the format which follows really isn't all that original. It is sort of like the same old story....cops chasing after a killer, with the inevitable outcome....yet with the little touch of what I feel is different in that the crimes of torture and murder are committed in front of a webcam to a worldwide audience. The path the story takes and the outcome don't break any new ground at all though.

                        Although there are a few grisly scenes in Untraceable, mostly those where the killer's victims are being tortured, there is surprisingly little blood and guts, which I found quite pleasing. I suppose the ultimate essence of the story centres upon a race against time, and it is that which is concentrated on rather than the gory details of what the killer is actually doing.

                        I did enjoy Untraceable and it made good use of half an evening's entertainment, but I was able to predict the ending early on, simply because it is so similar to many other films of its ilk. The concept is an interesting one though, and I did find myself going into cringe mode a little here and there at the thought of the possibility of something like this really happening, undiscovered and unchecked, out there in cyber land.

                        Overall though, I don't think I'd watch Untraceable again, as I now know the ending....I knew what it was going to be anyway, before the film was less than a quarter of the way through. As to whether I'd recommend it or not, I'd say it's fine to pay it a passing visit and use up an hour and forty or so minutes, but it isn't really anything special and most seasoned fans of this genre (murder/thriller) will have seen it all before. However, it could be worth watching to home in on the methodology used by the serial killer, as that part of it is different....well, I'm unsure as to whether it is or not....suffice to say it's the first film I've personally seen which uses internet social media as the focal point for the murders. There may be other productions in existence which have done that before....just that if there are, I simply haven't seen them.

                        In summary, Untraceable is a reasonable yet mostly run of the mill sort of film that doesn't particularly score high as regards acting or originality, but it is acceptably entertaining and perhaps something to watch when one of those "I want to be entertained don't want to have to think too much" moods pervades.

                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                        At the time of writing, Untraceable can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                        New: from £1.50 to £129.00 (!)
                        Used: from 64p to £7.73
                        Collectible: only two copies currently available @ £5.99 & £9.86 (both appear to be used)

                        Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                        Thanks for reading!

                        ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                        • The Apartment (DVD) / DVD / 50 Readings / 50 Ratings
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                          24.02.2014 01:36
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                          A thoroughly enjoyable, brilliantly made and acted film

                          RELEASED: 1960, Cert. PG

                          RUNNING TIME: Approx. 125 mins

                          DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Billy Wilder

                          SCREENPLAY: Billy Wilder & I A L Diamond

                          MUSIC: Adolph Deutsch

                          MAIN CAST:-

                          Jack Lemmon as "Bud" (Calvin Clifford)
                          Shirley MacLaine as Fran
                          Fred MacMurray as Jeff

                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                          FILM ONLY REVIEW

                          Bud works in a huge New York office, and lives in a comfortable, but rather shabby nearby apartment. He has an unusual kind of arrangement with a few of his superiors whereby he allows them to use his apartment to entertain their sexual conquests, in return for being given a hefty shove up the corporate ladder. Sometimes he gets his times and dates mixed up, or discovers that those using his apartment overshoot the agreed time allowance, and he is forced to hang around outside in the street until he can get back into his own home again.

                          Bud also is attracted to Fran, the girl who operates the lift in the office building. Although Fran is reasonably friendly to Bud's overtures, she seems uninterested in anything more than passing the time of day with him.

                          Before long, Bud discovers that one of his superior's (Jeff's) conquests who he entertains in the apartment is actually Fran. Jeff is a married man who is stringing Fran along, her being one in a long line of his extra-marital affairs, yet she is madly in love with him.

                          Things get very complicated for Bud when he inadvertently becomes more involved in a love triangle with himself, Fran and Jeff, than he wants or needs to be.

                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                          Right away, The Apartment presents itself very well as we are introduced to Bud, a somewhat bumbling yet pleasant-natured office clerk. After a rather hefty blast delivered by the opening theme music, I settled nicely into what turned out to be a wryly amusing comedy/drama.

