Scream of Fear

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Film Title

Scream of Fear

Director

Seth Holt

Starring

  • Susan Strasberg as Penny Appleby
  • Ann Todd as Jane Appleby
  • Ronald Lewis as Robert
  • Christopher Lee as Dr. Pierre Gerrard

An atmospheric triumph of mounting tension and shocking reveals, Scream of Fear supplies The basic idea of the plot has been done many times before, but Scream of Fear excellently plays with this formula by twisting into something unexpected and shocking. A strong thriller from Hammer indeed. If you want thrills, Scream of Fear is a guarantee to supply that need.

Penny Appleby is a pretty young woman who has been paralyzed for over ten years following an accident on a horse. She has largely lived in Switzerland, but returns to see her father( who she hasn’t seen for a long time) after a companion of hers drowns leaving her devastated. Her father now lives on the French Riviera and has married again, to a woman named Jane. Penny hasn’t met his new bride yet, but thinks Jane is fine upon arrival. The family chauffeur Robert also does his best to make her at home, while she recovers from the shocking loss of her friend. Yet Penny is also puzzled that her father has seemingly gone away from business , as she expected to reconnect with him again after so long. On her first night in the house, Penny encounters something shocking. Seeing a light on in the summer house, she ventures out to check and discovers what looks like her father’s corpse. Terrified, she exits quickly and explains her findings to Jane and Robert . Yet when Jane inspects the summer house, there is no sign of a body. She puts it down to stress and an overactive imagination, calling upon the services of the mysterious Dr Pierre Gerrard to calm the panicked Penny down. Penny is left confused yet convinced that something bad has happened to her father. After seeing his body again, before it promptly vanishes once more, Penny becomes more certain that there is a nefarious plot being undertaken to drive her mad. Penny enlists Robert to help her, mainly because he appears to be the only person who doesn’t think she’s losing her mind. But as Penny investigates, we soon find that everything is a lot different and maybe even more sinister than initially envisioned, leading to a whole host of surprises.

Seth Holt knows the exact ways to suggest something chilling and slowly reveal enough in teasing and mounting suspense. A real feeling and essence of mystery is ever-present in Scream of Fear, right from the opening to the end. As aforementioned, the basic story of someone believing others are attempting to drive the mad has been done many times, but Scream of Fear still keeps it all very riveting and startling by inserting a few tricks of its own. There really is a genuine unpredictability to Scream of Fear, so much so that even when you think you’ve got a handle on things, it completely fools you.  We are left to speculate and guess what capricious machination will befall Penny, as the plot thickens considerably. A big asset in Scream of Fear is the black and white cinematography, which is suitably ghoulish and mysterious right from the opening frames, letting you know that something deeply mysterious is at work. An effective usage of close-ups and nice angles allows the suspense to rise, with a swimming pool sequence where a nasty surprise lies at the bottom is rightfully tense and well lensed as a standout scene. Sound is a key thing in Scream of Fear, and the way its employed is pretty darn impressive. Eerie silence and seeming calm of the surroundings( specifically the outside and glimpses of cliffs and the sea on the French Riviera) that prove to be anything but are captured with. The music knows exactly when to appear and not be too intrusive, letting the mystery and thrills take the biggest stage.

The beautiful Susan Strasberg is just the right person to play the emotionally besieged Penny. She possesses a resilience and alternating vulnerability that is perfect for the part. Penny may be put in danger throughout the film, but she’s intelligent and not just a mere damsel who’s depending on everyone else to help. If anything, she refuses to let her paralysis slow her down and has adjusted to it with a deep independence. Strasberg plays Penny with a self-reliance and steadfast determination to uncover what sinister acts are being committed. Ann Todd successfully stars as the stepmother ,who appears to be a reasonable person but also remarkably shifty in the long run of things. Ronald Lewis is on hand to play the square-jawed, handsome and apparently loyal chauffeur who aids Penny in her search for the truth. Christopher Lee, although not seen as much as I’d liked, is still quite good as the mysterious doctor who is hanging around whenever strange things happen.

Unpredictable and slowly adept at building tension, as well as pulling you in, Scream of Fear is a successfully creepy and unexpectedly smart thriller that really does an impressive number on you. its nothing is as it seems angles make it a fine thriller and one that deserves more attention.

You’ve Been Tagged

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The wonderfully fabulous that is Gill has tagged me to answer some questions. I’m very happy and delighted she thought of me. Now I will admit that I’m late to answering this, as some will probably guess from some of the Christmas themed questions, but it’s still fun to take part. Now I will follow the rules and let me answers be known.

All I Want For Christmas is You | Which DVD/Blu-Ray would you like to receive this year?

I’d love to get the Indiana Jones collection on Blu-Ray.

 

Jingle Bell Rock | Favorite soundtrack or song from a Christmas film?

