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  • Film (Re)View – The Greatest Showman

    True to the real story? Well, I’m not so sure of that, but would it be quite as wonderful if it were too close? I’ll let you decide.

    From what I know of Phineas Taylor Barnum, he wasn’t as beautiful as Mr Jackman and his life wasn’t quite as neatly packaged as the movie makes out, but then again, stories don’t translate directly to screen – not in a good way, anyway.

    The movie did encapsulate the better known events of his life – his rise from poverty to wealth, his marriage to Charity and birth of two children (rather than four), the success of his ‘freaks’ to bring his museum to life, his meeting with Jenny Lind and the tour that saw him shunning the people who made him, an abbreviated version of his partnership with Philip Carlysle, the fire that destroyed his museum and the circus tent that rose from the ashes. As to how accurate and linked these events really were is up for debate.

    Barnum certainly had more than just Carlysle as a business partner. He also had a very successful museum before he added the ‘freaks’, though the movie says otherwise, plus his museum suffered two large fires, not one.

    Despite this, the movie does depict very well the determination of one man to make his dreams come true and the heady heights and rock bottom lows that he suffered. Despite bankruptcy, ruin and everything else life threw at him, he always rose again. To me, this is true proof of a successful man.

    The sadness comes in his ‘freak’ show. Was it exploitation, was it giving these misfits in society a place where they could stand tall and shine, or was it a bit of both? I feel it was the latter, because he certainly didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart, yet he did give these people, who were shunned and ostracised by society, a sense of belonging and a family. Rightly or wrongly, he gave them a wealth and fame they would never have found without him.

    It saddened me because it highlights very clearly the lack of tolerance human beings have for those who are different. It still goes on today, albeit to a lesser extent, and I feel this is only because many of the ‘freaks’ in Barnum’s show had genetic, hormonal or medical conditions that are known, understood and managed today, but they weren’t back then.

    As many of you know, my debut children’s novel, The Misfits, deals with children who are different and don’t fit in to what is deemed the ‘norm’. My message is to embrace your uniqueness and let it shine, for it is the people who are different and unique who have innovated and changed our lives. It’s about time Joe Public remembered this and thought twice before shunning someone a little different from themself…..

  • Film (Re)View – Wonder

    Jacob Tremblay did an amazing job of playing Auggie, a 10 year old boy born with a facial deformity which has set him aside from other kids and prompted him to be home schooled by his mum. On the advent of him moving to middle school, his parents made the decision that he needed to go to a mainstream school and start to interact with kids his own age.

    Now, we all know kids can be brutal at the best of times, and this was no exception. It was heartbreaking to watch the way he was teased and ostracised by most and pitied by others. As hard as it was for him, though, he stood tall and continued to go to school, continued to brave the insults and the staring, until eventually the kids saw past the wrapping and saw who Auggie really was.

    It is a movie that will tear at your heartstrings as you see, not only the impact of this situation on Auggie himself, but also on his family and friends. It is a great insight into the reality of being different from other people and to the bullying that ensues and it should act as a lesson to us all in how we should treat other people.

    Being different, being unique, not following the crowd are all perfectly acceptable and to be applauded. Everyone is perfect, just the way they are and no one should ever be made to feel that they’re not.

  • Film (Re)View – Murder on the Orient Express

    As I have never seen the original or read the book, I went on this journey with an open mind. I had heard the comments about Branagh vs Suchet and ‘that moustache’, but I didn’t let any of it sway me as I sat down for my first trip on the Orient Express.

    First off, and I feel I should get this out of the way, I like his moustache – very touchable and, apparently, it is closer to the book version(?). I did have a chuckle at the device he wears at night to keep it in place too!

    This is a very charming film, from the point of view of the settings, the direction and the sweeping and artistic cinematography. You can’t help but be swept up and come to the conclusion that no expense was spared in making this movie – just in case you haven’t guessed that from the cast list.

