The Thing (1982)

I bought a wonderful version of John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing for my mum for Christmas this year.  It came in a gift box, exclusive to HMV, that looks like a VHS when you pull it out the sleeve.  I completely fooled her.  She’s a lover of the good old VHS casettes and she said “Thank goodness I’ve still got my VHR.”  Then she realised that it wasn’t a real VHS but 2 DVDs, one blu ray and one Ultra HD DVD (to future proof the ‘VHS’ even further).  I’m terribly saddened that HMV has gone into administration again, I’ll go and buy a load more VHS gifts from the Staines store before it closes because these gifts are diamonds.

Anyway, onto the film.  It was our Christmas day film.  We put it on once my dad had gone to bed, we’d completed our puzzle and settled down on the sofa for our evening chill; full of food and port.  I’ve never seen The Thing so I was keen to watch it and David and my mum were excited to see it again and share it with me.

The film is based in an Antarctic research station, which hosts Kurt Russell’s character and his crew of scientists.  It starts off with a helicoptor trying to shoot a husky running through the snow, which I must admit which upset me slightly, (I’m glad they missed!) before I started to realise there was something a bit weird with the dog.  Without giving away all the details, but it’s hard not to, it’s a film about aliens and the fight for survival when the aliens try to take over using humans (and any creature they can find!) to disguse themselves.  It reveals an unnerving way that aliens could potentially trick people into thinking they weren’t there when they were really taking over the world!

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Looking down on the newly discovered space ship in the Antarctic

It’s quite a gory film and I do love a bit of gore.  However, I do not recommend it when effectively in a food coma and feeling slightly nausious already after too much Christmas food & drinks.  For his time, The Thing‘s director, John Carpenter, was incredibly inventive in his use of special effects and filming techniques to get superb effects.  They get some fantastic shots of aliens attacking living beings and getting inside people and copious amounts of blood, guts and gore without using the usual boring CGI that we see all the time now.  I’d recommend the film on these grounds, it’s a wonderful specimine of fine film making.

Another thing (lol), apart from the special effects, that makes this film scary/thrilling is that it’s set in the Antarctic, so far far away from the rest of the world that there is literally no hope for rescue or survival.  This group of men, who don’t normally work together, need to work together, putting their egos aside, to figure out who could be disgused as an alien and who isn’t, in an attemp to save the world and stop the aliens from reaching civilisation.

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Kurt Russell as Macready in The Thing

 

It is very clear throughout, to us and the characters, what their fate is, yet they never give up, try to put their emotions aside, work together (eventually!) and is a real test of their strength and humanity.  It was a hugely enjoyable film.

As mentioned above, this was a special addition DVD set from HMV (hugely recommend this collectors addition, but go and buy it asap!).  It is also available if you have a free trial or subscription of Studio Universal Classics (via Amazon Prime) otherwise you can rent it for £3.49.  It’s available currently for free included in Sky Cinema or if you have Now TV.

All my love & films
Jen xxx

 

Oliver Twist

Image result for oliver twist 1948If you are going to watch a film about Oliver Twist, this beautiful black and white 1948 re-telling of the Charles Dicken’s story by David Lean is the one to watch.

The story follows the well-known, beautiful tale of sweet Oliver Twist, played by John Howard Davies, who is an orphan boy born in the workhouse that his mother stumbled into before she dies after giving birth to him.  Years later, after drawing the short straw and asking for seconds of gruel at dinner time (the legendary line, “Please, Sir, can I have some more?”), Oliver Twist is sold to work with a coffin maker and undertaker before escaping and running away on a 7 day journey to London.  London is where he bumps into The Artful Dodger and gets swept into a life of pick-pocketing with a group of other orphan boys in order to keep a roof over his head with the old man Fagin who leads the group.

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Prior to seeing Oliver Twist, I’d only seen Carol Reed’s 1968 version Oliver!.  That version is a musical and is the one that immediately comes to most people’s mind when you think of on-screen Oliver Twist.  I’m very pleased to have discovered this older version as it’s interesting and refreshing to see such a superb production of the story as it was supposed to be seen without the singing and dancing.  Oliver Twist is perfect if you aren’t keen on musicals and David Lean’s film is the best way to see it.