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from Meet Me in St. Louis

 

Let it Snow | 3 of your favorite Christmas films…

Love Actually

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Home Alone

 

Donald Trump | A film that divides opinion…

Anything by Lars Von Trier runs the gamut from being hated to be exalted. Check Breaking the Waves and Melancholia 

 

Brexit | Favorite British Film…

That honour goes to Black Narcissus

 

Fidel Castro | A film that divides opinion… A film considered culturally significant

I’d have to say The Godfather. It is a benchmark in cinema after all and so many since it have taken influence from it.

 

Starbucks | Favorite Film Franchise…

Would have to be the James Bond series, so iconic

 

McDonald’s Happy Meal | Favorite Childhood Film…

Definitely The Lion King by a mile.

 

‘Cheeky Nandos’ | Favorite Comedy

I would have to say Hot Fuzz, laughed so much when I saw it

 

One film you want all of your followers to watch…

A film called He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. It proves that there really are two sides to every story and is ridiculously underrated.

Now I will nominate people to take part in this( but if you don’t want to, there is no pressure)

Kim

Pete

Madame Vintage

Kitt

Alex

If if you want to take part, just copy and paste the questions and answer them. It is that simple, then tag other bloggers for the fun to continue. Here’s the template if you wish to copy it.

All I Want For Christmas is You | Which DVD/Blu-Ray would you like to receive this year?

Jingle Bell Rock | Favorite soundtrack or song from a Christmas film?

Let it Snow | 3 of your favorite Christmas films…

Donald Trump | A film that divides opinion…

Brexit | Favorite British Film…

Fidel Castro | A film that divides opinion… A film considered culturally significant

Starbucks | Favorite Film Franchise…

McDonald’s Happy Meal | Favorite Childhood Film…

‘Cheeky Nandos’ | Favorite Comedy

One film you want all of your followers to watch…

Turn the Key Softly

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Film Title

Turn the Key Softly

Director

Jack Lee

Starring

  • Yvonne Mitchell as Monica Marsden
  • Joan Collins as Stella Jarvis
  • Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Quilliam
  • Terence Morgan as David

The first twenty-four hours of release from prison of three different women are dramatised in Turn the Key Softly. Although some of the social drama it strives for can get forced, it is largely an honest and sympathetic examination of the paths we may or may not take in life. Strong performances from the female leads help it be watchable.

On one morning, three women are released from Holloway Prison, London. Each woman is somewhat different from the other and slowly we piece together why each was imprisoned. Monica Marsden is a middle class lady who was seduced by crook David and coerced into helping him with his thieving activities. She was caught and David got away, leaving her to take the blame. Stella Jarvis is a pretty young thing who we are lead to believe fell into prostitution so she could afford the material things in life, despite having found seeming happiness with a kindly bus conductor. And lonely Mrs. Quilliam is very poor and has multiple offences of stealing food to provide for herself. Their returns back to society take different turns as they are forced to confront life once more and decide what is to be done, regarding personal feelings, circumstances and the nature of choice. Monica has to contend with oily David entering her life again, Stella must make a choice of whether material wealth outweighs potential happiness with her forgiving boyfriend and Mrs. Quilliam has to deal with being neglected by her daughter and only having her pet dog Johnny for support and companionship. The question is, just which path will each lady take now that they are back out in the world again?

Director Jack Lee does a commendable enough job at bringing out dramatic and emotional impact, though it can be said that some of the film and story is basic and could have done with more extension. After all, Turn the Key Softly only runs for under 80 minutes, which both has a weakness and goodness to it. I think the positive parts manage to raise the film up a lot, and while still flawed, when it hits the dramatic mark it is damn effective. Some of it comes off as more than a little superficial, in particular the rather sketchy way that Stella’s story is written. Her arc has watchable and sports interesting areas, but it doesn’t quite have the gripping power of the other two women’s experiences. Monica and Mrs. Quilliam have the more compelling stories; facing the grim realities of their situations, consisting of trying to not be drawn to a bad influence and crushing loneliness. When the focus is on these characters and their struggles, Turn the Key Softly gains points and a sense of drama. The use of black and white highlights the challenges ahead for the ladies and London in bustling but unforgiving fashion. The film was made in the 50’s and England was still suffering post war austerity, which is subtly referenced by the fact that there is no flash of razzmatazz to the editing of cinematography. It’s largely observant and the unvarnished style suits what Turn the Key Softly strives for. A jolt of tension and suspense keeps Turn the Key Softly good in the last half as Monica’s former flame puts in motion a job, which he drags her into under extreme duress. One of the best things Turn the Key Softly does is not sugarcoat the three main characters or condone what they have done. It presents them as humans, who have made mistakes and are attempting to get back on track once more. The music score is suitable enough when being understated, but there are times when it takes away from the story by going overboard with flourishes.

