21st century girl

reviews – my way.

The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947)

‘And memories. I have those, you know. Even if it was a dream’

The Ghost and Mrs Muir is about a newly widowed woman named Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) who moves with her daughter Anna to a seaside cottage that was previously owned by a sea captain named Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison), who haunts the house. It also stars Natalie Wood as the young Anna Muir, Robert Coote and George Sanders.

Until recently, I had last watched the film when I was a lot younger so I only remembered bits of it (mostly the Rex Harrison scenes and the ending). Likewise, the film provoked my ongoing interest in old, usually classic movies. I also happened to notice, that Rex Harrison’s character stands in the background to give a ghostly prescence, almost to show a sense of belonging that he lived in the house before her, and it’s on a metaphorical scale of either watching over her or guarding his house even though the character had died. He was also originally introduced by a cackling laugh and his shadow to emphasise his presence. He brought a great deal of charisma and charm to his character. Perhaps the light focused only on his eyes in the painting when she opens the door in an early scene shows a sense that she is being watched.

I think that there is a sense of beauty in old movies, perhaps a lost art. I particularly liked the shots of the tide coming in on a stormy day, and the medium close ups of the main characters faces to show expression. I also like how there is next to no successful romantic plot line as Mrs Muir’s suitor Miles ‘Uncle Neddy’ Fairley only led her on only for his wife to reveal to her that he is in fact married with a few children. What I gathered is that it isn’t the first time that he had an affair. There is a huge contrast between Captain Gregg and Miles Fairley. Captain Gregg is foul mouthed but also rather charming (in a good way) and Miles Fairley is a charming yet rather manipulative (excuse my swearing) bastard as he knew how to charm Mrs Muir but not in a good way, but she eventually learns the error of her ways.

This film gives me a great deal of nostalgia from when I watched it when I was younger. Of course, times have changed since the film was originally released so some of the dialogue hasn’t aged very well but the film is still bittersweet all the same. I also think that Rex Harrison is an incredibly theatrical actor and his voice is very distinguished. At one point, he was one of my favourite actors, and I’ve also seen him in other films such as My Fair Lady. As for Gene Tierney, I had previously seen her in Dragonwyck so I thought she was a brilliant actress for her time. I personally find that this is one of the best ghost movies around. Nearly all of the other ones are too sappy or awful or cheesy.

It’s only now that the ending to the film has moved me to tears on a personal level as my sisters refer to the ending to help me manage with the fact that my widowed grandmother is dying. I think it’s the fact that Rex Harrison’s character says ‘You’ll never be tired again. Come now,’ then Mrs Muir stands up and she’s young again. That’s what hit me emotionally.

Overall, a visually beautiful and classic old film with beautiful music that makes the movie seem timeless, even for modern, impressionable audiences.

5/5

The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein

‘The car goes where the eyes go’ 

It is a well known fact that apparently a dog is a man’s best friend. Gareth’s Stein’s ‘The art of racing in the rain’ proves that. The book follows the story of a family, a man named Denny, his wife Eve and their daughter Zoe, but it is told from the point of view of their loyal dog Enzo.

My sister recommended it to me as there was a period of time where I didn’t have anything interesting to read. As I have a interest in dogs (though I haven’t owned one since I was thirteen), I reluctantly gave this book a read. I rarely ever put the book down, and ended up finishing it in a day. The author links the relationship between a human compassion towards a dog and a dog’s loyalty towards its owner. Never before has a book made me laugh and cry at the same time as much as this book did. In the last twenty pages of the book, I was in floods. You could just imagine the dog getting older, and it only hit me emotionally as we have a different kind of connection with dogs than we do with humans. In some ways, this book is like a more grown up and better version of Marley and Me. I would definitely reread The art of racing in the rain.