    Each actor plays his/her role to perfection. You have to remember the time that this story was written as well as when it was set, yet, despite this, I didn’t wince or feel any of them were hamming it up. I did feel the make up artists were a tad heavy handed with the old foundation though……trowelling it on springs to mind!

    This is a typical Christie whodunit, with red herrings, twists and turns and a detective who is so brilliant, he is able to solve the crime without that much investigation, because of his natural ability to read people.

    Is Poirot a believable character? Probably not, because no matter how brilliant a mind, there is a limit to what it can solve on its own. However, he doesn’t stand alone. Believable or not, Poirot is a thoroughly charming, engaging and witty character and, from this point of view, you are willing to suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the show.

    I always saw Agatha Christie’s stories as complex with regards to the weaving of the clues, but this story seemed more straight-forward and the perp more apparent. Maybe it’s that I’ve watched/read enough murders now to know what I’m looking for, or maybe it’s just that seeing the wounds on the body tends to point you towards certain conclusions.

    SPOILER ALERT

    I do need to get something off my chest thought about this film so I am issuing a huge SPOILER ALERT now so, if you don’t know the story, stop reading for the rest of this paragraph. What spoilt this movie for me, was the scene where the murderer is revealed. There is no way you can fit 10+ people in one of those compartments, especially 10+ people who are ‘frantically moving about’, shall we say. Also, there is no way Porot would not have heard them. On exit they all banged the door, amongst other noises. Poirot, as is demonstrated in the film, is an extremely light sleeper. Yes, he does hear some noise from Ratchett’s compartment, but he would have heard more and would not have taken the response of ‘Rien’ (nothing) so easily, especially as Ratchett doesn’t speak French.

    SPOILER OVER

    All this being said, this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie and I am looking forward to the next instalment – Murder on the Nile.

  • Film (Re)View – Jigsaw

    What a web John Kramer has woven over the years and what a fantastic idea – a serial killer who doesn’t kill….inspiring! For those of you not in the know, Kramer’s M.O. is to kidnap people he considers to be sinners and to set them up in a life or death game where they have to solve his riddles to survive – ‘what does a life mean to you?’.

    It’s about redemption and to be redeemed, you have to confess.

    The great thing about Jigsaw is that not only did it have a very interesting and, dare I say, inventive set of games for the sinners to survive, but it is all set across two timelines. Now, I didn’t get this straight away, which is good, as I don’t want to be able to guess what’s going to happen – all the enjoyment is lost then.

    I don’t want to give any more away, but it is a very thought provoking film from the point of view of keeping you guessing as to who is behind it all….as we all know John Kramer died quite a few years ago.

    The blame was shared amongst several cast members and a rather elaborate torture chamber of all Kramer’s devices threw an interesting slant on what may or may not be going on.

    Anyway, if I continue, I will tell you too much and spoil your enjoyment. After all, it is no good knowing the ending to a horror film.

    I do have to say, it is great to see Matt Passmore (The Glades) in this film as I always did have a soft spot for him ?

    In summary – very inventive and creative film, which suspends your disbelief and, in a way, creates empathy with Kramer for what he is trying to do with his games. GO SEE IT!

  • Film (Re)View – The Mountain Between Us

    I have to say, thought, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, it was a little sugar coated, BUT the premise of the story was sound. Two strangers thrown together in horrific circumstances have to learn to rely on each other for their very survival.

    Would this result in romance, I have to say that it probably would. Would that romance go beyond the situation, I have to say probably not. Romance in these situations is borne of trauma and a co-dependency. It would not be sustainable in ‘real’ life. This was the sugar coated bit, but it didn’t detract from the film.

    Being a tad cynical, I have to say that it was a fear of loneliness and nothing more that made these two characters – Alex and Ben – care so much about each other and this, for me, is very true. No one wants to be on their own, especially in the middle of snow covered mountains following a plane crash! A very believable situation and growth of co-dependency.

