2010's, Alicia Silverstone, Barry Keoghan, Colin Farrell, Horror, Nicole Kidman, Psychological Horror, Psychological Thriller, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lanthimos
- Colin Farrell as Steven Murphy
- Nicole Kidman as Anna Murphy
- Barry Keoghan as Martin
- Raffey Cassidy as Kim Murphy
- Sunny Suljic as Bob Murphy
- Alicia Silverstone as Martin’s Mother
An unsettling psychological horror with the trademark Yorgos Lanthimos touch and reference to Greek myth, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is very disturbing but impossible to turn away from.
Cardiologist Steven Murphy has it all; a great career, a beautiful ophthalmologist wife Anna and two young, well-behaved children, Kim and Bob. His picture perfect life in the suburbs is seemingly here to stay, but there is a tiny and disturbing hitch too it. He has a friendship with a 16-year-old boy named Martin, who he meets and showers gifts upon. Although is friendly with Martin and introduces him to his family, there is something decidedly off about the whole arrangement that you can’t shake. And soon enough, the demanding Martin, when he’s not trying to set up Steven with his mother, becomes a thorn in side. He becomes more dependent and doesn’t seem to understand that his presence is not always needed. His obsession grows and starts to worry Steven, who mainly took interest in the boy after his father, who he treated earlier, died . Then, out of nowhere, Bob loses the use of his legs and is hospitalised. This is soon followed by Kim, which begins to have an impact on Anna who is in the dark on what is happening. Steven starts to unravel too as things turn worse for his idyllic family and he’s thrown into a tailspin. Yet as illness sets in, an increasingly menacing Martin reminds Steven of a past mistake of his that links to the young boy’s life. Soon everything is under crisis and Steven’s existence is torn apart by his past actions and the boy who wants to even what he sees as the score.
With a catalogue of films that revel in dark subject matter, unusually black humour and an all round weirdness, Yorgos Lanthimos has really made a name for him. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is Yorgos Lanthimos working fluently and creatively to fashion a story of deep-seated revenge and culpability. He has this bubbling intensity and creeping eeriness that happens right from the startling opening of an open heart surgery. You know from that point on it’s going to be a disturbing movie, but what a movie it is. Lanthimos is in control here; cold and calculating in the style of Stanley Kubrick whose work clearly has an imprint. And while Martin is what seems to be the main antagonist of the piece, the other characters also sport unusual tendencies that mark them out as not as innocent or polished as they outwardly appear. For example, Steven is an arrogant man who can’t handle not being able to exercise control over things. This extends to his love life with his wife, who he has pretend to be under anaesthetic when getting intimate. The deadpan, almost robotic way of talking that has come to populate the work of Lanthimos is here, but does also allow for shadings of emotion and drama in there. And the uneasy and uncomfortable humour further sears itself on to the mind, as characters behave in ways that seem at once alien and yet so ordinary. It’s the kind of humour that you don’t know whether to laugh at or question, and is all the better for it. It sure keeps you on your toes as you navigate another weird world from the mind of Yorgos Lanthimos. And though some of it might sound familiar to lovers of psychological horror, it’s the execution that truly counts and Sacred Deer delivers with its own twist on things.
With long corridors of scrubbed white, cavernous interiors and a zooming, voyeuristic camera, The Killing of a Sacred Deer also deserves praises for what it visually gets across to the viewer. It’s a sinister and slithering atmosphere of increased dread as evil and retribution combine and you feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Credit must go to the cinematographer that is Thimios Bakatakis for imbuing The Killing of a Sacred Deer with such an impending aura of doom and inevitable woe. We often observe characters from a distance or from a looming height; neatly edited and giving the impression of spying on events as they take shape. The whole psychological aspect of having to make a horrifying decision for something you’ve done is creepy and more than makes its mark on you as the gears of tension continue turning. Discordant strings telegraph that something is not right from the word go and the addition of opera accentuates the tragedy here. The film is influenced by a Greek myth that gives the movie its title and accordingly, the swelling and rumbling of music heralds the approaching agony of loss and blame. Those looking for a comfortable viewing experiences better check those expectations at the door as The Killing of a Sacred Deer is not one for the easily frightened or spooked.