Having the correct lightining is critical to black and white films and an art form in its own right.  There’s something really special and magical about the lighting throughout Oliver Twist, indoors and outdoors (on an indoor set) with candles, lamps, carefully positioned shadows and even the lightening in the first stormy scene.  It makes the film stand out on the screen and gives beautiful, dramatic shots to set the scenes in this motion picture and let’s David Lean’s top directing skills shine through.  I am excited to see what else he has to offer in his first Charles Dicken’s retelling of Great Expectations which was made few years prior to Oliver Twist.

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Oliver Twist has a 100% rating on rotten tomatoes compared to the various remakes which are not so well received but still highly rated in relation to other similar films.  This one is basically perfect.  Lean has created a truely wonderful film that I can’t fault.  This 1948 version is a must see for fans of the story or classic literary tales.

The story is an emotional rollercoaster but a memorable experience told in a wonderful visual way.  There are happy moments and sad moments and you only want the best for lovely young Oliver.  It gets top marks from me and the only visual telling of this classic which still makes an impression today.  It is entirely deserving of being one of the top British films of all time.

Oliver Twist is available on Amazon Prime for your enlightenment if you haven’t seen this film before or wish to see it again, which you should.  It is a truely stunning translation of the literary classic which no other version has matched up to yet.

All my love and films,
Jen xxx

Singin’ in the Rain

Image result for singin' in the rainThis is the second 50s film I’ve seen within a week that’s set in the 20s!  Singin’ in the Rain was directed, choreographed and starred in by Gene Kelly.  It is a marvellous celebration of Hollywood’s short history.  It celebrates feature film, silent film, film with audio, music, amazing sets, dancing, acting, singing etc. etc.  What more could you want?

The focus of this film is taking us back to the 20s when audio in films was still cutting edge, and the complications that came with it: unwanted sound and actors that had the wrong voices.  The comic telling of the tale in a romantic setting was a wonderful way to be enlightened by this theme.  It’s been over dramatised but I still found it fascinating how audio in films came to be and the funny side of how it was perceived and their difficulties.

Having seen All About Eve recently, set in the theatre, and the playwrite wanting to go to Hollywood to hit the big time in the movies; the Hollywood vs New York and Film vs Theatre rings true more than ever.  At the start, Kathy (Debbie Reynolds) isn’t interested in the famous silent movie star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) after he accidentally hitches a ride in her car.  She’s rude to him and makes her dreams very clear.  About her going to New York and being on the stage to do “real acting”, unlike his ‘undignified’ career.  Don asks “What’s your lofty mission in life that lets you sneer at my humble profession?” and she simply replys “I’m an actress…” then “…on the stage”.

Image result for singin' in the rainThey end up reuniting at an actor’s party when the head of Don’s studio is giving a presentation about the cutting edge technology of sound in films!  Debbie pops up, literally, to her embarassment, as a party entertainer.

Gene Wilder was apparently a bit of a perfectionist meaning many of the incredible songs and dances which awe us in this film were products of numerous retakes.  There’s one fantastic shot in a dance routines which is one roll and they nailed it.  Goodness knows how long it took to shoot, but they’re really wonderful scenes.

There’s a random broadway scene in the middle where Gene Kelly starts singing and dancing with absolutely incredible theatre set designs.  I’ve heard this is apparently because Gene Kelly wanted to dance with a professional who was just as good as he was as Debbie wasn’t as good as he’d hoped (poor Debbie!)

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Singin’ in the Rain has some cracking tunes, which everyone will know, regardless of whether you’ve seen the film or not.  ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Singing in the Rain’ in particular.  When Gene is actually singing in the rain, in that iconic scene, it’s completely magical and very touching.  It makes you rethink you life and want to get out and enjoy things which are considered not so great normally.

What ever happened to tap dancing musicals?  As pop culture developed, we seem to have lost touch with this marvellous art form.  There had been a gaping hole in Hollywood tap musicals before La La Land emerged and with An American in Paris hitting the stages again, I can see it’s popularity rising again.  I wonder if we’ll have more coming soon.  It’s always nice to see something a bit different and fresh, that we’ve not seen for a while.  My world has been enlightened since I discovered this gem I am keen to watch more Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers etc. masterpieces.  Please recommend some to me that you think are worth watching!

