To Catch a Thief

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Film Title

To Catch a Thief

Director

Alfred Hitchcock

Starring

  • Cary Grant as John Robie
  • Grace Kelly as Frances Stevens
  • Jessie Royce Landis as Jessie Stevens
  • John Williams as Hughson

A witty, scintillating romantic thriller from the iconic Alfred Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief finds the master at his most playful and arch. This lush gem of a movie is super gorgeous to look at and soars to greatness thanks to the star pairing of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

John Robie is a retired jewel thief who lives in a villa just off the French Riviera. Once dubbed ‘The Cat’ and the best in the field of burglary, he has now turned his back on his old stomping ground. But he’s about to be dragged into it again thanks to a spate of high-profile thefts along the coast. All the cases involved the gorgeous and very expensive jewelry of the rich and well-known. Wanted by the police and with only a handful of old contacts trusting him, he attempts to evade capture and arrest for something he hasn’t done. Thanks to an insurance man Hughson, who has the knowledge of who owns the best gems, he comes into contact with the very beautiful Frances Stevens and her flouncy mother Jessie. Frances is a seemingly icy girl with boredom to contend with, but John discovers she lusts after something thrilling and even dangerous. Both begin a flirtation that ignites her curiosity over who he really is and what to do about it. Meanwhile, John sees the opportunity to bait the real thief with jewels belonging to the wealthy widow Jessie. But it’s not as easy to prove his innocence as thief is gearing up again and the dalliance with Frances is growing deeper.

To Catch a Thief has Alfred Hitchcock in relaxed and bubbly mode; teasing the audience in just who the real thief could be and whether John and France’s will become a couple. Hitchcock is having a whale of a time with the sexy interplay and mystery of the piece; utilising his bag of exceptional tricks to marvellously entertaining effect amid gorgeous scenery and attractive stars. His elegant hands are all over To Catch a Thief and it’s all the better for us that we have the master movie maker delivering the goods with customary high quality. Some may dismiss it as lightweight Hitchcock, but even if that is the case, it’s darn entertaining. I might not put it up there as one of Hitchcock’s classics, but any Hitchcock is better than most and that is something I stand by cinematically. A cracker of a script blends elements of caper, humour, seductiveness and thriller into a pretty and polished product that presents a lighter side to Hitch. And it’s amazing how much innuendo To Catch a Thief manages to pack into its frames. From Frances asking John whether he’d like a (chicken) breast or a leg to the memorable deduction that is inter cut with fireworks wildly exploding to signify passion, this movie is definitely not short on suggested naughtiness. This cheeky approach greatly benefits the movie and is impressive, especially considering how movies back when this was released where often at the mercy of the censors. Lush cinematography that deservedly garnered an Oscar and splendidly detailed costumes are a cherry on top of a finely made cake. And of course, the sweeping and romantic music is a big plus throughout To Catch a Thief’s running time.

Cary Grant, the King of suave, is on solid and fine ground as the former jewel thief trying to clear his name. His lightness of touch and twinkle in his eyes is just right for this movie and showcase him at his most charismatic. Complimenting Grant is the gorgeous Grace Kelly, who never looked more lovely or sensual as she did here. She spars nicely and seductively with Grant, by exhibiting a kittenish and sly demeanor that is very becoming as she plays with his feelings in a bid for thrills. And you can’t miss the sizzling chemistry shared between both stars that practically radiates whenever they’re in proximity of each other. It’s the kind of sexual tension you’d want to bottle up it’s that impressively shown. Jessie Royce Landis and John Williams both lend some fine support to proceedings too.

A gorgeous romance and thriller with oodles of style and sexy moments, To Catch a Thief presents Hitchcock at his most cheeky and in the mood to entertain. A breezy quality is very apparent, plus his numerous directorial stamps blending with sublime sights of the French Riviera.

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Paddington

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Film Title

Paddington

Director

Paul King

Starring

  • Ben Whishaw as Paddington Bear
  • Hugh Bonneville as Henry Brown
  • Sally Hawkins as Mary Brown
  • Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird
  • Nicole Kidman as Millicent
  • Madeleine Harris as Judy Brown
  • Samuel Joslin as Jonathan Brown
  • Peter Capaldi as Mr. Curry
  • Jim Broadbent as Mr. Gruber
  • Michael Gambon as Uncle Pastuzo
  • Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy

A sprightly, adventure-filled and heartwarming take on the classic stories of Michael Bond’s marmalade loving, eponymous bear, Paddington is one of those movies that it’s hard to find fault with. Primarily, this stems from the fact it’s so much fun and an utter delight of comedy, heart and wonder.