I like how the author connects racing and dogs and humans together, as Enzo the dog had an interest in watching the racing. I especially like how it’s from the dog’s perspective, as we often think that dogs don’t understand, when really, they do. They just don’t know how to speak. Luckily, the author gives the loveable dog a voice and a family, and towards the end of the dog’s life, he sees the limitations of being a dog and wishes to be a human. I think that was rather sweet.

I would highly recommend this book if you love dogs and want something different and interesting to read.

4.5/5

Fatal Attraction (1987)

‘I’m not going to be ignored, Dan,’ 

Fatal Attraction is a film about a happily married man named Dan (Micheal Douglas) who has a one night stand with a book editor named Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), but things start to get worse when Alex Forrest gets obsessive and stalks him and his family.

I had heard about this film long before I got round to watching it, and I was aware that the term ‘bunny boiler’ had been inspired by this film. I was also aware that it was rather controversial for its time.

Likewise, I think that it’s not the best film that I’ve seen, but it’s also not the worst. Glenn Close plays an incredible female villain, and one evil smile from her scared me entirely even before she spoke. I had seen her in 101 and 102 Dalmatians before, so it came to no surprise to me that she plays a brilliant female villain. I certainly won’t be going near rabbits, roller coasters, baths or knives any time soon. As for Micheal Douglas’ character, he was rather vulnerable in his position and she knew that so she emotionally manipulated him. He also played the part of Dan very well. Either way, none of the characters are straight up ‘good people’. Not even the daughter. The children in the film are used as metaphorical weapons rather than actual people.

It is a general observation that this could in fact be comparitable to the Alfred Hitchcock film ‘The Birds’ in the fact that something is always getting in the way of the traditional family unit. If I recall, there is one scene in the birds when the least significant character is pushed towards the back of the room and the traditional family is pushed towards the camera. It can also be applied to this film, as Alex Forrest is looking in from the outside, denied of a happy family while also not being part of his family at all, which could also be elaborated on as there is a black bar between Micheal Douglas’ character and his wife and daughter, showing that the affair had destroyed the family unit. The fact that in some scenes, there are no other sounds other than the phone ringing shows how she is constantly plaguing him. I should also add that the rabbit in the cage is a metaphor for him as Dan feels like he’s in a cage and domestic space, which is usually a comfort, is now his trap. The parallel shots of the daughter running and the mother approaching the pan with the boiled rabbit in it provokes a reaction from the viewer to really show how evil Alex Forrest actually was. The film is not afraid to toy with your fear of heights or water, and uses effective camera angles to do so. The director generally uses a lot of parallel shots and faced paced music in the film to build tension and build up that turns out to be scarier than the film itself.

Anyway, it’s a film that takes me by surprise, but it’s not within my top 5 or 10. It would be a good film to look at from a psychological point of view or if you wanted to look at the role of female villains in fiction. The character of Alex Forrest is what we would now call a ‘psychotic ex’.

3.5/5

 

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (film)

‘I’m Abe Portman’s grandson! Please, don’t crap on us!’ 

Tim Burton directs Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar children, a film based on the book of the same name by Ransom Riggs, and it follows the story of a boy named Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) who discovers clues left by his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) which leads the former to a mysterious house for children with special powers, run by a woman named Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). The house also happened to be stuck in a 1940s time loop. It also stars Ella Purnell as Emma, Chris O’Dowd as Jake’s father, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench and Rupert Everett.

I had read the book before watching the film, so I knew what to expect. If I remember, the book combines elements of fantasy with real photographs so there were two major elements of story telling involved. Despite the film’s faults, such as swapping round Emma’s pelicularity of fire in the book to controlling air in the film with another fellow character Olive’s fire power in the film, the film itself turned out rather well and it was in fact better than I expected.