Colin Farrell, who was so good in The Lobster, plays someone spineless and full of themselves here. His character’s life is so meticulous and to his liking that it’s given a royal kicking when horror unravels. Sporting a bushy beard and his real accent, Farrell is extremely watchable as the cardiologist haunted by the past. Equally as good is the ever dependable Nicole Kidman, who’s been on a roll recently with her performances. With her face that silently projects inner turmoil and frazzled intensity, she’s ideal for the role here that could have easily just been a throwaway part. With Kidman in it, it’s impossible for it to be anything less than stellar, particularly when she comes into her own in the latter half of the film and everything gets laid bare. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is my first introduction to young actor Barry Keoghan. And if the rest of career is as good as his work here, great things await him indeed. He has this naturally mysterious and sinister presence, complimented by how he speaks the dialogue in a halting but intimidating way. It’s enough to set you on edge and Keoghan knocks it out the park as a vengeful teen, dishing out his brand of justice to an idyllic family. Raffey Cassidy plays the daughter of Steven and Anna; who is drawn to Martin even though he’s the one out to ruin her family. Young Sunny Suljic portrays the son, who is the first to fall ill and crank up the eeriness. And it’s nice to see Alicia Silverstone back on screen again with a very memorable one scene performance. She gets the movie’s best line after she is rejected by Steven for putting the moves on him. Everyone gets in to the mindset of the film and the unusual demands of it.
A spine-chilling, deeply unnerving and memorable horror/thriller with psychological terror at the centre, The Killing of a Secret Deer is a haunting movie that is hard to shake off.
A suspenseful, occasionally darkly funny and very addictive series, Big Little Lies tackles the myth of perfection in a seemingly ideal place that unravels with a deep-seated mystery. Bolstered by superb work from the cast, primarily the ladies, Big Little lies pulls you in with its story and visuals. This review will contain some spoilers, but I promise not to ruin the big mystery.
In Monterey, California, a murder occurs. But we are not privy to who the victim is and why it ended with the taking of life. Flashing back to the start, we build a series of events within the picturesque surroundings that are dark and enigmatic. It all begins with the arrival of Jane Chapman(Shailene Woodley), a single mother who enters the community with her son Ziggy at the beginning of the school year. She is befriended by the fierce Madeline Martha Mackenzie(Reese Witherspoon); a resident queen bee who prides herself on knowing everything and everyone. Jane also meets the elegant Celeste Wright(Nicole Kidman), a former lawyer who gave up her career to raise twin boys. All three are linked by children in the first grade and everything starts to happen on orientation day. Ziggy is accused of assaulting Amabella, the daughter of the highly strung business mum Renata(Laura Dern). This drives a wedge between people and Madeline draws a line in the sand as she’s never liked Renata and lets it be known. From that moment, things start to unravel for the women of the area. The lives of these women appear to be ideal, but scratching beneath the surface unearths another story.They all have their secrets that they attempt to keep under wraps, such as something dark in Jane’s past that she’s running away from, Madeline’s feelings that her daughter is slipping away from her( plus a past affair) and Celeste being in a volatile marriage where she is frequently abused by her husband Perry( Alexander Skarsgård )but can’t seem to leave him. With us knowing that someone is going to end up dead, things get darker and more revealing as the facade of perfection slips and the various events culminate in death for someone.
The first thing that gets your attention about Big Little Lies is the script. It’s both bitingly funny when focusing on society’s image of perfection and alternately darker in the next breath. Having the framing device of a gossiping Greek chorus of supporting characters giving their views on events provides much in the way of intrigue and humour. We go from zingers, bitching at the schoolyard, secrets hidden behind the closed doors of seeming bliss and female bonds are just some of the areas Big Little Lies goes into with its blend of wit, mystery and entertainment. From a stylistic point of view, this show is intoxicating. With the talented Jean-Marc Vallée on direction duties, it’s not surprising that Big Little Lies is such a hit. The vistas of the sea and the fabulous houses that the characters reside in provide much in the way of eye candy. And the editing and direction of the whole thing is very on point. Often, scenes blur into each other and the past bleeds with the present in unique ways that you get more accustomed to as the story gathers momentum. Montage and scenes cut to specific music abound and entice in how they connect the women and display just what’s really going on inside this bubble of supposed domestic paradise.