We begin in the jungles of Darkest Peru, where we discover an English explorer happening upon two very intelligent bears with a love of marmalade. In time, he teaches them about modern life and even gets them to talk. Before heading back to civilisation he promises them a home in London if they should ever need it. The two bears, named Pastuzo and Lucy, have a nephew with them many years later; a curious and fun-loving bear who shares their taste for marmalade. But their harmony is shattered when an earthquake hits and kills Uncle Pastuzo. Aunt Lucy is getting older and can’t take care of Paddington as she once could. she remembers the explorer’s words of promise about there always being a home in London. Stowing her nephew into a cargo ship, she bids him farewell in the hope he will find a happy, new home. Upon arrival in London, he is met with hostility and all hope for a lovely, caring family to take care of him seems lost. That is until he encounters the Brown Family at Paddington Station. The mother, Mary, gives him the name Paddington and being a kind, considerate person, she offers to house him in her home. Her fussy and killjoy husband Henry, who is obsessed with keeping things risk-free, is completely against the idea of Paddington living with them. The children Judy and Jonathan, are thrilled to have Paddington with them, despite their father’s trepidation. Paddington is most curious to know more about the professor who visited Darkest Peru all those years ago and roping the family into things, he gets them into a whirl of unintentional mischief and laughs. But there is an evil taxidermist by the name of Millicent who has discovered Paddington and will stop at nothing to make him part of her sinister collection, now on his tail. Cue much mayhem, thrills and adventure for the bear and the Brown Family.

Paul King directs with an enormous amount of heart, humour and deeply felt love that explodes from almost every frame. It will take someone with a real damp view of life to not smile or have fun with a movie such as this. King just pushes all the right buttons of raucous humour, heartfelt sentiment and just plain adventure in a way that is spellbinding and an utter delight throughout. sense of magic and feel good factor it has going for it. It’s adventure of the highest level that proves totally sprightly and accessible to all ages. The blending of CGI in the title character and the real-life surroundings, that are continuously colourful, is seamlessly done. On a visual level, Paddington scores major points. The bright as a button colour scheme and adventurous ways of showcasing this zany fable are here in a glorious pot of love. And speaking of love, the film truly gets across the message of accepting people and loving one another beautifully and with clarity. The humour covers a wide spectrum from the mischievous and playful(Paddington accidentally flooding the Brown’s bathroom for starters) to nods and winks to older members of the audience, without missing a beat or getting overstuffed. It’s rare to come across a film such as Paddington that can be a ball for everyone watching. It has a style and care to it that many movies that aim for every age can sometimes miss in the long run. The high-reaching and upbeat score are on full duty; bringing out the simply amazing story and film that it accompanies. Put quite simply, you couldn’t ask for a more enchanting movie than Paddington.

Ben Whishaw beautifully voices the title bear with a childlike adventure and sense of mischief. His relaxing tones and enthusiasm can be heard so well that it’s really difficult to imagine another person voicing Paddington with the same skill as Whishaw has. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins play well off one another as total opposite mum and dad. Bonneville is staid, careful and unwilling to entertain fancy notions, Hawkins is imaginative, lovely and slightly zany. Both consummate actors invest a lot into their respective roles(which also goes for pretty much the entire cast, who are finely assembled). The ever-dependable Julie Walters has a whole bundle of fun as the elderly relative of the Brown’s, whose quick wit and precision with cleaning ensures things are up to her tidy standards. Nicole Kidman is a dark delight as the villain of the piece; a Cruella like woman who wants to add Paddington to her collection. Kidman is both menacing and tongue in cheek funny, while also embodying something seductively devious too. It’s obvious that she had a really fun time playing this type of character just from the looks on her face. Child actors Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin are ideal for the roles of the Brown children who take the bear under their wing. Peter Capaldi is very amusing and slimy as the local nosy neighbour getting in trouble with the evil taxidermist, while Jim Broadbent provides sage as a man who helps point Paddington in the direction of what he seeks. Briefly found voicing Paddington’s relatives in Darkest Peru are Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton, whose pathos and warmth are felt from the get go, despite only being on the screen for a short duration.

Hilarious, riotously entertaining and aimed at all ages, Paddington takes its place as a firm favourite that will pull you in with its message of family and its massive beating centre that is the lovable bear.

