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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Serving brains as Communion?
I have to admit that when I read the book, it was the first Jane Austen I had ever read. I found it to be a fascinating mash-up. I was curious to see how it played on the big screen and was not totally disappointed in the effort.

I must confess that I watched the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice to get some feel for the story on film. That was a mistake as all the characters in this film suffered in comparison. Lily James (Lady Rose from Downton Abbey) gave a valiant effort, but Knightly was far superior in the lead role.

I did not find the violence to be excessive, but the idea of brains as Communion was gross.


But I don't wanna hate people. I don't wanna be like you
The abuses of the Church through the Magdalene Sisters is in the background of this exciting film that features Judy Dench as a mother searching for the son that was taken from here 50 years previously.

She is paired with Steve Coogan, a sacked journalist after a human interest story. They made a strange pair as they journeyed to America to find her son.

Prejudice and misunderstandings prevented the two from being reunited, but the story was fascinating and surprising.

I even enjoyed seeing Anna Maxwell Martin from Bletchley Circle. What a thrill.


Greek tragedy
In my effort to see as many films of last years as I can, I come across a typical revenge film that is indicative of a Euripides tragedy. Reason giving was to passion as the protagonist attempts to avenge the death of his daughter.

At the end, one thinks of Karma at work. The sins of the past being balanced in the future.

But is is those sins that cause me to think throughout this movie. I see an Irish Catholic boy in Paul (Nicolas Cage) who presumably confessed his sins and received absolution, and who then went on to perform great works to put that sinful life behind him.

But, I also see the stain of those sins remaining in his heart and soul. They never truly go away, and he reverts to his previous character and commits even greater sins as his passions consume him.

Passion overcomes reason and causes Paul to reject those who love him, and to hurt his friends as well as his enemies.

The sins of the father are visited upon the son, or in this case upon the daughter, played by Aubrey Peeples of Lake Mary, Florida, and a famed Sharknado actor.

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

Ann Coulter? Mark Cuban? The Hoff? Geez!
OK, you don't expect much from these films, but at least they could get the President right. Tim Russ would have been better as the President than as a General. Ann Coulter as Vice-President? Come on, that is really science fiction.

I was forced to watch this as it was filmed in Orlando.

Sharks dropping on the Daytona 500; hat is a race I would watch.

The worst part of watching this movie is that it was on Syfy. Stupid tweets like "Best movie I have ever seen," and even worse commercials.

And the ending - ugh!

Please tell me that there won't be another.

The Matrix
(1999) is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
I remember taking a class in social psychology many years ago. The Joy Luck Club figured prominently in the course. I like the idea of combining movies and theory.

I am now studying metaphysics, and any study of reality begins with René Descartes, the father of modern philosophy. Descartes began his intellectual odyssey with this question: How do we know that there is a reality outside our own minds? We each know that we have experiences, and we can be sure of these experiences; therefore, each of us can be sure that we exist. But how do we know that the internal experiences we have corresponds to objects outside our minds?

This is the whole theme of The Matrix. Watching this film is like studying metaphysics.


Finding your strength within
Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern got well deserved Oscar nominations for their roles in this film. In fact, I cannot fathom how Witherspoon was denied a win.

I won't fall into the trap of comparing this film to the book. The book was the best one I read last year, and I thought it unfilmable. I was surprised at how well the film managed to capture the essential elements of the book.

The key was not the Pacific Coast Trail, but Cheryl Strayed's journey into self-discovery. The point where she fell to her knees in tears was the culmination of pain in her life, and the realization of her love for her mother.

This is definitely a film to watch more than once.


A good introduction to the book
I never compare books and movies, but one thing the book has over the movie was the distinct unpreparedness we had for war. The planes were flying deathtraps, and the supplies were totally inadequate.

Angelina Jolie had to make decisions about what to include and exclude in a two-hour film, so we missed a lot of important information that was in the book. No matter, the film itself was well worth watching. Not a great film, but entertaining.

If you want to be shocked and angered at the aircraft manufacturers, the military that failed to supply the troops ( where have we heard that before?), and the absolute barbarity of the Japanese in their prison camps, buy the book.

Come to think about it, watching the film will help you appreciate the book so much more.

Ice Station Zebra

...and all of a sudden, you know a whole damn lot about my business!
I don't know how I missed this film for 40 years, but I corrected that mistake.

Not a blockbuster, with the only outstanding features being the cinematography and special effects, it is nevertheless a taut cold war thriller.

