Under The Skin (2013)

Loosely based on Michel Faber’s 2000 novel of the same name, Under The Skin is a 2013 British-American science fiction movie starring Scarlett Johanssen and directed by Jonathan Glazer who also co-wrote the script along with Walter Campbell. It’s an artsy movie that drags and stretches and has very little dialogue and few actors – a lot of the scenes were shot with a hidden camera as Johanssen talked to people on the streets and another character is played by the owner of the land some of the scenes were shot in. Championship motorcycle road racer Jeremy McWilliams was cast as the motorcyclist alien, as the film required a “world-class” motorcyclist who could ride through the Scottish Highlands at very high speeds in bad weather conditions.

The movie starts with some odd 60s scifi looking imagery and then we see a biker riding at night on the streets of Scotland. He stops near a van and finds the body of a young woman on the side of the road and he picks it up and puts it in the van. A naked woman, in a featureless white void, removed the clothes of the dead girl and puts them on. The woman (Johanssen) later drives the van on the streets looking for men to prey on once she lures them in for sex, which she promises them in her remote residence. She selects men on the pretext of asking for directions and chooses the ones who don’t have family around or who won’t be easily missed. Once she gets them to her residence, they walk in a black, featureless void and the men sink into a black liquid abyss with their skin separated from their flesh. I don’t know how to explain what the liquid looks like but imagine a thick liquid kinda like black jello! The woman and the motorcyclists are both aliens, with human skin fitted onto them to make them look like human beings, and the bodies of the victims are processed for food which is sent to their home planet!

There is another scene where the woman attempts to pick up a swimmer at a beach but he is distracted by the cries of help from a couple who are drowning. He tries to save them but the woman, ignoring the  cries of the couple’s infant on the beach, hits his head with a rock and drags him away. Later the motorcyclist comes and disposes of the swimmer’s belongings leaving the baby there. However something happens to the woman as she lures a lonely disfigured man – she begins to feel empathy and lets him free even after she gets him to her residence. The disfigured man is however found by the motorcycle alien who dumps him into a car that he steals and drives off with him. The woman goes to a hotel and attempts to eat human foo;  cake but finds that she cannot swallow it. Later she  meets a man on a bus who takes her in from the rain, cooks her food and gives her a room to sleep in. Later he tries to have sex with her but she stops abruptly and examines her vagina in the light of a table lamp (I am led to believe that she discovers that she cannot have sex with a human). She then makes her way to a forest and sleeps in a shelter there but wakes up to a logger, who she had met earlier, attempting to rape her.

As she tries to get away, the logger rips her clothes and finds that the skin has torn off too – to reveal an almost featureless black skinned alien beneath the human skin. The woman rips offs the rest of her fake skin but the frightened logger, runs away and returns with some petrol which he uses to douse her body and lights it on fire. The alien dies in the flames as her ashes coil in the sky, freed from her former life of killing humans as it becomes apparent that the time spent in human skin, pretending to be human and interacting with them has made her feel like a human as well.

Weird, dull, boring and dragging. It’s a thoughtful film, but it is so devoid of excitement or action. Despite the fact that I liked the concept and the imagery, the movie is dull. I almost fell asleep a few times. I’m going to give it a grudging 6 outta 10!

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Snowpiercer

I really don’t know how to review this crazy little weird film. Snowpiercer is a 2013 South Korean science fiction action film based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. The film is directed by Bong Joon-ho and written by Bong and Kelly Masterson. The film marks Bong’s English-language debut; approximately 80% of the film was shot in English. The film stars Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung with supporting roles by Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Alison Pill and Ed Harris.

A disasterous ice age occurs in 2014 after an experiment to counteract global warming goes awry. Almost all life is destroyed on earth which is now a snow & ice planet and a few survivors remain, inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive train, powered by a perpetual-motion engine, that travels on a globe-spanning track created by eccentric multi-millionaire inventor Wilford. A class system exists on the train with the rich passengers who bought tickets inhabiting the front of the train and those who managed to get aboard during boarding inhabiting the tail end compartments. It is now 2031 and in the 18 years things have become bad for the tailenders who live on protein blocks that guards provide at regular intervals. A rebellion is staged led by Curtis and masterminded by oldtimer Gilliam and they beat up the guards (who it turns out had long ago run of bullets for their guns) and force their way through several compartments and reach the prison section. There they release prisoner Namgoong Minsu, the man who built the doors dividing each car, and his daughter Yona. They offer him Kronol, a drug he is addicted to, as payment for unlocking the remaining doors.

They run into a battalion of guards armed with weapons and there is a huge fight in which Curtis has to sacrifice saving Edgar, his second in command, to capture Minister Mason. She bargains her life for leading them through the wealthier sections to the engine but in the school car, the teacher and a henchman draw machine guns, slaughtering many of Curtis’ followers, and executing his mentor Gilliam; Curtis kills Mason for revenge. Franco, a henchman of Mason’s slaughter through most of Curtis’s followers before he appears to have been killed and finally only Curtis, Yona & Namgoong are left and they make their way through the wealthy class partying and drinking it up in luxury until they reach the entrance to the engine. Namgoong wants to blow open the side of the train, and escape into the outside; he claims that he has noticed the snow receding and melting a bit meaning they could survive outside as the temperature must be dropping. Curtis tells him that he must confront Wilford as when the poor inhabitants first boarded the train 18 years ago they didn’t have access to food or water which soon drove them to cannibalism. Before the introduction of the protein blocks, Curtis had kidnapped an infant Edgar to eat him, and killed his mother, before Gilliam cut his own arm off and offered it in Edgar’s place.