                          The Apartment is shot in black and white, and being as it was released in 1960, it still has a very 1950s feel to it. The film score, once the opening racket is over and done with, is quite gentle, a little 'dirty'-sounding with a touch of that sleazy jazz feel which is typical of many films from the 1950s that are set in a city environment.

                          The acting is first class, particularly that of Jack Lemmon as the slightly scatterbrained yet endearing character of Bud who simply wants to please everybody, yet lands himself in a complete pickle in the process. A very young Shirley MacLaine is also great as Fran, the lift attendant girl who is smarter than many of the other females working in the office block, yet is lovelorn and dewy-eyed over married love rat Jeff.....played equally well and with just the right amount of smarmy-ness by Fred MacMurray.

                          Whilst watching, I became quite fascinated with the character of Bud, simultaneously marvelling at how Jack Lemmon threw himself into the part, managing to pull some wonderful expressions on his face which ranged from confusion, through to indifference, shock, belligerence and many other aspects of the human condition.

                          As far as the humour is concerned, it is light rather than punchy, having a definite 'rompish' element....but, intelligently so. I wouldn't say that the levels of amusement are steeped in hilarity and I didn't exactly roll around on the floor in hysterical mirth, but my face did break into many wide smiles several times throughout.

                          The Apartment is quite dialogue-intensive with the script being intelligent - yet in a fun way - and all of the actors....not just the main cast.....spoke their lines with 100% clarity which happily resulted in me perfectly understanding every word, which is so very refreshing for me as I didn't have to strain my ears or try to guess what was being said as is often the case in many modern-day films.

                          I do sort of see The Apartment as a kind of American early 1960s borderline kitchen-sink comedy/drama, with that well-defined vein of humour running through from start to finish. There is also a risqué edge in that although nothing definite is said, it is obvious what Bud's superiors at work want to use his apartment for. This gives the film a subtle, but definite sexual content which is tastefully conveyed rather than being right out there in your face and perhaps could have been considered as close to the edge back in 1960.

                          At just over two hours in length, The Apartment may initially seem as if it is going to feel like a long haul, but I was loving this rather qurky storyline and was so fascinated by the acting - particularly Jack Lemmon's - that it didn't drag at all, to the point where I was enjoying it so much, I was almost sorry when the film drew to a close.

                          Would I recommend The Apartment? Absolutely yes, without any hesitation at all. It is a very cleverly constructed film which takes what basically is a simple idea, expertly turning it into a complicated (yet very easy to understand) situation that Bud is thrown into. This is definitely one of those gems which were doing the cinema rounds during the latter part of the 1950s and throughout most of the 1960s, and I'm just sorry that I've spent all of my life until now without even being aware of it, let alone seen it. I definitely shall be returning for another viewing at some point in the future, and it in every way receives a huge thumbs-up from me.....richly deserving of its all-time classic status.

                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                          At the time of writing, The Apartment can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                          New: from £2.27 to £79.00
                          Used: from £1.71 to £17.00
                          Collectible: from £5.73 to £12.04

                          Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                          Thanks for reading!

                          ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                          • Side Effects (DVD) / DVD / 51 Readings / 51 Ratings
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                            22.02.2014 11:47
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                            Good, but not as good as I expected

                            RELEASED: 2013, Cert. 15

                            RUNNING TIME: Approx. 106 mins

                            DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh

                            PRODUCERS: Scott Z Burns, Lorenzo di Bonaventura & Gregory Jacobs

                            SCREENPLAY: Scott Z Burns

                            MUSIC: Thomas Newman

                            MAIN CAST:-

                            Rooney Mara as Emily Taylor
                            Channing Tatum as Martin Taylor
                            Jude Law as Jonathan Banks
                            Catherine Zeta-Jones as Victoria Sebirt

                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                            FILM ONLY REVIEW

                            Side Effects opens with Emily Taylor's husband Martin being released from prison. As they pick up the pieces of their lives together, Emily displays some disturbing behaviour which results in her driving her car at full speed into a brick wall in an underground car park in an apparent suicide attempt.