    I especially liked the dog with no name, but have to question why he never seemed to suffer from cold or hunger and was always full of beans. Probably because the animal rights peops would be on the case. In reality, the dog would have suffered just as much. He may have been able to catch food, but being a dog, he would have brought it back ?

    As much as I thought this was an excellent film, I do have to question how realistic it is. They cite a rule of three – three weeks without food, three days without water. Surely this is if you have no injuries. Alex was harbouring some pretty horrific injuries and also fell into a sub zero lake, from which she would have developed hypothermia….and yet she didn’t. Surely, this would alter the rule of three?

    Despite this, this is a move to restore your faith in the human spirit. It shows how people can survive against the odds if they truly want to. I do feel, to some extent, this is true. Wanting to live, desiring to live and fighting to live…..well, isn’t that what it’s all about?

    A thoroughly moving film that will make you look at life differently, even if only a little way.

  • Film (Re)View) – The Snowman

    I haven’t read the book, but I am reliably informed that this film bore little resemblance to the book. Now, we all know (or you would if you’d done a screenwriting course) that books do not and cannot be translated exactly to the screen, it just doesn’t work – for a multitude of reasons I’m not going into on here. That being said, the film should follow the book as closely as it can.

    I may not have read the book, but I did see the trailer. Having watched the film, I have to wonder whether they’ve released the wrong version of the film….in error. Most of what you see in the trailer is NOT in the film.

    Given I haven’t read the book, you might be wondering what I found so terrible about the film……

    Well, to start with, the main character – Harry Hole – was such a weak and pathetic character, that I had no respect for him during the film at all. They neglected to give you any backstory as to why he was such a pathetic drunk who was quite content to collapse in the street and stay there. Sorry, but if you are going to do this, you need to tell us why!

    The second biggest issue was that it was disjointed. Whoever edited this film needs to be shot. Nothing fitted together, especially at the beginning. Scenes should flow into one another making the film capable of being followed. With this film, I got the impression that all the scenes had been cut into little pieces and mixed up and then just stuck together in whichever order they’d been picked up. Appalling!

    My last major gripe is about the ‘baddie’. If I thought Hole was pathetic, then the ‘baddie’ is even more so. There was no sense of fear or foreboding coming from him. He was someone who you could call a name and he would cry. I’m not sure if this is just the casting or not, but it didn’t work for me. Why? Because it wasn’t believable that he could overpower and kill anyone, irrespective of whether he had his little device with him.

    I could vent forever, but I won’t.

    In summary, this film was an insult to the author and I would highly recommend you don’t waste your money. Sorry Michael, but you really should choose your scripts better!!

  • Film (Re)View – Goodbye Christopher Robin

    As I sat down with my good friend to watch this film, I commented that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a PG. She looked at me very strangely, but it’s true.

    Believe it or not, I am a lifetime fan of Winnie the Pooh, or I was, until I saw this film. I have the books, the toys and even a favourite umbrella, all of which I look at a little differently now.

    To say my love is wavering is an understatement. This film was a heartbreaking look into the truth behind those stories and their enduring success.

    Milne, suffering from PTSD after WWI, is unable to write. His wife, Daphne, gives birth to a son whom she immediately shuns saying she ‘cannot give her love again to someone who will go to war and never come back.’

    Christopher Robin, known to the family as Billy Moon, is dressed in smocks and Mary Janes, due to his mother’s desire for a daughter. Although she is the one who buys him, and does the voices for, the toys which become the legends, she maintains her distance and Billy sees his nanny – Noo – as his main parent.

    Milne takes the family to live in Ashdown Forest (100 acre wood) in Sussex, saying the peace and quiet will spur him to write again. It doesn’t. Daphne leaves him, saying she will return when he writes something. This coincides with Noo having to leave to nurse her ailing mother and Milne and Billy Moon are thrown together for the first time.

    It is through spending time with his son and his toys that Milne starts to write again and Winnie the Pooh is born.