One of the biggest draws of Big Little Lies is how the mystery stems from the fact that we aren’t told who the murder victim is. Instead, the series flashes back to what lead to the act, excellently drip feeding us with occasional information about it. Most shows would have established who it is that was deceased, but Big Little Lies has other things on its mind to blow the big enigma straight away. Never mind whodunnit, it’s more like a who did it to who in the best possible way. And one shouldn’t forget that Big Little Lies goes to some disturbing places that put jolts into the action and are frequently shocking. Blending both humour and uncomfortable issues, it’s a show that in a sure-footed manner straddles each aspect with an eye for unearthing what sinister and pressure filled things are lurking beneath society’s obsession with paradise. And the succession of strong and rounded female characters is yet another praise worthy part of Big Little Lies. Whether lying, helping each other or trying to deal with life struggles, the vision of women is one that is excellently executed. And the last scenes of female solidarity are some of the best in the show and proudly showcase the excellence at hand here.
Reese Witherspoon heads the cast with energy as the local watcher of all things around her and someone you don’t want to cross. Madeline as a character has a lot of layers and is not just the overprotective and domineering woman of the one-dimensional variety. Witherspoon and her natural perkiness are on show mixed with something more bitchy and flamboyant, yet tempered by hidden fears and insecurity. Nicole Kidman is riveting as the quiet and seemingly calm Celeste, whose life is so much more complicated than it seems to others. With Nicole Kidman essaying mystery and a very complex set of turmoil through nuances, you can’t help but be in awe of her talent. Her eyes are always searching for an answer to her future and are subtly but movingly expressive. Kidman’s ability to register so many emotions in a restrained manner is simply marvellous to watch as she covers such a wide array of feelings within the character of Celeste. Shailene Woodley portrays the youngest mother in Jane, who is something of an outsider in the community. She’s our vantage point into this world of mothers, children and image and one that is terrified yet determined to build a new life for herself and her son. Woodley suggests inner suffering and a deep love for her son in many excellent ways that are explored by her skill and ease in the part. Stealing a lot of scenes with intense and fierce action is Laura Dern. She stars as the pushy, overprotective and snotty mother who lauds her businesswoman acumen over everyone yet can’t cope when things don’t go her way. She manages to be both aggressive and funny within minutes of each other. Zoë Kravitz has the right free spirit and bohemian charm for the role of Bonnie; who is married to Madeline’s former husband and not exactly popular with Madeline who sees her as being too perfect.
The rest of the characters are fleshed out by an array of fine actors. Alexander Skarsgård exudes menace as a weak man whose insecurities are exposed when he beats his wife and feels like he has some power. A loathsome character, Skarsgård plays his to a tee. Adam Scott showcases his nice, average guy persona but colours it with areas of resentment that make him interesting to watch. James Tupper is childish and up for an argument playing Madeline’s former husband who can’t resist confrontation with Adam Scott’s character. And then there is the relaxed and chilled out Jeffrey Nordling, who compliments Dern’s manic behaviour with his no cares attitude. The men are great in Big Little Lies, but the show belongs to the women of the cast who turn in exemplary work.
A highly addictive series that is funny, dramatic and mystery, Big Little Lies is hard to resist, especially with a cast like this and direction this good. And if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the opening titles to entice you.
2010's, Adventure, Ben Whishaw, Comedy, Hugh Bonneville, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Madeleine Harris, Michael Gambon, Nicole Kidman, Paddington, Paul King, Peter Capaldi, Sally Hawkins, Samuel Joslin
- 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.
- Colin Farrell as Corporal John McBurney
- Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha Farnsworth
- Kirsten Dunst as Edwina Morrow
- Elle Fanning as Alicia
- Oona Laurence as Amy
- Angourie Rice as Jane
Previously filmed in 1971, The Beguiled gets a reworking courtesy of Sofia Coppola and its different approach makes it one memorable movie of mounting tension and burgeoning sensuality.