Visually, it was beautiful and incredibly Burtonesque. His rather gothic way of storytelling proves to be a success in adapting a wonderful book into a better than average film with so many unpredictable moments. I have been watching nearly every Asa Butterfield film that he’s done since before he did The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (though I started to get interested in him when I watched said film) and I read the original Miss Peregrine book knowing that Asa Butterfield was going to play the lead boy in the film. He has done incredibly well for himself as a young actor and I yearn to watch some more of his films. As for Eva Green, she was brilliant as Miss Peregrine, and she described herself as an alternative Mary Poppins who combined elements of masculinity and femininity (the masculine being that she smokes a pipe and pipes are commonly associated with people like Sherlock Holmes).

I think it would be a great inconvenience to everyone if you had a peculiarity like the character of Hugh in the film, who can have swarms of bees flying out of his mouth, and that power would only prove to be handy if you had a worst enemy who happened to be allergic to bees. I think that it’s also quite cool that Miss Peregrine has the power to turn into a bird. FilmIf I could have any power from anyone in the film, I would probably have Jake’s power of seeing things that other people can’t see. I found it quite cool how there were time loops involved so the children stayed as children but of course left the loop by the end of the film.

The film and the book (the latter of which, may I add, is part of a 3-book series) combines elements of fantasy and magical realism, two of my favourite genres.

Overall, a splendid, fantasy film that proves to be fun (and a little scary) to people of all ages. A must see, especially if you like Tim Burton. The film teaches that it is alright to be even a little peculiar.

4/5

 

Pulp Fiction (1994)

‘Let’s get into character’ 

Pulp Fiction is a cult classic movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, and it follows a series of interlinking stories that are mostly centered around two hitmen Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnifield (Samuel L. Jackson), a boxer named Butch (Bruce Willis) and his love interest, and it starts and ends with two people at a diner. The film also stars Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth and Quentin Tarantino (who makes an appearance in all of his films).

I had heard of the film before, as its reputation as a modern classic proceeds it, along with its epic soundtrack. It also happens to be my younger brother’s favourite film. I have also previously seen other Quentin Tarantino films, such as Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds. I particularly liked the five dollar milkshake and iconic dance scene between Vincent and Mia. I thought that Vincent and Mia would end up together, but they don’t. That’s what Tarantino is good at. Proving that you don’t need a romantic plot line to move the story along. If you were an inspiring filmmaker, this would be the movie to watch. The camera angles speak for themselves, and I particularly took notice of the positioning in the scene between Bruce Willis’ character and his love interest. His love interest is positioned lower than he is to show her vulnerability and the fact that she is intimidated by him and that he has more authority over her. I should also note that Tarantino sometimes uses medium closeups of the characters when they speak to draw attention to them when they talk. He’s also very good at using product placement, as the characters spend most of the film eating.

There is also a contrast between the women in the film. The main female character Mia is rather headstrong and a bit rebellious. She takes drugs and she doesn’t really care what other people think. She also reminds me of someone who I used to go to college with. The closeup shot of her Mia’s lips show feminitity, and the shot of her feet highlight suggest Tarantino’s interest in showing women’s feet  in all of his films. I personally thought that the other main women in the film were a bit annoying, and I’m rather glad that most of the marketing of the films involve Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman’s character).  I did not realize until now that the Direct Line adverts make an obvious reference to Pulp Fiction, as the actor Harvey Keitel is in both Pulp Fiction and the Direct Line ads.

Quentin Tarantino makes references to other films throughout the movie itself, and the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic 50s inspired bar in the film, where there are people dressed as Marilyn Munroe, Buddy Holly and James Dean. I don’t think my older sister (who likes Buddy Holly’s music) would be complaining if a Buddy Holly lookalike was a waiter in a cool restaurant. I like how the film eventually goes back to the beginning, and how Pulp Fiction messes with your mind. It’s a rather love it or hate it film. Despite that, Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta made a good pairing and they were brilliant in their roles. I should also note of the editing between the pop tarts popping up in the toaster and the John Travolta character being shot. Apparently Pulp Fiction is told in a reverse chronological order.

I think that the soundtrack also goes with the popularity of the film. I had always associated Chuck Berry’s ‘You never can tell’ with the iconic dance scene, and I’d love to eventually learn how to do that dance. It looks like fun. I think they did that dance on Strictly a few years ago. I’ve also heard the introductory music of Pulp Fiction elsewhere as well.