If there is anything that makes up for the occasionally flawed execution in the film, it’s the acting. Yvonne Mitchell brings dignity, demure grace and indecision to her part of the middle class Monica, who wrestles with her feelings for her slimy former boyfriend and tries to make a life for herself. She’s an intelligent woman but like all of us, not immune to the complex feelings of the heart. This is what Mitchell plays ideally; the desire to move on, but the constant lingering of the past that won’t loosen its grip. Joan Collins, although having the most limited role, is still very charming and brassy as the often vain Stella. She’s got an impudence, dreamy eyes and sassiness to her, tempered with a feeling of uncertainty over her future. The beautiful Joan Collins makes the part very watchable, owing to her naturalness and personality. The trio is rounded out by the weariness and sadness of Kathleen Harrison as the lonely old Mrs. Quilliam, who’s only company is her beloved dog Johnny. Here is a woman of desperation and desolation, who still attempts to keep a smile on her face despite her increasing adversity. You want to give this woman a hug and tell her that things are going to be OK, that’s how emotionally convincing and sympathetic Harrison is. Terence Morgan is the definition of a louse, and a nasty one at that when playing Monica’s crooked lover. Although he’s slick and smooth, you know exactly what he’s up to and really do want him to get what’s coming to him in be way or another.

So while it sometimes doesn’t get beneath the surface of stat it’s intending to display, Turn the Key Softly is still on the whole, a well acted and interesting film that paints a pointed and frequently realistic picture of three women experiencing life and it’s difficulties again after their release from prison.

Il Postino

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Film Title

Il Postino

Director

Michael Radford

Starring

  • Massimo Troisi as Mario Ruoppolo
  • Philippe Noiret as Pablo Neruda
  • Maria Grazia Cucinotta as Beatrice

A beautifully moving paen to poetry and altering friendship, Il Postino weaves a quiet yet lyrical spell on you as we watch a shy man flourish under the tutelage of a great poet. A subtle and at times amusing film, Il Postino also has a bittersweet nature that is hard to forget once you’ve seen it.

The year is 1950 and Mario Ruoppolo lives on an Italian island, where the main job for men is fishing. Trouble is, the good-natured and simple Mario hates fishing, so is left to laze about with nothing to do and his father telling him he needs to find a job. This is all subject to change with some exciting news for the island. The very famous poet Pablo Neruda has been exiled from Chile for his political views and is now seeking refuge on the island. As there is a huge influx of mail, a postman is needed to deliver it to the esteemed visitor. Listless Mario gets the job as postman delivering the hoards of mail that arrive for the renowned poet. Mario sets about on this job and while doing it, attempts to converse with Neruda, who is the talk of the town. Neruda is polite enough but aloof as he wants to be in solitude, which Mario doesn’t realise at first. Gradually his enthusiasm and pluck resonate with the old master, who begins to like the innocent postman. A friendship between the two very different men( one an eloquent poet, the other an uneducated postman) is ultimately struck up. Neruda tells Mario of the importance and beauty of words, which Mario takes on board and stores. Around this time, timid Mario finds himself falling in love with the stunning Beatrice, a local barmaid. The trouble is, he can hardly put a sentence together whenever he’s around her. Seeing that Neruda has an excellent reputation with women, Mario implores him for support. Neruda and his mellifluous gift for words encourages Mario to emerge from his shell and give voice to his feelings day by day. As a result, Mario starts to grow in confidence under the guidance of Neruda, and soon enough, his love for the beautiful Beatrice can finally be expressed without him looking like a fool. Over the course of the time spent together by Mario and Neruda, they each make a defining impression on the other that neither will forget.

Michael Radford, a British film maker, directs this Italian language film with a sure hand and buoyant charm that is hard to resist. It’s the simplicity and little moments that cause Il Postino to really make its presence felt. It isn’t a film of big, grand moments; favouring a quiet and languid time for the relationships between characters to manifest and ensue. The interactions between the good-hearted but and stately Neruda are what really interests and pleasingly transfer to the viewer’s enjoyment of watching them come to an understanding that benefits both in ways they didn’t realise. A lot of may be about Mario’s attempts to woo Beatrice which are tentatively done, but his burgeoning friendship with Neruda is the real ace in the hole.  An observant quality frames the impact each man has on the other, with the power of descriptive words passed from Neruda to his young charge eliciting a gentleness and occasional humour. In fact, humour plays a decent part of Il Postino, especially in how Mario woos Beatrice and her stern Aunt misinterprets the whole thing. Yet within the film is a reflective note that can’t be missed. There is a scene later on in Il Postino that is imbued with a relatable pathos and inspiration. In it, Mario finally begins to realise that he is something special and while Neruda has left the island, he comes to see just how much he was impacted by the great man and how he has been changed substantially from when we first saw him. Such a heartfelt and inspiring scene that feels so warm and soulful, it’s just glorious to see. There is a definite tinge of poignancy that comes in the film when Neruda leaves after the warrant for his arrest is scrapped, leaving Mario feeling a bit lost without his mentor. And while there are those who will scoff at the movie and declare that not a lot happens, they are the missing the life-affirming and unobtrusive way that quite a lot happens, just in measured and lovingly rendered vignettes. Il Postino doesn’t need to be grandly over the top of melodramatic all the time; a winning relaxed approach is the right one for such a movie as this. The sun dappled imagery of the Italian island is blissfully gorgeous to look at, complimented by the moving and adventurous score to the piece.