It is 1864, Virginia and the Civil War is in motion. A young girl by the name of Amy from a nearby school for young girls, is out gathering mushrooms for food. She comes across Corporal John McBurney, a badly wounded Union Soldier and deserter. Helping him, Amy brings the unconscious man to her school. Here we meet the stalwart headmistress Miss Martha Farnsworth, vulnerable and melancholy teacher Edwina Morrow, and a few students, including teasing and bored teenager Alicia. There is curiosity among the girls about the man; many thinking it treason to harbor the enemy, but also a pang of sexuality as there hasn’t been a man around the isolated place for a long time. All of the ladies at the school in one way or another find themselves attracted to and curious about the handsome man in their residence. For the protective Martha, he is something that is tempting but troubling to her position of power. To shy Edwina, he is a decent man who seems to treat her with compassion. And to the precocious Alicia, he is something to project her kittenish desires on to. With the other younger girls, particularly Amy, John is something of a mysterious but friendly stranger. McBurney, while convalescing, does nothing to stop fanning the flames he has stoked and proceeds to flirt with the women. Largely, he manages to ingratiate himself into the hearts of the surrounding women, hoping to remain at the school and not return to the battlefield. Yet his trifling with their emotions in such a confined setting, will not be tolerated once fevered feelings finally get aired. The women themselves, particularly Martha, Edwina and Alicia, find themselves vying for his attentions and wrestling with romantic and lustful feelings. Soon events become complex for all the ladies, as the attraction and jealousies give way to irrevocable circumstances that tear the school to pieces in the wake of deception and anguish.
Sofia Coppola is at the helm of this steamy tale of repression and revenge, and goes about it with a finely tuned subtlety that is its chief asset. In comparison with the Don Siegel version that was more lurid and in your face(effectively so too), Coppola’s interpretation is more on the side of suggestion and nuance. Stifled desires and flurries of jealousy are glimpsed in actions and facial expressions, finding an unspoken way to project the inevitable chaos that will ring out soon enough. The tale, under the direction of Sofia Coppola, takes shape from a woman’s point of view, featuring the female gaze as opposed to the male one that so many films favour. John is repeatedly observed and lusted after in a variety of ways, most memorably when Martha sponge baths him and has to stop as her stifled desire is beginning to surface above her ladylike visage. A surprisingly sly wit also courses through the movie’s veins, which is unexpected but most welcome in the end. Themes of isolation and female identity have been explored through Coppola’s filmography already, but The Beguiled finds it in a darker setting. The choice by Coppola to have The Beguiled focus on the women primarily is a beneficial one, that allows expansion of character but also levels of surprising ambiguity. Plus, we aren’t told what to think about these people, rather it lets us make our minds up over their actions and consequences as they slowly become unsheathed. Who is really being beguiled in the film? Both John and the group of ladies exhibit signs of it, but the grey areas are what makes it so much more compelling to watch. Sofia Coppola has focused on isolation and female loneliness in her filmography successfully, here in The Beguiled, it lends itself excellently to this darker story that displays her command over suspense. While The Beguiled is definitely a psychological drama, a thriller element as the temperature rises, emerges under Coppola’s command. She shows she’s got a dab hand at creating tension; starting in the most subtle of ways before layering it with more prominent menace as John’s stay pulls apart the fabric of the female dominated house but comes around to find him in the process. Some of it can feel a tiny bit too gentle for such a tense story, but this is a minor quibble because the overall subtlety and open to interpretation approach lends The Beguiled an immensely watchable and tightly compact air. The evocative cinematography, based on shadowy bronze and occasional smattering of natural light, heightens the intensely claustrophobic cage that is the school, both for the women and John. A lot of it takes place within the aura of candlelight and closed curtains, further reinforcing the Southern Gothic entrapment of John and the tightly wound wheels of passion that are just fit to burst. There is an element of a very dark fairy tale present in the visuals, with the shafts of light through trees both coming off as beautiful and strange. And look out for the final shot of this movie, trust me it’s one that really speaks volumes and is strikingly executed. A sparse but effective score gathers momentum as darkness creeps into the tale.