Namgoong still means to blow up the side of the train when the door to the engine section opens and is shot and wounded by Wilford’s assistant Claude, who forces Curtis inside. Wilford welcomes Curtis with steak and wine and explains that the revolution was orchestrated between himself and Gilliam as a means of population control, necessary to maintaining balance aboard the train for supplies. However they didn’t expect Curtis to be this successful and Wilford’s own losses too great, so he executed Gilliam as punishment. Wilford’s men are execute roughly 74% of the inhabitants in the tail section and then the aging inventor says that he wants Curtis to take over as the train’s overseer. Nona comes in and knocks out Claude as Curtis punches Wilford and lifts the train’s floor to find that Wilford is using small children from the tail end, snatched away from their families, to replace the failing parts and he sacrifices his arm to help one of the boys, Timmy, climb out. Yona recovers the explosive from Claude and ignites it, before retreating into the engine with Namgoong. The damaged engine door fails to close, and Namgoong, who was fighting off the wealthy & their guards, and Curtis sacrifice themselves to shield Yona and Timmy from the resulting explosive fire.

As it explodes, the denotation causes an avalanche which knocks off the train and destroys most of the compartments killing everyone in them. Yona and Timmy seem to be the only ones who survived and they step out into the snow, huddled in large jackets taken from the wealthy inhabitants and spot a polar bear in the distance, meaning that life is survivable on the surface.

Weird film with Tilda Swinton & Alison Pill’s characters providing the bulk of the weird & humourous scenes as well as a sing along session that Pill’s character only known as Teacher does with her young students. I found myself going “WTF” and “what the hell is going on” in several scenes as well as a handful of “huhs” here and there. It’s eccentric and memorable and certainly very different from what Hollywood shows us. I’ll still only give it a 7.5 outta 10!

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RIP James Garner

Award-winning American film and television actor James Garner who starred in several television series & movies spanning a career of more than six decades has died at the age of 86. Garner was best known for his primetime television roles as a wisecracking frontier gambler on Maverick and as an ex-con turned private eye on The Rockford Files. Garner starred in more than 50 films including The Great Escape (1963), Paddy Chayefsky’s The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Blake Edwards’ Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy’s Romance (1985) for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and The Notebook (2004).

A purple heart awardee who was wounded twice in Korea, Garner entered showbusiness in the 1950s after serving in the Korean war and first rose to fame on the TV western Maverick, a sardonic alternative to the more serious frontier shows then popular on American primetime. Garner left the ABC show in 1960 in a contract dispute with producers but brought his Maverick-like alter ego to a series of films, including The Thrill of It All, Move Over Darling, The Great Escape and Support Your Local Sheriff! His next big hit was on the small screen in the 1970s, when he starred as the canny private detective Jim Rockford, a wrongly accused ex-convict starting life over in a beachfront trailer home in The Rockford Files. The show ran on NBC from 1974 until Garner abruptly quit the series in 1980. He reprised Rockford for several TV movies in the late 1990s. The role earned Garner an Emmy award in 1977. He also received an Oscar nomination for his work opposite Sally Field in the 1985 feature comedy Murphy’s Romance. His last few hit movies included Space Cowboys, The Notebook & he was on the final season of 8 Simple Rules.

He was married and had two children. According to police, an ambulance was dispatched to Garner’s Brentwood, Los Angeles home at around 20:00 on July 19, 2014. Garner was confirmed dead when paramedics arrived at his home. The cause of death was not immediately reported but initial law enforcement officers on the scene declared “natural causes” as the cause of death.

James Scott Bumgarner; April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014

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47 Ronin

47 Ronin is a 2013 Japanese-American film and  fictional account of the real life 47 Ronin or masterless Samurai who’s tales of adventure and revenge stem from 18th century Japan. The film was directed by Carl Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. The story is simple, set against a beautiful backdrop of Japanese landscapes and intricate costumes and exuberant & intricate sword fighting scenes.

The story is about Kai a half-Japanese, half-English boy who is found fainted in the woods by a party led by benevolent Lord Asano Naganori of the province of Ako. The boy had been running from a changeling and lose consciousness even as he tries to fend off grasping hands. Asano takes the boy in and he is raised in the household but his half-breed status makes him the topic of jokes and ridicule among the residents of Ako. Only Mika, Asano’s daughter, sees him for who he is and the two fall in love which is kept in secret. Before a visit from Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Lord Asano is visited by the Shogun’s master of ceremonies, Lord Kira, who becomes attracted to Mika. A celebration is held during which Kira’s champion – a huge Samurai – has to face off against a champion from Ako. Oishi, principal counselor to Lord Asano, picks Yasuno to be Ako’s champion based on the fact that the latter had killed a dragon they were hunting but in truth it was Kai who killed the beast. Just before the ceremonial duel, Yasuno is found incapacitated – the work of a powerful he sorceress Mizuki who is working for Kira – and in order to save Ako’s reputation, Kai dons the amour and fights the large Samurai. In the duel his headgear comes off and he is sentenced for punishment by the Shogun.

Later that night, Mizuki bewitches Asano into believing Kira is raping Mika, causing Asano to attack an unarmed Kira in delirium. The punishment for trying to kill an officiate is death but the Shogun allows Asano to die with honour in a ritual suicide. The domain of Ako is handed over to Lord Kira, and the Shogun brands Oishi and his men Ronin (masterless Samurai). Kira demands Mika’s hand in marriage on the spot, but the Shogun grants her one year to mourn the death of her father, and forbids the Ronin of Ako from seeking vengeance. To ensure there is no interference, Kira imprisons Oishi in an outdoor pit to break his spirit. Almost a year later, Oishi is released to go back to his family and once recovered he gets his son Chikara to get him horses and goes to find Kai, who was sold into slavery in the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. They escape from there and go to the forests where Kai was found as a boy and armed with their new weapons, the Ronin plan to attack Kira on his pilgrimage to a shrine as he seeks blessings for his wedding to Mika. Several Ronin are killed in an ambush but Kira’s soldiers false believe that the lot of them have died and return back.