                            Emily is hopsitalised against her will as she believes she is OK, so Jonathan Banks, her psychiatrist, agrees to let her leave the hospital so long as she attends regular therapy sessions with him. Intrigued and concerned by Emily's case, Jonathan contacts Victoria Sebirt, her previous psychiatrist. Victoria suggests that Jonathan prescribe a new anti-depressant drug to Emily, which he hesitatingly agrees to.

                            However, on the new drug, Emily almost makes another suicide attempt and one night whilst sleepwalking, she knifes her husband to death.

                            A court case ensues where Jonathan does his best to fight for Emily's corner, but he then encounters problems of his own when it is perceived that he has been negligent in his treatment of Emily.

                            Determined to prove that he is right about something, Jonathan makes some startling discoveries as he attempts to clear his own name and re-establish his professional status.

                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                            Right from the start, Side Effects exudes a tense, dark atmosphere which is well-created. I was immediately intrigued, but frustrated because I was finding most of the dialogue to be seriously mumbled, and I really could at this initial stage have benefited from understanding what the characters were saying to one another.

                            The mumbling does improve a little as the film progresses, but I still had great difficulty in following people's conversations. That I felt served to make Side Effects far more confusing for me than it might otherwise have been, were the actors to have spoken their lines clearly and distinctly.

                            The acting however, despite the muffled mumbling, is very good with my particular favourite being Jude Law as Jonathan, a psychiatrist who ends up on an almost obsessive mission to clear his name after having prescribed a new anti-depressant drug to Emily, with this drug being viewed as responsible for her disturbing behaviour, suicide attempts, and the murder of her husband which she has no memory of.

                            The music is pretty much uncategorisable, but it does suit the film well, enhancing the rather morbid, high-tension mood present.

                            There are a couple of twists in the storyline, culminating in the big one towards the end. I felt that for the most part these twists were cleverly put across, but for me the final one is rather too far-fetched - although by no means impossible - and that did water down the impact the film had on me as a whole.

                            However and via these twists, an interesting set of circumstances arises whereby I began to examine my own opinion of how the medical profession recognises, diagnoses and treats depression. My personal views are perhaps a little on the not controversial, but possibly arguable side, yet the issues raised in Side Effects simply, and in my own mind, added weight to my opinion on the way certain mental illnesses and conditions are medically approached and dealt with. It isn't too easy for me to give away a lot of detail regarding my own viewpoint without creating a spoiler, so I shall move on.

                            As well as Jude Law's polished performance as Jonathan, Emily's psychiatrist, I also felt that Rooney Mara played the role of Emily with a certain flair, and top marks to the makeup department for giving her face a flat, depressed, harrowing appearance at appropriate points in the film.

                            All in all, I did find Side Effects both interesting and absorbing, being glad that I watched it, but I don't think I'll be going back for second helpings....simply because it is one of those films where once you know how it pans out with all its twists and turns, it no doubt then loses much of its interest and entertainment value. My main problems were the at times very indistinct dialogue - even though it improved as the film progressed, it was still very difficult to understand much of what was being said - and a marked degree of unlikelihood regarding the final outcome. I certainly didn't see the final twist coming, but I'd like the story to have evolved down another path in the name of feasibility.

                            Would I recommend Side Effects? Overall yes, but although I did largely enjoy the film, it actually wasn't as good as I was expecting and I do feel that Jude Law carried much of it on his own shoulders. However, the levels of tension and the bleak, almost shard-like pervading mood is extremely well conveyed, and it is worth watching for those things alone. I really would like to award four stars, but the mumbling speech makes it so that I can only hand out three.

                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                            At the time of writing, Side Effects can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                            New: from £4.95 to £119.00 (!!)
                            Used: from £1.68 to £11.90
                            Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £12.23 (appears to be used)

                            Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                            Thanks for reading!

