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

 

It’s a Wonderful Life

Image result for it's a wonderful lifeHAPPY NEW YEAR, FILM LOVERS! I wanted to bring in the new year with a Christmas film which I watched for the first time last year and kick off 2019 with a review of a story which holds a lovely message.

It’s a Wonderful life is a truly wonderful film made by Frank Capra and is beautifully written and beautifully made.  It is the Christmas movie which will survive all Christmas films and should be watched year on year.  It is an ageless black and white Hollywood classic which will be passed down through generations to remind everyone of the true spirit of Christmas and how each and every one of us should try to live our lives.  It has become the annual festive film for many families and will remain to be for many years to come.

It starts off with a slightly cringey, outdated image of some stars talking about what’s going on down on earth and whether an angel needs to be sent to help out in order for the angel to earn his wings.  Even with this cringey image to start off, the film outdoes itself and makes up for it in so many other ways.

The story revolves around the life of George Bailey, played by James Stewart, who is a lovely young boy with many life plans, dreams and wishes as he grows up.  He wants to travel the world and go to college and life a wonderful and fulfilling life.  However, he ultimately ends up sacrificing everything for others as curveballs keep coming his way and he has to keep putting off the life he wants to live.  He has responsibilities at home which he can’t leave at his father’s building society, marrying his child hood sweetheart, played by Donna Reid, and keeping the town happy following an unfortunate misplacing of a large sum of money.

It’s a Wonderful Life is sentimental, touching, joyous and incredibly romantic; everything we look for in a Christmas film.  In a way, the film is like a modern day A Christmas Carol, only in reverse.  The “ghost” shows him what life for everyone would be like without him and his wonderful and happy ways, if he was not born.  Instead of a horrible old man being shown to buck up his ideas, it tells the story of a hero who needs picking up again from despair .

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Not only is it a Christmas film, I truly believe we should watch this any time of the year when needing a pick-me-up (I watched it back in July!!).  Or if we need a little reminder of what people could be like when we find humanity hauls us into despair.  Frank Capra didn’t ever intend it to be a Christmas film so we should watch it as we will.  It was his first film after returning back from the war and wanted to make a film which celebrated ordinary people who did amazing things for others. 

It’s such a gem and I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to see it.  If you’ve not seen it, make it a priority, don’t wait for next Christmas!

It’s a Wonderful Life fell out of copyright many years ago so should be easy to find as most platforms will have it free to view.  I watched it on Sky Movies.

All my love & films
Jen xxx

The Apartment

Image result for the apartment filmThe Apartment is another Billy Wilder classic featuring the marvellous Jack Lemmon as a C.C. Baxter, a bachelor working as an underwriter in an insurance company in New York.  He allows his senior colleagues to  ‘borrow’ his apartment in the evenings whilst entertaining other ladies that they want to keep on the down low from their wives.

I went into this film having no knowledge of the plot or having read anything about it, seen any trailers or reviews.  I enjoyed it much more before because of it.  I became very invested in the main character and in trying to figure him out.  The Apartment is supposed to be a comedy but in a way it’s actually quite tragic and I ended up feeling very sorry for Baxter the majority of the film.  He struggles with a lack of pride and allows himself to be downtrodden by those at work who are more senior and feel they can walk all over him as they have ultimate power over him and his job.  It demonstrates just how brutal the goings ons behind office doors in the city are.  Fred MacMurray stars as C.C. Baxter’s cheating boss.  Baxter also doesn’t care if his neighbours think badly of him and he doesn’t care to correct them when they get the wrong end of the stick.  He is unassertive and just does what he needs to do to get by.  Jack Lemmon plays this gentleman so sublimely that he is an unlikely hero.  You can do nothing but fall in love with his character, especially when he’s full of cold.

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The Apartment swings drastically from ‘rom-‘ to ‘com-‘ exploring a huge range of audience emotions and reactions.  As the film develops, the focus becomes less on the funny Apartment antics and more on the relationship that Jacks character develops with elevator opperator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) and he gradually starts to fall in love with her unwittingly facing complications down the line.  A glimmer of fun still remains there throughout.

Billy Wilder plays wonderfully with the idea of affairs and sexual antics in how the script is crafted and the film is shot.  Something that was considered a risk back in the 50s.  There are no obvious comments or remarks about the immorality of it all and it leaves speculation to the viewer.

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It’s such a pleasure to watch as Baxer starts to stand up for himself and claw back the control that others have over him and his apartment.  The Apartment is where the majority of the film is set and really is a beautiful film which is still so relevant and entertaining still today.  The film takes the long nights of winter and you start to think a lot about the people who are alone in the cold, dark evenings around the Christmas period, like C.C. Baxter.  I’m honestly not sure why this isn’t considered a Christmas film!

The film claimed FIVE Oscars at the Academy Awards, including for best picture.  It also scores top marks from me and I grow ever more enamoured with Billy Wilder’s films and Jack Lemmon.