The 47 remaining Ronin take help of a band of traveling performers loyal to the memory of Lord Asano, Kai and Oishi infiltrate Kira and Mika’s wedding ceremony, giving Mika an opportunity to flee as the Ronin scale the walls and attack Kira’s men. Kai and Mika attempt to escape together, but are attacked by Mizuki, who takes the form of a dragon. Kai draws on the mystical powers of the Tengu he possesses, and ends her life. Oishi emerges with Kira’s severed head, and Kira’s men surrender. Heading back to the Shogun’s palace, the Ronin are are sentenced to death as they explicitly violated the Shogun’s command to not seek revenge. However, the Shogun finds that they followed the principles of Bushido in their actions, restoring their honor as samurai. Hence instead of being execute like criminals, the 47 men are allowed to perform the ritual suicide and are to be given the honour of being buried next to their master. Before they can start, the Shogun grants a pardon to Chikara as he didn’t want Oishi’s bloodline to die out. The remaining former Ronin continue with the ritual.

Storywise it is pretty wonderful and adventurous and brings you back to an era of old glory and courage. Ofcourse the mystical & mythical elements are all there and we have a lot to look at with the beautifully shot movie. But it lacks clarity & you are never fully involved in the plot nor are the characters fully fleshed out. That makes the film forgettable and I can see why it failed at the box office. I will give it a 6.5 outta 10 just for the spectacular shots!

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Noah

Loosely based & inspired by the biblical myth of Noah Ark’s, Noah is a 2014 movie directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel, and starring Russell Crowe as the portagonist. Also starring are Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Anthony Hopkins.

So we all know most of the story of the mythological Noah aka Gilgamesh so let’s just have a run down of this movie shall we? So after humanity – Adam & Eve are like being of light here – are banished from Eden, Adam & Eve have 3 sons. After Cain kills Able, his descendants led by Tubal-Cain are rulers of the earth while Noah’s family are descendants of the 3rd son, Seth. As a boy Noah sees his father being killed before he (the father) can give his son the snake skin roll (the same snake skin roll that was discarded by the snake that tempted Eve to want the forbidden apple (fruit). Tubal-Cain takes the snake skin and leaves. Later as a grown man with his own family -wife Namaah, sons Shem, Ham & baby Japeth – Noah has visions of the earth being flooded with water and the destruction of all life on earth. He takes his family to see his grandfather Methuselah.

Noah’s family finds a wounded young girl, Ila, the lone survivor of her tribe who was attacked by Tubal-Cain’s men and take her in as one of their own. They are chased by the men but Noah get help from the Watchers – angels who fell to earth when they tried to interfere / help humanity against the Creator’s wishes – who look like giant rock monsters and evade the men. Methuselah gives Noah a seed from the garden of Eden and when Noah plants it in a desert like barren area, a lush rain forest springs forth from it. Noah and his family, with help from the rock monsters, build an ark using the wood from the trees surrounding them. As the years pass by the ark reached completion and birds and animals flock to the ark and using some incense & herbs that Nammeh setsup, the family puts all the animals to hibernate. As Ila & Shem are in love, Noah goes to a nearby village to find wives for Ham & Japeth but is shocked by the scenes of barbarism and cannibalism that is rampant there and heads back home. This greatly upsets Ham (who it seems is really horny) and despite being ordered to stay back by Noah, he leaves and helps rescue a young girl named Na’el who he wants to take as his wife. The mysterious Methuselah cures Ila of her infertility (by briefly touching her – I dunno) and she goes giddy with happiness and presumably takes Shem in the sexual way!

Tragedy strikes when Na’el is caught in a trap just as Tubal-Cain’s men are on a rampage towards the ark and Noah, who was in search of his son, forces Ham to leave her behind and she is trampled to death by the rushing hoardes of warriors. An upset Ham retreats to the back of the ark while Noah has the openings closed as the warriors attack. As the mob attack begins, the Watchers sacrifice themselves to protect the Ark from the mob, and themselves ascend to Heaven. Tubal-Cain is the only one who survives as he breaks into the ark unseen by everyone except Ham, who doesn’t alert Noah. Noah tells them a story about how the Creator created everything and the Adam & Eve story but now that the creator has deemed humanity to die and all the animals shall live in peace once humanity is dead. He says that Shem & Ila will bury Noah & Nammeh, Ham will bury Shem & Ila and the youngest Japeth will bury Ham and will die the last human on earth. Ham provides food for the injured Tubal-Cain, who uses Ham’s anger towards Noah to get him to kill his father. The days pass and the rains stop and Ila discovers she is pregnant but Noah puts a damper on things and says that if the baby is a girl, he will put her to death as the Creator meant for them to be the last humans on earth.

Months pass by and as her pregnancy progresses Illa & Shem try to escape on a raft but Noah sets it on fire, stopping them from leaving. Ila gives birth to twin girls. Meanwhile, Tubal-Cain convinces Ham to help kill Noah, who is therefore attacked by Tubal-Cain, Ham, and Shem. As they fight, the Ark hits a mountain, and Ham kills Tubal-Cain. Noah seizes Ila’s twins, but spares them upon perceiving innocence and as he later says love. As they leave the ark, Noah leaves and drinks himself to a stupor, being found naked and drunk by his sons. Having reconciled, at the behest of Ila, with all but Ham (who departs alone), Noah blesses the family as the beginning of a new human race, and witness an immense rainbow.

Did I like this movie? Hmmm I liked the production and I liked the part where Noah tells them about the story of creation – which will confuses creationists and other Christians because they show evolution – and all that. It’s more like a fantasy tale (well most religious stories are) and seems a bit odd. I dunno what his intention was to tell this tale cause I can’t see what the point was. Noah seems like a bitter religious fundamentalist who seems to have severe survivor guilt towards the end but rock monsters? C’mon! Ah, I’ll give it a 7 outta 10! I wasn’t bored.