                            ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                            • The Spiral Staircase (DVD) / DVD / 40 Readings / 40 Ratings
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                              20.02.2014 12:04
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                              A decent, tense little mystery/thriller

                              RELEASED: 1946, Cert. PG

                              RUNNING TIME: Approx. 83 mins

                              DIRECTOR: Robert Siodmak

                              PRODUCER: Dore Schary

                              SCREENPLAY: Mel Dinelli

                              MUSIC: Roy Webb

                              MAIN CAST:-

                              Dorothy McGuire as Helen
                              Ethel Barrymore as Mrs Warren
                              George Brent as Professor Warren
                              Gordon Oliver as Steve Warren
                              Kent Smith a Dr Parry
                              Elsa Lanchester as Mrs Oates
                              Sara Allgood as Nurse Barker

                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                              FILM ONLY REVIEW

                              It is sometime in the early part of the 20th century and a serial killer targeting victims who have some sort of disability is on the rampage.

                              A murder happens in an upstairs room to where an early silent movie is being shown. Helen, a girl who is unable to speak - although she can hear - is in the audience and is urged to go home quickly on discovery of the murder upstairs. Dr Parry gives her a lift part of the way, then he is urgently called to attend to a patient, so Helen has to complete the rest of the short journey on foot.

                              Torrential rain begins to fall, and as a fierce thunderstorm begins, Helen manages to get inside of the house where she works as a servant. However, Helen may not be as safe as she feels indoors, due to the killer possibly being very close by.....perhaps even in the house.

                              Part of Helen's duties are to care for the cantankerous yet very ill and bed-bound Mrs Warren.....who begins to issue dire warnings to the girl that she must leave the house as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the killer is somewhere close by, watching Helen's every move.

                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                              Shot in black and white, The Spiral Staircase is a mystery/murder/thriller story which has a distinct noir feel, bearing a lot of the hallmarks of Alfred Hitchcock's early work.

                              The music is very loud orchestral with crashing, dramatic violins, launching straight into the thick of it almost before the film has started, and is very typical of its era.....teeming with melodrama. As far as the acting is concerned, that too is totally out of the 1940s, but viewed with those expectations and not anticipating that the cast play their parts in a style which simply wasn't of that cinematic age, it is largely very good.....especially that of Dorothy McGuire as the sweet and pretty yet totally mute Helen, and Ethel Barrymore as the rather dour elderly bedridden lady. McGuire and Barrymore bounce very well off of one another, managing to strike up a good connection between the two lead female characters.

                              George Brent and Gordon Oliver are also good as sparring half-brothers Professor Warren and Steve Warren respectively. They are as alike as chalk and cheese, plus both of them seem as if they have something up their sleeve. I also loved the diligent Irish Nurse Baker, wonderfully played by Sara Allgood.....it is her character that adds a touch of not humour to the film, but lightens the mood a little here and there.

                              Although the basic storyline of The Spiral Staircase probably wasn't too original even for its time, I do believe (and stand corrected if I am wrong) it may have been the first or one of the first American films about a serial killer other than maybe a couple of early Jack The Ripper productions. Of course the expression serial killer isn't used, as it wasn't invented as a phrase until the 1980s, but the concept is put across well as regards the killer being an ordinary person who everyone probably sees on a day to day basis and trusts, thinking nothing of it, and him picking his victims from a specialised group. The police even do a tiny little bit of psychological profiling, which for the mid-1940s was quite forward-thinking.

                              The atmosphere of The Spiral Staircase - of course viewed with the perspective of films from the era in which it belongs - is fairly tense, and it isn't obvious who the killer is until the end. There are at least three main suspects, plus it also is possible that the killer may be somebody else entirely. As an aside sub-plot, there is a little romance hovering around the edges which is unnecessary to the storyline, but does provide a welcome, albeit minor distraction from the overriding theme. Some clever camera angles are also used which add nicely to the suspense levels.