Massimo Troisi is the eponymous postman in what would sadly be his final role. Essaying the awkward mannerisms, pining, childlike eyes and hapless charm of the transforming Mario; is excellently understated and soulful as the beating heart of the film that evolves with nuance from simple-minded and listless man to passionate and inspired person . Most of the bittersweet nature of Il Postino comes from Troisi , who tragically died a day after filming completed. He had a heart condition and postponed surgery to be in the film. Despite struggling, he soldiered through making this film( he had a co-screenwriting credit too), only to sadly not see the greatness of it all coming together. Watching his beautifully emotive and amusing performance is both a treat and a sad reminder of the talented man. Philippe Noiret is just right as the influential Pablo Neruda; brimming with humour, dignity and a thoughtful way about him. It’s easy to see why Mario looks up to the guy. There’s an authoritative and spirited streak that runs through the work of Philippe Noiret , making Neruda a man you could see yourself trusting and learning from. At first he prefers the quiet of being alone, but is won over by Mario and finds himself growing very fond of the man who he can help. Maria Grazia Cucinotta stars as the object of Mario’s affection and while not the most demanding role, her sensual appeal is employed well, that it is easy to see why Mario would become some enchanted by her. Cucinotta possesses a smouldering beauty that seduces the camera whenever she appears.

A sweet yet poignant movie of easy yet invested direction and nice performances, Il Postino splendidly captures the feeling of growing and being inspired lovingly and with a deep heart. As a showcase for the late Massimo Troisi, it ensures his presence and talents are in full glory and act as a touching reminder of his ability. Truly a sweet movie for everyone and one to be treasured.

A Different Approach to Reviewing

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I love my blog and reviewing movies, coupled with talking to all of you fabulous people. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my approach to it. My main thought was that I need to change it. My usual approach is that I plan the movies I will review and then act on them. But I’ve found that I’ve been putting way too much pressure on myself in this regard. I have now decided that I will watch movies and then decide whether or not to write about them. I believe this will be most beneficial for me and take the edge off. I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself, but I’m taking it off now to become more relaxed with what I do. To reiterate, I love blogging and reviewing movies( I can’t picture life without it), but I’ll be using this approach to make me feel better. Going with the flow is that way to go. So don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine with this new method. What do you think of my new approach?

Something’s Gotta Give

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I was kindly asked by the wonderful Gill to take part in the Jack Nicholson blogathon. This is to celebrate the great man’s work as he turned 80 yesterday. I’ve always liked Nicholson’s work in a variety of films so it was nice of her to ask me to join in and sing his praises. If you want to be entertained, Nicholson is your man. Anyway back to my review.

Film Title

Something’s Gotta Give

Director

Nancy Meyers

Starring

  • Jack Nicholson as Harry Sanborn
  • Diane Keaton as Erica Barry
  • Keanu Reeves as Dr Julian Mercer
  • Amanda Peet as Marin Barry
  • Frances McDormand as Zoe

A sprightly romantic comedy about unexpected attraction in middle age, Something’s Gotta Give is an amusing showcase for both Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Sure it has its contrivances, but there’s something very amiable and surprisingly touching to this film that makes it stand out from the endless pack of romantic comedies we are assailed with.

Harry Sanborn is a successful man in his 60’s, he owns a music company and his main passion in life is easy relationships with women who are much younger. The old dog has a rule of not dating a woman over 30, which keeps his status as a perennial playboy steady. His latest conquest is the pretty Marin, who invites him to her mother’s beach house in the Hamptons, thinking that her mother Erica is busy somewhere else. To her surprise, Erica, who is a successful divorced playwright, returns with her sister Zoe and is shocked to find her daughter and Harry are something of an item. Zoe talks her round and Erica reluctantly lets Harry stay, despite her immediate dislike for him. The evening gets eventful when Harry has a heart attack when preparing for sex and is subsequently hospitalized. Informed by his doctor that he can’t travel far and must recover nearby, he ends up recuperating in Erica’s house, much to her annoyance. Harry finds Erica to be overly uptight and prickly, while Erica thinks of Harry as just a rude and uncouth womanizer. Yet being forced to take care of Harry has its impressions on Erica, whether she likes it or not. The two start out at complete odds over their ideas of the other, yet quickly these differences start to wilt and an attraction begins to form. Both of them don’t quite know how to react to this unexpected creation, though it definitely makes both take stock of things and possibly open up to welcoming love. Yet as Harry recovers, his stay at Erica’s is cut short as his health improves. As the two have now grown to love the other unexpectedly,  it’s up to Harry to decide whether he can truly change or return to his usual life of being a playboy. Add to this equation, Harry’s young doctor Julian taking a romantic interest in Erica, much too her surprise and things are about to get interesting.