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RIP Zohra Segal

The grand ole dame of Indian movie & television has left us. Indian actress & choreographer Zohra Segal died yesterday at the age of 102 in a New Delhi hospital on July 10, 2014 due to cardiac arrest. Sehgal started her career as a dancer in Uday Shankar’s troupe, performing in countries like the United States and Japan. She went onto appear in numerous Bollywood films as a character actress with a career-span of over 60 years. Considered the doyenne of Indian theatre, she acted with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre for 14 years. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998, Kalidas Samman in 2001, and in 2004, the Sangeet Natak Akademi. India’s National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama presented her with its highest award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement. She received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor, in 2010. She has also acted in English-speaking films such as Bend It Like Beckham.

She was born as Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-ullah Khan on 27 April 1912, the 3rd of 7 children, into a traditional Muslim family in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, to Mumtazullah Khan and Natiqua Begum, belonging to a Rohilla Pathan family of Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India. She lost her mother while still young and studied at Queen Mary College in Lahore. Upon graduating, her maternal uncle, Sahebzada Saeeduzzafar Khan, who was based in Edinburgh, arranged for her to apprentice under a British actor. She stayed in Dresden for the next three years studying modern dance. On 8 August 1935, she joined Uday Sankar’s dance troupe and danced across Japan, Egypt, Europe and the US, as a leading lady, along with French dancer, Simkie. she became a teacher at the Uday Shankar India Cultural Centre at Almora. It was here that she met her future husband Kameshwar Sehgal, a young scientist, painter and dancer from Indore, eight years her junior, belonging to the Radha Soami sect. There was initial opposition from her parents, but they eventually gave their approval for the union.

After her husband’s death in 1959, Zohra first moved to Delhi and became director of the newly founded Natya Academy. She then moved London on a drama scholarship in 1962. Her first role for British television was in a BBC adaptation of a Kipling story, The Rescue of Pluffles, in 1964. She also anchored 26 episodes of BBC TV series, Padosi (Neighbours; 1976–77). She then went on to star in Merchant Ivory film The Courtesan of Bombay & went on to appear in The Raj Quartet, The Jewel in the Crown, Tandoori Nights, My Beautiful Laundrette. In the 90s she returned to India and has acted in several Bollywood and English language films with Indian backgrounds. Throughout the majority of her life she has been either agnostic or atheist.

Zohra Sehgal (27 April 1912 – 10 July 2014)

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The Midnight Meat Train

Based on a short story by Clive Barker, The Midnight Meat Train is a 2008 horror movie directed by Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura and stars Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Roger Bart, Ted Raimi, and Vinnie Jones. The movie looks like a cross between Sin City style production and Creep which is also about an subway/underground based killer / horror creature.

The story is pretty simple – a well dressed and strong looking man is assaulting and killing passengers who board the midnight subway trains in New York City. Without saying a word or letting on as to a motive he brutally kills them with a meat hammer and a hook. And unnatural strength. He is shown to be wearing a large ring with an 8 pointed star. The bodies are never found. Leon, a professional photographer is taking photos of NYC at night on advice of Jurgis, his friend & contractor, as he has been criticized by his peers for leaving a dangerous scene too early before taking the maximum shots. One night he saves a Japanese model from being abused by a trio of gangmembers and takes their photos but points to the security camera that could be used to identify them if they try and kill him. The gang leaves and the model thanks Leon before entering the subway train – the door of which was held open for her by the mysterious killer.

When Leon sees that the girl is shown to be missing in the papers the next day he decides to conduct his own investigations. His research leads him to believe that a butcher named Mahogany – who he had photographed at night and who has confronted him and chased him away – is the culprit and that he has been killing people in subways for the last 3 years. Leon takes his photos of the model and the gangmembers he shot, as well as a shot of the model boarding the train which clearly shows a hand holding the door open for her, to the cops but the lead detective Lynn Hadley is more suspicious of his motives. Leon’s girlfriend Maya also does not believe him and starts to worry as the investigation turns into a dark obsession that seems to be haunting him. Leon follows Mahogany to the subway train and witnesses a bloodbath as the butcher kills several passengers before hanging them on meat hooks. Leon is seen by the butcher and passing out on the subway floor, he awakes the next morning in a slaughterhouse with strange markings carved into his chest. The same detective investigates but finds no evidence of there having being killings on the train.

A concerned Maya takes the help of Jurgis and go through the photos and follow Mahogany to his apartment. When he is out they break in to find clues and discover small body parts in glass jars but Jurgis is caught and brutalized as Maya escapes. She goes to the cops but the detective threatens to arrest her for breaking and entering when they investigate and do not find anything out of the ordinary. Later however a cop calls Maya to tip her that Mahogany is about to board a subway train and she goes to see if she can find Jurgis. Leon meanwhile steels himself and goes after Mahogany armed with his own weapons only to find he butcher cornering Maya. The two men fight a bloodied battle until just before the train stops Leon is able to push his adversary off the train. As the train stops, the couple see that they have reached an underground cavern filled with bones of dead people. The conductor (who was shown helping and bossing Mahogany in an earlier scene) comes to the compartment and tells them to step away from the meat. And then a few terrifying reptilian creatures board the train and start feasting on the dead bodies hanging on hooks.

A still alive Mahogany arrives and knocks Maya aside, and fights Leon once more before the photographer finishes the job at last by impaling the psychotic butcher’s skull on a blade. Mahogany grins in his dying throes, speaking the single word “Welcome!” The conductor then comes and overpowers Leon and beats him up and rips out his tongue. A bloodied Leon is helpless and can only watch as the conductor kills Maya with one of the butcher’s knives. He explains to Leon that the creatures have always existed below the city, and that the butcher’s job was to keep them satisfied by feeding them every night. These creatures have existed longer than mankind and there are a chosen few who serve them lest they wreck havoc on the entire population. Leon was marked a possible replacement as it was felt that Mahogany needed to be replaced and now having killed the butcher, Leon will take his place. As the movie ends, in a later scene the detective (also one of the chosen few) hands the train schedule to the new butcher, who wears a ring with the eight pointed star on it, a symbol for the group that feeds the creatures. It is Leon who now wears a similar suit and goes to the subway and boards a train.

