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Insidious: The Last Key (2018)
Insidious: The Last Key
The first film was terrifying the first time I watched, the second film was okay, and the third (a prequel) was good, I was kind of surprised there would be a fourth entry in the franchise, apparently it is the conclusion, but who knows, I just went to see it. Basically it opens in 1953, with young Elise Rainier (Ava Kolker) living with her mother Audrey (Tessa Ferrer), brother Christian (Pierce Pope), and father Gerald (Josh Stewart) in New Mexico. Gerald is angered when Elise claims to be seeing ghosts in the house, not believing that she has a gift to communicate with spirits. One night the father beats Elise and locks her in the basement, there a voice calls to her, a demon called Key Face (Javier Botet) possesses, Audrey finds her, before being hung by a wire controlled by an entity, killing her, Elise is broken out of possession, and Gerald finds her and Audrey's body. Decades later, Elise (Lin Shaye) is a paranormal investigator with her two colleagues, Specs (Leigh Whannell, also writing) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), taking clients via phone calls. Elise is called for help by Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo), who has been experiencing paranormal activity since moving into his new house, he is living in Elise's childhood home, so she is hesitant at first, explaining to her colleagues what happened to her during childhood, but she decides to accept, to confront her demons. In the house in New Mexico, most of the strange incidents have been happening in her old bedroom, which has been blockaded, with her colleagues watching on a night vision camera, Elise walks through the house. Elise finds a whistle that belonged to her brother, Christian would use it to communicate to Audrey if he got scared, she also finds a set of keys, and a ghost only visible to the crew appears in front of her, Elise confirms after seeing it that she has seen the ghost before. The next morning, Elise, Tucker and Specs go to a diner, there they encounter sisters Melissa (Spencer Locke) and Imogen (Caitlin Gerard), Elise is shocked to see her brother Christian (Bruce Davison), the sisters are his daughters, he is angry with Elise for abandoning him, leaving him with their father. That night, Elise returns to the house, she hears whistling coming from the basement, it is coming from behind a wall, asking a few questions she realises there is something behind the wall, it is a hidden door. Using the set of keys that she found, Elise opens the door, she finds a missing girl who is chained to the wall, Garza has been keeping her against her will, he appears and locks the group in the room, before he can kill any of them, Garza is tricked and killed by a falling bookcase, the police rescue the group and take Elise in for questioning. At the station, Elise sees a vision of Melissa in danger, the daughters and Christian are at the house, they find the whistle, Melissa is lured into the basement, where Key Face attacks her, taking her soul into The Further, and sending her into a coma. Elise, Tucker and Specs arrive and find Melissa in the basement, she is taken to hospital, but Christian demands Elise stays away, Imogen reveals that she can also astral project, Elise says she will help bring her back, and defeat the demon once and for all. Elise and Tucker go into the basement to look for the ghost, Elise crawls through the exhaust vent, she recalls the female ghost she saw as a child, Anna (Aleque Reid), her father pretended that he did not see the ghost. In the vents, Elise finds several suitcases filled with human remains of women taken by men who abducted them, then Key Face attacks her, taking her into The Further, and leaving her real body unconscious. With Elise now in The Further and captured by Key Face, Imogen enters The Further, Anna leads her through a prison realm where the demon is holding the souls of those he has taken including Elise, Gerald and Melissa. In her cell, Elise realises Key Face has been manipulating both Gerald and Garza, he tries to make her hurt her father like he did to her as a child, Gerald saves Elise, before being stabbed by Key Face, causing his soul to vanish, the demon then captures Imogen and Melissa. Key Face stabs Melissa, causing her body in the real world to start dying, Imogen throws Elise the whistle, she blows it, prompting Audrey to appear and vanquish the demon, Elise apologises to her mother for her death, but her mother has already forgiven for. Realising Melissa is dying, the trio race to leave The Further, Melissa's spirit returns to her body, saving her life, Elise and Imogen also return to their bodies in the real world. They head to the hospital to see Melissa, Christian and Elise reconcile, she gives him the whistle, they hug, and she returns to California. In her sleep, Elise has a vision of Dalton Lambert (Ty Simpkins) and the Lipstick Demon (Joseph Bishara), this frightens her awake, at that moment, the phone rings, the woman on the line explains she helped her son a long time ago, now his son Dalton is experiencing the same symptoms, this is the setup to the events of the first film. Also starring Marcus Henderson as Detective Whitfield, Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert, Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert and Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert. Shaye, Sampson and Whannell are still pretty good in the roles, if you can work out where this fits in the chronological order of the franchise story then it is fine, I was hoping it would be scarier though, the jumps are a bit predictable, the pace is slower, and it is not as creepy, an average supernatural horror thriller. Worth watching!
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
I was surprised by the amount of offensive language featured in just the trailer for this film, from this I was already interested, then more so when it was getting nominations during Awards Season, I was hoping for an interesting tragicomedy, from writer and BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, The Guard). Basically teenager Angela Barnes (Kathryn Newton) was raped and murdered seven months ago, her mother Mildred (Golden Globe winning, and BAFTA nominated Frances McDormand) is grieving, but also angry at the lack of progress in the investigation. Driving towards her town, outside of Ebbing, Missouri, she passes three unused billboards, she makes enquiries to Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) at the company that rents them. She pays for them to read, in sequence, "RAPED WHILE DYING", "AND STILL NO ARRESTS?", and "HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?" The billboards upset the townspeople, including Sheriff Bill Willoughby (BAFTA nominated Woody Harrelson), who the third billboard refers to, and officer Jason Dixon (Golden Globe winning, and BAFTA nominated Sam Rockwell). The fact that Willoughby suffers from terminal pancreatic cancer adds to their disapproval, Mildred and her depressed son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) are harassed and threatened, but she stays firm, to Robbie's disappointment. While Willoughby is sympathetic to Mildred's frustration, he thinks the billboards are an unfair attack on his character. Dixon is angry at Mildred's lack of respect, he threatens Red, and arrests her friend Denise (Amanda Warren) for insignificant possession of marijuana. Mildred also receives a visit from her abusive ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes), who blames her for the death of their daughter. Willoughby brings Mildred in for questioning after she has an altercation with her dentist, she injured him with a drill at the clinic. During the interview, Willoughby coughs up blood, against medical advice, he leaves the hospital to spend time an idyllic day with his wife Anne (Abbie Cornish) and daughters, before committing suicide with a gunshot to the head. Before he killed himself, Willoughby wrote several suicide notes for people, including one to Mildred, in which he explains that she was not a factor in his suicide. Willoughby has also secretly paid to keep her billboards up for another month, amused at the trouble it will bring her, a stranger (Brendan Sexton III) soon threatens her in the store she works. Dixon reacts to the news of Willoughby's death by assaulting Red and his assistant, the new chief and Willoughby's replacement Abercrombie (Clarke Peters) witnesses the attack and fires Dixon. Mildred is devastated when passing the billboards to find them on fire, an arson attack, meanwhile Dixon hears that there is a suicide note for him back at the police station. Still in possession of the keys, Dixon enters the police station at night to read the note, which advises him to let go of hate and learn to love so he can achieve his dream of becoming a detective. Dixon is unaware that Mildred is retaliating to destruction of the billboards by tossing bottle bombs at the station, she assumed the building was unoccupied, Dixon escapes the burning building, throwing out Angela's case files, but suffers severe burns. Mildred's acquaintance James (Peter Dinklage) witnessed the incident, but provides Mildred with an alibi to the police, claiming that they were on a date. Dixon is discharged from hospital and goes to a bar, whilst there he overhears the man who threatened Mildred in the store bragging about an incident similar to Angela's murder. Dixon notes the man's car licence plate, he scratches the man's face, provoking a fight, but removes the man's skin from his nails, as a DNA sample to investigate if he had any part in Angela's murder. Meanwhile, Mildred accepts the offer from James to go on a real date, as a thank you for the alibi, but this is spoiled when Charlie enters, with his 19-year-old girlfriend Penelope (Samara Weaving), he admits to burning the billboards, Mildred instructs Charlie to treat Penelope well and leaves. Abercrombie informs Dixon that the DNA sample does not match DNA found on Angela's body, and that the man was on military duty aboard at the time of the murder. Mildred and Dixon conclude that the man must be guilty of some other rape, so they plan to drive to Idaho, carrying a gun, on the way, Mildred confesses to starting the police station fire, Dixon replies without surprise, they both have reservations about their mission, but agree to decide what to do on the way. Also starring Kerry Condon as Pamela, Sandy Martin as Momma Dixon and Christopher Berry as Tony. McDormand gives a brilliant as the divorced mother, who tests our sympathies, bankrolling an ad campaign to find her daughter's killer, Rockwell is also fantastic as the dim-witted cop with issues, and Harrelson does well in his time onscreen as the happy-go-lucky sheriff trying to justify himself, whilst also suffering a deadly disease. This is a clever mix of both the funny and the tragic, the high amount of foul language and one-liners are what get the right amount of chuckles, but it is also poignant in its approach to grief, emotional reactions, and other hard-hitting material, it is both sad and funny, a marvellous black comedy drama. It is nominated the BAFTA for Best Film, Best Original Screenplay for Martin McDonagh, Outstanding British Film of the Year, Best Cinematography and Best Editing, and it won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Screenplay, and it was nominated for Best Original Score for Carter Burwell. Very good!
Darkest Hour (2017)
I watched the trailer for this movie, not recognising the leading actor playing the iconic British statesman, I was shocked when I realised who it was, you can only recognise him by the eyes and voice, and then it got attention during Awards Season, so I was highly excited to watch it, directed by Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Hanna). Basically in 1940, during World War II, Britain and France are Allies fighting against Nazi Germany, the Germans have invaded Belgium and the Netherlands, leading to the Opposition Labour Party in Parliament demanding the resignation of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), having lost faith in his leadership and weak protection of the peace. Chamberlain tells Conservative Party advisors that he wants Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane) to be his successor, but Halifax is not ready to become Prime Minister, the only other man who the other parties will support is Winston Churchill (Golden Globe winning, and BAFTA nominated Gary Oldman), the First Lord of the Admiralty. Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) becomes Churchill's new secretary, but on her first day upsets him, not following instructions properly, he causes her to cry and she considers quitting, but Churchill's wife Clemmie (BAFTA nominated Kristin Scott Thomas) has a word with him, telling him to be nicer to others. King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) reluctantly invites Churchill to the palace to form a government, including Chamberlain and Halifax, but he wants his friend Halifax to be Prime Minister. Although he has been right about the danger of Hitler, Churchill has a poor reputation due to various past incidents, and Parliament dislikes the new Prime Minister's first speech promising "Blood, toil, tears and sweat". Churchill refuses to negotiate for peace, he believes that the Germans are untrustworthy, but the French Prime Minister thinks him delusional for not admitting that the Allies are losing the Battle of France. Halifax and Chamberlain agree, there is the May 1940 War Cabinet crisis, so they plan to resign from the government if Churchill refuses to negotiate peace, causing a vote of no confidence that will allow Halifax to become Prime Minister. British forces are trapped at Dunkirk and Calais, against the advice of the War Cabinet, Churchill orders Brigadier Claude Nicholson (Richard Glover) to lead a suicide attack to distract the enemy, while the soldiers at Dunkirk are evacuated in Operation Dynamo. The Little Ships of Dunkirk rescue 300,000 British soldiers, but Belgium surrenders, France will soon surrender, a German invasion of Britain seems inevitable, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt cannot send help. The War Cabinet support negotiating with Germany following the defeat in France; even Churchill's friend Anthony Eden (Samuel West) declines to speak up in his favour. Churchill reluctantly allows Halifax to speak to Italian Ambassador Giuseppe Bastianini, but then George VI makes an unexpected visit to Churchill, he encourages him to lead Britain and continue the war. Still uncertain of what to do, Churchill decides to use the London Underground to get to Parliament (this event is fictional), the passengers aboard are shocked to see the Prime Minister, he talks to the civilians about the war effort, they reject negotiations and want to continue to fight the Germans. Churchill now has the support of the Outer Cabinet and other members of Parliament, with the help of Layton, he prepares to address Parliament, while Halifax demands that an increasingly reluctant Chamberlain continue their plan to depose him. Churchill makes his now famous speech, proclaiming "We shall fight on the beaches" should the Germans invade, Chamberlain decides to forgo the plan and the room, including Eden and other Conservatives, applauds the Prime Minister's defiance, Churchill is satisfied and departs. Chamberlain died six months later from cancer, Halifax was sent away to become the Ambassador to the United States, Churchill continues as Prime Minister when the Allies achieve victory over Germany, but he loses the following General Election. Also starring Nicholas Jones as Sir John Simon, David Schofield as Clement Atlee, Richard Lumsden as General Ismay, Malcolm Storry as General Ironside, Hilton McRae as Arthur Greenwood and David Strathairn as President Roosevelt. The unrecognisable Oldman gives a sensational performance as the most famous historical figure (recently featured on the £5 note), Scott Thomas does well in her scenes as the politician's supportive wife, and there is splendid support from Dillane, Mendelsohn, Pickup and others. It is a mostly chatty film, there are only small battle scenes, and obviously it is full of political stuff that may be complicated, but it is all about the leading character proving himself, the special effects prosthetics to transform Oldman is amazing, and there are many memorable moments, especially the final speech, and even the pretend meet and greet with the public on the train is enthralling, it is most watchable wartime drama. It is nominated the BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Make Up/Hair, Best Original Music for Dario Marianelli, Outstanding British Film of the Year, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. Very good!