An Announcement for February

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I’ve spoken in the past of my love and support of women directors. So I thought for February, my blog should review mostly movies directed by females. I’m very much looking forward to doing this and reviewing some excellent movies, plus highlighting the sheer talent and work ethic of female directors.

Some of the films I’ll be checking out are;

  • The Hitch-Hiker ( Ida Lupino)
  • Viceroy’s House ( Gurinder Chadha)
  • Belle ( Amma Asante)
  • Blue Steel( Kathryn Bigelow)
  • Our Kind of Traitor ( Susanna White)
  • In the Cut( Jane Campion)

Red Eye

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Film Title

Red Eye

Director

Wes Craven

Starring

  • Rachel McAdams as Lisa Reisert
  • Cillian Murphy as Jackson Ripper
  • Brian Cox as Joe Reisert

Wes Craven takes to the air for this suspenseful little thriller that is lean, mean and nail-biting stuff. Red Eye, with many a Hitchcockian element to it, doesn’t aspire to be something brand spanking new; its main objective is to thrill and that’s what it does.

Lisa Reisert is a hotel manager whose life is all about dealing with tough customers and complaints. We pick up with her in Dallas, where she has just attended the funeral of her Grandmother. She’s not the biggest fan of flying, but is going to catch the red-eye flight back to Miami. Unfortunately, her flight is delayed and she has to wait around for a little while. It’s here that she meets the polite and handsome Jackson Ripper, who engages in friendly talk with her. When the flight is ready, they are happy and bemused to see that they are sitting next to each other on the plane. Though he keeps Lisa calm, there’s something not quite right about Jackson which becomes abundantly clear to us and her. What started as flirting and charming conversation soon turns to something very sinister as the plane takes off. Jackson admits to being part of a terrorist organisation that needs Lisa’s expertise in a deadly plan. You see the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security is staying in the hotel Lisa works in and the people Jackson works for are planning an elaborate assassination for him. They just need Lisa to switch his room for it to be successful. As leverage to ensure she takes part, Jackson informs the terrified Lisa that her father will be killed if his demands aren’t met. Faced with precious time that is ticking away, Lisa digs into her resolve in order to not buckle under the shock that befalls her. But just how long can she hold the evil and ruthless Jackson off before death begins to occur?

Red Eye benefits from the sure hand of Wes Craven in the directing chair. Having been one of the kings of the horror genre, his skills at inducing tension and terror are utilized here in this tightly compact suspense thriller. He gets over a real claustrophobia and paranoia that seeps into every frame, especially the main chunk that is airborne and the most unnerving. Red Eye isn’t aiming for immense originality or to be a game changing suspense movie; its most concerned with offering up something nail-biting and with more than a couple of jolts of unpredictability. economical running time makes sure that we are on the edge of our seats and no flab is seen leaking in Red Eye. The last half hour goes a bit overboard, but the build up and the tightness of most of it makes it easy to ignore and still a well constructed thriller with excitement and a whole lot of tension. The pacing is mainly where the movie is at, cleverly getting to the point after a short but bracing warm up before a white-knuckle intensity covers it splendidly. The mid-air game of sinister cat and mouse is sustained through effectively up close camerawork and  Marco Beltrami, who previously scored the haunting music for Craven’s Scream, is ace at filtering an electronic pulse into Red Eye. He starts with little drops of suspense, before cranking up the action and drama for something quickening and growing in volume.

Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy are the main players in this movie and they are talented performers. McAdams is a kind of actress who keeps things grounded and her part sympathetic and resourceful. She’s no screaming victim and though under duress, she makes her part one of both believable smarts and vulnerability. Cillian Murphy, with his intense stare and icy blue eyes, is superbly cast as the seemingly charming man who is anything but. Nastiness is his middle name but you can also sense some form of desperation to get his job done no matter what from the always watchable Murphy. Together, both are engaged in a deadly hunter and prey routine that is extremely entertaining. Although his appearance is rather sporadic, it’s always good to see Brian Cox in a movie and he is worth the watch no matter how small the role.

A tense and efficient thriller, Red Eye shows Wes Craven directing with great economy and style to give us a cracking suspense thriller.

Carry On Spying

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Film Title

Carry On Spying

Director

Gerald Thomas

Starring

  • Kenneth Williams as Desmond Simpkins
  • Barbara Windsor as Daphne Honeybutt
  • Bernard Cribbins as Harold Crump
  • Charles Hawtrey as Charlie Bind
  • Jim Dale as Carstairs
  • Eric Barker as The Chief
  • Dilys Laye as Lila

A frequently hilarious send up of the Bond movies and Film Noir in parts, Carry On Spying is an enjoyable and fun ninth entry into the long-running movies that is also the last to be filmed in black and white. Be prepared for a riot of laughs here.