Made on a budget of $15 million the movie only made back around 8 million back, flopping at the box office. It’s a weird little movie that has it moments but does little to spark the imagination. Lots of blood flying about and some body parts being mangled and cut out but it ends up being a little cartoonish. I give it a 6 outta 10!

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The Magdalene Sisters

From writer / director Peter Mullan comes a 2002 movie called The Magdalene Sisters about 4 young women who are sent to Magdalene Asylums, also known as ‘Magdalene Laundries’, homes for women who were labelled as “fallen” by their families or society. The homes were maintained by individual religious orders in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. The four girls are portrayed by Anne-Marie Duff, Nora Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy & Eileen Walsh.

The movie starts with showing the circumstances through which 3 of the girls came to be sent to the Magdalene Asylum. Margaret is raped by her cousin at a wedding is thought to bring shame to her family; Bernadette who is an orphan is seen flirting with boys at a playground (even if there is a iron fence between them) & though she is a virgin; and Rose who has a child out of wedlock and the boy is taken away to be given for adoption. It is heartbreaking to see Rose pleading to her mother & father to just look at her new baby boy atleast once before sending him away. The 3 girls meet at the asylum where mentally challenged Crispina who has had a son outta wedlock is already a resident. The asylum is run by the greedy & malicious Sister Bridget who dishes out punishment via canning and forcefully cutting of the hair of girls who earn her wrath. The other nuns also seem to take merriment in physically & verbally torturing and abusing the girls. The asylum runs a large & profitable laundry service in which the girls are made to work during the day and are not allowed to speak during that time.

Rose is told that she will be called Patricia from now on as they already have a Rose as an inmate. She suffers pain when milk backs up in her breasts but is denied lactating them as Bridget feels that she must suffer through the anguish. An inmate named Una escapes and runs away to her home but is brought back by her father who has renounced her. Although Sister Bridget speaks tenderly to her that night, the next day she cuts all of Una’s long brunette locks off. Crispina and Bernadette are also reprimanded for speaking aloud in the laundry rooms, resulting in several blows to the back of the thighs with Sister Bridget’s switch. Bernadette seduces a laundry delivery man named Brendan and offers to marry him and elope at midnight if he helps her escape from the asylum. She is caught when Brendan, who has a key to the outdoor entrance, loses his nerve and Bernadette is forcefully and violently sheared of her dark hair which leaves her with various bloody cuts. Later in a scene that will stick with you, the girls are all forced to strip naked and parade their bodies for a couple of the nuns who then mock them and compare the breasts, buttocks and pubic hair of the girls.

Crispina, who’s sister brings her young son to see her once in while, is driven to try to kill herself by soaking herself in cold water and sleeping in it to catch a flu loses her precious St Christopher medal and tries to hang herself. The other 3 girls stop her just in time but Bernadette, who has the medal all along, decides against giving it back to Crispina. While out in the woods next to the asylum Margaret sees Crispina being forced to perform fellatio on Father Fitzroy, the resident priest just before mass. She tells Crispina not to consider him a man of god and fights with Bernadette when the medal is discovered under her pillow. Margaret decides to punish the priest by tossing in an itchy plant along with his clothes in the washing machine. The next day father Fitzroy break out in a livid rash and violently strips off his clothes during an open-air mass, causing much embarrassment. When Crispina realises she has the same rash between her legs and that Sister Bridget will not help her, she obsessively screams “You’re not a man of God!” at Fitzroy for 10 minutes. That night, Crispina is forcibly taken to Mt. Vernon, a hospital for the mentally ill, so she cannot reveal any more about Fitzroy’s sexual abuse of her.

After four years at the asylum Margaret’s younger brother, who is grown up now, gets her released from the asylum on Christmas day. As Margaret is leaving she blocks Sister Bridget’s way and refuses to give way, choosing to kneel down and pray so the visiting bishop has the sister move along. Soon after that Katy, the laundry overseer falls ill and dies alone in her room as the nuns refuse to even visit her. Bernadette, who hated Katy for alerting the nuns about her doomed escape, however relents and kisses Katy on the forehead as a goodbye. When she goes to inform sister Bernadette about Katy’s death, she finds the nun viciously beating for telling Crispina’s sister that she had been imprisoned in the mental hospital. That night, she tells Patricia that they have to leave. They break into Sister Bridget’s office, and after a confrontation with Bridget and other nuns, escape the asylum. With the help of Bernadette’s aunt, who lives in a nearby town, they are able to start anew.

At the end of the movie we learn that Patricia going by Rose again, married and had two daughters before finding the son that was taken from her in 1964. Bernadette became a hairstylist like her aunt and moved to Scotland but is never able to have stable, happy relationships. She married and divorced three times and is currently living alone. Margaret became a school deputy headmistress but never married. Crispina was found by her sister in Mt. Vernon but, her mental health having deteriorated, she died there of anorexia in 1971. he film’s epilogue states that an estimated 30,000 women were held at Magdalene asylums throughout Ireland, and the last laundry closed in 1996.

Stunning brutal & sad movie to watch. Peter Mullan has remarked that the film was initially made because victims of Magdalene Asylums had no closure. They had not received any recognition, compensation, or apology, and many remained lifelong devout Catholics. Former Magdalen Asylum inmate, Mary-Jo McDonagh, told director and writer Peter Mullan that the reality of the Magdalene Asylums was much worse than depicted in the film. 8 outta 10!

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Stigmata

Stigmata is a 1999 movie that I tend to forget about when listing horror flicks that I have seen over the years although I do recall being a bit scared or getting a couple of jumps in the theatre. This time around not so much and it’s more of a religious corruption movie rather than horror on the second viewing. Anyways, the movie is directed by by Rupert Wainwright and stars Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Johnathan Pryce, Enrico Collantoni, Nia Long & Portia de Rossie. Patrick Muldoon has a couple of minor scenes in it as well.