Nancy Meyers provides breezy direction and writing, that still retains substance through how well-crafted the characters are. Meyers supplies a good helping of unpredictable moments to Something’s Gotta Give, that pay off and make it a funny watch. There’s something quite rejuvenating at seeing two people in the middle of their lives find romance, there are too few movies that deal with attraction among mature adults. Now it must be said that the movie does over stay its welcome due to the length of it and how it does dabble in levels of seen it all before. Generally though, Something’s Gotta Give gains major points from the casting, humorous yet moving writing and the tone of the piece. There is a level of genuine heart to things, as Erica’s seemingly comfortable existence is challenged by someone she never though she’d like. Observing the changes the attraction has for them both provides Something’s Gotta Give with a surprising emotional core, coloured with side-splitting comedy( such as Harry walking in on a naked Erica, ensuring much awkward encounters). I appreciate when a comedy has depth to it, as too many comedies forget that you sometimes need drama for the laughs to work.

Jack Nicholson is a devilish yet revealing presence as the ageing playboy, realising that life may be catching up with his lifestyle. I enjoyed how Nicholson sort of sends up the public’s persona of himself( the grinning Lothario who always looks like he’s up to something naughty), yet colours it with a surprising amount of vulnerability too. It’s an unexpected turn from him that has all his wolfish tics and adds a healthy dose of open humanity to the mix. He truly makes the part his own and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Diane Keaton gorgeously plays off Nicholson as the self-sufficient playwright, discovering that romance could still be on the cards for her despite her assertion that she’s passed it. A sophistication, humour and convincing clarity can all be seen in Keaton’s work, that makes you enjoy being in her company as her professional attitude makes way for touching revelation. Any romantic comedy largely succeeds or fails on the chemistry between the leads; Something’s Gotta Give joyfully fits into the former. You just get this natural and glowing way that Nicholson and Keaton interact, that really brings out the heart of both people who overcome differences to find that they might be right for each other. Then you have Keanu Reeves as the dashing doctor that could only ever appear in a romantic comedy. Reeves seems to realise this and plays the part amusingly as a sort of spoof of the dishy man in uniform that couldn’t possibly exist in real life. Amanda Peet provides sparkling energy, albeit in an underused capacity along with a wise-cracking but too little seen Frances McDormand.

So while it runs too long and isn’t above being slightly formulaic, Something’s Gotta Give has enough sharp writing and cracking performances, particularly Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, to make it a delight.

The Devil Wears Prada

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Film Title

The Devil Wears Prada

Director

David Frankel

Starring

  • Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly
  • Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs
  • Emily Blunt as Emily Charlton
  • Stanley Tucci as Nigel
  • Adrian Grenier as Nate
  • Simon Baker as Christian Thompson

An amusing comedy drama about a young woman’s journey in the world of fashion under the boss from hell, The Devil Wears Prada gets laughs and some surprising dramatic weight. As formulaic as some of it is, it is still a very funny satire on the fashion industry, benefiting from a talented cast.

Andy Sachs is a fresh-faced college graduate who wants to be a journalist and is just out of university. An opportunity comes knocking in a strange way, after not having much luck in finding work. She is in turn recommended a job working at  Runway, a New York fashion magazine headed by the notorious and commanding editor in chief Miranda Priestly. She is to be the junior assistant to her, which is a job so many people would give their lives for. Although she has no interest in fashion or the whole scene that she views as shallow, she gets the job unexpectedly. Yet Andy is totally unprepared for what she’ll have to deal with while being assistant to the very high-powered Miranda. What she finds is that Miranda is no walk in the park, but an extremely demanding and at times vicious boss. Having to complete the various, seemingly impossible tasks that Miranda sets her proves to be a severe challenge to someone as wide-eyed as Andy. Andy doesn’t fit in with anyone particularly, not least the snippy senior assistant Emily. Yet with the help of art director Nigel( which includes a glamorous makeover) and adopting of a different attitude towards the industry, Andy starts to succeed and surprisingly get ahead at work. She believes that lasting a year working under the dominating Miranda will be good for references and open doors to her dream. Yet as Andy gets further sucked into the world that she initially disdained, she is forced to confront the fact that her integrity is slipping and that she is rapidly changing into something she never thought she would. Her love life with chef boyfriend Nate begins to sour and she begins to alienate herself from her closest friends, as a result of being at Miranda’s beck and call. But is survival working for Miranda worth sacrificing all for?