Colin Farrell has the dashing good looks but also the talent to play the catalyst of The Beguiled. He is definitely someone who is manipulative and insincere in his promises, but an added depth comes out. Farrell brings with him a vulnerability that ultimately brings about his conniving behaviour, effectively he is brought down by his own plans. While Farrell is impressive in his part, the main focus of The Beguiled is the women. And they deliver brilliant work along the way. Nicole Kidman is both steely and motherly as the headmistress, who is not immune to feelings of passion that are stirred by John’s arrival. Through her watchful yet conflicted eyes, Kidman splendidly discovers a tough will and domineering hold over all who she sees; she is both protector and something of a jailer at the same time. For me, Kirsten Dunst, who has long been one of my favourite actresses, is the standout when starring as the wounded and easily lead Edwina. Her face presents a palpable sadness and a sincere hope of something that will take her away from the life she leads, a hope she thinks John will assist in. But Dunst also manages to inhabit something unpredictable in Edwina once betrayed, that rises with the jealousy of the characters around her. It’s an understated but very memorable performance. Elle Fanning, all pouting lips and come hither glances, nicely plays the teasing seductive student whose interest in John is far from wholesome. Young Oona Laurence makes a mark with a wide-eyed portrayal of children’s innocence, while Angourie Rice also stands out as one of the students growing attracted to the man in the school.
A decidedly Gothic and arresting drama of psychological desire and it’s consequences, The Beguiled finds Sofia Coppola stepping our of her comfort zone a little and fashioning something very haunting. Strikingly composed and executed, plus boasting some fine acting from a largely female cast, The Beguiled is very worthy of the praise it has been receiving.
- Ewan McGregor as Christian
- Nicole Kidman as Satine
- Jim Broadbent as Harold Zidler
- Richard Roxburgh as The Duke
- John Leguizamo as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
An utterly fantastical, spectacular musical romance, Moulin Rouge is a marvel to behold. With artistic flair and daring panache, Baz Luhrmann crafts an ambitious and boldly mounted extravaganza combining humour, passion and music.
The time is 1900 and young dreamy poet Christian moves to Montmartre, Paris to be among the burgeoning Bohemian writing movement. It isn’t long until Christian comes into contact with the eccentric Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his artistic circle. After seeing Christian’s deep talent for words, Toulouse and his friends persuade him to help them finish writing their new show that they want to sell. They take Christian to the decadent dance hall Moulin Rouge, were the dancing is frantic, the atmosphere charged and the sexuality is through the roof as it also doubles as a bordello. It is a place where the rich folk of Paris mingles with the underworld in gaudy business, boozy antics and seedy dealings. The plan is to sell the play to the garrulous owner and impresario Harold Zidler. The star of the Moulin Rouge is a beautiful courtesan named Satine who is a talented singer and wants to be an actress. Upon meeting her after a series of mishaps when she believes he is someone else, Christian is instantly in love and his way with poetry and genuine emotion soon makes these feelings reciprocated by the stunning Satine. The hitch to their flourishing romance is when Harold gets an investor for the play in the form of the unscrupulous Duke, who wants to be bound to Satine and slowly comes to see that Satine has feelings for someone else which causes his anger to considerably rise. As Christian and Satine conduct a concealed affair, there is also the secret matter that Satine is tragically dying of consumption. As the day of the show nears, love, jealousy and tragedy collide in spectacular fashion as the show must go on.
As soon as the movie starts with something akin to a fanfare, you just know that Moulin Rouge is going to be something special. Baz Luhrmann launches us into an intoxicating world of artistic flourishes and grand passions that benefits from and soars because of stunning set design, costumes and visuals. The way he shoots the scenes within the title dance hall are fantastic with quick cuts and a kinetic pace mixing as colourful skirts are lifted in the can can, decadent joy comes alive and a promise of love emerges for Christian in an exotic atmosphere. Moulin Rouge is nothing short of a feast for the senses and ears and Luhrmann knows how to engross us in a spellbinding fable with a tragic heart at the centre of it all. I especially love how the musical numbers are songs that are modern and transported into the old-fashioned setting with cheeky panache and chutzpah. I can’t explain why but I really get a kick out of hearing these contemporary numbers being performed in an archaic environment. Now there are those that will argue that Moulin Rouge is nothing more than grandiose style over substance. I can see where people may be coming from with that accusation, but I for one was too swept up in the movie and found that while the style was overwhelming in parts, there was still interesting characters and a love story in it that left me moved. The romance between Christian and Satine has a feeling of magic to it, they are really meant to be together but ultimately fate my have other plans for these designs and won’t let it be an easy ride for either.