    His poem, Vespers, about Billy saying his prayers before bed, is the catalyst for his success, driven by the attention seeking, fame hungry Daphne.

    It is a little unclear how much Milne knew of the marketing for the stories, but it shocked me to the core.

    The Winnie the Pooh stories are not fictional tales written for a little boy about him and his bear, they are factual accounts of a little boy’s life and the imaginary world he creates with his toys.

    Billy Moon is farmed out as a marketing toy to shops, tea parties with hundreds of kids, photo shoots etc and it is Noo who accompanies him, while his parents revel in the fame and the money.

    It is only when Noo quits that Milne realises the impact on his son that he vows never to write another Winnie the Pooh story, but the damage is done. As Billy Moon is sent to boarding school, the hell of his life begins, as he is bullied mercilessly for the stories his father wrote about him. It is only through fighting in WWII that he finds a sense of peace, when he witnesses other soldiers drawing on these stories for comfort – a sense of home.

    A truly heartbreaking story of an innocent life destroyed by the greed of a parent (his mother).

    I firmly believe that it wasn’t the stories that ruined his life, but the PR wagon he was forced to ride, by a mother who saw no issue with any of it.

    It makes me sad to think that a bear who has given so much joy to millions of children had to destroy one little boy’s life to do so.

    I will never look at Winnie the Pooh in the same way again.

    I cried…..you will too.

  • Film (Re)View – Flatliners

    I had heard that this was a sequel of sorts, carrying on from where the original left off. For that reason, I thought I’d give it a go. I then found out it was actually a remake and my heart sank. Why do filmmakers constantly have to remake iconic films? It is not necessary and, in most cases, it is a dismal failure.

    I had committed to going to see it, so I did and, do you know what, I was pleasantly surprised. This ‘remake’ was good, in fact, it was better than good – apart from them making Kiefer play an old man….so not cool!

    The basic story follows Courtney who, after losing her younger sister in a horrific accident which was her fault (texting whilst driving), becomes obsessed with life after death. More specifically, she wants to know what people actually see and whether there is any brain activity. This prompts her to enlist a few of her medical colleagues in her experiment. You know the rest…..

    All but one – Ray – give it a go. Why? Because it somehow ‘wakes up’ areas of the brain enabling them to perform at a higher level.

    As with anything of this sort, nothing comes for free, and soon they are haunted by the sins of their pasts and forced to face up to and acknowledge what they’ve done.

    This was a very well made film, with a less well known cast. The technology and effects were believable in the world the filmmakers created and so it didn’t seem far fetched for these experiments to take place.

    Whilst this was an excellent remake, I still stand by my original view – iconic films should NOT be remade as they DO NOT need to be!!!

    Kiefer, Julia, Kevin, William and Oliver will always be the real Flatliners.

  • Film (Re)View – Mother!

    Now, I consider myself to be an intelligent person and I have had this point validated on more than one occasion, but this movie, I have to say, completely passed me by.

    It’s taken me a while to post this (re)view because, quite frankly, I have no words….well, almost none!

    Bizarre, strange, ridiculous, disconnected, madness, appalling…….are all words I have attached to this movie which, it has to be said, has a rather stellar cast – including the lovely Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris. To be honest, I expected more, so much more.

    I guess you had to be high on illegal substances (or the film-makers were when they made it!) to understand this movie. I do not stand alone in this stance, I can assure you.

    Having spent several days pondering what Darren Aronofsky could possibly have been trying to tell us in this movie, here, for what its worth, is my opinion.

    For me, the movie was dealing with perfection and obsession. Bardem (we are never told any of their names) is a poet who has written one phenomenal collection of poems and now has lost his mojo. He married Lawrence, a woman half his age, to be his muse, to inspire him to write again. People start to turn up at their home (Pfeiffer and Harris); people who are crazed fans. Although Lawrence shuns them, Bardem is revelling in their adoration. Following an incident with their two sons though, Pfeiffer and Harris disappear, never to be seen again.