                              Aside from the mystery/thriller element, I suppose the main focus of The Spiral Staircase is the vulnerability of a girl in trouble, whereby the only person she eventually feels she can trust is a sick old lady....yet Helen is unable to vocalise her fears or call for assistance when necessary, due to having lost the power of speech. The helplessness of Helen's plight is put across very well, and although this film isn't what I'd describe as being a real chiller with a high scare-factor, it is nonetheless a bit rattling if, whilst watching, you can imagine yourself in exactly her situation.

                              Clever use is also made of the thunderstorm raging outside, as both the lightning and the noise of the thunder are incorporated into various aspects of the story.

                              The Spiral Staircase has over the decades gone down as somewhat of a cult classic, and I believe that status is well-deserved. As said above, it does have a very strong Hitchcockian feel to it, and had the master of suspense got hold of the story himself, I doubt if the resulting film would have turned out all that much different to how it stands.

                              Would I recommend The Spiral Staircase? Absolutely yes, although I don't think it would appeal to anybody who isn't comfortable watching very old black and white films which are typical of their era, especially when it comes down to acting styles and accompanying music.....plus, a complete absence of blood, guts and gore. However, this would be a feast for fans of borderline noir mystery/thriller films from a long bygone era when some very interesting cinematic offerings were produced.

                              In order to enjoy The Spiral Staircase - as it is definitely a very good film - I'd urge anyone to simply shake off the shackles of modern-day cinema expectations, and travel back to an era where things were done differently, yet not necessarily worse.

                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                              At the time of writing, The Spiral Staircase can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                              New: from £3.16 to £79.00
                              Used: from £1.88 to £9.99

                              Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                              Thanks for reading!

                              ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                              • Stormhouse (DVD) / DVD / 56 Readings / 54 Ratings
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                                18.02.2014 00:45
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                                A complete waste of 88 minutes

                                RELEASED: 2011, Cert. 15

                                RUNNING TIME: Approx. 88 mins

                                DIRECTOR: Dan Turner

                                PRODUCER: Dean Fisher

                                SCREENPLAY: Jason Arnopp

                                MUSIC: Sam Watts

                                MAIN CAST:-

                                Katie Flynn as Hayley
                                Grant Masters as Major Anthony Lester
                                Grahame Fox as Lieutenant Groves
                                Munir Khardin as Salim Hassan
                                James Capel as Karl Matthews
                                Anthony Mark Streeter as Lance Corporal Rogers

                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                FILM ONLY REVIEW

                                Billed as a horror film, Stormhouse begins when Hayley, an American paranormal investigator, is sent to an English military base to examine a psychic entity that was apparently captured by the US army.

                                It is Hayley's job to try and communicate with the entity, plus making sure it is securely contained so that it doesn't harm the military personnel at the army base. Disapproved of by the military base Commander, Hayley encounters some problems as the entity breaks loose, its influence being uncontrollable.

                                Meanwhile, a Muslim terrorist is brought into the military base and tortured by the Commanding Officer.

                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                First of all, the title Stormhouse I believe is misleading as to the film's content. It implies to me that it may be a tale of the supernatural set in a creepy old house while a tempest rages outside, but no....the whole proceedings take place inside of a dark, dismal military base somewhere in the UK.

                                From beginning to end, Stormhouse is absent of any 'grab' factor and I found the character of Hayley to be exceedingly irritating. She also appeared not to know what she was doing when attempting to analyse the whys and wherefores of the captured supernatural entity, yet continued her almost bumbling work under the critical eye of the Commanding Officer, a borderline psychopathic individual who is surly beyond belief.

                                Much of Stormhouse is shot in darkness, this removing any vague element of appeal the film may have had....if it did have it, then I blinked and missed it. For me, it is very important to actually be able to see what is happening on the screen in any film, and I am totally unable to comprehend why certain modern-day directors insist on turning the lights out. During large swathes of Stormhouse, it was so dark that I may just as well have been sitting looking at a black screen.