All the Money in the World (2017)
All the Money in the World
This movie was making headlines before it had even been completed or released, because of the controversy surrounding the original star, and then it was getting attention during Awards Season, so I wasn't going to miss it, from Golden Globe nominated director Sir Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, The Martian). Basically set in in 1973, 16-year-old John Paul Getty III, known as "Paul" (Charlie Plummer) is in Rome, he is the grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (Golden Globe nominated Christopher Plummer), at the time the richest man in the world. Paul is kidnapped by an organised crime ring, the kidnappers demand a ransom of $17 million, his parents Gail Harris (Golden Globe nominated Michelle Williams) and John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan) were divorced in 1964, Gail refused any money in exchange for full custody of her children. Therefore, she does not have the means to pay the ransom, so she travels to the Getty's estate to beseech Paul's grandfather to pay, but he refuses, stating it would encourage further kidnappings on other family members. The media picks up on the story, many believe that Gail is rich herself and blame her for the refusal to pay the ransom, meanwhile, Getty asks his advisor, former CIA operative and negotiator Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to investigate the case and secure Paul's release. In a remote location in Italy, Paul is held captive, initially his captors, particularly Cinquanta (Romain Duris), are tolerant with because, because he is quiet and submissive, but things get increasingly tense as weeks go by and the ransom is not being paid, far longer than the abductors had anticipated. Winter approaches, arguments arise over whether to move Paul to a new location, their hideout is not suitable for cold conditions, then one of the kidnappers accidentally shows his face to Paul. One of the others kills the unmasked captor for his foolish mistake, he is burned, and his disfigured body is discovered in a river, investigators assume it is Paul's body, but Gail asked to identify the body confirms it is not her son. Using the found body as a lead, Chase pinpoints the hideout where Paul is being held, a raid is conducted, and several kidnappers are killed, but Paul is no longer there, he has been sold on to a new crime organisation. The new captors are much more brutal towards Paul and are more aggressive in their negotiating with the Getty family to pay the money, after repeated negotiations with Gail and Chase, and frustration for the length of time it is taking, they lower the ransom to $4 million. Getty finally decides to contribute to the ransom, but only $1 million, the maximum amount that is tax deductible, and he will only agree to do so if Gail signs a legal document waiving her parental rights to Paul and her other children, giving them to her ex-husband, she reluctantly agrees and signs. Since more weeks go by without the ransom being paid, the kidnappers decide to cut off Paul's right ear and mail it to a newspaper, claiming that they will continue mutilating him until they get the money. An exasperated Chase scolds Getty, who finally relents and agrees to pay the full ransom, also voiding the parental agreement with Gail, she and Chase are given specific instructions of where to go in Italy to drop off the money, they leave it in a remote location and will collect Paul from a construction site. However, a frightened Paul runs away from the site to the nearest town, miles away, meanwhile the captors realise Chase has not kept his word and police are surrounding them, angry they decide to find and kill Paul. Chase, Gail and the captors reach the town Paul is hiding in, one of the kidnappers finds Paul first, but Cinquanta attacks him and allows Paul to escape, Chase and Gail find Paul and safely smuggle him out of the country. Getty dies at his home from cardiovascular disease, he leaves a fortune to his grandchildren, which Gail will manage until they are of age, also Getty's company was set up as a charitable fund, meaning his income was tax-free and not spendable, he invested much of his money in paintings, sculptures and other artefacts, Gail organises these to go on sale, many reside in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Also starring Timothy Hutton as Oswald Hinge and Marco Leonardi as Mammoliti. Kevin Spacey had already finished filming, but then he was accused of numerous alleged sexual assaults, so Christopher Plummer was a last-minute replacement to replace him and refilm all his scenes, to be honest, I can't imagine it the other way. Plummer gives a great performance as the curmudgeonly multi-billionaire, Williams is relatively good, and Wahlberg gives good support. It is an interesting true story that is easy to follow, it perhaps could have delivered a little better in terms of the real events, but there are enough moments that keep you hooked, especially the ear cutting scene, all in all it's a worthwhile crime thriller. Good!
The Big Fat Quiz of Everything
This was part of a series of the show that plays out like a pub quiz with questions about many famous facts from recorded history since the dawn of man, a surprisingly factual and as usual funny show to watch and have fun with. Hosted by Jimmy Carr, with celebrity panellists in three teams, the players were Miranda Hart, Nish Kumar, Bob Mortimer, Jonathan Ross, Vic Reeves and Claudia Winkleman, this quiz focused on all sorts of factual information from history, music, film and TV, science and technology, people, geography, pot luck (general knowledge) and sport to answer about. These questions are asked as they are, with video and sound clips, with pictures (including Say What You See), and by celebrity and mystery guests on screen or in the studio, so it really does feel like a proper quiz that you can take part in. Events from history that were questioned and joked about included: knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians from historians, archaeologists, and The Bangles; Elizabeth I being the Virgin Queen, King Henry VIII introducing a beard tax (Jimmy's tax joke), inflatable tanks used to deceive the enemy during World War II, World chess champion Garry Kasparov beaten by chess computer Deep Blue in 1997, the BBC Radio News bulletin in 1930 reporting "there is no news", 157 accidents occurring when cars in Sweden started driving on the right side of the road in 1967, Victorian era freak shows would have a shaved bear posing as a bearded lady; Mozart, Bach and Beethoven featured in adverts, Beethoven becoming a recluse after he went deaf, Metallica being the first and only band to have performed on all seven continents, the lyrics of "That Don't Impress Me Much" by Shania Twain, Village People recruited by an advert reading "Macho types wanted, must have moustache", "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billie Ray Cyrus; Dr. Spin, who is actually Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, reaching #6 with a cover of the Tetris theme, the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album sleeve featuring many famous people (including Karl Marx, Laurel & Hardy, Marilyn Monroe, W.C. Fields, Fred Astaire and many more), Parallel Lines - Blondie, No Jacket Required - Phil Collins, ...Baby One More Time - Britney Spears, Muffin the Mule being the first children's television programme in Britain; People fainting, vomiting and leaving the cinema when watching The Exorcist, the suggestive names of girls in James Bond films (e.g. Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead, Xenia Onatopp, Dr. Molly Warmflash); Sir Cliff Richard, Prince Charles, Cilla Black, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sarah Harding appearing in Coronation Street; the magic words of Adam, Prince of Eternia to transform into He-Man, "By the power of Grayskull. I have the power!"; in the early days of Channel 4, some programmes were broadcast with a red triangle (Special Discretion Required), to warn of adult material; Happy Feet, Iron Man, The Jungle Book; Charles Babbage, Alan Turning and Tim Berners-Lee making leaps in the world of computing, Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb in 1878, the first ever telephone call was by Alexander Graham Bell speaking to his assistant Thomas Watson, saying "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.", Google Image Search being created in 2000 after Jennifer Lopez wore a revealing dress at the Grammys, the kilogram weight, a person would be 3% taller going into outer space, water present on Mars, Newton discovers gravity, the Wright Brothers first manned flight, the cause of death of Tutankhamun being unknown, Steve Jobs and the invention of the iPhone, Victoria Beckham awarded an OBE for services to fashion, theatre critic Kenneth Tynan was the first man to swear with the "F word on television in 1965, Mary Sawyer is famous in the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb", after taking her pet lamb to school as a young girl, the supernatural powers of Count Dracula (e.g. hypnosis, telepathy, shapeshifting, immortality, super strength), 4-year-old Bruno Mars performing as Elvis Presley, three famous faces merged together (Harry Styles, Bill Gates and Abraham Lincoln), Milkybar Kid actors (John Cornelius 1974-1978, Anthony Eden 1988-1991, Robbie Humphries 1983-1986), the temperature of the North Pole can drop to minus 40 degrees; in Nepalese, Mount Everest is called "Saga Matha"; nail clippers, an astrologer's ashes, 2 golf balls, 96 bags of urine, faeces and vomit, and several improvised javelins can be found on the Moon; in Queensland, Australia it is illegal to own a rabbit, unless you are a scientist or a magician, the Loch Ness Monster, Tashirojima having a 500% increase in tourism, following a viral video, it is famous as the "island of cats", Ordnance Survey symbols, chicken nuggets come in four shapes (the bell, the ball, the bot and the bone), Velcro being a hook and loop fastener, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, a funeral for dead Tamagotchi toys in Ponts Mill, Cornwall; Monopoly game pieces (including a rubber duck, a Scottie dog, a cat, a penguin, a T-rex, a top hat, a car, and a battleship), Betty Hill and her husband Barney were the first people to go public about their alien abduction, the American sign language for "I love you", and football mascots (West Ham - Hammerhead; Scunthorpe - Scunny Bunny; West Bromwich Albion, aka the Baggies - Baggy Bird; Arsenal, aka the Gunners - Gunnersaurus Rex; and Partick Thistle in Glasglow - Kingsley). Other celebrity and special mystery guests in the show included the children of Mitchell Brook Primary School in Neasden who act out well known news stories, Ore Aduba, Reverend Kate Bottley (from Gogglebox), Dynamo, Luke Evans, Judy Murray, Christian Slater (star of Glengarry Glen Ross in the West End), and Jon Snow who reads news related to lyrics from songs of history and dances to it. The jokes and the questions are what make this show so much fun, they chose the right celebrity panellists, and it also works as a funny way to find out and reflect on things you may or not know from history, a great comedy quiz show. Very good!
When Television Goes Horribly Wrong 2
When I saw this documentary programme advertised, I recognised a good number of the clips being shown that would be included, and I had my guesses of what else may be included, so I was really looking forward to watching. Basically the show was a three hour collection of live and pre-recorded television fails, mistakes, technical errors, meltdowns and unexpected (mostly involving presenters), all caught on camera, and many broadcast to millions of viewers in Britain and/or around the world.