Overall, a cult classic film that has inspired me to look into watching other classic Tarantino films. The only downside to this film is that it sometimes drags and goes off on a tangent and doesn’t make any sense, but I think that’s just Tarantino’s artistic way of filmmaking.

4.5/5

 

Cherie (2009)

‘No one is ever as busy as someone with nothing to do,’ 

Cherie is a film about a passionate affair between a courtesan named Lea (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her colleague’s young and spoilt son Cheri (Rupert Friend). It also stars Kathy Bates as Cherie’s mother and Felicity Jones as Edmee, Cherie’s wife (who he was arranged to marry).

The cinematography was great. The costumes were wonderful. The musical score was quite interesting and it set the tone for the movie. They had a good choice for the cast, as Rupert Friend is currently one of my top favourite actors at the moment, I have watched Michelle Pfeiffer in a great deal of things and I had seen Kathy Bates in other films such as Titanic. She seems to be the go-to actress for period dramas.

My interest in the movie stopped at the cinematography, the cast, the costumes and the musical score. The rest of the movie fell flat for me. It’s not the fault of the cast. I’ve watched Rupert Friend in other things such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, the Young Victoria, Starred Up, the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice and the tv show Homeland, and he was fantastic in all of them, especially Homeland. He’s a terrific actor, and he played the part very well and brought charm and stage prescence to the film, although I think that this movie isn’t his best, though he saves it by a mile. I also saw Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything, and I’ve heard that she’s in Star Wars: Rogue One. The cast isn’t to blame for this abysmimally dull movie (Cherie, I mean. Not Rogue One). It’s the script that I cannot stand. I think it’s just the witty one liners and the constant stupid ‘I love you’s’ exchanged between two characters that we are supposed to believe are supposedly having an affair with each other/in love, along with the many awful romantic scenes. Sometimes, the dialogue even made me roll my eyes. Perhaps I needed to have read the book beforehand. Also, that Cheri character really has Mummy issues that he needs to sort out.

Maybe this movie is supposed to have some dramatic inner meaning about desire and sexual curiosity towards an older woman or a younger man, and the rejection of someone of their own age. Perhaps I watched the film expecting other things. Either way, despite the incredible costumes (Cherie’s red coat looked lovely and the gowns looked amazing) and the fact that Rupert Friend is shirtless for most of the film, along with the pretence that it’s supposed to be a period drama, it just came off as being overly dramatic. Again, it’s not the fault of the cast or their acting. It’s just the fault of the script and the plot and the chemistry-less romance.

Overall, an average film with a good cast, musical score and costumes. Everything else fell flat for me personally. That, however, is just my opinion.

2/5

 

 

Homeland (TV show)

‘I’m a guy that kills bad guys’ 

warning: Possible spoilers ahead.

Homeland is a U.S TV show about a bipolar CIA agent named Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) who become s convinced that a marine and former POW named Sargent Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) is planning a Muslim terror attack on American soil. Many storylines (mostly terrorism based) spiral out from there. It also stars Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn, a CIA officer and assassin, and Mandy Patinkin as Saul, among others, including F. Murray Abraham, who was in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I initally thought that the TV series got off to a slow start, though it only really picked up in Season 2, even though you got to know the fundamentals and the background in season 1. I was aware of Damien Lewis, but I hadn’t seen him in anything else. I must admit that the only reason why I watched Homeland was because it looked interesting and I like Rupert Friend’s work. The show itself goes on such a journey that season 1 lays down the fundamentals e.g Brody’s family life, his affair with Carrie, his strained familial relationships with his wife and children, his link to terrorism etc. However, from season 2 and 3 onwards, Quinn picks up from where Brody left off, especially after Brody dies in the season 3 finale. After that, there was a period of time when the show was trying to pick up its pieces. I didn’t care for many of the characters except for Brody, Quinn, Saul and Carrie, though my interest in the latter two characters does not convince me to carry on watching the show.