                                The supernatural entity is even less convincing than that which I've seen in many 10th rate horror movies....the ridiculousness of which is compounded several thousand-fold by it continually singing the old traditional French song, Frere Jacques. That may make anyone reading this review wonder if Stormhouse is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but I promise it isn't. It is a deathly serious film which is heavy, grim, depressing and dark....yet, devoid of any kind of interest factor.

                                The music is pretty typical of that used in films of this nature which are a sort of a crossover between horror and sci-fi, it being avant garde orchestral offerings, and it is quite overbearingly loud in parts.

                                For 99.99% of the time whilst watching Stormhouse, I felt as if I could die of boredom, yet stuck with it in case something interesting happened....and, it didn't. However, there is a very tiny piece about 15 or so minutes before the end which I felt was fairly well done - as it's near the end, the most I can say is that the scene involved a football, yet this rather creepy occurrence isn't followed through at all. Shame, as a lot could have been made out of that and it honestly was the only part of the film which held any appeal at all....probably lasting less than a minute's duration - that leaves 87 minutes of tedious nonsense to wade through.

                                The acting by the whole main cast is less than mediocre, with rather a lot of the dialogue being mumbled to the point where I hadn't got a clue what anyone was talking about. In addition to this, the parts I could make out were - as far as the script is concerned - dull, banal and occasionally juvenile. People just don't talk like that! The quality of the script bears the dubious hallmark of some of those trashy TV sci-fi offerings from the 1960s which were directed at children.

                                Aside from the very brief scene involving the football, Stormhouse receives a huge thumbs down from me and it isn't something I'd recommend to anybody. The dialogue is poor, the execution is shoddy, the characters are weak, the music is invasive, the supernatural entity is ridiculously unconvincing and most of the film is simply comprised of people getting bumped off, with those left behind dashing around in complete darkness trying to ward off what they couldn't even see.

                                My advice would be to give Stormhouse a very wide berth, that's unless you really feel the urge to waste 88 minutes of your life trying to get to grips with something that is little more than nothing.

                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                At the time of writing, Stormhouse can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                                New: from £1.19 to £129.00 (!)
                                Used: from 1p to £19.06

                                Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                                Thanks for reading!

                                ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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                                • Ginger Snaps (DVD) / DVD / 50 Readings / 49 Ratings
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                                  16.02.2014 11:25
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                                  Surprisingly, a mostly good film!

                                  RELEASED: 2000, Cert. 18

                                  RUNNING TIME: Approx. 108 mins

                                  DIRECTOR: John Fawcett

                                  PRODUCERS: Karen Lee Hall & Steve Hoban

                                  SCREENPLAY: Karen Walton & John Fawcett

                                  MUSIC: Mike Shields

                                  MAIN CAST:-

                                  Katharine Isabelle as Ginger
                                  Emily Perkins as Brigitte
                                  Kris Lemche as Sam
                                  Mimi Rogers as Ginger & Brigitte's mother
                                  Jesse Moss as Jason

                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                  FILM ONLY REVIEW

                                  Teenage sisters Ginger and Brigitte aren't considered 'cool' enough to join the in-crowd at school and they rely on one another for company. They definitely are on the strange side, and when they were aged eight, had made a suicide pact with one another.

                                  When Ginger has her first menstrual period at the age of 16, the blood flow attracts the attention of a werewolf whilst she and Brigitte are out one evening taking a shortcut home through a small wooded area. Naturally, Ginger then herself becomes a werewolf....with some bizarrely interesting results.

                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                  I was expecting Ginger Snaps to be one of these dreary, sausage-machine type American films where a group of teens find themselves stranded somewhere, facing the horrors of the supernatural....but, I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. Also, I early on noted that it is actually a Canadian production.