David Frankel has a stylish approach to the material, imbued with the right amount of humour and character. I wouldn’t say his direction in The Devil Wears Prada is anything awe-inspiring, but it gets the job done efficiently and with care. Interest does lag within a few scenes that go on for too long( and the main men in Andy’s life don’t particularly give much to the plot of the film). The catty one liners and frequently hilarious events make up for that however, getting your interest as we glimpse a behind the scenes look at a glamorous yet dog eat dog world. Seriously some of the dialogue is priceless in how it skewers the fashion industry and culture, while allowing the relatable but difficult journey for Andy that threatens to overtake her, to feature added depth to the largely funny flick. The look at how easily one can lose themselves in something and feel they have no choice but to oblige is rendered well; owing to the way the script gives measured nuance and surprising insight. Sometimes the film only scratches the surface of what wants to get to in the odd slip, but the satirical edge and stylish glitz are more than sufficient at keeping things in a way that feels fresh for us to enjoy. And like any movie dealing with clothing and image, The Devil Wears Prada is a super stylish and glossy film. From montages to bright colours, it has magazine ready finish from the get go. And while some will say it is just a chick flick, The Devil Wears Prada can equally be enjoyed by men. It’s an all round fun time to be had here in a high glamour world that’s as funny as it is stinging. I mean the while boss from hell plot is a definitely amusing one that I’m sure many people can recall similar situations in their own lives, with less outrageousness I’m sure but you know what I mean. A fashionable soundtrack briskly keeps the film on its course with some great songs to groove to.

Meryl Streep completely steals the show as the demanding and commanding Miranda. Possessing a glacial demeanor and a certain regal poise, she creates a character who may be a tyrannical, but is still quite unexpectedly human despite her frostiness. Miranda both inspires fear and awe within the film and the audience, with Meryl Streep steering her away from just being a wicked caricature. What we get instead of a one-dimensional part is one that is frequently ruthless yet not above revealing a hidden vulnerability, in a nuanced way that Streep effortlessly portrays. Miranda doesn’t need to raise her voice to make a point; a simple purse of the lips, look up and down or a cutting, deadpan remark is enough to reduce anyone to a pile of quivering nerves. A scary, fascinating, darkly funny and fabulous character is brought to life with measured shading and conviction by the always excellent Meryl Streep. Anne Hathaway delightfully portrays the inexperience and uncertainty of Andy, tempered with an intelligence and feeling of doubt over what she can achieve. Hathaway has an inborn sensitivity and vulnerability that I’ve noticed in many of her performances, that is used excellently to make Andy a conflicted yet relatable heroine the audience wants to help. I mean how can you not have sympathy for this girl, going through the motions and figuring out just what she wants to do? Her sheer awkwardness and coltish appearance is rendered nicely by Hathaway, who refuses to make the character a brainless girl.  Emily Blunt gets a whole of laughs in her role of minion to Miranda, whose neurotic and desperation to please provide hysterical desperation and scintillating, bitchy sassiness. Splendid and side-splitting support comes from Stanley Tucci as the confidante, who instructs Andy in how best to approach her job and how Miranda is not above rewarding loyalty, in her own roundabout way of course. Tucci though is the only guy in the film who is actually given something good to do. Adrian Grenier and Simon Baker are left stumbling and with little in the way of material to work with.

So for all the contrivances in the film and how it can seem predictable, The Devil Wears Prada boasts a high entertaining factor, finding humour and pathos from a cast headed by an imperious Meryl Streep and how the whole fashion world is a place of survival. A biting yet somehow sweet engaging and humorous film is what The Devil Wears Prada emerges is, which brings out big enjoyable laughs for the viewer.

Doubt

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Film Title

Doubt

Director

John Patrick Shanley

Starring

  • Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Flynn
  • Amy Adams as Sister James
  • Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller

John Patrick Shanley directs this adaptation of his own play which powerfully and ambiguously questions the nature of truth, certainty and religion. Doubt really dives into the conundrum and mystery of suspicion, bolstered by one exceptional cast doing fine work with deep material.

In 1964 , austere school principal and nun Sister Aloysius Beauvier runs a Catholic school in The Bronx, where she watches each and every move to keep others in line. She is a woman who strikes fear into the hearts of everyone and believes in discipline where her students are involved. Her ideas are of an old-fashioned mindset, which puts her at odds with popular priest Father Flynn. He is a seemingly kindly man who the children like and whose ideas are progressive in bringing the Church forward. Sister Aloysius has a deep dislike of him and after hearing a sermon that he delivers on the feelings of doubt, she asks young and naive Sister James to keep an eye on him. Shortly after this, Sister James reluctantly reveals that Donald Miller, the school’s first black student, returned from seeing Father Flynn in the rectory, crying and with the smell of alcohol on his breath. This convinces Sister Aloysius that there is something sinister about Father Flynn and she is certain that he has sexually abused the boy. Father Flynn denies any wrongdoing and tells her to leave it alone. But Sister Aloysius is not backing down and takes it upon herself, despite a lack of proof, to bring down Father for what she believes he has done. So begins a battle of wills between the relentless Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn , where the truth is the thing that lies at the complex centre of events but is hidden and speculated with unexpected results.