I like how nobody in the show is 100% good or bad. You also see the motivations and reasons  behind the characters so that they are never dull. Quinn comes across as being a bit odd, though he is an immensely likeable character. It was rather sad to see his vulnerability at stake in the final episode, and I was left feeling empty after he died, even though he’s not a real person. He survived a gassing, an explosion, several shootings, a stabbing and being in a near death situation in a coma. He grew with us as the viewers in all of the seasons that he was in. That’s perhaps what made the season five and six season finales so emotional (at least for me anyway).

As for all of the other characters, they were also rather interesting as well. Some of the issues in the show were also incredibly close to comfort, such as the IS, the 9/11, terror attacks, bomb threats, a new president and a whole list of other things, and the contrasts between religion I.e Muslim, atheist, catholic, Jew etc and being kept hostage. I also found that the news and social media played a huge part in the story itself and the motivations behind most of the storylines, and homemade controversial videos are one of the many ways to get you into trouble. It’s also rather scary how everything from trackers to your phone to even a drop of blood can be used as evidence for your whereabouts.

I first watched Homeland one weekend when I was scrolling through Netflix. I watched episodes in the hours between giving my brother his lunch and dinner when my parents were away. Back then, I was in my last few weeks of college (I’ve since graduated) and I was watching the episodes before and after college. The series had developed along with me, and it was sad to see all of the good characters go as I have an real connection with them.

Would I watch this show again? Yes, I would, just not the episodes after the sixth season. I wish that I could unwatch the series and rewatch it again as if I had seen it for the first time, or if I had never read any spoilers prior to watching it. I was rather emotional seeing Quinn detoriate towards the end of season five and for the entirety of season six and how it affected himself and everyone else around him. He was a rather unpredictable character, he could either lash out or ignore the other character or plan to do something sneaky like making a bomb or spy on people or run off. Season five was sort of left on a cliffhanger into whether Quinn would survive or not.

Had I known about this show later last year, then it could have contributed massively to a college art project about news. I like how they also don’t brush mental illness aside, as the main character Carrie has bipolar, the main guy’s daughter’s boyfriend has mental health issues and Quinn eventually gets PTSD etc.

Overall, a great and relevant show that adapts to the time and issues of modern America.

4/5

Jackie

I never wanted fame. I just became a Kennedy’ 

Jackie is an Oscar winning film about the life of John F. Kennedy’s wife Jackie (played by Natalie Portman) after JFK’s assassination. The film also stars Billy Crudup, Caspar Philipson and also John Hurt in one of his last roles before his death.

I was aware that this movie was Oscar bait, so out of curiosity, I watched it to see what the fuss was about. I am also a fan of some of Natalie Portman’s work, so that was one of the many other factors. It is fair to say that I was not exactly disappointed, but I also don’t have any need to watch it again too many times.

Natalie Portman approached the role quite well, and she suited the part of Jackie Kennedy. I think that the costumes looked outstanding, especially the iconic pink outfit and hat that she wore when JFK was shot. A horrifying and particularly haunting scene is when she has her husband’s blood all over her in the car. Of course, Jackie had to go through a lot in her lifetime, that is quite reflective in the film. The film is basically a statement on a feminist approach to Jackie Kennedy’s independence in the wake of her husband’s death. I think that’s where it went wrong. Although the entire film was about her, it seemed to just scream ‘look at me, I’m a strong, independent woman!’ in a rather overbearing manner, though I do respect films that bother to show women in a good light rather than an object. The film also came across as being a bit slow at times as well. I do find it interesting how the only original footage from that time is the shooting of JFK’s assassin. Likewise, some of John Hurt’s dialogue was strangely coincidental as it was about death and he died several months after the release of the film. I also noticed that the scenes where she’s with her husband are generally shown to be a lot brighter than the scenes where she’s mourning him.