                                  The first few minutes of Ginger Snaps don't really say or do anything differently to similar films in this category, but I quickly became interested in the characters of the two sisters in that they as individuals plus their relationship with one another is decidedly off the wall. Both are obsessed with death, both fear growing into women and their weirdness causes them to be outcasts at school.

                                  Before long, I found myself laughing at the wry, deadpan humour present in Ginger Snaps, cleverly delivered mostly by the long-faced, gloomy character of Brigitte, and the disingenuous cluckings of the girls' happily unaware mother.

                                  Acting-wise, I do feel that Katharine Isabelle went a little too over the top as Ginger at times, and although she was the one who fell victim to the werewolf's curse, I didn't feel her to be as interestingly and grimly sardonic as Brigitte, her long-faced younger sister. Emily Perkins gives a brilliant performance as Brigitte, managing to come across as a darkly maudlin, brooding teenager....and, the two girls work very well together. I also loved Mimi Rogers as the girls' witless mother whose way of dealing with her daughters is delightfully off the wall.

                                  Another thing I really loved about this film was the music, except for a brief but ear-splitting incidental piece played at the school's Halloween hop. The main score isn't really categorisable genre-wise, but it is surprisingly good, atmospheric and something I could listen to and enjoy if it were released on CD separately from the film.

                                  Ginger Snaps delivered many surprises for me, especially during the first half of the film, with its wry amusement levels appealing perfectly to my own rather dark sense of humour. At first I wasn't sure if I was supposed to find this film borderline hilarious, but it did eventually become apparent that humour definitely was intended.

                                  Although the setting for and events within Ginger Snaps are completely different, I couldn't help feeling that it is more than a little too close to An American Werewolf In London as far as the concept of the basic storyline is concerned, but it didn't matter too much, as I was enjoying the darkly humorous escapades of the two maudlin sisters.

                                  There are some quite grisly scenes in this film which may upset some people, although they centre more around things such as vomiting blood and the two girls self-harming than anything else. There is some violence, but it is put across in a way which homes in on the humour of the ridiculous, rather than trying to push the barriers of any kind of shock factor.

                                  I loved and was enthralled by the first two-thirds or so of Ginger Snaps, but from that point onwards, I began to lose interest. The storyline became too predictable and the special effects (such as the werewolf transformation scenes) were poorly created and unconvincing. Also, the film then lost its cleverly wry humour element which had been the overriding thing that kept me absorbed and fascinated.

                                  Despite it eventually falling flat on its face though, I really did enjoy this rather unusual werewolf tale, especially the humour and the bizarrely off the wall characters of the two sisters and their parents (their father played a far less prominent role, but nonetheless his one or two appearances did make me smile). I was also very, very impressed with the musical score.

                                  Would I recommend Ginger Snaps? Yes, especially to people who like the element of surprise and something a bit different, plus can see and appreciate the dark humour contained within. I wouldn't say that the film homes in on the horror element with the greatest flair, but to me that wasn't the important part....for me it was all about the amusement value, the strange characters of the sisters and the music. It is sad that the film lost its glory as it strolled towards the end, but the lead-up to that point is well worth watching. I do hand a bit of a warning though in that there are some grisly scenes, and lots of projectile vomiting....definitely not recommended as comfortable viewing for anyone who has a vomit phobia.

                                  In summary, Ginger Snaps is an unusually presented werewolf tale which is weird and dark, containing generous levels of beautifully deadpan humour, but what it evolves into is a definite anti-climax. Were the later part of the film handled differently, I wouldn't hesitate in awarding a full house of stars, but as it stands, I have to knock one off because of the poor special effects and it wandering into realms that killed off the enjoyably fascinating parts. The good bits definitely offer something different though, with healthy levels of humour and bizarre entertainment.

                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                  At the time of writing, Ginger Snaps can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

                                  New: from £8.24 to £129.00!
                                  Used: from 1p to £2.73

                                  Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

                                  Thanks for reading!

                                  ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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