Ewan McGregor is ideally cast as the naive poet Christian, who believes with all his being that love is essential to life. McGregor has a really genuine and earnest way about him here that we sympathise with Christian as his love for Satine is threatened by other forces. One should also note his excellent vocal skills that are mightily impressive to hear. The same can be said of Nicole Kidman, whose singing voice can be described as heavenly. She exudes such a vibrancy, joy and ultimately desperate sadness as the showgirl Satine slowly dying but finding her one true love. Kidman gives her all to the part and shows a flair for seductive comic scenes as well as deep emotional ones that show her incredible range. The ever-reliable Jim Broadbent steals every scene he’s in with his gusto, sense of humour and outrageous look as the showman Harold, who watches over his stars of the show but in particular Satine. Richard Roxburgh has a snake-like quality that he cloaks his character of The Duke in that makes him a very nasty piece of work indeed. John Leguizamo is an utter delight as the impish Toulouse who brings Christian into his circle of artists and writers.
Bold, breathtaking and impressively splendid, Moulin Rouge is simply put a wonderful musical brimming with life.
- Nicole Kidman as Grace
- Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs Bertha Mills
- Alakina Mann as Anne
- James Bentley as Nicholas
- Eric Sykes as Mr Tuttle
- Elaine Cassidy as Lydia
- Christopher Eccleston as Charles
A highly atmospheric psychological horror-thriller that gains its shocks from the slow building pace and expertly handled visuals, The Others is a haunting movie that is both intelligently and stylishly done. Be warned, you won’t be sitting comfortably after watching this or sleeping soundly either.
The setting is 1945 and the War has just finished. Grace lives in a gloomy isolated house on the isle of Jersey with her two children Anne and Nicholas. Her children are photosensitive and can’t be exposed to sunlight, which leaves the old mansion in a Gothic darkness most of the time with the curtains drawn and only a gaslight or candle to find one’s way. The devoutly Catholic Grace is highly strung and prone to nerves, waiting for her husband to return. She exercises a strict sense of motherhood on her young children and infuses them with strict values and morals of religion. Then, three servants arrive at the house to work, as the previous ones have disappeared. Mrs Bertha Mills is the new housekeeper and nanny, Mr Tuttle is the gardener and the mute Lydia is the maid around the old house. Around this time, strange and very odd events begin to occur within the house. The petulant Anne claims to have seen people in the house that no one else has seen. Grace hears whispers while looking around a junk room. She finds a Book of the Dead, that houses mourning portraits of the deceased. Grace initially dismisses her daughter’s claims of someone in the house, but as the events become more frequent and unusual, Grace is forced to acknowledge that there may be things in the house that she can’t explain away and maybe not of this world. The enigmatic Mrs Mills drops hints about what may be going on, but only young Anne listens to her. Now in a desperate fight to remain sane and protect her children, Grace must confront her fears that her house may be haunted and that there is something not at peace.
As writer and director, Alejandro Amenábar directs with confidence and deft skill, exposing elements of fear through use of sound and facial expressions as opposed to gore. Masterfully creepy contrasts between light and dark conjure up a Gothic atmosphere of encroaching dread and slow burning terror. When the film ventures outside of the mansion the sheer sock of seeing natural light is very unexpected and unnerving, as we’ve been plunged into this almost constant state of near darkness. Rather than having constant shocks, The Others gains momentum and chills through the build up and reveal. This makes the film very refreshing as it could have fell into cheap scares and gore, but instead focuses on character and the nature of fear in an adroit manner. The Others is a classic example of what we don’t see can be more frightening than what we do see. Showing he’s a jack of all trades, Alejandro Amenábar composes the score, that lends its haunting tones and grim sense of foreboding very well to this chiller. And that clever twist at the end will indeed leave your jaw dropping and your heart stopped. If you thought you had figured the film out, just wait for the final third to turn that on its head.
Nicole Kidman turns in a powerful performance as Grace. Embodying the shifts in emotion from smothering maternal love, stoicism, dismissal and ultimate terror, Kidman doesn’t miss a beat and her work is outstanding and gets to the heart of a really complex character finding her sanity being tested by strange and unnatural events. In fact, much of the horror in the picture and the palpable fear is generated through Kidman’s piercing blue eyes as Grace finds her sets of beliefs questioned as terror engulfs her. Fionnula Flanagan excels as the kindly but enigmatic housekeeper, who knows more than she is letting on. Alakina Mann and James Bentley as the terrified and isolated children are excellent in displaying fear and panic. Eric Sykes and Elaine Cassidy inhabit their parts as the other two servants very well, while Christopher Eccleston, despite only being seen briefly, is well cast as Grace’s long-lost husband.