John Patrick Shanley successfully transports his play from the stage to screen with a subtle building in uneasiness and moral questioning. There is a high level of tense atmosphere at work in Doubt, generated through the way that the dialogue takes on multiple meanings and the tight surroundings that enclose the characters. canted angles and close-ups further enhance the engulfing intensity of the piece. The dark tones of the cinematography, supplied by the great , cement us in the dark and complex time and setting, rarely venturing further than the school for a feeling of deep claustrophobia. The limited setting hints at the movies origins as a play, yet help keep that very aura of intimate drama. Some of Doubt gets stagey from time to time, yet this niggle is quickly rectified by the provocative drama and time for rumination that it ultimately achieves. The amount of tension that fills the frames if the movie took me by surprise in a good way. I really was finding myself questioning who was right and wrong, plus whether personal vendettas and emotions were clouding the judgement of characters. There are those who watch Doubt and find its ambiguity distracting, but for most of us, this added level of intrigue gets you to really deliberate what you make of the combustible situation playing out. What people need to consider is that Doubt is as much a mystery about guilt, possible abuse of power and morality, as it is a drama. A quiet yet well suited score knows exactly when to appear and when to let scenes play out devoid of interference.

Meryl Streep heads the cast with another sterling performance. Burying herself in the self-righteous and stern head nun who is the chief accuser, Streep exudes a no-nonsense attitude( spoken in a harsh and convincing Bronx accent), tempered by a dry wit and occasional time for revelation. Yet the biggest accomplishment of her acting is in the balance of Sister Aloysius, in various subtle and expressive ways that hint at her being something different underneath her austere appearance . She is a fearsome person to say the least who may just be doing this to get rid of Father Flynn , but on the other hand, she seems to want to protect her student from what she believes is inappropriate and disturbing contact. There is a real complexity to this woman that Meryl Streep understands; Aloysius may believe that certainty is on her side, but she may in fact be feeling the strains of time pushing her further away from authority and clear judgement. Playing off her and facing off against her in very intense scenes is the excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman. He manages to make Father Flynn both amiable and somewhat questionable, lending a big dose of ambiguity to everything. With force and skill, Hoffman represents the accused as a man trying to bring the church up to date, and sparring with the pointed finger of Sister Aloysius for something he may or not have done. His scenes with Streep are filled with power and rising suspicion, culminating in an arresting coin which both stars really let loose. Amy Adams beautifully and with considerable nuance plays the sympathetic and good-hearted novice Sister James, who is essentially the audiences guide to being caught between two ends of the spectrum. A sweetness is present in the work that never becomes cloying because of how well Adams imbues the part with a questioning and conflicted heart. Stuck in the middle of both Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius, Sister James is forced to contend with both sets of possibilities, a challenge that Amy Adams more than rises to with a sensitive piece of acting. Rounding out the cast is the brief but superbly played performance from the wonderful Viola Davis. She stars as the mother of the boy who may have been abused and her screen time is mainly confined to one specific scene. But what a powerful and indelible scene it is! Filled with a sadness, conviction and acting in a way that may seem different from what you’d expect from a mother being informed of potentially horrifying treatment of her son, Viola Davis dramatically provides the catalyst of the story, that enables us to see things in a very different way. This is a performance that proves that you don’t need hours on screen to be memorable. The four main actors were all Oscar nominated for their work, and it isn’t any surprise why because of how convincingly they bring to life this thorny drama.

A thought-provoking and building triumph of unbearable tension and questions, Doubt succeeds at getting the audience to really consider the validity of supposedly benevolent actions and just how damaging things can become when there is lack of proof but plenty of speculation. It’s a testament to the acting and directing that Doubt never feels too stagey, instead mounted with a mystery and probing yet subtle approach. What we get is a powerful and intense film that leaves you really contemplating events long after the curtain has been drawn.

5 Year Blog Anniversary

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Today, my blog turns five years old. I am still in a bit of shock about that fact, never would I have ever dreamed that my blog could last this long. It’s been five amazing years spent in the company of all of you wonderful and good-hearted bloggers who really keep me going. I can’t imagine my life without interacting with you guys whose generosity and love has been essential to me. Thanks to all of you delightful people for bringing out a more confident side of me, with your collective kindness and endless array of support. I’m so happy to have reached this milestone in my blogging career and hope to continue for as long as I can.

Dressed to Kill

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Film Title

Dressed to Kill

Director

Brian De Palma

Starring

  • Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller
  • Michael Caine as Dr. Robert Elliott
  • Nancy Allen as Liz Blake
  • Keith Gordon as Peter Miller
  • Dennis Franz as Detective Marino

A mystery thriller with a lacing of dark humour, Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill is a relentless excursion into sinister mood and sleight of hand tricks that are for the most part strikingly done. The plot gets a bit overwrought, but the various surprises and mood is what this movie is all about.