The first television blunder was: This Morning with Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby hosting, despite being hungover following the celebration of their award at the National Television Awards, they were still drunk and tired. Other television going wrong included: MTV reality show Just Tattoo of Us, with people choosing tattoos for each other, good or bad, only seen in the reveal, host Stephen Bear gave co-host Charlotte Crosby a representative half-bear-half-cheetah tattoo, she rages at him; Changing Rooms host Linda Barker creating a floating shelving unit to display a woman's collection of teapots, but the shelves dropped, and all the pots were smashed; GMTV presenter Ross King being knocked into his swimming pool by Vinnie Jones, his Hugo Boss suit was soaked and ruined; and Robert Kilroy-Silk was denounced Arab states in an article in the Sunday Express, he was hauled for racism and his talk show Kilroy was cancelled, despite some TV appearances (including I'm a Celeb), he has not regained the same fame. News and current affairs shows failing included: Sky News with journalist Joe Tidy reporting at Notting Hill Carnival, he ends up covered in paint on his clean shirt, and on his face by the crowd; reporter Thiago Zogbi at Brazil's Tropeada Festival during the annual mule race, he and the cameraman are knocked over from the back by a running mule; Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman reporting at the celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the reunification of Germany, the Brandenburg Gate interviews with Charles Wheeler and others are unheard because of a noisy fireworks display; and That's Life with Esther Rantzen handing out the French delicacy bat soup for people to try, she was arrested by a local police officer for "obstruction" and went to court. More news television calamities included: A Current Affair (Channel 9 in Australia) with a landlord who was owed money by a tenant, a pastor, reporter Tim Arvier joined the landlord to inspect the property, the tenant reacted violently towards the camera crew, hitting and kicking them, the man was jailed; and HTV West with Richard Wyatt at Weston-Super-Mare Airfield, the day before the air show, a spotter plane dropping flour bombs whacks the reporter in the back of the head with the wing, he was unconscious and rushed to hospital, it could have been fatal, the pilot never flew again. More news and current affairs shows going awry included: KTVU News reporting Asiana Flight 214 crashing in San Francisco, the crew wanted to be the first on the scene, four pilots' names were confirmed by NTSB, "Captain Sum Ting Wong", "Wi Tu Lo", "Ho Lee Fuk" and "Bang Ding Ow", but these are spoof names and they didn't notice; Ecuador TV station Ecuavisa current affairs show Contacto Directo saw Alfredo Pinoargote and Fidel Araujo had a discussion, Alfredo slid off his chair out of frame, the other man did not notice and kept talking, he reappeared as if nothing happened; Good Morning with Anne and Nick saw Anne Diamond and Nick Owen interviewing life model Yvonne Vinnall, they had three artists to sketch her, the model was scantily dressed, she was unaware that her vagina was visible; and Loose Women with Jamelia making controversial comments about dresses made for certain body sizes, she did not think before she spoke, she has not appeared much since. Entertainment and news shows with chaos included: The Old Grey Whistle Test with Annie Nightingale interviewing singer Paul Simon during his rehearsals, but she was unaware that it was only him that wrote the songs of Simon & Garfunkel, Art Garfunkel only sang, this was an awkward moment; The Birthday Show with comedian Frankie Howerd appearing as a guest, but it was not his birthday, they tried to keep going; The National Lottery draw with Bob Monkhouse choosing audience member Pat Lewis to press the button, but the machine was broken, they were forced to schedule Casualty, and came back an hour later; a female Brazilian reporter was at the scene at a carpentry workshop which is ablaze following an electrical fire, the reporter was shocked and ran away when an explosion occurred; and Sky News with Francis Wilson reporting the weather, one report sees a panel on the screen falls off, another sees the graphics freeze and it goes black; and a female reporter in the eye of an extreme hail storm in Istanbul, Turkey, the hail stones were big, and the winds were high, the reporter continued despite being hit by stones. Television hosts having problems included: a horse race in Monmouth, New Jersey being commentated by Larry Collmus, the racers disappear in a fog cloud, the commentary continues, he made it up, unable to see anything; on the launch of new channel BBC Two, there was a power cut in Battersea, the channel were forced to show Gerald Priestland in a studio, first he is unheard, then the telephone rings but there is nobody there, then it rang again to explain the situation, the launch was fouled up, the following day the first official programme broadcast was Play School; Simon Dee rose to fame, going from radio to host his own primetime television show on the BBC, Dee Time, but his ego grew, and he wanted more money, he moved to London Weekend Television for more money, to a late-night graveyard slot, hosting The Simon Dee Show, it flopped and he was dropped, he disappeared from TV, went on the dole, went to prison, trained as a bus driver, and failed at a radio comeback, he only makes occasional TV appearances, but has not achieved the same fame since. Television from overseas having errors included: a Swedish morning show saw an expert demonstrating how to pop a bottle of champagne with a sharp object, the female presenter failed to do the same using an ice skate, then she is given a sword, she smashed half of a bottle and spilled the drink; and American daytime TV host Marc Morrone had a studio full of various animals on cable show Extra Help Pet Show, the animals went all over the place and caused chaos, he kept calm and unconcerned, and continued to give tips to viewers. Shopping television and advertising with mistakes included: a shopping channel host walking into a large plasma TV screen and breaking it; a shopping channel host referred to a woman feeling unappreciated by her husband, he said "blow him"; Crafting Showcase female host Rachel accidentally saying "shafting" instead of "crafting", she could not stop laughing; a shopping channel host having a cooking device blowing a puff of steam into his face, then he started talking about "flaps"; Peter Simon demonstrating a vacuum that was not plugged in, and says innuendo after innuendo; and a live commercial with John Cameron Swayze with a wristwatch attached to a spinning propeller underwater, to prove it is waterproof, but the watch disappeared.
I had my guesses what TV incidents and programmes would be included, the funny ones and the awkward ones, I always enjoy the nostalgia seeing these moments again, but I wasn't expecting to see hard-hitting material as well, it was good to learn about the serious stuff I have only heard about, overall it was a most interesting and highly watchable documentary.
Narrated by Richard Bacon, with contributions from Linda Barker, Marcus Bentley, Jessie Cave, Leah Charles-King, Paul Coia, Hal Cruttenden, Sharron Davies, Anne Diamond, Vanessa Feltz, Annabel Giles, Angie Greaves, Debbie Greenwood, Howard Griffiths, Zoe Hardman, Nathan Henry, Sarah Jane Honeywell, Sophie Kasaei, Ross Kelly, Ross King, Aggie MacKenzie, Lisa Maffia, Adrian Mills, Nick Owen, Gail Porter, Dame Esther Rantzen, Adam Rickitt, Celia Sawyer, Stacey Soloman, Chris Stark, Janet Street-Porter, Ibiza Weekender's Imogen Townley, Michael Underwood, John Virgo, Vogue Williams, Antony Worrall Thompson and Richard Wyatt. Very good!
When Celebrities Go Pop (2016)
When Celebrities Go Pop
I always enjoy documentaries featuring archive footage, and those that count down lists compiled by either a public vote or an expert panel, this was one that caught my eye, so I gave it a try. Many celebrities have turned from what we are used to seeing them do, and trying a stint or career at singing. These include television presenters, actors and actresses, reality stars, models, sports men and women. Some of them have great success in doing so, e.g. Jennifer Lopez, Jared Leto and Jamie Foxx, but this was a countdown, compiled by a panel of music experts, showing the best of the worst celebrities who entered the pop charts, or streamed and went online. I had my guesses which celebrities may be included, both the ones I agree are bad, and the ones I either really like or find a guilty pleasure. The songs and celebrities included "I Will Survive" by Coronation Street actress Lynne Perrie on The Word, "An Eye for an Eye" by TV presenter Nick Knowles, "Treat You Mother Right" by Mr. T, "Stardust" by cage fighter Alex Reid, "#FoodRevolutionDay Song" by TV chef Jamie Oliver, "I Breathe Again" by Coronation Street actor Adam Rickitt, "Not Just Anybody" by model and TV personality Katie Price on Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up, "Something Outa Nothing" by EastEnders stars Leticia Dean & Paul Medford, "Bad" by former footballer and actor Vinnie Jones, "What's Up with Youth?" by actor Corey Feldman, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by comedian Paul Shane, "Mun Nimeni On Eetu" (My Name Is Eddie) (from Finland) by British skier Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, "Don't It Make You Feel Good" by Neighbours actor Stefan Dennis, "Kingston Town" by socialite Paris Hilton, "Waiting at the Crossroads"/ "Benny's Theme" by Crossroads actor Paul Henry, "5 Seconds" by socialite and television personality Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, "I Wanna Be a Winner" by Brown Sauce (Multi-Coloured Swap Shop presenters Keith Chegwin, Maggie Philbin and Noel Edmonds), "Whatzupwitu" by actor Eddie Murphy (feat. Michael Jackson), "To Me, To You (Bruv)" by Tinchy Stryder & The Chuckle Brothers, "I'm the Leader of the Gang" by professional wrestler Hulk Hogan with Green Jelly, "Girl It's Alright" by actor Steven Seagal, "Good Thing Going" by EastEnders actor Sid Owen, "Goodbye" by Crossroads actor Noele Gordon, "Head over Heels in Love" by King Kev on German TV, "A Message to Your Heart" by EastEnders actress Samantha Janus for the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest, "Bitter Heart" by Seona Dancing (Ricky Gervais & Bill Macrae), "The Bloody Verdict of Verden" by Sir Christoph, "Hillbilly Rock, Hillbilly Roll" by The Woolpackers (the cast of Emmerdale), "Diamond Lights" by footballers Glenn & Chris (Glenn Hoddle & Chris Waddle), "Atmosphere" by comedian Russ Abbott, "Rocket Man" by Star Trek actor William Shatner, "Snooker Loopy" by The Matchroom Mob (snooker players, with Chas & Dave), "Anyone Can Fall in Love" by EastEnders actress Anita Dobson, "If" by actor Telly Savalas (which reached #1), "Fog on the Tyne" by Gazza (footballer Paul Gascoigne) & Lindisfarne (which reached #2), "Starting Together" by comedian and actress Su Pollard, "I Could Be So Good for You" by actor Dennis Waterman, "Every Loser Wins" by EastEnders actor Nick Berry (which reached #1, and became the 2nd biggest selling song of 1986), "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" by former glamour model Samantha Fox, and number one was "Looking for Freedom" (to celebrate the Berlin Wall coming down) / "Jump in My Car" / "True Survivor" by actor David Hasselhoff. Narrated by Tracey Ann-Oberman, with contributions from Charlie Baker, Lucy Benjamin, Will Best, Sarah Cawood, Andrew Collins, Stefan Dennis, Anne Diamond, Mark Dolan, Carrie Grant, Eggsy (Goldie Lookin Chain), Caroline Frost, David Grant, Chris Hawkins (the Freaky Eaters DJ), Paul Henry, Stuart Heritage, Mike Holoway, Marek Larwood, Zoe Lyons, Simon May (EastEnders theme tune composer), Justin Moorhouse, Paul Morley, Nina Myskow, Kevin O'Sullivan, Su Pollard, Adam Rickitt, Rowland Rivron and Rick Wakeman. Good!