The film starts with father Andrew, who is a scientist as well as a Jesuit priest, investigating the reports of blood tears coming from a statue of Mary Magdalene in a Brazilian church at the funeral of father Paulo Almeida. A boy steals a rosary from the priest’s body and sells it to an American tourist who sends it along with other trinkets to her daughter Frankie Page, an atheist hairdresser living in Philadelphia. Soon after she touches the rosary Frankie is attacked by an unseen force while she is bathing and receives two deep wounds on her wrists. The doctors can’t find the cause of the puncture wounds which goes all the way through. While riding the subway back home with her friend she approaches a priest who is sitting opposite two nuns and asks if he is father Andrew. The priest replies that he is father Derning and the lights starts to flicker, the subway shakes and Frankie is whipped by the unseen force on her back as she stands in a Christ like pose.

Derning sends the security footage the Vatican and they send Andrew to investigate. When Frankie tells him that she is an atheist Andrew ells her that stigmatics are universally spiritual people and that stigmata is the deeply devoted being struck with the five wounds that Jesus Christ received during the crucifixion, so Frankie has been impaled through the wrists and whipped. A little upset Frankie tries to investigate a medical answer on her own but is haunted by a vision of herself dropping a baby on the road. At night while at a club her beings to bleed as the 3rd stigmata of crown of thorns affects her. She ends up in alley followed by Andrew where she scratched weird symbols on a car and speaks to Andrew in Aramaic and in a male voice. Andrew takes her to Derning’s church and plays a recording of what Frankie spoke to Vatican linguist Brother Delmonico who tells him that it is Aramaic. Frankie goes home and, the next morning, Andrew returns to her apartment to find her writing in marker on the wall, now covered in Aramaic. When questioned, Frankie responds in a male voice speaking Italian but then collapses on the bed. Frankie goes out and walks the streets with Andrew, when she collapses as wounds appear in her feet, the fourth wound of stigmata.

Father Dario intercepts the emails that Aramaic sent to Delmonico of the writings and he shows it to Cardinal Houseman, who had sent Andrew on the assignment. The Cardinal along with Dario and a few others come to Philadelphia while Delmonico tells Marion Petricelli about the writings. Later a seemingly possessed Frankie tries to seduce Andrew and when he rejects her she yells and attacks him before levitating off the bed crying tears of blood. Houseman and Dario arrive at the apartment with Derning and take Frankie to another church, sending Andrew to Derning’s. Here Andrew is met by Marion who tells him thee words Frankie has been writing are part of a document found outside Jerusalem that they believed to be a gospel in the exact words of Jesus. Petrocelli, Delmonico and Alameida were assigned to translate it, but Houseman ordered them to stop. Alameida refused and stole the document to continue translating it alone, having been excommunicated by Houseman. The document was Jesus telling his disciples that the Kingdom of God is in all of us and all around us and not confined to churches, a revelation that could ruin the Catholic Church. Petrocelli also tells Andrew that Alameida suffered from stigmata.

Andrew rushes to the church in time to stop Houseman from strangling Frankie after failing to exorcise her. the fireplaces in the room erupt and set the room on fire. Now believing Frankie is possessed by Alameida’s spirit, Andrew offers to be Alameida’s messenger instead. He walks unharmed through the fire to retrieve Frankie, bidding Alameida’s spirit to depart in peace. Some time later, Andrew returns to Belo Quinto and finds the original documents for the lost gospel under the floorboards of Alameida’s church. The film ends with a screen of text describing the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, believed, according to the film, to be the closest thing to the actual words of Jesus while alive: the film states the Catholic Church refuses to recognize the document as a gospel and considers it heresy.

Religious horror hmmm. I remember it as being a lot scarier back when I watched it at the theatres back in 1999 when the movie came out. This time around it isn’t effective at all. The movie was mostly panned but I’ll give it a grudging 7 outta 10!

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Devil’s Pass

I got this suggestion from a horror group on Facebook (always a good place to get good options for suggestions on movies to watch) and on watching it liked it a lot. Devil’s Pass is a 2013 Russian film directed by Renny Harlin & written by Vikram Weet and starring Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe, Luke Albright, Ryan Hawley, and Gemma Atkinson as Americans who investigate the Dyatlov Pass incident. It is shot in the style of found footage.

Holly & her friend Jenson get a grant to go to Russia and shoot a documentary about a story that has fascinated Holly for a long time – the mysterious death of 9 Russian climbers who were crossing the Dyatlov Pass (now named that after the leader of the expedition) in the Ural mountains. The answers about their death having been unanswered for over 50 years – their tents had been frantically torn open from the inside, their bodies had suffered massive internal trauma, and their clothing contained high levels of radiation. Conspiracy theoriests have toss various stuff like military coverup and alien visitation as possible explanations. Holly manages to get two expert climbers from their university, JP & Andy and rope in Denise as the sound engineer. The 5 of them go to Russia and try to speak to one of the skiers who was supposed to be part of the original expedition back in 1959 but are denied access and find the now old man showing up a sign that tells them to turn back. At a bar they meet Sergei who introduces them to his aunt Ilya who was part of the rescue team back in 59 and she tells them that they found a small machine and 11 dead bodies, not 9 as was widely reported and that 2 of the bodies had something wrong with them. This mystery intrigues the group even more and they go on the expedition.

Once they reach the area they hear howling and find large bare footprints in the snow when they wake up the next morning which suddenly stop in the snow and they cannot explain what it is. The next day this happens again and when they find a weather tower and investigate, they find a severed human tongue. Denise wants to leave but the others convince her to stay and continue on. At night by the fire, Holly & Jenson fail to see two white figures who appear and disappear in the hills. The next day they reach Dyatlov’s Pass earlier than it says on the map. Andy & JP are further spooked when their equipments start malfunction and GPS is not working. While alone in the evening Holly & Jenson use a Geiger counter that leads them to a bunker in a cave that locks from the outside – meaning to keep whatever is inside from getting out. Early in the morning they hear rumblings and explosions that cause a massive avalanche and Denise is killed while Andy suffers a bad fracture. As soon as daylight arrives they shoot a flare and are approached by two Russian soldiers and suspicious of their sudden arrival, Andy makes the other 3 run away. Andy is killed by them and JP is shot but Holly & Jenson manage to drag him into the bunker and close the door.

