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  • 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… 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!

  • Film (Re)View: IT

    For me, this is where Stephen King went wrong with this story, turning an horrific clown into an alien spider (or whatever it was). It ruined a damn good horror story!

    I kind of understand why he did it, though. It is the whole thing about the face you show to the world, which is not necessarily who you really are. His choice of the darker side of Pennywise just didn’t work for me.

    Choosing a figure that represents the fun and innocence of youth was a clever move on King’s part and has spawned a generation or more of people who are terrified of clowns. This is highlighted in the new series of American Horror Story – AHS: Cult. After all, who would ever suspect that a clown, whose purpose is to entertain and create fun, would ever harm a child? Yet, haven’t all series killers had a benign and affable public facing persona? This is what makes it so shocking when you find out the truth.

    IT is a very child led story which makes it all the more uncomfortable.

    Although the original film was one instalment, the film-makers have, in true Hollywood style, decided to milk it for all it’s worth, and split it into two. Where the original starts with the kids as adults, who go back and remember what happened when they were kids, this new version follows the kids in ‘real time’, so to speak.

    I have to hand it to the film-makers, though. Even though they are ‘dragging it out’, it certainly didn’t feel like it.

    This version of IT was extremely well done, except for the unnecessarily necessary ‘blood everywhere’ scene (bathroom). It illustrated in full technicolour the fears of each of the children and how Pennywise became the image of that fear.

    Speaking of Pennywise, I never thought anyone would pull it off as well as Tim Curry, but hats off to Bill Skarsgard for a truly terrifying and completely mad Pennywise. I wouldn’t say he was better, I’d say he was different.

    For me, Chapter I of IT was the perfect version – all horror and all clown. I doubt Chapter II will capture me quite so much, though I will, of course, be watching!

  • Film (Re)View – The Limehouse Golem

    Running alongside this is the death of failed playwright John Cree, whose wife, Elizabeth (Cooke), is charged with his murder. Kildare is brought into this case too as the clues all seem to point to Cree as the Golem and he is soon bewitched by the vulnerability of the life damaged Elizabeth.

    The movie doesn’t hold anything back in its grim portrayal of the murder scenes. Whilst in many movies, such techniques are grotesquely out of place and poorly done, I did not find this here. For me, it felt that you HAD to see the crime scene for you to get inside the mind of this killer.

    The scenes in the theatre were excellent, with Jan Leno (Booth) a fabulous orator, comedian and friend to Elizabeth.

    The movie keeps you guessing as to who the culprit is and whilst I had my suspicions that it would not be who Kildare thought, the truth was a twist I didn’t see (which is good). The angst that Kildare suffers at the end of the film is brilliant and, although I really thought he would make a different decision, based on his character during the rest of the movie, the path he chose seemed warranted and of benefit to deserving persons.

    The was an excellently made horror movie with a balanced viewpoint, despite the gore. Not once did I think ‘that was unnecessary’ and that, believe me, says a hell of a lot for this film.


  • Film (Re)View – American Made

    Seal (Cruise) was a TWA pilot who was approached by the CIA to fly reconnaissance missions over South America to take photographs, then later to courier items between the US and General Noriega in Panama and then again to run guns to the Contras. It is during his Noriega mission that he was spotted and approached by Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar (Medellin Cartel) and asked if he would smuggle drugs back into the US for them. The lure of money won over against his sense of right and wrong. The government turned a blind eye for a while, but once they’d shut their missions down, he was left at the mercy of all the agencies. To avoid prison time, he makes a deal with the government to bring down Escobar et al. Suffice it to say, this didn’t go as planned.

    The film is an explosion of hedonism and money, all on the back of despicable arms and drugs trading. Seal was seen as some sort of God by both sides, but in the end, he learned that playing both sides was not a winner.

    While the film is entertaining and full of wild stunts, I still came out of it wondering how on earth this could be true. Governments are not to be trusted, we know this, but this film showed a whole different underbelly of corruption.

    It does make me wonder how and why filmmakers chose to make a film out of such material. Is this the sort of thing we want to teach people – that this sort of activity is okay? Yes, it happens, but I don’t think it should be made so public.

    Anyway, if you forget the reality, you basically couldn’t make this up….not in a way that would get people to believe it.

    Believe it or not, I did enjoy this film, but it left a sour taste in my mouth.

  • Film (Re)View – The Dark Tower

    I aim with my eye.

    I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
    I shoot with my mind.