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009)
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
About four years before the Sharknado series graced, or rather disgraced, the screens, this was the first in what would become a series of low-budget movies featuring the titular Mega Shark, you can probably guess the outcome of each one when you watch. Basically off the coast of Alaska, oceanographer Emma MacNeil (singer Debbie Gibson) is aboard an experimental submarine studying the migration patterns of whales. Meanwhile, a military helicopter drops experimental sonar transmitters into the water, causing a pod of whales to go out of control and ram into a nearby glacier, and the chaos causes the helicopter to crash into the glacier. The combined damage breaks the giant glacier open, thawing two hibernating, prehistoric creatures, a giant shark and a giant octopus are freed. The octopus has tentacles large enough to wrap around an entire structure, it brings down a drilling platform off the coast of Japan, while the shark has a bite powerful to destroy structures, it brings down the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. MacNeil investigates the reports of giant creatures causing destruction, she recovers what appears to be a giant shark tooth from the corpse of a beached whale. MacNeil's old professor, former U.S. Navy pilot Lamar Sanders (Sean Lawlor), believes it belongs to a Megalodon, an enormous species of shark thought to be extinct for 1.5 million years, while Japanese scientist Dr. Seiji Shimada (Vic Chao) confirms the existence of the giant octopus. MacNeil reflects on the melting of the polar ice caps, due to man-made global warming, she wonders if the creatures are mankind's "comeuppance". The scientists work in the laboratory to develop a method to lure the creatures, MacNeil and Shimada become attracted in the process, while the naval and military forces plan many strikes to destroy the monsters. MacNeil, Sanders, and Shimada strongly oppose the use of nuclear weapons, as an alternative, MacNeil suggests using a pheromone to attract both prehistoric beasts, the two creatures are believed to have been frozen in ice locked in combat, they must be natural rivals and their aggressiveness towards one another will cause them to fight to the death if they're lured together. The shark and octopus are brought together and begin to fight, they part once or twice to attack the oncoming submarines and attack ships, in engaged in a fierce battle, the octopus strangles the shark to death, while the octopus dies from blood loss, dismembering its tentacles, the two still locked from their battle sink to the bottom of the ocean. Also starring Lorenzo Lamas
as Allan Baxter, Mark Hengst as Dick Ritchie, Michael The as Takeo, Jonathan Nation as Vince and Chris Haley as Kenji. There's not really any point mentioning the cast, it is unclear if they are taking things seriously or not, as with many movies like this, the story is absolutely ridiculous, the script and dialogue is nonsense, and the special effects are far away from special, they are atrocious, it is just a complete waste of time, a crap science-fiction horror. Poor!
Molly's Game (2017)
I saw the trailer for this movie before the end of 2017, it looked interesting, then I realised it would be a contender during the upcoming Awards Season, so that gave me more reason to watch it, it is the directorial debut of writer Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The West Wing, The Social Network, Steve Jobs). Based on the memoir Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. Basically Molly Bloom (Golden Globe nominated Jessica Chastain) as a young woman was a competitive skier, at one time ranked third in North America for women's skiers, but she was forced to stop after an accident whilst competing, due to the curvature in her spine. In her search for a new career in Los Angeles, Molly finds a job working for Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), doing odd jobs, then she discovers the world of poker, and the fortunes it could bring. Using contacts from Dean's mobile phone, she invites a number of wealthy men, and some celebrities, to a high-stakes poker game, she uses the help of the internet to help her work out all the rules and regulations to make sure it runs smoothly. Having made a tidy sum on her first night, Molly decides to create an underground poker empire, renting a premise and hiring high class women as waitresses, her players include Hollywood celebrities, athletes, business titans and the Russian mob. Molly makes sure to go through all the channels to make sure what she is doing is completely legal, she soon gains a number of regular players, who are prepared to gamble and potentially lose fortunes, both the good and the bad players. Soon enough, it becomes apparent that what she is doing may not be strictly legal, so she moves to New York City to set up a new ongoing poker game business, renting hotel rooms, but no longer inviting celebrities. Of course, Molly runs into a number of problems, trouble with the Russian mob, facing bankruptcy, and she delves into drinking and taking illegal drugs, until finally she decides to end her business for good. A decade later however, Molly is arrested in the middle of the night by the FBI, and brought in for questioning, facing federal charges, for money laundering and illegal sport gambling operation, her only ally is criminal defence lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba). However, her only support believes there is much more to the story of the poker empire Molly had than the tabloids reported, and that she has written in her book, so he presses her to reveal everything that she has left out. In the end, following a court session, Judge Foxman (Graham Greene) drops the numerous charges, deciding that there are more serious crimes to be examined, Molly is fined $1,000, and sentenced to a year probation, and 200 hours community service. Also starring Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom, Michael Cera as Player X, Chris O'Dowd as Douglas Downey, Bill Camp as Harlan Eustice, Brian d'Arcy James as Brad and Claire Rankin as Charlene Bloom. Chastain looks glamorous and is fantastic as the Olympic skier turned casino queen, nicknamed the "poker princess", Elba is great support as the sceptical lawyer, and special mention goes to Costner as the overbearing father, his best scene is on the bench with his daughter, where they are both brutally honest with each other. You don't necessarily have to know a lot about poker, I certainly don't, but knowledge about the complexities of business and making money will help, what could have been a dry and complicated matter is given life by the fast-paced editing and a snappy script full of razor-sharp dialogue, a terrific crime drama. It was nominated the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin , and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. Very good!
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The original Jumanji is one of my favourite movies of my childhood, I remember seeing it twice in the cinema, so it was surprising to find out there would be either a sequel or a reboot, having seen a couple of trailers I was certainly interested, directed by Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bad Teacher). Basically it opens in 1996, in Brantford, New Hampshire, teenager Alex Vreeke (Mason Guccione) is given the board game Jumanji by his father, after it buried in the sand on a beach. Alex ignores it, being a board game, but in the night the game magically transforms into a video game cartridge, when he plays it, he is teleported into the game. Twenty years later, four students at Brantford High School are in detention, Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) who is caught writing essays for Anthony "Fridge" Johnson (Ser'Darius Blain), who is also in detention for the plagiarism, while Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman) and Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner) have been disrespectful towards teachers. Principal Bentley (Marc Evan Jackson) ridicules the four teenagers and assigns them to clean up the basement, specifically removing staples from hundreds of magazines ready for recycling. The four find an old video games console, and Jumanji, the multiplayer action-adventure video game, they decide to play, each choosing one of the four playable character avatars, the fifth one is inaccessible, when Spencer hits Start, the four are sucked into the game. They find themselves in the jungle, each now in their game avatars, Spencer is now tough, muscular explorer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), Fridge is short zoologist Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (Kevin Hart) (he misread the name as "Moose"), Martha is gorgeous commando and martial art expert Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Bethany is an overweight, male cartographer named Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon (Jack Black). They realise they have been transported into the video game, they each have three lives, each of their avatars have a set of skills and weaknesses, and if they lose, they will actually die. They meet the game's non-player character guide Nigel (Rhys Darby) who explains their mission, with a backstory; big-game hunter Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) wants to obtain the "Jaguar's Eye", a jewel that controls all animal life in the jungle. To win the game and go home, the players must return the jewel to an enormous jaguar statue and call out "Jumanji". Along the way, the group begins to lose lives through various means when completing levels in the game, but they work together to obtain the clues and continue on, whilst also trying to get away from the various creatures, and Van Pelt's men. The group are rescued in a game level by Alex (Nick Jonas), the fifth player, his avatar is pilot Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough, he has been staying in a treehouse, built by Jumanji player Alan Parrish, because he has only one remaining life, Alex is shocked to learn that he has been trapped in the game for twenty years, the newcomers vow to help him get out. In the next level, they commandeer a helicopter and fly for the jaguar statue to return the Jaguar's Eye, upon landing Alex loses his last life after a mosquito bites him, but Bethany performs CPR in time, transferring one of her lives to Alex, saving him from dying. The group arrive at the statue, they find themselves surrounded by Van Pelt's forces and predatory guards, the five players working together, using their resources and skills, to distract the villains. The jewel is successfully returned to the statue, and they all call "Jumanji", the game ends, Van Pelt disintegrates into many rats, and the players return home, back to their former selves. Back in the real world, Alex is not with the other four, returning home, they find Vreeke household is no longer derelict, they find Alex (Colin Hanks) is now an adult, he was transported back to 1996, history was changed, and he is now married with a daughter named Bethany, in honour of the one who saved his life. In the end, Spencer and Fridge reconcile their friendship, Bethany becomes a better person with more socialising, and Martha starts dating Spencer, the four friends hear Jumanji's drumbeat in the school, they destroy it with a bowling ball to prevent anyone playing it again. Also starring Missi Pyle as Coach Web and Tim Matheson as Old Man Vreeke. Johnson also producing is always the reliable action hero, Hart and Black provide the laughs, and Gillan caused controversy with her costume, tiny shorts and a low-cut top, she is sexy and good at being the tough chick. This stand-alone sequel does reference the original, and has a nice tribute to former star Robin Williams, but it can be counted as its own movie, this one relies more on the laughs, the storyline is patchy but just about engages you, I really think it could have done with more danger, more creature encounters, but the special effects are done well, all in all it is a relatively fun action adventure comedy. Worth watching!
The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (2017)
The Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017
If you are a fan of pub quizzes, and have a good knowledge of the news events in the world, entertainment, film and music, sport, technology and science, politics and much more in the year gone by, then this is a great show to watch and have fun with. Hosted by Jimmy Carr, with celebrity panellists in three teams, the players were Richard Ayoade, Big Narstie, Roisin Conaty, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Riley, this quiz focused on the year 2017 with all sorts of questions to answer about the past twelve months. These questions are asked as they are, with video and sound clips, with pictures (including Say What You See), and by celebrity and mystery guests on screen or in the studio, so it really does feel like a proper quiz that you can take part in. Events in the year 2017 that were questioned and joked about included: the deaths of Sir Bruce Forsyth, Tom Petty, Liz Smith and Sir Roger Moore; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engaged, Ed Sheeran breaking his arm and cancelling his tour, GameFace, Article 50 triggering Brexit, Ryan Air flights cancelled, Theresa May's Tory Party speech going wrong (her bad cough, comedian Simon Brodkin (Lee Nelson) handing her a P45, and a letter on the wall slogan falling off), after Donald Trump's inauguration Sean Spicer lying about the size of the crowds, and Trump supporter Kellyanne Conway said the phrase "alternative facts" to explain it away; Trump and Kim Jong-un having a war of words on Twitter, the North Korean calling him a "dotard"; Brenda from Bristol reacting to another snap election, Big Ben silenced until 2021 for repairs, Adele cancelling her tour after damaging her vocal chords, Simon Cowell falling down the stairs, "Look What You Made Me Do" - Taylor Swift and Right Said Fred credited in the song, Beyoncé's twin babies named Rumi and Sir Carter, "Despacito" (translated "slowly") becoming the most viewed video on YouTube, Tim Westwood accidentally sending his card details to everyone on Snapchat, Jodie Whittaker cast as the first female Doctor Who, "Castle on the Hill" - Ed Sheeran, The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4, The Jump, Theresa May and her husband on The One Show, Stranger Things, Strictly Come Dancing, The Crystal Maze, Sherlock, Blue Planet II, Line of Duty, Cannonball, The Trip to Spain, GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), The Crown, Catastrophe, Taboo, Gogglebox (with Jeremy Corbyn), The Handmaid's Tale, the viral video of Professor Robert Kelly interviewed, his two children storming into the room, then his wife running in; "envelopegate" at the Oscars (La La Land mistakenly announced as Best Picture, it was Moonlight), viewers of Mary Berry Everyday shocked by the host using white wine and double cream in a spaghetti Bolognese recipe, Love Island winning the Radio 1 Teen Awards "Best Reality Show" eclipsed by Gemma Collins falling through the trap door hole on stage, clowns talking about horror movie It on This Morning, Beauty and the Beast, La La Land, Thor: Ragnarok, the viral video of the Fleming family trying to a catch a bat, Carter Wilkerson becoming the most retweeted message ever about Wendy's chicken nuggets, asking for a lifetime supply in exchange for 18 million retweets; East Yorkshire Conservative MP Greg Knight and his campaign video with a stupid song, Donald Trump tweeting the word "covfefe", a photo of two-year-old Isla Walton from Exeter took the internet by storm because of her resemblance to Ed Sheeran, Fidget Spinners banned from schools, Usain Bolt retiring, Madeira Airport renamed Aeroporto Cristiano Ronaldo in honour of the footballer, Ronaldo's "monstrous" statue head looked like Greg Davies; Conor McGregor's fight Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas, his pre-press outfit had swear words sewn all over it; footballer Wayne Shawn fined and banned by the FA for betting that he would eat a pie, Serena Williams getting married, and wearing diamond bejewelled Nike trainers; Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps on the Discovery Channel racing a computer-generated shark, O.J. Simpson released from prison on bail, Stormzy asking his Snapchat followers for help after getting stuck in a toilet at the MTV VMAs, Jeremy Corbyn accidentally slapping the boob of Emily Thornton attempting a high five, 15-year-old Nathan John-Baptiste had his sweet shop business, turning over £20,000, shut down; Prince Philip announces retirement, the new £10 note with Jane Austen, extreme weather around the world, Tom Hardy spotted in London stopping someone allegedly stealing a motorbike, 2-year-old Emily Henson caught on camera stealing popcorn from Prince Harry, Gary Linekar tweeting "the end is nigh" because of the sandstorm red sky, Greggs criticized for its advert with the Nativity featuring a sausage roll as the baby Jesus, a U.S. Navy pilot grounded for creating penis cloud trail, the most streamed artist on Spotify was Ed Sheeran, the most talked about person in the UK was Jeremy Corbyn, and the Word of the Year was "fake news". Other celebrity and special mystery guests in the show included the children of Mitchell Brook Primary School in Neasden who act out well known news stories, Jon Snow who reads news related to lyrics from songs of the year and dances to it, Charles Dance who reads passages from a celebrity autobiography of the year (Charlotte Crosby), Clare Balding, Ed Balls, Liam Charles from Bake Off, Nadiya Hussain, Kurupt FM (Allan Mustafa, Steve Stamp, and Hugo Chegwin), Vince Vaughn (Brawl in Cell Block 99), and the cast of Blue Planet II (penguins and a polar bear, voiced by Nick Brimble), and the mystery guest Liam Smyth, who was on a date, his date did a poo that wouldn't flush, she tried to throw it out of the window, it got stuck between two panes of glass, then she got stuck trying to retrieve it. The jokes and the questions are what make this show so much fun, they always choose the right celebrity panellists, and it also works as a funny way to reminisce on the recent events you remember for good or for bad, a great comedy quiz show. Very good!