    Lawrence and Bardem fight about his inability to make love to her. Needless to say this culminates in them having sex (yawn) and miraculously she gets pregnant (as if). This is the catalyst for him to write again.

    Their peaceful world is shattered near the end of her pregnancy, once he has submitted his new works to his publisher. Hundreds and hundreds of people start arriving to pay homage to Bardem and he laps it up, despite Lawrence asking him to tell them to leave. This is where the movie turns into absolute chaos and becomes ridiculous.

    As a writer, it is important to constantly have that inspiration to write and if it is lost, it is like you have lost a limb. Fame is also craved by many, but once you have it, it turns into something that takes over your life. I think this is clear from the movie.

    The perfection element came into my mind due to the start of the movie, when the house in which they live is resurrected due to a glass-like stone found in the burning embers. It is almost like groundhog day, as Bardem seeks to get the perfect balance between his adoring fans and a wife who is willing to accept that he belongs to everyone, not just her. This is illustrated at the end of the movie, when Lawrence burns the house down and Bardem breaks out the glass-like stone from her heart, triggering the resurrection of the house, but with a different woman as his wife. I foresee a repeat of this until he reaches that state of Utopia he craves.

    As I say, this is just my view of what the movie could have been dealing with. I may very well be completely wrong, but do I care? No.

    If you’re thinking of going, don’t bother. Save your money for a glass of wine or two as you’ll get far more out of them!

  • Film (Re)View – The Ritual

    I have to say though, that this is definitely an example of where the film-makers should NOT have shown you the ‘monster’, as it completely ruined the film for me. What they created was nothing like what I had imagined, not that my mind had really dwelled on what it was; I just know it wasn’t what it turned out to be.

    Up until this point though, this was an excellent movie. It centred on a group of friends – Luke, Phil, Hutch and Dom – who have gone on a lad’s hiking holiday to Sweden in memory of their friend Rob, who was brutally (and I mean brutally) murdered in a convenience store in London. Luke is blamed for Rob’s death as he did nothing to defend his friend.

    Dom, the whiner of the group, falls and twists his knee resulting in them having to take a ‘short-cut’ through the forest. They haven’t been walking long before they start to see things that really should not be there – a deer flayed high up in a tree, for example. On edge, the friends seek shelter in a tumbledown house, which is home to a headless straw like man, clearly some kind of alter. It is during the night that they are all visited by something strange which sets them all on edge and sets the path to their downfall.

    To me, whatever visited them showed them their greatest fears, or what the most current fear was in their mind. For Luke it was the fact he did nothing to save his friend and so was constantly shown this scene.

    The forest is a great place to set this kind of psychological horror film. Forests are the places people go to find peace and tranquility, to be at one with nature. As such, by definition, you are isolated from the rest of the world, cocooned in the silence afforded by the trees. The dense growth of the trees numbs your senses to the point that you have no idea where you are or which direction to go in. Hutch, the sensible one in the group, has a compass and insists they go South West as that is the route shown on the map. Dom, the more headstrong of the group, rebuffs this idea and marches off along the visible path, rather than listen to reason; a mistake they all pay for.

    This film could teach the makers of the Blair Witch Project (original one) a lot about how to keep an audience engaged and afraid. Throughout their trek through the woods, you are shown glimpses of what is tailing them, you hear animalistic howls, you see the flayed victims. Suffice it to say, your senses are on heightened alert as the terror grips you; you are just waiting for the horror element. Unfortunately, for me, this didn’t deliver. I am of the opinion that film-makers should NEVER show a creature that they have made up as it will NEVER be what people imagined and this is what breaks the spell of the film and turns a great horror movie into one that is ‘okay’.

    I won’t tell you any more of what happens as it would give it away. I would encourage you to go and see it as it is, for the most part, very good. I would, however, urge you to cover your eyes when the ‘monster’ is revealed so it doesn’t spoil it for you!