    I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
    I kill with my heart

    (Stephen King, The Gunslinger)

    I’ll hold my hands up and freely admit that I haven’t read the books and, maybe, that’s a good thing. I don’t know if they’ve crammed all the books into one film or not and so I could relax and enjoy this cinematic extravaganza, because that’s exactly what it was.

    The story tells of a young boy, Jake, who has visions about a Tower, a Gunslinger (Elba)and the Man in Black (McConaughy). The Man in Black is trying to destroy the Tower using the screams of children, kidnapped from Keystone Earth. The Gunslinger is sworn to protect the Tower, but has lost his mojo. Of course, the adults in Jake’s life believe he is acting out and arrange for him to be seen by a sleep clinic. This prompts him to run away.

    Jake draws everything he sees and one of his drawings is of a house which, coincidentally, isn’t far from where he lives. The house turns out to be a portal to this other world and so Jake’s adventures begin.

    I had to chuckle at the little references to King’s other books – homage was paid to Pennywise the clown via an abandoned fairground ride; and the short story Room 1408 was immortalised as the number of the main portal. I also sniggered at The Man in Black’s fearsome name….Walter. I guess this is a reminder that this is a film aimed at children.

    The filmmakers, thanks to King, have created a thoroughly believable world for me to sit back and enjoy. Not once did I find it odd that an old abandoned house would be a portal to another dimension. I actually thought it was a great use for an abandoned house and got me wondering about the various abandoned buildings near me.

    Suffice it to say, The Dark Tower will take you on an adventure, through the eyes of a young boy, into another world. A world where there exists a Dark Tower, which holds the balance between the worlds and keeps the evil at bay, a Gunslinger who fights to protect the Tower and a Man in Black who wants nothing more than to destroy it to unleash said evil. Why he wants to let the evil out is unclear, but we can assume it’s because he is, in essence, the devil, and he wants to be surrounded by more of his kind.

  • Film (Re)View – Annabelle: Creation

    It wasn’t scary, not for me anyway, but it was extremely creepy. The filmmakers succeeded in suspending my disbelief and creating a scenario where possession exists and where a child’s spirit (or otherwise) can be summoned back. Apart from the sheet over the doll incident -which, in all honesty, there was no realistic way of doing that scene – all the chills and spills were extremely well done. The effects in this film did NOT stink of cheese, I am pleased to say.

    The film is about a dollmaker (LaPaglia) and his wife who have a young daughter, Bee (Annabelle), who is tragically killed. So desperate to have some connection to her, they summon what they believe is her spirit to reside inside the doll, but they don’t realise they have summoned a demon which is hungry for souls.

    After the demon takes half of Mrs Mullins face, Mr Mullins summons a priest and, between them, they bless the house and lock the doll away – why they didn’t burn it I have no idea!!

    The Mullins’, wanting to hear happiness in their house again, take in a group of orphan girls, one of whom, Janice, is crippled due to polio. It is Janice that the spirit draws in and makes its own and whom it uses to try and destroy the others.

    I won’t tell you anymore, but the end of the film dovetailed perfectly into the opening of a previous Conjuring release – very well done!

    Go and watch this film. There is a reason china/wooden faced dolls are rather creepy!!

  • Film (Re)View – Atomic Blonde

    One of the great things about this film was the realistic and authentic fight scenes. I really felt for Theron’s stunt double because she took a pasting on more than one occasion. It was so so good to see a real fight scene and not a CGI/computer-gamed one (Take note film-makers!!). The fight scenes were extremely violent and bloody and it was great to see the real impact of being shot through the head. Hats off to the team for these sequences.

    The plot wasn’t anything special, if I’m honest. A list of names of ‘spys’ that, in the wrong hands, could extend the length of the Cold War by a lifetime. The list also contained the identity of a double agent and this was the cat and mouse chase throughout the movie. It did keep you guessing as to who it might be and I like that, as I don’t want to be able to work it out too soon; the film becomes dull then.

    Stellar acting from both Theron and McAvoy, who were brilliantly convincing in their respective roles.

    The only eye roller for me was the unnecessary girl on girl sex scene in the film. Boys…it makes it so obvious that this film was made by men who need to get out a bit more, I’m afraid. It didn’t fit with the plot and it was obvious it was just thrown in because, well…Theron & Boutella….well, why not. Ladies, you should have put your foot down!!

    Apart from that, the film was intriguing, fast paced, full of action and violence, with a nice twist at the end. All you could ask for really ?