The interplay between Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine. Patrick McGoohan, and to a lesser extent, Jim Brown made this a film where you are constantly focused on who is the good guy, and who is the bad.

Long at 148 minutes, it never lags. There is a very good reason why Alistair MacLean novels make good pictures,

Mildred Pierce

Personally, Veda's convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young.
Six shots fired and a man falls down dead. Shortly thereafter, we meet a desperate Mildred Pierce who walks along the streets of the night. After a policeman prevented her from jumping into the river, she ends up at a bar where an old acquaintance flirts uncontrollably. They go to her house on the beach, from Mildred suddenly quickly departs. It turns out that it was in this house that the man was shot and soon the police on the spot. During interrogation begins the story of what led up to that fateful night. Mildred tells how she differs from her husband, working upward as a business woman and how she is willing to do absolutely everything to their already spoiled daughter Veda.

Mildred Pierce literally sparkles. Director Michael Curtiz, probably best known for Casablanca, knows how to get the luxurious feel of a grand noir drama. Elegant small transitions, meticulous and dramatic lighting applications, all in classic Hollywood manner, where nothing is left to chance.

The dialog is fabulous. Mildred's right hand Ida is so cool, with the hatching of witty one-liners. Even the ever-swarming Wally Fay is constantly exciting to listen to.

The story in itself is exciting, where you always know roughly how it will end, but not why or what role some of the characters will play. The characters are the driving force. It's about Mildred's efforts to give their daughters the life she had wanted, although it also means she does not listen to what they really want. Then there is a former spouse who is living his new life in the periphery, the friend who is helpful, but not without being sure to reap the rewards of Mildred's success and even a new one that might not be what he appears to be.

Crawford got a well-deserved Oscar for this film.


That's life. Whichever way you turn, Fate sticks out a foot to trip you.
When the pianist Al Roberts gets tired of being miserable and missing his girlfriend who traveled across the country to seek her fortune in Hollywood, he decides to leave New York behind. He has no money to pay for the trip from one coast to the other, so he decides to hitchhike, something that proves to be his downfall. A man who picked him up dies during the journey and Al panics when he pessimistically expects to be accused of the death. He steals not only the man's car, but also his identity and stows away the corpse in a ditch. He then decides to pick up a hitchhiker named Vera, but he will soon regret it because she seems to know his dark secret and will not hesitate to take advantage of it.

The story feels more than a little strained on more than one occasion. It's hard not to fall in love the hopelessness that constitutes Detour. A low-budget thriller directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Sure, it's an extremely simple B-movie, but it is packed full of interesting quotes, friendly cynicism, pitch black darkness and at least as much rain. It is insanely entertaining to see Vera and Al throw sharp barbs at each other while the tones are so miserable that they find it hard to laugh at them.

With a playing time of over 70 minutes says Detour goodbye long before it has time to start to feel tiring.

Murder, My Sweet

You're not a detective, you're a slot machine. You'd slit your own throat for 6 bits plus tax.
Produced by the legendary RKO during the golden age of American film noir, Murder, My Sweet remains to this day one of the best adaptations of the adventures of Philip Marlowe.

The mythical antihero Raymond Chandler had a slew of excellent adaptations to the big screen including The Big Sleep by Howard Hawks and The Private by Robert Altman. Philip Marlowe has inspired dozens of imitators and one can still find his DNA in the chronic darkness of James Ellroy.

Everything is there: the smoky bars populated by exotic dancers, the femme fatale, the weary detective who is constantly beaten up after his hilarious escapades, etc. To this Dmytryk adds a few original touches straight out of German Expressionism.

Humphrey Bogart will overshadow him a few years later, but Dick Powell portrays a Philip Marlowe deeply funny, always ready to deliver a good line. A memorable performance, although the actor did not necessarily look the part. Powell is accompanied by excellent supporting characters, including two femmes fatales Claire Trevor and Anne Shirley. In the role "Moose" Malloy, Mike Mazurki intimidates while managing to remain touching. As for Otto Kruger, he plays a deliciously evil villain. Scripted by John Paxton, the film is somewhat watered down compared to the Chandler novel, he nevertheless manages to bring out the very substance without too many sacrifices.

Murder, My Sweet is a fine example of film noir.

The Theory of Everything

Your glasses are always dirty.
One might think that this movie would be about esoteric theories that are beyond the capacity for most people.

You would be so wrong!