Overall, a fairly interesting take on Jackie Kennedy after her husband’s death. The film had great actors, cinematography and costumes, however it felt as if it was going nowhere at times and it was a bit overhyped.

3/5

Laputa Castle in the sky

Laputa Castke in the sky is a Studio Guilbli anime film about a girl called Sheeta (Keiko Yokozawa) and a boy called Pazu (Mayumi Tanaka) who possess a magical crystal and go in search for a floating castle, defeating Sheeta’s evil kidnapper Muska (Minori Terada) along the way.

I had the pleasure of watching this movie with my best guy friend, who loves anime films. Indeed, I have come to like anime a bit as well. I have watched a couple of Studio Ghibli films, including Ponyo and Grave of the fireflies, among others. The attention to detail in the movie is intriguing, as it was made in a time when all animated films were hand drawn. I admire the Japanease drawing style, it’s rather individual to their own film and art culture, and the guy friend and I ended up watching the film itself in Japanese, which meant that your attention was not focused on the movie itself, but also the ability to follow along with the subtitles along with the story as well.

At times, the movie did drag a little and if was hard to get into at first, but it was generally a good movie all the same. The little boy Pazu looked adorable, and the castle looked incredible. I think that you would be in some obvious danger if you lived in the floating castle and you were afraid of heights. The robot reminded me of iron giant and the villain guy reminded me of Agent Smith from the Matrix.

In the future, I would definitely look into watching more anime films.

Overall, a great movie with an interesting plot line and detailed animation that gives subtle hints to the culture at the time that the movie was made.

4/5

 

Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of ignorance)

The type of love that I’m talking about is absolute!’ 

Birdman is about a slightly washed up actor name Riggan Thomson (Micheal Keaton) who is mostly known to play the fictional superhero known as Birdman twenty years prior to the events of the film, and Thompson tries to make a comeback by writing, directing and starring in his own broadway show. Birdman also stars Edward Norton as Mike Shiner, a cocky actor and star of the show, and Emma Stone as Sam, a drug addict, along with Zach Galifiankis as Jake, Riggin’s lawyer, Naomi Watts and Andrea Risenbrough (the latter of whom I previously saw in Shadow Dancer).

Generally, I heard mixed reviews about the film. Some people said that it was terrible and depressing, and other people liked it. I’m also lead to believe that it won a couple of Oscars. I liked how the camera followed the main character around, perhaps playing with his subconscious, and the voice that he is plagued by is in fact his younger self as Birdman. It is up to your interpretation into what really happened at the end. He either jumped and fell to his death or he jumped and thought that he was Birdman.

As for the rest of the film, I didn’t really like Emma Stone or Naomi Watts as actresses, but that is only my opinion. I do like how Thomson’s Birdman character was the voice of his subconscious, pushing him to near insanity. While watching this film, it made me realise how much of a huge part journalism actually plays in reviewing and giving impressions about a play or a film. I only watched it because it was on Netflix and it had Edward Norton in it. Although the drumming background noise got a bit frustrating, I think it was intended to build suspense.

I do like the camera work i.e the 360 degree shots, the continuous long shots throughout the film. There’s the constrast between the rather dingy looking backstage at the theatre and the part of the theatre that people pay good money to see, and the difference between the young, heroic Birdman, and the old and rather washed up Riggan Thompson. There are also various discussions that say that Black Swan and Birdman are the same sort of film and they’re both about people who think that they are birds and who strive for perfection.

Apart from that, the movie went in for a bit too long, and I ended up having to watch it in two parts. At times, it dragged on,  sometimes I liked it, sometimes I didn’t. Edward Norton had a good screen prescence, and I don’t think I’ve watched a Micheal Keaton film before but he’s rather well known. It was also rather brave of his character to run through Times Square in his briefs.

Good cast, interesting camera work, great perspectives and considerably better than Map to the Stars (another movie about fame) but generally average everywhere else.

3/5