A top-secret chemical formula is stolen by an agent who plans to deliver it to an evil organisation known as STENCH. The British Secret Service are panicking at the impending doom that could grow if STENCH gets their hands on the formula. Due to budget cuts and lack of resources, the Chief has to rely on trainee agents to take part in the mission. They are headed by the snide and deluded Desmond Simpkins, and the rest consist of goofy Harold Crump, chirpy Daphne Honeybutt and clumsy Charlie Bind. They are hardly the most effective crew to retrieve something so crucial, but are aided by the fact that Daphne has an excellent photographic memory. They journey to Vienna to meet with another agent( the very Bond like Carstairs) but attempts of a rendezvous are thwarted by the incompetence of the crew and a delirious series of mix-ups that also sends them to the Algiers in search for the formula is what hilariously follows. Who ever said the spying game was just for geniuses?

Gerald Thomas is once more director and clearly on the ball with this offering of jokes and funny goings on. His sense of fun and spoofing of the spy genre is put into great effect, making the laughs flow like a nice wine. Spying is the last black and white entry of the series and it signs off from monochrome with some style and rollicking action. The long shadows of Noir, in particular The Third Man, as well as the James Bond movies, are sent up in hilarious fashion as a whole host of comedic mix-ups have the agents in all sorts of bother with the enemy. While spoofing spy movies and thrillers, Carry On Spying does have the right atmosphere for a movie of that kind, though one with a hell of a lot more zany antics. The pace is lightning quick, benefiting the often outrageous and farcical ventures the bumbling group get themselves into. It’s this efficiency and riotous laughs that are the biggest points of praise in Carry On Spying. From outrageous opening to hilarious headquarters mayhem, there’s no shortage of giggles to be had with Carry On Spying. The innuendo is there and often extremely funny, but never overtly in your face. This makes it an innocent but no less fun outing for the usual assembled gang and more in keeping with some of the earlier entries in the series. Matching the slapstick and crazy occurrences is a very lively score that is the definition of cartoonish.

Kenneth Williams is the main man here, delivering a scene-stealing turn playing the overblown nitwit who thinks he’s a lot better than he actually is. Employing a snide voice and dispensing on liners like there’s no tomorrow, Williams is on fine form from start to finish. Barbara Windsor( who’d later become something of a staple in the Carry On’s) makes her debut here with a light, funny and very cheeky performance. Often later cast as a bimbo or lusted after girl, it’s quite nice to see Windsor as sexy but somewhat more innocent than her latter outings show. It’s a nice, fizzy and wide-eyed performance as the most reliable and resourceful member of a rag-tag team and one that cements Barbara Windsor as something special in these movies. Bernard Cribbins is back following the last movie Carry On Jack, and his goofiness and timing are on point as one part of the inept agents trying to retrieve the formula in rib-tickling style. The last part of the foursome is the delightfully impish Charles Hawtrey; who is customarily camp and energetic in his manner. The main quartet work very well together and the smashing fun depicted transfers directly to the audience through their enthusiasm and brightness. Many of Spying’s laugh come from Jim Dale as a man of disguise whose always thwarted and troubled by the bumbling agents. The fact that he’s on their side and they constantly hinder his chances of glory are the stuff that chuckles are made from. Eric Barker is on familiar but humorous form playing the figure of annoyed and aggravated authority that he knows so well. Dilys Laye( her last appearance being in Carry On Cruising) nicely returns with a devilishly seductive part of a go-between agent who constantly switches sides with aplomb.

Carry On Spying is damn good fun that moves along at a scintillating pace that never lets up, making the enjoyment that much more wonderful. Definitely a high point of the Carry On Movies at least in my book that is. You’ve got a good afternoon film to watch with Carry On Spying that’s for sure and certain.

 

What Are Your Favourite Movies Directed by Women?

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As anyone who reads my blog regularly knows, I’m a big champion of women. Especially when it comes to movies; I really like bringing to attention movies directed by ladies. There are so many fine movies directed by women to speak of that I decided to glean the thoughts of everyone else. So which movies directed by women are your favourites? I’m very much looking forward to your responses.