This is such a beautiful film and I truely believe everyone will love it.  A wonderful, light hearted romance, with great singing and dancing.  I managed to record Singin’ in the Rain on Sky Movies although the second part never seemed to tape, so it took a few goes!  Keep an eye out for it, it must get airtime on tv all the time, otherwise it’s available for renting in all the usual spots: Sky Store, Amazon Prime.

All my love & films
Jen xxx

 

 

 

Schindler’s List

I’ve always had this film on my radar, I’ve just never watched it.  The only reason I’d not watched it was because all I’d heard about it (apart from it being amazing) is that it is really, really, REALLY sad; for obvious reasons.  And I don’t deal well with sad films.  So that’s a warning to anyone who is like me and can’t hold it together when something sad happens.  Maybe don’t watch this film.  Or Maybe just watch it once and then never again.  I definitely recommend this film though, but it does come with that one warning: it’s shocking and incredibly sad.

Schindler’s List is, as I’m sure you all know, is a historical drama by Steven Spielberg set during the Holocaust. There’s a man named Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson), who is a factory owner and entrepreneur who realises that by keeping Jews in employment at his enamel factory he can actually create an escape route for some of them already in camps and avoid them being set to Auschwitz.  He himself is a Nazi supporter but it just reinforces that not all Nazi supporters were in support of the murder of Jews.  Oskar uses his wealth and power to bribe people to let him keep buying Jews to work for him.  His ‘List’ being the long list of Jews he wants rescued from the camps and sent to him for work.


The Magical Stephen Spielberg directing Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List

Steven Spielberg’s decision to shoot in black and white was the best thing he could have done for this film. It makes Schindler’s List so much more harrowing than I think it would have been in colour. It feels much more real. Also the speed at which they filmed it made it even more intense and urgent. Spielberg’s amazing directing landed him an Academy Award.  The majority of the movie was filmed in and around Krakow in Poland giving it that additional element of reality.

One minor downside to Schindler’s List is how long it is. It’s 3 hours land 15 minutes long.  I watched it in two halves because even for me I think sitting and watching a film straight for 3 hours is a bit much.

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Ralph Feinnes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List

There is some incredible acting in Schindler’s List.  There’s no other way to describe it.  In particular I want to call out Ralph Feinnes.  He plays Amon Goeth, the commander of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Poland.  He is one nasty piece of work and it’s really shocking to see some of things he does, says and the way he treats the Jews.  It really makes you question how someone of his age could have been so brainwashed that he thought he was doing the right thing.   Ben Kingsly, who played Itzhak Stern and Embeth Davidtz, who plays Helen Hirsch also deserve special mentions for their stellar performances.

This film was very upsetting throughout but when it ended, I was surprised how it didn’t affect me as much as other holocaust films did, such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Dir. Mark Herman). I was trying to understand why this was.  I’ve established that The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was in the point of view of innocent, naive children, which always makes everything 10x worse. They also showed a lot more of the horrors of the concentration camps and what happened there, leading to devastating consequences.  Whereas in Schindler’s List, there are a lot of shootings, but as film watchers, we do see at lot of graphic shootings in films nowadays and that’s probably nulled our senses.  It’s the parts in the concentration camps that hit home about the true horrors of the holocaust.  Schindler’s List skimmed over a lot of those aspects and when they started to show some of Auschwitz, certain things don’t happen that you thought might happen, or perhaps were expecting to happen. This keeps you on the edge of your emotional seat. On one hand, I’m glad they didn’t go into details as it’s not actually the main focus of this story and I may have not made it to the end of the film.  But on the other hand, they did gloss over some of the real horrors that these innocent people were subjected.

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Oskar Schinder’s grave

I think everyone should see holocaust films, even if it’s only once. We should be reminded about what happened during that time. Schindler’s List reinforces that there were people helping to save the Jews and that not everyone was on the same page.  It’s important to remember that this is based on a true story and Oskar Schindler should always be remembered.  Please give this a watch, it keeps his story alive.  It is very deserving of its ‘Best Picture’ Academy Award.  Let me know what you think.

If you have Sky, Schindler’s List is currently on Sky Movies available for download at any time and it’s also part of the Amazon Prime Video subscription.  The Boy in the Striped PJs is on Netflix if you have that, also a must-see.

All my love & films,
Jen x

All About Eve

All About Eve.  Where to start….