This was probably the best love story I have ever seen. I was on the edge of my seat watching Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones) as she did more and more amazing acts of love for Stephan Hawking (Eddie Redmayne). I cannot imagine anyone that fits the definition of love more than she did.

Redmayne was brilliant as Hawking.

Anthony McCarten took Jane Hawing's book and wrote a screenplay that was a thrill to watch.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Keep your hands off my lobby boy!
The Grand Hotel Budapest is a zany, colorful and fascinating journey through old postcard Europe, such as only Hollywood can think of. With his old, almost square picture format Wes Anderson pays tribute to recent days, but with the whole movie. In addition to his brilliant humor and endearing characters, this film captures gems with seemingly small details and meticulous compositions. For me, now one of the funniest and most original movies of 2014.

The style is unique. You will either like it or you won't. There is no middle ground here.

With too many great actors to mention, they all gave outstanding performance that will keep you enchanted.

Trading Places

Mother always said you were greedy
John Landis has directed a brilliant original screenplay by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod.

Eddie Murphy is absolutely hilarious as a street hustler that was placed in the world of options trading by a couple of old farts who just like to bet with each other.

Of course on the opposite side, the real options trader, Dan Aykroyd, is dumped on the street.

Coming to save the day is Jamie Lee Curtis, who is funny and hot as a prostitute who feels sorry for Winthorpe (Ackroyd).

Denholm Elliott is positively lovable as the butler. Don Ameche and Ralph Bellemy play the betting Duke brothers.

SKIN-TASTIC Moment: In front of a mirror (and Dan Aykroyd) hooker- with-a-chest-of-gold Jamie Lee doffs her top and lets loose her magnificent money-markers in one of history's all-time hottest topless scenes.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

What does it mean? What does it mean?
How appropriate that I start holiday viewing with a film that bridges Halloween and Christmas.

Now, I am not a fan of animated films, but this isn't the usually animation you find in Disney films.

It is call stop-motion animation, and it looks very realistic.

Now, Jack Skellington from Halloweentown (voiced by Chris Sarandon and Danny Elfman (the singing), is really getting bored with Halloween - the same thing every year, and he goes walking in the forest and enters the door for Christmastown.

He gets excited about Christmas, and tries to institute it in Halloweentown. Unfortunately, he doesn't understand the concept and it turns out badly. They even kidnap Santa Claus (voiced by Edward Ivory).

And, can you believe they even wove a love story in here.

The film is full of interesting characters, of course, and some really good music. It is a visual feast.

Brighton Rock

I was fond of him. poor old Fred.
Sometimes it's a character you liked that attracts, like the role Philip Davis played in Midsomer Murders. Other times it's to see a great star like Helen Mirren.

Whatever the reason, it's always good to see a film based on a Graham Greene novel, like The Third Man, This Gun for Hire, The Quiet American, and many more.

A young Richard Attenborough played in this movie in the 40's, here is falls to Sam Riley (Control, Maleficent) to play the lead. He is capably assisted by Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion, Shadow Dancer), as the waitress he marries to keep her from testifying as a witness.

A good neo-noir with contributions from William Hurt and Nonso Anozie (The Grey, Game of Thrones).

Murder on the Home Front

You have a devious streak, Miss Cooper. I like that in a woman.
Patrick Kennedy would not be unfamiliar to most viewers. He can be see in Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire. Day of Atonement, War Horse, and Pirates of the Caribbean, to name a few.

Her he is a doctor in wartime London trying to school the police in forensic science as he attempts to determine cause and criminal in several murders.

There is a bit of Foyle's War here, but the focus is on Doctor Collins, not the police.

He is assisted by Molly Cooper (Tamzin Merchant), who I imagine is a stand in for the author Molly Lefebure, upon which the film is derived by her memoirs.

Of course, the government is not above protecting a killer to aid the war effort.

Not of This Earth

Lots of eye candy
Scandalous underage porn stars, especially if they boast the sultry succulence of infamous jail bait Traci Lords, do not simply fade into the smoggy California sunset once they reach 18 years of age.

They go mainstream, which accounts for the existence of Not of This Earth (1988). A remake of a 1957 Roger Corman sci-fi horror flick, this late 1980s version updates the original with a thoroughly- modern surplus of plump and quivering, comely female chest flesh.

Fans of the candy-striper fetish will be pleased to see tasty Traci parading around as a private nurse to a bloodthirsty alien.