Kate Miller is a dissatisfied and sexually starved housewife in New York, who can’t escape her feeling of loneliness. Although she has her young and bright son Peter, her marriage is largely devoid of much passion or excitement. She attends therapy with a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Robert Elliott, where she unloads her problems to him. Although she flirts with him, he rebuffs her because of professional ethics and wanting to keep a distance. Later, the bored Kate visits a museum, where she is pursued and herself pursues a mysterious man, culminating in a sexual encounter. After this, Kate plans to leave but shockingly discovers that her conquest appears to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Reeling, she runs out of his apartment and heads for the elevator, contemplating what to do. Kate’s troubles get a lot more deadly as she is slashed to death in an elevator by a mysterious blonde woman, whose appearance is obscured by dark glasses. Just after the horrific murder, streetwise hooker Liz stumbles upon Kate and briefly catches a glimpse of the killer. Liz is then suspected of the killing, the main detective on the case not believing that there was someone else in the elevator. Desperate to prove her innocence and scared for her safety, Liz teams up with Kate’s smart son Peter(who is already investigating by himself through his collection of devices he has made) to uncover the identity of the killer, before Liz ends up the next victim of her slaying. Meanwhile Dr Elliott keeps getting threatening phone messages from a patient of his, who may very well be the killer and someone who enjoys taunting him. Things turn out pretty unexpected for everyone involved.

It’s an overblown film to be sure, but that is why it attracts in the ways that De Palma uses that melodrama. To be honest, I don’t think he is going for a really subtle approach. And given his signature style, he’s not just going to tone it down, he’s going to go to places that shock and surprise with his liberal use of theatricality along the way. What we are left with is a film that is more concerned with mood and atmosphere than plot, that still bears that feeling of tension, mixed with archness that De Palma does so well. The perverse yet riveting atmosphere is apparent in the dreamy, surreal soft focus of two pivotal scenes pulls you in, while obviously paying a debt to Hitchcock’s iconic Psycho. But the most sterling example of craftsmanship is the museum scene. In it Kate catches the eye of a stranger and the two engage in a stalking game that plays out spectacularly and seductively. The roles of cat and mouse switch between the lonely Kate and the stranger, ultimately making us part of the voyeuristic tapestry at work . Without barely a line of dialogue, De Palma pulls out every trick in the book; finding an array of expressive angles and movements to put us in the moment and tell a story simply through visual impact. It’s a scene where everything comes together as an example of pure cinema that should be celebrated. I think to appreciate Dressed to Kill it is best to watch it a few times to take in how well crafted it all is. You genuinely notice little bits that seemed trivial at first, yet have a massive bearing on the creeping proceedings, something which Brian De Palma chooses to have fun with. So for all the head-scratching moments that don’t make sense, the hints and symbolism of Dressed to Kill gleefully toy with our ideas of what we think we know. This frequently is the case of us being devilishly lead astray and made to believe one thing( when in fact it’s something quite different) and that’s where quite a lot of the watchability of Dressed to Kill lies. The macabre humour seeping through Dressed to Kill also adds to this; finding irony in pretty dark and perilous situations before turning up the chills for effect. Granted, some instances feel a bit much, the level of dark comedy is a welcome and quite unexpected quality put into often sardonic effect here. Dressed to Kill is a little bit over praised at least in my book, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that it’s still a pretty nifty and swift thriller of panache that still made an impact on me. A gloriously grand and frequently alluring score plays into the dark and sexually prominent tones of the film right off the bat.

Angie Dickinson is very effective( especially given the fact that most of her performance has no dialogue). Through the little nuances of her face, we witness her boredom and sadness with her marriage, as well as how she craves sexual excitement. A beautiful woman with an aura of class and sexiness, Angie Dickinson plays the ill-fated woman exceptionally. Michael Caine is rightfully detached and urbane as the psychiatrist who seems relatively calm, but who may in fact be something else. With sublime subtlety, Caine brings a level of class and maybe a touch of enigma, without going overboard which is a credit to his abilities as an actor. Nancy Allen is pretty good as the quick talking Liz, who is sucked into the most twisted case and must prove her own innocence. The part is pretty much a standard hooker with a heart of gold trope, but Allen plays it well and makes her a likable girl sticking to her wits. The unlikely hero role of Kate’s investigating son Peter is filled out splendidly by Keith Gordon, whose gawky appearance and unwavering collection of detective moves make him a relatable down-to-Earth teenager looking for answers in his mother’s death. In a flashy supporting role, Dennis Franz provides a lot of the sardonic humour as a tough-talking and hard-boiled detective, with a seasoned attitude to match. He’s not in the movie a lot, but when he is, Franz is a delight as the salty and uncouth man investigating the baffling murder.

Silly as parts of it get, Dressed to Kill stands out for its visual impact and De Palma verve on display. Logic is not exactly present, but the fun of Dressed to Kill lies in its often shocking and macabre content that ratchets up suspense and sprinkles it with a knowing, ironic wink. At tad overrated in my book, but still a highly effective and surprising thriller displaying the skill of Brian De Palma.