Steve Oram made his big screen writing debut with the fantastic Sightseers, I read about this film when it was being broadcast on television, it sounded like an interesting concept, but it was rated the lowest of the low by critics, but I still went ahead and watched it. Basically it is set in a parallel universe, all modern day inventions exist, i.e. clothing, buildings, technology, transport, etc, but humans have not developed the ability of speech, and behave like primitive apes. It is a series of unrelated storylines, with a family and some outside people, and their interactions with each other. This can be anything from simple domestic situations, doing every day things including eating dinner, shopping and much more, then there is of course the underdeveloped, unevolved animal-like behaviour, from urinating and masturbating in public, not wearing clothing properly, not preparing food in a normal way, and a lot of sexual activity, from intercourse and foreplay in various places, and even animalistic sexual harassment. Starring Mindhorn's Julian Barratt as Jupiter, Holli Dempsey as Helen, Noel Fielding as Carl, Lucy Honigman as Denise, Shelley Longworth as Carolla, Alice Lowe as Sitcom Eudora, Tom Meeten as Keith, The Mimic's Terry Mynott as Radio DJ, Bo! in the USA's Barunka O'Shaughnessy as Party guest, Steve Oram as Smith, Sean Reynard as Og, Green Wing's Julian Rhind-Tutt as Ryan, Tony Way as Sitcom Lee and Toyah Willcox as Barabara. The biggest problem is that it is full of offensive and disgusting moments, these include a man urinating and the other man drying his penis, a woman giving a blowjob and then biting off his penis, and a drunken party with one man resting hill testicles on another's head. It could have been an interesting and indeed scary idea, a world with everything we know, but no words, there is not much of a plot, everyone communicates with a series of grunts and indistinct noises, and there is a sort of fight for supremacy thing going on, but it is such a shame to see talented people wasting their time, it is just a gross, unfunny and unwatchable horror comedy. Poor!
I first heard about this movie when Mark Kermode talking about it, the title made it obvious what the premise was, Alice Lowe made her big screen writing debut with the fantastic Sightseers, she wrote the script for this film in about three and a half days, and this was her directorial debut, so I was really looking forward to it. Basically Ruth (Alice Lowe) is seven months pregnant, she is still reeling from a tragic incident, and she wants revenge against the people she knows caused it. Ruth's husband was climbing with a group, but a life or death incident occurred, the rest of the group were forced into cutting his rope, causing him to fall to his death. Since this happened, Ruth believes she is hearing the voice of her unborn child, he or she is enraged against society, speaking from Ruth's womb, the child coaches his or her mother into luring those who caused the father's death, and ultimately killing them. One by one, spurred on by the voice of the child, Ruth tracks down the people who were climbing with the father, and gets her revenge, killing them in any brutal way that is available. Ruth constantly struggles with her loneliness, with only the misanthropic child voice guiding her, apart from her killing spree, the only thing to worry about is the health of her child, overseen by the Midwife (Jo Hartley). Of course, Ruth also struggles with her conscience following each murder, and not just spontaneous killings, but her revenge continues, until the point when her waters break, and she has reached her final, and the most crucial victim, who the baby blames above all. Also starring Game of Thrones' Gemma Whelan as Len, Game of Thrones' Kate Dickie as Ella, Kayvan Novak as Tom, Dan Renton Skinner (Angelos Epithemiou) as Mr. Zabek, Tom Davis as DJ Dan, Mike Wozniak as Josh and Tom Meeten as Zac. Lowe deserves a lot of praise, for making a good performance, for writing a witty script, and for directing in only eleven days, and all whilst seven months pregnant in reality, the cast of recognisable British comedy talent all do well also. It is darkly funny, very violent with plenty of grisly deaths, but also quite clever with its observations about the treatment of pregnant women in society, a worthwhile black comedy. Very good!
Cathy Come Home
I watched bits and pieces of this TV made film when I was studying in college, I remember the ending being very emotional, but I had obviously never seen the entire film, so I watched it when it was repeated, on its 50th anniversary, directed by Ken Loach (Kes, Sweet Sixteen, Looking for Eric; I, Daniel Blake). Basically Cathy (Carol White) lives in a rural neighbourhood with her parents, she hitchhikes to the city, where she finds work, and meets well-paid lorry driver Reg (Mr. Benn's Ray Brooks). They fall in love, marry and rent a modern flat in a building that does not allow children. When Cathy becomes pregnant and is forced to stop working, then Reg is injured during work and becomes unemployed. The loss of income and the birth of the baby means that the young couple are forced to leave their flat, they struggle to find another place to live that is affordable and will allow children. They move in with Reg's mother, until tensions arise, so they move in with the kind, elderly Mrs. Alley (Phyllis Hickson), who rents to them for a while. Cathy has two more children, Mrs. Alley allows them to stay, even when behind on the rent, but she dies suddenly, and her nephew and heir has the bailiffs evict the family. They move into a caravan, in a park where several other families already live in caravans, but local residents object to the camp and set it on fire, killing many children. Cathy, Reg and their children illegally squat in a wrecked, abandon building, they repeatedly go to the local council to find decent housing, but their constant moving and other people needing assistance goes against them. Cathy and Reg decide to temporarily separate so that Cathy and the children can move into an emergency homeless shelter where husbands are not allowed to stay, Reg leaves the area to find employment. Cathy's loneliness and frustration finally gets to her, she becomes aggressive towards the shelter authorities, who are often cold and judgemental to the women living in the shelter. Cathy's allotted time at the homeless shelter has expired while Reg is away, one of her children is taken to live with Reg's mother, Cathy and her two remaining children have no place to go. In the end, at a railway station, Cathy is emotionally distraught as the children are taken away from her by social services, she is left on a bench crying and helpless. Also starring Winifred Dennis as Mrs. Ward, Wally Patch as Grandad, Adrienne Frame as Eileen, Emmett Hennessy as Johnny and Geoffrey Palmer as Property Agent. When this film was first shown on the BBC, it was one of the biggest TV events of its time, watched at the time by 12 million, then a quarter of the population, and it really did make an impact about the harshness of poverty and homelessness, it is difficult to watch, but it is a most interesting drama. It was number 76 on The 100 Greatest Tearjerkers, it was number 5 on The 50 Greatest TV Dramas, and it was number 2 on The 100 Greatest TV Shows. Good!
I tried this show when it was first seen on BBC Four, to be honest, I was mainly attracted to it by the fact that Mackenzie Crook was acting, directing and writing, and I knew that metal detection is a big hobby in Britain, so why not make a joke out of it, it is one of those oh so simple but oh so fantastic ideas for a sitcom. Basically in the small town of Danebury in northern Essex, Andy Stone (Mackenzie Crook) is an agency worker with an interest in archaeology, and Lance Stater (BAFTA nominated Toby Jones) is a forklift truck driver and amateur musician. Andy and Lance are good friends, and they are members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club (DMDC), an exclusive club for many eccentric detectorists, characters who have an interest in metal detecting. Andy and Lance, besides being with their girlfriends and getting on with their normal work, spend a lot of their time walking across the countryside, the ploughed fields and open fields, with their metal detectors. They always hope to find something made of metal that is rare, interesting, or obviously really valuable, but most of the time they find disposed items, such as ring pulls, nails and screws, toys, cutlery, stationary, inexpensive jewellery, and a controversial Jim'll Fix It "Jim Fixed It for Me" medal. Andy and Lance are also often competing with rival detectorists Art (Simon Farnaby) and Paul (Paul Casar), mockingly nicknamed Simon & Garfunkel, who are not only encroaching on their patch, but constantly changing their name, which include The Antiquisearchers, The Dirt Sharks and Terra Firma. What Andy and Lance are really hoping to find is treasure, specifically a collection of highly valuable ancient coins, believed to be buried beneath the fields they often scour, there are many times throughout the series that they come close to finding one or all the coins, either just beneath their feet, or in a tree snatched by magpies. Also starring Rachael Stirling as Becky, Gerard Horan as Terry, Pearce Quigley as Quigley, Russell, Divian Ladwa as Hugh, Laura Checkley as Louise, Sophie Thompson as Sheila, Orion Ben as Varde, Aimee-Ffion Edwards as Sophie, Alexa Davies as Kate, EastEnders' Lucy Benjamin as Maggie, Dame Diana Rigg as Veronica, Adam Riches as Tony, Tim Key as Tim, Kenneth Collard as the Mayor, Linda Lusardi, Kevin Bishop as Kelvin and Kevin Eldon as Auctioneer. Crook does a great job writing and directing a surprisingly witty show, and he is good acting as an eccentric as well, Jones is equally fantastic as the more eccentric man who has all the facts about every find. It is admittedly a show with a very slow pace, but that is obviously part of the joke, it is all about the interactions between the characters, mostly the main double-act, the humorous subjects of conversations, and obviously their pointless unearthed finds, the search for treasure is a good running trend, it is also worth mentioning the likeable theme tune by Johnny Flynn, a delightful situation comedy. It won the BAFTA for Best Scripted Comedy. Very good!