Connoisseurs of red-blooded romance will be happy to note that the space freak feasts on a high-school hussy, three hookers and a strip-o-gram gal, most of whom fish out the floppers prior to falling prey.


You mean to tell me that the ancestors are still alive?
Amando de Ossorio was one of the great directors of Spanish horror, and this film, also known as Malenka, occurs when he was really hitting this stride.

There are reportedly three versions of this film, and this one is the best. It is a beautiful print, and we see Swedish star Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita, Boccaccio '70, Killer Nun) in all her beauty.

It is a campy film, so there is no nudity or blood here. Despite the buxom women throughout, it is harmless fun.

Sometimes a vampire movie is more than blood and nudity. Sometimes, it's just a great way to kill 75 minutes.

Blood Reunion

She's coming for revenge!
There is no way of knowing where this was filmed, but am guessing from all the Texas connections to the director and some actors, it was done there.

It is not a terrible film, but the local flavor is certainly there, you know, using family and friends to do the film. It really seems that way.

April Hartman did a credible job in the lead as Janeth.

This not your typical vampire film. There is brief nudity, but no blood.

The end for Janeth's mom (Paula Marcenaro Solinger) was pretty lame.


Frank, are you OK?
Scalps? This guy collects scalps to paste on his dolls? What a weirdo!

Now, there was a 1980 flick of the same name, but don't confuse the two. This is not a remake. It stands on it's own

Frank (Elijah Wood) has mommy issues. Don't they all? He manages to suppress them for a while. Thai is, until he meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), and he feels the old familiar stirrings,

The film is mostly shot from Frank's POV. I am not a fan of that, but it is not too distracting.

Very, very bloody.

My,o my, what an ending!

Kill List

They are bad people. They should suffer.
Two Iraq War veterans turn into dysfunctional hit-men in a blend of domestic soap, urban thriller, and Wicker Man–like horror.

The domestic drama is violent in the way that Jay (Neil Maskell) has not worked in eight months, and his wife (MyAnna Buring) is certainly getting tired of it. Their child is subjected to a constant barrage of screaming. Amid the shouting, there is a couple of things that don't fit, and give a clue that there is more to the film than we would expect.

When Jay teams up with Gal (Michael Smiley) to do some dirty work, Shel (Buring) seems to be all forgiving. So this switches to a crime drama? Not exactly. It's more violent than one would expect. A simple hit turns into a bloody mess, and, again, strange clues abound. Jay is deteriorating rapidly. The horror at the end may sicken many. For many, it will be unexpected, but I am told that is a feature of Ben Wheatley's films. The clues are there throughout the film.

It is true horror.

La maschera del demonio

You have no reason to fear the dead. They sleep very soundly.
While this was not the first of Barbara Steele's films, it is the one that made her, thanks to the work of Mario Bava.

This was Bava's first feature film. He has done some shorts and documentaries, and has finished some films others started, but this was his from start to finish.

His career as a cinematographer served him well as he also did the cinematography on this film. It was that that really makes the film.

The music and sound effects also add immensely to the atmosphere.

A brilliant film.

Steele was fantastic.

September Dawn

Remember September 11th.
Religious fanatics exist everywhere: Mormons in 1857, Christians in the Crusades, Irish Catholics & Protestants, Muslim fundamentalists; no time in history has been without the fanatics, and they exist today.

It has been said that more people have died in the name of religion than in all the wars. It should be obvious that that is, on it's face ridiculous. However, the fact is that many people have been killed in religious conflict as this case here that is documented in history. The fact that it is true should not mean it is not to be told. The fact that is is a church involved should not give a pass. Death is death and bigotry is bigotry. We see both here in spades.

Jon Voight and Terence Stamp portrayed the hatefulness of the fanatics better than anyone I could imagine. Trent Ford was excellent as the son who could not accept that death was the answer. Tamara Hope was also excellent as the "gentile" woman that Trent loved.

The was a beautiful film about love and gentleness amidst evil and hate. It is nothing new, but it was done beautifully.

The Birdcage

So this is Hell. And there's a crucifix in it.
This film probably had the greatest comedic cast ever assembled: Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Christine Baranski, and Dan Futterman.

In addition, the screenplay is by Elaine May, who also did Primary Colors and Heaven Can Wait.

Mike Nichols, who won an Oscar directing The Graduate, directs this film to perfection.

The lines in this movie are a hoot and a great improvement on the French film it is based upon.

Robin Williams shines.

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