IMG_8972 instaThis is one of those films that my mum has ALWAYS been trying to get me to watch.  “If you only watch one black and white film, Jennifer, it should be this one”.  I ignored her most of my life, obviously.  Mum has this on DVD and lent it to me recently for my viewing pleasure.  I’d not heard anything else about it apart from that it’s listed in the AFI and BFI top 100 films of all time.  So surely it must be good.

I eagerly put it in the DVD player and watched it for the first time last week; my eyes have been opened.  What a genuinely fantastic film.  It’s 2 hours of pure enjoyment about Margot Channing, a stage actress, played by Bette Davis, who gets introduced to the young fan Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter, in her dressing room one evening.  It’s really funny from start to finish and the 2 hours went in a flash as we were so engrossed!  Eve is in awe of Margot, she goes to every one of Margot’s shows.  They quickly become friends and Margot takes Eve under her wing.  This whole film is definitely a whilwind of friendship, suspicions, glamourous parties, media, awards and backstage backstabbing.  It even features a very young Marylin Monroe!  This must have been one of her first films.

Image result for all about eve margot and lloydMargot Channing is such a character.  She’s really funny and likeable the whole way through even though she’s a bit of a diva.  What I thought was truely beautiful about this film is that Bette Davis actually fell in love with the actor that plays her on screen love interest, Lloyd, played by Gary Merrill, when they were both already married.  Bette and Gary actually went onto marry for 10 years.  They say that Bette and Gary divorced because Gary really fell in love with the character of Margot Channing instead of Bette herself.  Bette didn’t marry again after that.

Anyway, back to the film, I think this film is like the original, non-thriller version of Single White Female, the Barbet Schroeder film based on the book of the same name but about a girl who will do anything to get close to a certain person and try and dislodge them from where she is in life.  Without giving the plot of the film away, take from that what you will.  But if you enjoyed Single White Female, you’ll enjoy this.  All About Eve isn’t a thriller, as I said, it’s most definitely a comedy/drama, but it has unnerving aspects about Eve, which made me keep thinking about Single White Female and made me want to watch that film again!

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Bette Davis really lives up to her reputation in this film as one of the grestest actressess in the history of Hollywood.  She proves just how great of an actress she is with her sterling performance throughout.  I hear Bette was actually quite similar in real life to her character, which I think is such a gem and probably why she’s so good in this.  She lets her comic and fun personality come through into Margot.  It’s based on a true story as backsage backstabbing was definitely rife in Hollywood in those days.  Bette Davis, as much as I love her, was notorious for having tiffs with various other actressess.  She was best pally with her on screen rival, but hated her on screen best friend.  Apparently when filming this she even made a comment about how Marylin Monroe’s kitty kat voice doesn’t make up for her bad acting, which I thought was quite funny.  Sadly Marylin didn’t get a huge opportuinity to showcase her acting ability, dying so young.  This is the first film I’ve seen her in but I’ll definitely be writing about Some Like It Hot soon so watch this space.

It’s about time the piano realized it has not written the concerto!” – Lloyd Richards, All About Eve

Image result for all about eveI’ve never labelled myself a feminist but I do think All About Eve, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, is a very progressive film for it’s time.  It’s wonderful that Bette Davis was the star in this film when she 42!  That was really quite old for women in the 50s who were still acting, espcially to land such a leading role.  She probably thought she was almost finished with acting but still got the part of this glamorous actress.  And to think that nowadays older actressess are complaining there aren’t enough parts of older women.  Also, 4 females were nominated for oscars based on their All About Eve performances.  I want to see more films featuring these strong female actresses.

If rotten tomatoes is anything to go by, it has 100% in the tomatometer!  I’ve not seen that on many films I’ve watched before.  All About Eve is truely a charm and recommended to anyone that wants some entertainment for a couple of hours.  It’s old, but timeless.  You honestly forget that it’s even in black and white, you get so invested in the characters.  It makes me kind of wish Hollywood was still like this and made films like this: incredibly beautiful and sophisticated.  It is totally deserving of the best picture Academy Award that it won in 1950.  I always knew it would be good, but it gets the double thumbs up from me.

All About Eve is available on DVD or can be rented from Amazon Prime Video at a steal of £3.49!!  If you’ve not seen it yet, I hope this post gets you adding it to the top of your ‘to watch next’ list.

All my love & films,
Jen x