Leaving JP in a corner the other two explore the bunker and find a dead soldier with his tongue missing. They also find a pile of dead bodies including two dead mutants on a medical table and also something they can’t explain – they find a handheld camera, the same model as the one they have with them now and it shows the exact same footage they have shot! Stunned they look for answers but the battery of that camera dies out. Notes in Russian show the profiles of the 9 Russians skiers who were killed in 1959 along with photos of the Philadelphia experiment which leads Jenson to deduce that the incidents here are tied to that teleportation conspiracy. Soon they are attacked by teleporting mutants who kill JP and chase Holly & Jenson into a sealed room behind which is a natural cave that leads into a wormhole. Unwilling to starve to death or face the mutants, Jensen and Holly choose to step into the wormhole, which sends them back in time. Since there are no controls, Jensen suggests that they visualize a nearby destination. Holly suggests the bunker entrance, and they enter the wormhole. In the next scene, the Russian military in 1959 discover two bodies, recover a camcorder, turn away Sergei’s aunt Alya, and hang the bodies on meat hooks inside the bunker, which is fully operational and manned. In the final shot, the bodies are revealed to be Holly and Jensen, transformed into mutants (and the dead mutant bodies they found on metal tables).

Good ending, the movie is slow to pick up pace but never gets boring at all and the story is decent with an able cast. Really interesting and way better than most found footage movies. The movie explains that the Russian military classified the data but it was hacked and shared around the world via the internet. 7.5 outta 10!

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The Beyond

Although I am a fan of horror flicks, I must admit that I haven’t seen anything by Lucio Fulci and to avoid ignoring the work of this cult favourite director/producer/screenwriter I thought I’d pick of his films to watch last night. I picked The Beyond because when I googled it I saw this pic of a real beauty and thought, why not? The Beyond is a 1981 Italian horror film shot in Louisiana and second film in Fulci’s unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy (along with City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery)

Ok so in 1927 Louisiana an artist named Schweick is attacked by a lynch mob in a hotel who believe that he is a warlock. They torture him and nail him to the wall of a basement and lay bricks over him. This opens up one of the seven doors to hell which allows the dead to come into the world of the living. A young woman named Emily reads from a book titled Eibon and she turns blind (with some weird looking marble eyes) once she is done. Several decades later, in 1981, Liza comes to Louisiana from New York as her uncle who died had left the hotel in her name. She decides to work on renovating it and reopening but the work reopens the door to hell and accidents happen. A painter falls and injures himself badly and Joe a plumber is attacked while he is checking a bad flood in the basement and killed horrifically by a demonic hand that comes out from a hole in the wall. The maid Martha finds his deformed face and body. Liza meets Emily on the road and gives her a lift to her house which is near the hotel and is given a warning by the latter – stay away from the hotel. Later Joe’s wife is killed as she visits his body in the hospital morgue – her young daughter hears a scream and finds her body on the floor with her face being dissolved by a spilled bottle of acid that fell on a table.

Poor Liza has now befriended the doctor who came to help the painter, Dr. John McCabe and tells him about how she came to move to Louisiana. John is alerted about Joe’s widow dying in the hospital and at the double funeral Liza runs into Joe’s daughter Jill, and doesn’t notice that the girl has become blind like Emily. Once again Emily warns Liza about the hotel and leaves as quickly as she appears, apparently scared by something. The next day Liza sees the book Eibon in room 36 (where the artist Schweick was staying) and also finds the artists decaying corpse animated but as she runs to fetch John, the corpse and the book disappears. John feels that Liza is hallucinating and tells her that Emily’s house is abandoned and no one has seen her at all – she isn’t real. On a walk with her friend Martin, Liza encounters a book shop with Eibon in the window. When they go inside, the shop owner denies the book’s existence, and it is no longer in the window when they look for it. At the hotel, a worker named Arthur, attempts to repair the same leak as Joe, only to be killed offscreen by ghouls. Later Martin is stuck by lightning while at the library looking up the hotel’s blueprints and after he falls he is attacked by huge tarantulas (that make sounds like creaky hinges that need oil) and they butcher his face and kill him.

Back at the hotel Joe’s animated corpse appears from a bathtub and attacks Martha and she dies when he pushes her head against a nail. Emily meanwhile is sitting alone at night when zombie versions of Schweick, Joe, Mary-Anne, and Arthur attack her. She sets her dog on them but they turn it into a zombie and it kills Emily by biting at her throat and face. Just after this Liza is attacked by the zombies at the hotel but John rescues her and they run to the hospital. Everyone has disappeared from the streets and except for Jill & Harris, a fellow doctor, there are only reanimated zombie corpses who shuffle about slowly and attack the living. In trying to escape Harris is killed and Jill becomes possessed and is shot by John. The doctor finds that he can kill off a zombie by shooting at the heads but idiot keeps wasting bullets shooting everywhere else! Finally out of bullets Liza & John run into the basement but find themselves in another dimension, a wasteland of dead bodies and desolate wasteland which Schweick had painted in one of his work before he was killed. They walk off and disappear, stuck in a kind of purgatory for all eternity.

The movie has tons of bad acting (I think a lot of it is dubbed to English, isn’t it) and laughable horror special effects that wouldn’t scare small kids. And the “zombies” are hilarious; they shuffle around with their heads looking down, like shy innocent Indian brides on their arranged marriage wedding night heading to their new husbands and about to be deflowered. I guess back then this would have been very scary but I don’t find it to be so at all. The death scenes were mildly interesting. The ending scene is good though when they head out to a desolate wasteland. Although I do have to say this – both Katherine MacColl & Cinzia Monreale are beautiful women. Really lovely! I was hoping for some skin. 5 outta 10! Oh and I found out that Swedish band Europe’s 1983 song Seven Doors Hotel (seven doors to hell) from their self-titled debut album is inspired by this film.