Sé quién eres (2017)
I Know Who You Are
In recent years, British and American dramas have become must-see shows, but also foreign language programmes have appeared more often as well that are just as gripping, and this Spanish single-series drama as definitely one of those. Basically prestigious lawyer Juan Elías (Francesc Garrido) suffers from severe amnesia, following what appears to be a car accident, he has absolutely no memory of who he is. With the help of his wife, Judge Alicia (Blanca Portillo), he tries to reconstruct the events when the vehicle was found. But things take a dark turn when blood stains, belonging to his niece Ana Saura (Susana Abaitua), who has been missing for several days, are found in the car. Despite his lack of memory, Juan is now a suspect for murder, and things get more complicated when part of his memory has remained, the only person he recognises is investigating officer Eva Durán (Aida Folch). Slowly parts of Juan's memory return, including his family life and career life, and his affair with Eva, which explains his memory of her. But specifically, he remembers parts of the events leading up to the crash, including finding incriminating evidence that would lead to a kidnap or murder accusations. Ana's father Ramón (Nancho Novo), who is dying of an incurable terminal cancer, is doing whatever it takes to prove that Juan has killed his daughter, while Eva, Alberto Giralt (Pepón Nieto) and the other detectives are following the clues that may lead to proving Juan is indeed guilty of something. Finally, Juan does fully regain his memory, it turns out that Ana is still alive, he kidnapped her and has her trapped in an underground cell, because she witnessed him killing a man, he wanted to keep her talking to the police. Juan does reveal these revelations to his wife, Alicia pretends to be going along with his plan to keep her incarcerated, until she agrees to give a statement to the police that she does not remember what happened and how she went missing. Secretly though, Alicia plans to expose Juan, as more incriminating evidence crops up, both about the man he killed, and other criminal activities he has committed, Alicia believes Juan is dangerous, but before she can say anything, someone breaks into her home and strikes her on the head with a blunt object. Alicia is still alive, and eventually recovers, but Juan is now in a difficult predicament, trying to solve the situation with letting Ana go, and trying to prove that he was not involved with Alicia's attack, he also reveals Ana's incarceration to his son Pol (Àlex Monner). Juan and Pol attempt to cover up the kidnap, framing someone else for the crime, but Pol helps Ana to escape, she is found just as Juan is about to make a potential confession to the press. Ana does indeed tell the authorities the story Juan wanted to concoct, about being held in an abandoned church by the man they have framed, and who has now killed himself. In the end, Juan has been cleared of the crime, Alicia finds it difficult to forgive him for his many mistakes and criminal activities, Juan makes sure the case completely disappears, by luring Eva into a secluded location, killing her in cold blood with a bullet to the head, her body is found, but it appears he has got away with murder, as he is seen enjoying a barbecue with his happily reunited family. Also starring Martiño Rivas as Marc Castro, Eva Santolaria as Marta Hess, Antonio Dechent as Ricardo Heredia, Carles Francino as David Vila, Noa Fontanals as Julieta Elías Castro and Mar Sodupe as Silvia Castro. Garrido is superb as the man with memory loss who eventually gains it back, he is definitely the most complicated of all the characters, Portillo as the judge wife has dark characteristics of her own is also terrific, Folch also does well as the female investigator who gets too involved with the person at the centre of the investigation, the supporting stars who also get revelations along the way are all good as well. You could argue that the plot is nothing that original, but the twists and turns come thick and fast throughout the sixteen episodes, there are moments of violence and a lot of despicable behaviour that makes you despise almost every character, it was so addictive I couldn't leave some episodes at the cliffhangers, one of the most gripping shows I have seen in years, a brilliantly engaging Spanish mystery thriller. Very good!
This was only third talking picture from the Master of Suspense director Sir Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds), the simple title made it obvious what it was about, it was rated average by critics, but I was always going to watch it. Basically Diana Baring (Norah Baring) is a young actress in a travelling troupe, she is found in a daze with blood on her clothes, standing by the murdered body of another young actress, Edna Druce (Aileen Despard). The fire poker used to commit the murder is at Diana's feet, but she has no memory of what happened during the time that the crime was committed. It is thought that the two young women were rivals, the police arrest Diana, she deliberately withholds important information, to protect something about the identity of a man that she will not name. At Diana's trial, most of the jury are certain she is guilty, one or two believe she has a mental illness, that would explain her lack of memory, but they are convinced that should face the death penalty, hanging, so as not to strike again. Celebrated actor-manager Sir John Menier (Herbert Marshall) is a juror, is convinced that Diana is innocent, he is almost bullied into voting "guilty" with the rest of the jury, Diana is imprisoned and will be hanged. Sir John feels responsible, as he recommended the beautiful Diana take the touring job, to gain more life experience, and it turns Diana has been a fan of his since childhood, he feels she is far too honest and straightforward to be any kind of criminal. Using skills he has learned in the theatre, Sir John investigates the murder, with the help of stage manager Ted Markham (Edward Chapman) and his wife Doucie (Phyllis Konstam). The narrow down the possible suspects who could have committed the murder to troupe male actor Handel Fane (Esme Percy), who often plays cross-dressing roles. Sir John cleverly tries to lure a confession out of Fane, auditioning him for a new play he written, about murder, Fane realises they know that he is the real murderer, as well how and why he did it. Fane leaves the audition without confessing, he returns to his old job as a trapeze artist in the circus, Sir John and the others go there to confront him again, Fane sees them from his high perch during his performance, in despair he knots the access rope into a noose, puts it around his head and hangs himself. Diana is freed, having been proven innocent, dressed in glamourous clothing she is greeted in a beautiful room by Sir John, they embrace as he loves her, but the camera pulls back, this is actually a stage play performance, Diana is starring opposite Sir John in what may be the new play he was planning. Also starring Miles Mander as Gordon Druce and Donald Calthrop as Ion Stewart, and Hitchcock's cameo is as the Man on Street passing the three standing outside the door. This is a fairly simple whodunnit style story, a member of the jury who found an innocent woman guilty going on a snoop of their own, the performances are all fine, and there are small memorable moments, but it is a little creaky, rather stagey, and not all that engaging compared other Hitchcock films, but not a bad mystery. Worth watching!
The Greatest Showman (2017)
The Greatest Showman
I saw the trailer for the film, I assumed the song featured in it was just for a performance number, so it came as a pleasant surprise when it turned out I was watching a musical movie, at least I knew it was inspired by the story of the creation of a famous institution. Basically young P.T. Barnum (Ellis Rubin, Ziv Zaifman singing) and his father Philo (Will Swenson), a tailor, work for the Hallett family. The young Barnum has an affection for the daughter Charity Hallett (Skylar Dunn), he is reprimanded for making Charity laugh, she is grounded, she later tells Barnum that she is being sent to finishing school. Barnum assures Charity they will not be separated, the two keep in touch through letters until they meet again as adults ("A Million Dreams"). Barnum (Golden Globe nominated Hugh Jackman) and Charity (Michelle Williams) get married and have two children, daughters Caroline (Austyn Johnson) and Helen (Cameron Seely) ("A Million Dreams (Reprise)"), they live a humble life in New York City, Clarity is happy, but Barnum dreams of more. Barnum works as a clerk at a shipping company, but is laid off after the company goes bankrupt, so he takes a risky bet, he deceives the bank into accepting his former employer's lost goods as collateral to take out a large loan. With the loan, Barnum builds Barnum's American Museum in downtown Manhattan, an attraction showcasing various wax models, but sales are slow, the children suggest attractions should be "alive". Barnum advertises for "freaks", to serve as performers for his museum ("Come Alive"), the unique people he finds include bearded lady Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle), dwarf performer Charles Stratton aka General Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey), Fedor Jeftichew the Dog Boy (Luciano Acuna Jr.) and many more. Despite protests and poor reviews, a larger audience are attracted, wanting to see unique looking people with unique talents, one critic describes the museum as a "circus", this prompts Barnum to rename his venture "Barnum's Circus", out of spite. Having found success, and making a fortune, Barnum is finally able to buy the mansion he had promised Charity when they were younger, but he searches ways to further his reputation with the upper class. Barnum meets and convinces Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) to join his venture ("The Other Side"), Carlyle becomes enamoured with African-American circus acrobat and trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). Carlyle arranges for Barnum and his troupe to meet Queen Victoria (Gayle Rankin); at this meeting, Barnum meets famed Swedish singer Jenny Lind, known as "The Swedish Nightingale" (Rebecca Ferguson, Loren Allred singing), he convinces her to perform in America, serving as her manager. Lind stuns Barnum and the audience with her performance ("Never Enough"), during which Carlyle upsets Wheeler by not showing affection for her when his parents notice. The success leads to a U.S. tour, but in the process Barnum neglects his original circus, the troupe's performers feel disheartened and ignored ("This Is Me"). Carlyle takes Wheeler to the theatre, but Carlyle's parents insult her, and she leaves, he chases after her, trying to convince her that they can be together, but she rejects him ("Rewrite the Stars"). Meanwhile Charity feels isolated from her husband as she stays home and takes care of their children ("Tightrope"). While on tour, Lind becomes attached to Barnum, but he declines her advances, in anger she calls off the tour, at her final performance, during curtain call ("Never Enough (Reprise)"), Lind kisses Barnum, this moment is photographed. When Barnum returns to the circus, he finds it on fire, following a fight between protesters and the troupe, there is a moment when Carlyle believes Wheeler is in the burning building, and runs in to save her, but she emerges unharmed, Barnum runs in and saves Carlyle. After the fire, most of the set and props have been destroyed and Carlyle is gravely injured, word of Lind's cancellation and Barnum's public intimacy reaches New York, leading to him having financial difficulties and becoming estranged from his wife. Barnum becomes depressed and starts drinking, his troupe find him in a bar, they persuade him to rebuild the circus; he resolves in future to stay down-to-earth and not get carried away with reputation and wealth ("From Now On"), meanwhile Carlyle wakes in hospital, with Wheeler by his side. Barnum visits Charity, and they rebuild their relationship, he finds it difficult to find a bank willing to loan him money to rebuild the circus, but the recovering Carlyle has saved his profits from the circus, he offers his earnings to rebuild, on the condition of becoming equal partners, Barnum happily accepts. Rebuilding at the original circus location is too expensive, so Barnum rebuilds the circus as an open-air tent event by the harbour, the new circus is a great success, in the end, Barnum hands over the reins of the show to Carlyle and retires to focus more on his family ("The Greatest Show"). Also starring Paul Sparks as James Gordon Bennett, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as W. D. Wheeler, Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Deng Yan, a Chinese blade-specialist and Shannon Holtzapffel as Prince Constantine, The Tattooed Man. Former Broadway and West End performer Jackman is superb as the ringmaster, Efron is likeable as his showbiz partner, and there is terrific support from Ferguson, Williams, Zendaya and Settle. It is a fictionalised version of the true creation Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the lives of its star attractions, the real circus ran for 146 years, but it is much more about the extravagant song and dance routines, splendidly written and melodic numbers, "Never Enough" and "This Is Me" being the highlights, a lavish spectacle and a brilliant period musical drama. It was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy and Best Original Song for "This is Me". Very good!