We watched The Apartment on Sky Cinema as we couldn’t find it free of charge anywhere else, the DVD is available on Amazon.

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

 

 

 

Raging Bull

See the source imageI’ve been trying to put my finger on why this film is considered such a great film.  Raging Bull, by Martin Scorsese, is the tale of a boxer struggling with internal demons.  I have a black belt in kick boxing so I am fascinated by how boxing is featured in this film, and how it has changed since those days.  It’s no longer about beating each other to a pulp like it is portrayed in the film, but there’s more to it in this film.  The sport reflects the protagonist, Jake La Motta’s life and personality.

Jake la Motta, played by Robert De Niro, is a massive antagonist.  He has a terrible home life, he beat his first wife and cheated on her.  He then married this new woman, Vikki, but his home life is still rife with domestic violence, suspicions and anxiety.  He is a bully and is constantly paranoid that his wife is cheating on him and at one point is convinced that she is having an affair with his brother, Joey.  Jake is also under the influence of the new york mob just to add to his multitude of personal issues.  He is a top professional boxer but isn’t satisfied with his life and has a lot going on in his head.  Someone with his amount of anger really should not be a boxer and that much is obvious in the film.  He uses it as his way of dealing with his life, it gives his life meaning.  By some miracle his wife stays with him throughout it all, which is crazy and seems unrealistic to me, but I guess that’s how it sometimes is in these sort of relationships.  They still love each other beneath all the terrible day-to-day goings on in their life.  Their first date scene is really beautiful and you get a glipse of what Jake could be like if he wasn’t so angry, violent and paranoid.  It is scary though that that is probably the man Vikki fell in love with and the hope of maybe seeing him again is what is keeping her with Jake.

Image result for raging bullThe iconic shot of Jake in the boxing ring shadowboxing in slow-motion at the start of the film when the opening credits start rolling in is really fabulous.  We had to go back to the start and watch it again after finishing because we wanted to see it again!  It gave me the shivers – it’s really haunting!

The boxing match against Sugar Ray, in the middle of the film, where the mobsters bet on him losing is the turning point of the film and of Jake’s life.  Jake get’s beaten to a pulp.  It’s insane how realistic the fight scenes are.  If you don’t like violence, defintely don’t watch this film!  In a way it kind of symbolises where he’s got to in his life.  After this point Jake gives up fighting and opens his own club.  Through his new club he ends up getting into trouble with underage girls, so his life doesn’t get better after quitting fighting, and he still has problems at home with his wife and his brother doesn’t want to know him.

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At the start of the film, I didn’t even recognise Robert De Niro, which is him at the end of the film.  De Niro famously gained loads of weight for this part of the movie.  The latter part of the film, 30 years later, is so convincing, he genuinely looks much older and more mature.  After seeing him at the end, the film comes full circle and the poem he reads at the start makes sense, a really beautifully shot scene.  Jake is above all, a really sad, unhappy man, and he still is.

Martin Scorsese’s artistic decision to film Raging Bull in black and white takes you back to the 50s and I honestly forgot this film wasn’t actually filmed in the 50s.  One thing I did notice, and I found it really interesting, is how much they swear.   Films that were made in the 50s completely contrast to this film and show those days in a completely different light.  Everyone was very well spoken and there’s no swearing, no violence and nothing terrible ever happens.  Raging Bull, filmed in 1980 ruined my perception of those times.  Of course I’m sure they did use this language, it was just shocking to see as it’s the first time I’ve seen a film with this perspective based during that period.

Image result for raging bullThe supporting actors gleam just as much as De Niro.  Joe Pesci, who plays Jake La Motta’s brother and manager, Joey & Cathy Moriarty, who plays Jake’s wife Vikki.  Jake’s brother has to deal with all of Jake’s crap over the years which eventually pushes him over the edge.  Jake comes crawling back to try and make up with him in a public display to try and plaster up wounded sores that still gape open between them.  I think it’s great how Joey stands up for himself and doesn’t allow Jake to so easily apologise.  He know’s what Jake is really like and he’s had too many chances over the years.  He’s screwed up too many times.

I’ve not actually seen any other films starring Robert de Niro when he was younger so I am not familiar with his work.  (Taxi Driver is on my ‘to watch & review’ list so look out for my thoughts on that one coming soon!).  De Niro nails his role in Raging Bull and it’s uncanny how believable his character is.  These sorts of films wouldn’t normally have appealed to me, but I gave Raging Bull a go due to it’s top knotch reviews and popularity.  I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it in more of a thought-provoking art-form sort of way, than a film I’d watch as an enjoyable pass time.  That’s something to bear in mind before you put it on for some light hearted fun – you won’t get any of that with this film!

I downloaded this from Sky Cinema, but it’s also available to rent on Amazon Instant Video for £4.49.  Did you enjoy it?

All my love & films,
Jen x

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