Chilling, ambient and psychologically terrifying, The Others is an excellent addition to the psychological horror genre due to its style, confident direction and high calibre acting.
- Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido Contini
- Marion Cotillard as Luisa Contini
- Penélope Cruz as Carla Albanese
- Judi Dench as Lilli La Fleur
- Fergie as Saraghina
- Nicole Kidman as Claudia Jenssen
- Kate Hudson as Stephanie
- Sophia Loren as Mamma
Adapted from the musical play of the same name and inspired by Fellini’s 8 1/2, Nine is a visually lovely musical with some great sequences but the lack of emotional connection doesn’t involve. It is a flawed movie, but there are certain points to praise, even if it adds up to less than the sum of its parts.
In 1960’s Italy, Guido Contini is a well renowned film director. As he approaches middle age, he is starting to develop writer’s block and his relationships with the women in his life further complicate the matter. With a script not written and producers hounding him to make a hit movie, he begins to struggle whilst juggling the many female influences on him and his own personal torment. The women include his neglected wife Luisa; his fiery yet unstable mistress Carla Albanese; his confidant and costume designer Lilli La Fleur; a prostitute who Guido met as a child named Saraghina; his muse and leading lady Claudia Jenssen; a Vogue reporter Stephanie and the memory of his Mamma. Through musical numbers that play out as fantasies in Guido’s head, we see the turmoil of both him and the many women who surround him, some of these numbers come off better than others.
The whole concept of the musical numbers being part of the tormented Guido’s imagination works in some cases, yet director Rob Marshall achieved this effect better in his last musical Chicago. The film should be praised visually for the way it conjures up the stylish 60’s in Italy in all its glory. Special mention must go to the costumes which are ravishing to look and crafted with precision. Yet the script doesn’t have much of an emotional core and the results emerge as hollow.
The cast of the film is star-studded beyond belief but only three actors are given a chance to expand on their characters because of the flawed script. Daniel Day-Lewis is reliable as ever as the tormented director Guido, managing to imbue him with a melancholy the script sometimes overlooks. Penélope Cruz plays his feisty mistress Carla, who feels pushed away by Guido. Cruz has a very sexy song to perform “A Call from the Vatican” which she pulls off amazingly, it is a raunchy burlesque style number which will no doubt send pulses racing. Yet Cruz also manages to show the vulnerable side to Carla that is sometimes hidden by her passionate demeanor. But the best performance of the bunch is Marion Cotillard. She beautifully and movingly plays Luisa, the neglected wife of Guido who is growing tired of his philandering and feeling the pain of his rejection. Cotillard has two numbers that are both stunning because of her. The first “My Husband makes Movies” an emotional ballad about her undying love for her husband is beautifully executed and her face expresses her emotions in a subtle yet stunning way. The second “Take it All” is her anguished and angry message to Guido that she won’t stand his treatment any longer. It is in this number that Cotillard really shines by combining sexy determination with a bruised anger whilst baring her body and soul.
Unfortunately for the rest of the cast, their roles are sketchily written. The delightful Judi Dench is not given enough time to be memorable as Guido’s costume designer and the one who gives him advice. Fergie, most famous as the girl from the Black Eyed Peas, does manage to have an excellent musical number in “Be Italian” despite her character of Saraghina, the beach dwelling prostitute who Guido meets as a child, not really calling for much in the way of acting. Nicole Kidman as Guido’s muse Claudia is a stunning actress to watch but the emotional connection with Guido is lacking and her character as a result is not very memorable. Like with Fergie, Kate Hudson has a strong musical number in “Cinema Italiano” which is stunningly cut between black and white with colour, but her character doesn’t really serve much of a purpose. Finally, the eternally beautiful and talented Sophia Loren portrays the lingering spirit of Guido’s mother but although she is moving in her delivery, the narrative doesn’t flesh out her character enough.
All in all, Nine is a very flawed picture that has a weak script and wastes the talents of some actors. But it is a visually arresting piece and it does have some brilliantly choreographed musical numbers.