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
National Lampoon's Vacation is the most worthwhile, and European Vacation is alright, but this was the one I most looked forward to watching, because I had seen the poster so many times, a man in a Santa suit being electrocuted by Christmas lights, written by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone, Beethoven), directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik (Benny & Joon). Basically Christmas is only a few weeks away, the Griswold family are getting ready for the festive season, with husband/father Clark (Chevy Chase), wife/mother Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), son Rusty "Russ" (Johnny Galecki) and daughter Audrey (Juliette Lewis). Clark drives the family into the country to get a large Christmas tree, but they realise they have not brought any tools to cut the tree down, they are forced to uproot one, before driving home with the tree strapped on the car roof. Soon after, Clark's parents: father Clark Sr. (John Randolph) and mother Nora (Diane Ladd), and Ellen's parents: father Art (E.G. Marshall) and mother Francis (Everybody Loves Raymond's Doris Roberts), arrive to spend Christmas. Their bickering quickly begins to annoy the family, but Clark maintains a positive attitude, determined to have a "fun old-fashioned family Christmas." Clark covers the entire exterior of the house with 25,000 fairy lights, he has many slips and falls trying to attach them, they fail to work at first, as they were accidentally wired through the garage's light switch. When the lights finally come on after various bulb checks, and tampering with the plugs, they temporarily cause a power shortage across the city, and they cause chaos for snobby neighbours the Chesters, Todd (Nicholas Guest) and Margo (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). While admiring the lights on the front yard, Clark is shocked to see Ellen's cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her husband Eddie (Randy Quaid), they arrive unannounced with their children, Rocky (Cody Burger) and Ruby Sue (Ellen Hamilton Latzen), and their Rottweiler dog, Snots. Eddie confesses that he and his family are living in their RV, as he is broke and was forced to sell the house, Clark offers to buy gifts for Eddie's children, so they can still enjoy Christmas. Clark begins to wonder he has not received his yearly bonus, which he desperately needs for an advance payment he has made to install a new swimming pool. The family have a disastrous Christmas Eve dinner, then Clark receives an envelope, which was overlooked by a messenger the day before, it is not a bonus check, it is a free year's membership for the Jelly of the Month Club. This causes Clark to snap, he goes into a tirade of abuse about his boss, Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murray), and out of anger, requests that he be delivered to the house, so Clark can insult him to his face. Eddie takes this request literally, he drives to Frank's mansion, and kidnaps him, Clark is at first shocked, but he confronts Frank about the cancellation of the employees' Christmas bonuses. Meanwhile, Frank's wife, Helen (Natalia Nogulich), calls the police, and a SWAT team storms the Griswold house, everyone is held at gunpoint, but Frank decides not to press charges, he explains the situation to his wife and the authorities, they scold Frank's for his decision, so he reinstates them (with Clark getting an add-on 20% of his salary). The family head outside, and see what they think is Santa Claus in the sky, Clark tells them it is the Christmas Star, and he finally realises what the holiday means to him. Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) says the light is coming from the sewage treatment plant, he reminds Clark that Eddie has been dumping sewage into a storm drain, Uncle Lewis, before Clark can stop him, Uncle Lewis throws a lit match to the ground, triggering an explosion. Aunt Bethany starts singing "The Star-Spangled Banner", the whole family and the SWAT team join in, gazing at Clark's Santa Claus and reindeer set burning and flying into the distance, everyone then goes inside the house to celebrate, while and Ellen happily share a Christmas kiss. Chase is perhaps a little over-the-top this time as the accident-prone father trying to give his family the best Christmas possible, D'Angelo is alright as the tested wife, Quaid is reasonable as the obnoxious relative, and it's nice to see young Lewis in one of her earliest performances. There is always a preconception that everyone tries, or pretends, to be nice to each other at Christmas, well this movie takes that premise to the extreme, everything you fear could wrong during the festive season will go wrong for the Griswolds, unfortunately the extremity of this stuff is not as well crafted as seen previously, it does make you laugh, but perhaps not enough, overall it is an average seasonal comedy. Okay!
National Lampoon's European Vacation
The first Vacation movie from National Lampoon was a good laugh, this sequel obviously ramped it up, going from a road trip gone wrong to a bigger scale disaster holiday, I hoped it would be as funny as before, written by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone, Beethoven), directed by Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless). Basically the Griswold family: husband/father Clark (Chevy Chase), wife/mother Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), son Rusty (Jason Lively) and daughter Audrey (Dana Hill), compete in a game show called Pig in a Poke. After some confusion, the family inadvertently win the prize, an all-expenses-paid trip across Europe, in this whirlwind tour of western Europe, chaos of all sorts ensues for the Griswolds. The family start in London, England, staying in a grotty hotel, with a sloppy, tattooed Cockney desk clerk (Mel Smith), they start with a drive in a rented yellow Austin Maxi, but end up going around in circles at a busy roundabout for hours. They knock over a cyclist (Eric Idle), who appears again almost every location throughout the trip, and visiting Stonehenge, Clark ends up reversing the car and causing the ancient stones to topple over, in a domino effect, they do not even notice as they drive away. They next travel to Paris, France, wearing berets and going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, their video camera is stolen by a passer-by they ask to take a picture, they are mocked speaking terrible French by a French waiter (Philippe Sturbelle), and Clark and Ellen catch Rusty watching a lewd can-can show, and with a prostitute. The family next travel somewhere in Germany, they mistake a bewildered elderly couple for relatives, but they are served dinner and given accommodation anyway, Clark turns a lively Bavarian folk dance into a large street brawl, and fleeing knocks over many vendors' stands, and gets their Citroën DS stuck in a narrow medieval archway. Moving on to Rome, Italy, the Griswolds go to rent a car, unaware that the men at the travel office are thieves, the real manager is being held captive, they give the family the car, with the manager trapped in the trunk. The next day, Ellen is shocked to find private, sexy videos from the stolen camera have been used for a billboard advertising pornography, she is completely humiliated, because Clark claimed the footage was erased. Ellen storms off, she encounters one of the two thieves, still unaware he is a criminal she confesses her recent troubles, when the police arrive at the hotel, the thief kidnaps Ellen, prompting Clark to rescue her. In the end, Ellen is saved, the thieves are arrested, and the family have come to the end of their vacation, on the flight back to America, flying over New York City, Clark accidentally causes the plane to knock the Statue of Liberty's torch upside down. Also starring John Astin as Pig in a Poke Host - Kent, Victor Lanoux as The Thief, Massimo Sarchielli as The Other Thief, Robbie Coltrane as Man in the Bathroom, Maureen Lipman as Lady in the Bed, Wendy Goldman as Stewardess, Angus MacKay as Announcer at Court, Julie Wooldridge as Princess Di, Peter Hugo as Prince Charles, Jeannette Charles as Queen Elizabeth, Paul McDowell as First English Motorist and Fawlty Towers' Ballard Berkeley as The Bike Rider. Chase is just about as funny as before as the accident-prone father trying to make sure the family enjoy the various cultures, D'Angelo is still reasonable as the tested wife, and it is fun to spot recognisable faces along the way. The characters in each location are very stereotypical, from polite British to rude French, aggressive Germans to mafia style Italians, the slapstick is maybe a little more over-the-top, it becomes almost predictable, but the sights of Europe are nice, and there are some reasonable giggles along the way, a highlight is the sweep around the Louvre to Belgian pop song "Ça Plâne pour Moi" by Plastic Bertrand, overall it is a fair comedy. Worth watching!
National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
National Lampoon's Vacation
I'd always heard about the National Lampoon movies, spin-offs from the original magazine, I'd seen Animal House, but I'd never seen Vacation movies, so I started from the beginning, written by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone, Beethoven), directed by Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Analyze This, Bedazzled). Basically Chicago food chemist Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants to spend quality time with his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and children, son Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and daughter Audrey Griswold (Dana Barron). Clark decides to lead the family on a cross-country expedition, travelling from the suburbs of Chicago to southern California, to "America's Favorite Family Fun Park", amusement park Walley World. Ellen wants to fly, but Clark insists on driving, so he can bond with his family, he has ordered a new car in preparation for the trip, but the Salesman (Eugene Levy) says it will not be ready for six weeks. As Clark has already traded the car he brought, and it has already been hauled away and crushed, he is forced to accept a Wagon Queen Family Truckster, an ugly, out-sized station wagon. During the trip, the Griswolds experience several mishaps, including being tagged by vandals in St. Louis, and Clark is continually tantalised by a beautiful young woman (Christie Brinkley) driving a flashy red 1983 Ferrari. They stop in Coolidge, Kansas to visit Ellen's cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her husband Eddie (Randy Quaid), they ask the Griswolds to drop off cranky Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) and her mean dog Dinky at her son's home in Phoenix, they reluctantly agree. The family stop in Colorado for the night at a decrepit and dirty campground, Clark forgets to untie the dog's leash from the car bumper, and in the morning unintentionally kills Dinky, a state trooper lectures Clark on animal cruelty, and Edna becomes irate. Ellen loses her bag after they leave Colorado, forcing Clark to have to cash a check for future payment, Clark and Ellen argue in the car, then they crash somewhere between Utah and Arizona, they are stranded in the desert. Clark sets off alone to find help, unaware that the rest of the family have been rescued by a passing mechanic, they reunite, and the mechanic extorts the rest of Clark's cash to repair the car, which is barely operational. They are frustrated and stop at the Grand Canyon, Clark is unable to convince a clerk at a hotel to cash a personal check, because his card was reported stolen, so Clarks takes from the cash register behind the clerk's back and leaves the check. Back on the road, the family find out that Aunt Edna has passed away in her sleep, they wrap her body in tarpaulin and tie her to the roof of the car, they reach Norman's house, but discover he is out of town, so they leave Edna's body at the back door. Ellen and the children have had enough of the road trip and the numerous mishaps, they want to go home, but Clark has become obsessed with reaching Walley World, they carry on. Ellen and Clark have another argument, he goes to a hotel bar, there he finally meets the Ferrari-driving blonde beauty, she invites him to go skinny-dipping with her in the pool, but the family discover them before anything else can happen, Ellen forgives Clark, and the couple goes skinny-dipping as well. Despite the many misfortunes, the family finally arrive at the theme park, only to find it is closed for the next two weeks for repairs, causing Clark to finally slip into madness, he buys a realistic-looking BB gun, and demands park security guard Russ Lasky (John Candy) take the family through Walley World. While Clark, Ellen, the kids and Russ ride the various roller coasters and rides, an LAPD SWAT have been called, along with park owner Roy Walley (Home Alone 2's Eddie Bracken), but Roy understands Clark's impassioned longing for a perfect vacation, he decides not press charges, Roy allows the Griswolds to enjoy the park, along with the SWAT team. Also starring James Keach as Motorcycle Cop, Licence to Kill's Frank McRae as Grover, Jane Krakowski as Cousin Vicki and Henry Gibson as Hotel Clerk. Chase is terrific as the accident-prone father who will do whatever it takes to reach the destination, no matter how insane, D'Angelo is good support as his tested wife, and there are memorable scenes with Candy, Levy and Brinkley. It is a simple premise, a road movie gone wrong, with various slapstick disaster moments, it is most funny to see how far the dad goes as he slowly cracks, and the silliness is well-paced, this is always considered as the best in the Vacation series, understandably so, a fun comedy. Good!