A Comment Issue

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It would appear that I’m ending up in people’s spam folders when I comment on their posts. I’ve had this issue before and will contact the forums for help once more. Just wanted to tell everyone and inform you that I’m not avoiding you and not replying to comments. I’m trying to not let these issues get on my nerves, but it’s very difficult.

Letters to Juliet

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Film Title

Letters to Juliet

Director

Gary Winick

Starring

  • Amanda Seyfried as Sophie
  • Vanessa Redgrave as Claire
  • Christopher Egan as Charlie
  • Gael García Bernal as Victor

A gorgeously scenic and romantic movie, Letters to Juliet is a somewhat slight but nonetheless lovely film about a second chance of love and the adventure of it.

Sophie is a fact checker who wants to become a serious writer, but has always put it off due to one reason or another. She has a romantic getaway before her wedding planned for her and her husband to be Victor. He is a chef whose main priority is making time for his new business venture, leaving little in the way of time spent with Sophie. They go to Verona, where Victor is overly busy with things for his restaurant. This means that Sophie explores the romantic and historical place alone. On one such day, she encounters the Secretaries of Juliet; women who answer the lovelorn letters left at the fictional heroine’s house. Helping the ladies with their tasks in an attempt to inspire her own writing, Sophie discovers a hidden letter in a crack in the wall where many leave their questions. The letter is over fifty years old and was written by Englishwoman Claire, who poured her heart out about having to leave her beloved Lorenzo behind. She believes she must right back and does so, little suspecting anything will happen as a result. Which is why she gets the shock of her life when Claire, who is now older and widowed, turns up in Verona following Sophie’s advice. Her foppish and snobby grandson Charlie is also there and immediately berates Sophie for what he says as foolish actions. Claire on the other hand is a lot more understanding and grateful to Sophie and wishes to find her Lorenzo, all of these years later. She is hoping for a second chance with her soul mate, having left her romance with him in the back of her mind. Charlie is completely reluctant to do so, but is strong-armed into it by his Grandmother and begrudgingly, Sophie. In the course of all this searching in Italy, Claire’s journey causes Sophie to examine her own relationship with her soon to be husband and how it may not be quite what she expected. Potential romance may come in the form of Charlie , but it’s chalk and cheese at first for the mismatched pair.

Gary Winick’s direction is bright and bubbly, wrapping us in a whirl of rose-tinted romance and soul-searching. He does a commendable job and plays to the audiences expectations in a way that’s reassuring as we are fully aware of the outcome. The Italian surroundings and setting are simply put magnificent. With an old-fashioned golden sheen that is irresistible to the eye, faith in love and adventure set in ideally. You can’t help but feel romantic when watching Letters to Juliet. Don’t expect big surprises from Letters to Juliet as it’s doubtful you’ll find any. But that almost adds to the virtue of the film; it doesn’t make any pretence about what it is. It’s a gorgeous, almost fairy tale like story of romance and unlikely circumstance that will get even the most cynical to crack a grin. Plus, the feeling of familiarity is very comforting as you have a great idea of the luscious content of the movie. It’s the last half of Letters to Juliet that really drags on, though the parts before it are agreeable and make up for the overly long areas. The score is acceptable enough while being nothing too mind-blowing or original, which is to say it does the job in the expected way of romantic movies.

Amanda Seyfried heads the cast with plenty of winsome appeal and loveliness. Her fresh face and sincerity can’t be faulted as they are too inviting to resist. it’s not a stretch of a role, but one Seyfried plays well nonetheless. It is Vanessa Redgrave who truly comes alive and is one of the best things in Letters to Juliet. With her simply mesmerising voice and air of class, balanced by something fun-loving, it is a fine showcase from a special actress. With just a look, you can feel her desire, longing and quiet regret so beautifully. The film simply wouldn’t be the same without her clout and dignity. Christopher Egan has the handsomeness and posh demeanor that is right for the part of Charlie, whose snotty antics are subdued by Sophie in a gradual way, while Gael García Bernal is rightly self-absorbed as Sophie’s man whose interest in his own business seems to come before her.

While wholly predictable, the gorgeousness and the fact that it’s heart is in the right places ensures that Letters to Juliet is an enjoyable and light experience.

Blogging Resolutions

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With it being a New Year, I decided to do some resolutions of what I want to achieve on my blog this year. They are as follows:

  • Write about movies in the cinema and get out to the cinema more.
  • Continue to review television by discovering shows that are new to me.
  • Use Netflix to catch up with older movies and recent additions.
  • Expand my viewing horizons once more.

Does anyone else have any suggestions? They would be most welcome.