Jack Frost (1998)
Not to be confused with the animated TV special, or the nasty horror with a killer snowman, I had seen this film once or twice before, I certainly remember it being cheesy, but I wanted to watch at least one more time, to get a decent opinion, directed by Troy Miller (Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd). Basically Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) is the lead singer of rock band "The Jack Frost Band", based in Medford, Colorado, they make their living covering songs, and some of their own, and hope to sign a record deal. But Jack's commitments to his music stop him spending time with his family, wife Gabby (Kelly Preston) and son Charlie (Joseph Cross). Jack and Charlie spend some quality time together, they build a snowman together, then as Charlie settles into bed, Jack gives his son his harmonica, telling him its magic, and he'll be able to hear it wherever he is. Jack misses a hockey game Charlie is playing in, that he promised to attend, in favour of recording a song, so he promises to take his family on a Christmas trip to the mountains. But then Jack is called to a gig that could make or break his career, on his way however he realises his mistake, so he borrows a car from band member and best friend Mac MacArthur (Mark Addy) to get home. Unfortunately, while driving, Jack is caught in a bad storm, he cannot see through the snow, and his windscreen wipers are faulty, as a result, he crashes the car and killed instantly. One year later, Charlie is depressed about his father's death, one night he builds a snowman, like the one he and his father did before, and he plays Jack's harmonica as he settles down to sleep. The harmonica turns out to be a magic after all, it sends a gust of snow swirling around the snowman, it resurrects Jack, his spirit awakens in the snowman. Jack is thrilled to be alive, he attempts to greet Charlie, but he ends up terrifying his son, realising he is a snowman he walks around and contemplates his fate. The next morning, Charlie confronts the snowman with a hairdryer, threatening to melt him, Jack wakes again, scares him and makes him run away. Charlie ends up running into a snowball fight battlefield, but Jack pelts local bully Rory Buck (Taylor Handley) and his friends with snowballs, he and Charlie manage to escape on a sled, while Rory and the others pursue them. Eventually they lose their pursuers, Charlie realises the living snowman is indeed his father, after he calls him "Charlie boy", they embrace with a hug, they both realise that it was the harmonica that brought him back. Jack and Charlie reconnect, he teaches him the values he never got to teach him when he was alive, including hockey lessons, Jack convinces his son to rejoin the hockey team. Gabby is concerned about Charlie's behaviour recently, especially seeing him interacting with the snowman, so Mac, who continues to be a friend, becomes a father figure of sorts to see what's going on. Winter is almost over, Jack begins melting, but is determined to watch Charlie's return to hockey, afterwards Charlie decides to take his father to the mountains, where it is colder, Charlie tries to convince his mother to help, but does not believe him, assuming he is just grieving. Charlie then comes across Rory Buck, who insults the snowman, but Jack speaks and reveals to be alive, Rory sympathises with Charlie when he talks about not having a father, he helps to sneak Jack onto a truck heading to the mountains. Reaching the mountains, Jack and Charlie arrive at an isolated cabin, the one that they were to stay in before he died, Jack calls Gabby, so she can come and pick Charlie up, Gabby is shocked to hear his voice and obliges. Jack tells a disheartened Charlie that he must leave, Gabby arrives as Jack begins to dissipate, revealing Jack as he appeared in life, in ethereal form, he gives both his wife and son a message, telling Charlie he will always be in his heart, Jack bids farewell and returns to the afterlife. In the end, Charlie has returned to playing hockey with his friends, which includes Rory, with Gabby and Mac watching, and the final shot sees snowmen in the front yards of every house on the street. Also starring Henry Rollins as Sid Gronic, Bean's Andrew Lawrence as Tuck Gronic, American Pie's Eli Marienthal as Spencer and Will Rothhaar as Dennis. Former Batman star Keaton is okay both in human and snow form (it was originally going to be George Clooney, who ironically dropped out and went on to do Batman and Robin), Preston only gets a little to do, at least Cross is reasonable as the grieving son, and Addy adds a little comic relief. The story can easily be described in a few words, "Ghost with a snowman", that is essentially what it is, a man dies and comes back as a snowman to get a second chance at being a father, there are fun sequences, including the snowball battle and toboggan chase, but there is a lot of sentimentality that makes you feel icky, it is a big leap of imagination, a mushy fantasy drama. Adequate!
The Year Without a Santa Claus
The classic 1970s animated short is a fan favourite for the festive season, from its stop-motion animation to the catchy Snow Miser and Heat Miser songs, but moviemakers went ahead and tried a live-action remake, directed by Ron Underwood (Tremors, City Slickers, Mighty Joe Young, Pluto Nash). Basically Santa Claus (John Goodman) is not feeling very well, but more than anything he has become disgruntled with the commercialism of Christmas, he thinks that children no longer believe him. Santa decides to quit, to cancel Christmas and not deliver toys and presents this Christmas Eve, despite arguments with Mrs. Claus (Delta Burke), and two of his elves, Jingle (Eddie Griffin) and Jangle (Ethan Suplee). They decide to provide Santa with proof that children still believe in him and the spirit of Christmas, so the elves head to the United States to find a child with Christmas spirit. Before reaching South Town, they have a setback, the jealous, competitive Miser Brothers are arguing about their control of the weather, Snow Miser (Michael McKean) controls the cold conditions, and Heat Miser (Harvey Fierstein) controls the warm weather. The elves find little boy Ignatius "Iggy" Thistlewhite (Dylan Minnette) who believes in Santa and the true spirit of Christmas. But Iggy's father, Mayor Thistlewhite (Robert C. Treveiler), will only believe the elves' story if they can bring snow to South Town on Christmas Day, this has not happened in the southern town for many years. The Miser brothers will not compromise to make sure that this can happen, but Mrs. Claus brings in Mother Nature (Carol Kane), they will have to agree to this, or face the wrath of their mother. Santa decides to go to the city himself, that is when he realises that children really do believe in him, and the spirit of Christmas, his faith is restored thanks to Iggy. So, on Christmas Eve, Santa flies his sleigh around the world, delivering toys and presents to everyone, and he indeed brings snow to South Town, Santa is happy to be back to work, and looks forward to next Christmas. Also starring Chris Kattan as Sparky and Laura Schlessinger as Dr. Laura. Goodman had played Father Christmas twice already in TV and film, so he seems comfortable, Griffin and Suplee add some titters as the bumbling elves, apart from that the other cast members aren't really worth mentioning, this remake keeps to the same basic concept as the original, but it has nowhere near the same charm, the songs are not enjoyable, and new stuff put makes it really messy, a disappointing seasonal fantasy. Adequate!
The Year Without a Santa Claus
I have always seen images and small clips of the cheesy children's Christmas specials, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas, this is one of the most famous cartoons in this category, and with the festive season on the way, I treated myself, directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. (Frosty the Snowman, Jack Frost, The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn). Basically it is Thanksgiving in the North Pole, Santa Claus (Mickey Rooney) has a bad cold, and the doctor tells him he should have some rest. Santa does not believe that anyone really cares about Christmas anymore, he decides to take a holiday, to not deliver any presents and cancel Christmas. Santa leaves it to elves Jingle (Bob McFadden) and Jangle (Bradley Bolke), to find proof that people still believe in Santa Claus. The elves take the youngest reindeer, Vixen, but are shot down by the Miser brothers; supernatural being the Snow Miser (Dick Shawn) who in charge of cold weather, and the Heat Miser (George S. Irving) who is in charge of warm weather. Jingle and Jangle land in Southtown, but get lost, a small town in the Southern United States, policeman complain about their clothing and the reindeer, Vixen is disguised as a dog, she ends up taken to the dog pound. The elves then meet and befriend a boy named Ignatius "Iggy" Thistlewhite (Colin Duffy), they visit his father, the sceptical Mayor of Southtown (Ron Marshall), who laughs hysterically at their story, but agrees to free Vixen if they can prove Santa exists, making it snow in Southtown on Christmas Day, which has not happened in years. On behalf of Santa and the elves, Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth) visits the Miser brothers, she asks Snow Miser to make it snow, but the town is under Heat Miser's control, Mrs. Claus compromises with Heat Miser, he will only agree if Snow Miser surrenders the North Pole to his control. The brothers disagree, so Mrs. Claus goes "over their heads" by talking to their mother, Mother Nature (Rhoda Mann), Heat Miser and Snow Miser are persuaded to compromise, otherwise they will face the wrath of their mother. Santa, dressed in civilian clothes, arrives in Southtown to rescue Vixen, he discovers that some people still believe in him and the spirit of Christmas when all the world's children make him presents, this sets off headlines around the world. One little girl is upset by Santa's decision to skip Christmas, she writes a letter that she will have a "Blue Christmas", Santa is touched by all the caring and generosity, he decides to make his Christmas Eve journey after all. On Christmas Day, the children of Southtown are happy with the presents they find under their trees, Iggy gets a bicycle, and the town are delighted with the snowfall, in the end Santa is pleased to have delivered presents to all children of the world, he and Mrs. Claus look forward to next year. I should mention, this cartoon is seen in Batman and Robin when Mr. Freeze tries to get his henchmen to sing the Snow Miser song, and the sad letter scene was parodied in South Park, with Kyle writing to Fidel Castro hoping for democracy, with drawings. This hour-long television special was actually surprisingly enjoyable, it was cheesy, but not sickeningly, the highlight is definitely the catchy Snow Miser and Heat Miser songs, the stop-motion animation is charming, and it is a nice simple story the kids and adults can go along with, a fun seasonal animated short film. Good!
Jagged Edge (1985)
The formula of Basic Instinct, hero or heroine falling for the murder suspect, has been reworked many times, so it is easy to forget that it was first established in this film, it was both the title and the leading stars that attracted me to watch it, directed by Richard Marquand (Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi). Basically in San Francisco, socialite and heiress Paige Forrester (Maria Mayenzet) is brutally murdered, with a butcher knife, with a jagged edge, at her beach house by a male intruder in a black mask, he writes the word "bitch" with her blood on the wall. Her husband Jack Forrester (Jeff Bridges) is devastated by the crime, but soon finds himself accused of murder, he is arrested by district attorney Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote). Jack tries to hire high-profile lawyer Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close) to defend him, she used to work for Krasny, but after an incident with him she stopped in criminal law, Barnes is reluctant to take the case. Krasny runs into Barnes, she distressed to find out Harry Styles has hanged himself in prison, then Barnes visits private detective Sam Ransom (Oscar nominated Robert Loggia), he stopped private investigations at the same time she left Krasny's office, it is clear the Styles case is the reason, Barnes agrees to take the Forrester case. Preparing for the trial, Barnes and Forrester spend a great deal of time together, they eventually sleep together, Ransom warns Barnes that Forrester is just trying to make her care more about his case. Barnes' office begins receiving anonymous typed letters that mention things about the case, it is noticeable that all the letter T's are slightly raised, and it is clear that they were written on 1942 Corona typewriter. In a pre-trial meeting, Barnes tells the judge that Krasny has a history of not meeting his discovery obligations, the prosecution's case relies mainly on circumstantial evidence. Witness Virginia "Ginny" Howell (Leigh Taylor-Young) testifies that Paige told her she was divorcing Jack, but Barnes show a love letter that discredits her, suggesting Paige ended all communication with her, and that her advances towards Jack were rejected. The next witness, private club locker-room attendant Anthony Fabrizi (Louis Giambalvo), is discredited after he claims to have seen a hunting knife in Forrester's locker, when he admits that the knife was another member's locker. Eileen Avery (Diane Erickson) had an affair with Forrester, Krasny calls her to the stand, as Avery details her relationship with Forrester, Barnes finds it eerily similar to her own relationship. Barnes feels manipulated by Forrester, and believes him to be guilty, but she agrees to continue out of sense of duty, then her office receives another letter, it suggests asking Julie Jensen to testify. In court, Jensen testifies that she was attacked in the same manner as Paige Forrester, all details match, but the attacker stopped himself from killing her, Krasny objects that this attack is unrelated, but lets it slip that his office had investigated the attack and not revealed it in discovery. In chambers, Judge Carrigan (John Dehner) threatens to have Krasny disbarred, Krasny insists Forrester staged the earlier attack as a sort of alibi, which he had planned for 18 months, Krasny also insists Forrester has been sending the anonymous notes to Barnes. The trial ends, the jury find Forrester not guilty of murder, after this Barnes talks to the press about the Henry Styles case, with Krasny suppressing evidence that proved his innocence, Krasny walks off in disgust. Barnes goes to Forrester's house to celebrate, her negative feelings towards Jack have passed, they sleep together again. In the morning, Barnes discovers a typewriter in Jack's closet, she is shaken to test it and discover the "T" is raised when typing, just as in the anonymous notes, she hides the typewriter in some clothes and flees with it, pretending to Forrester that her child is sick. When Forrester calls Barnes, she tells him that she found the typewriter, he says he is baffled and that is coming over, Barnes calls Ransom, on the brink of telling him that Forrester is a killer, but instead she hangs up. Then a masked figure appears, breaking in and confronting Barnes in the bedroom, he starts to attack her, but she grabs a gun from under the bed covers, she shoots the attacker several times until he falls to the floor, Ransom arrives and unmasks the intruder: it is Forrester. Also starring Lance Henriksen as Frank Martin, Marshall Colt as Bobby Slade, Phyllis Applegate as Mrs. Stiles, William Allen Young as Greg Arnold, Ben Hammer as Dr. Goldman and Star Trek: The Next Generation's Michael Dorn as Dan Hislan. Close does well as the attorney haunted by the memory of a case gone wrong, Bridges is reasonable as the suspicious but charming client, and Loggia gets his moments as the foul-mouthed expert support, I can sort of see why he was award nominated. The opening murder, and the ending with the murderer reveal are the most exciting bits, the relationship between the man on trial and his lawyer is alright, and the courtroom scenes are engaging, all over it is a compelling enough thriller. Good!