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The Poughkeepsie Tapes

Recommended to me by someone in a Horror movie fan Facebook group. The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a 2007 American horror film (torture & murder) directed by John Erick Dowdle and starring Bobbi Sue Luther, Samantha Robson and Ivar Brogger. It is made to resemble a documentary with a lot of hand held camera footage that the killer shoots. The film’s story is inspired by real life events and bear resemblance to real life killers.

A police raid on a suburban house reveals the gruesome murders of a serial killer. Investigators find 800 tapes that the killer made of him stalking, abducting, torturing and killing his victims. State police & the FBI have experts go through the tapes to find out as much as they can and try to identify the killer, his possible location and the identities of his victims. Some of the videos features him indulging in a balloon fetish – making prostitutes blow up and then try and break the balloons by jumping on them. They show his first crime, when he abducts, rapes and later murders an 8 year old girl who was playing alone in the front yard of her home. He then attacks a couple after pretending to have car trouble and asking to be dropped off at a nearby abandoned (although the couple don’t know that) gas station. Upon reaching the gas station he clubs the man on the head and uses a chemical substance on a cloth to subdue the woman. He then kills the man, cuts of his head and performs a c-section on the woman, and inserts the man’s head into her womb. He then films her reaction before killing her. The killer also alerts the cops via CCTV footage at a gas station to the location of his victim’s corpses.

Later he stalks a 19 year old girl, Cheryl, who is home alone for the weekend and kills her boyfriend who is visiting her at night. The killer then takes the girl with him to a secret lair abusing her sexually, physically and psychologically as his “slave”, a name he beats her into accepting as her new one. He even goes to the girl’s mother offering assistance and chuckles when she realizes that he is the man who abducted her daughter. The mother is paralyzed with shock and is unable to alert anyone until he goes away. He then throws the cops & the Feds off guard by changing his MO, stalking and killing only prostitutes while posing as a cop. At times he doesn’t kill them directly but tapes Cheryl being forced to kill them. investigators find the same DNA in the form of semen on the body, concluding that he has sex with them postmortem and at one of the victim’s houses they hit the jackpot – a cup has fingerprints and saliva that they match to that of a former cop James Foley, who has a history of visiting prostitutes. Foley is found to have been in the location of each murder & dump site and has no alibi though he pleads his nonsense. He is sentenced to die via lethal injection and a few days after his death – the police are led to the body of a new victim! Foley was innocent and the killer framed him using sperm that the former cop had donated to a sperm bank and stealing a glass that he had drunk from.

Th authorities are now aware to the meticulous planning of the killer and the lengths he has gone to for avoiding a clear profile and exonerate Foley – however it now being September 12, 2001 the focus is all on the 9/11 attacks and Foley’s story is reduced to a small article in the middle pages and as Foley’s son attests in an interview, most people still think that his father was guilty. The killings continue but the cops are able to trace a downloaded map that was sent to them via the email and tracked the user to the house that was raided at the beginning of the film. The cops raid the house but find the killer has left long back leaving behind numerous dead bodies buried in the backyard and a still alive but horribly tortured Cheryl in a wooden box. It has been 8 years since her abduction and her torture left her unable to handle reality so much that she started injuring herself as she started healing just so she could feel more pain. She had been mentally abused to such an extent that she refers herself to as “slave” and processes love for her “master” as she calls him and says that she knows he loves her and will come to take her away. 2 weeks after the interview Cheryl commits suicide and leaves a note behind professing her love for the “master”.

After that the murders in the area cease but experts feel that he is around somewhere still raping, torturing & killing. The cases are added to become an essential part of the training for anyone learning criminal psychology. There is one scene in which he offers a lift to a British woman who’s care has broken down and has her sit in the back of the cop car he is driving. As they talk he reveals that he is not a policeman but the killer that everyone has been warned about and it is brutal. The identity of the killer is still unknown. At the end of the credits we see one last example of his sadistic pleasure of torturing his victims; he tells a woman he has abducted that he won’t kill her if she does not blink! She tries her best to keep her eyes open but fails after a few moments and the screen goes blank. Although some parts of the film drags and fails to ignite the imagination and horrify you, the latter half makes up for it. It is well thought out and fascinated me by the end. 7 outta 10!

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300 : Rise Of An Empire

300 : Rise Of An Empire is a 2014 fantasy war/action movie and is a sort of sequel to 2007′s 300 in that the events of this film happen before, during & after the events of the previous film. It is based on the as-yet-unreleased Frank Miller graphic novel Xerxes. Zack Snyder, who directed and co-wrote the original film, acts as writer and producer on Rise of an Empire. The cast includes Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, David Wenham, Andrew Tiernan, Andrew Pleavin and Peter Mensah reprising their roles from the first film, alongside Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, and Jack O’Connell.

The film, narrated by Queen Gorgo of Sparta, shows how the Persian king Darius was fatally inured by general Themistocles of Athens as the Persians tried to invade Athens at the Battle of Marathon. Themistocles regretted not killing the future king, Xerses, then a young prince who witnessed the death of his father. Before dying Darius advices not to continue the war as the Greeks can only be killed by the gods. Darius’ faithful naval commander Artemisia, tells Xerses that it is a challenge and tells him to go to a mystic cave and bathes in an otherwordly liquid (??) and when he emerges he turns from a normal Persian man with a beard and hair to that hairless wonder or whatever it is with jewels from the Mr. T rejection pile! Artemisia is actually a Greek woman who defected to Persia as her family was raped and murdered by Greek hoplites and she was taken as a sex slave to the Greeks, who left her for dead in the streets. She was rescued and adopted by the Persians. Her lust for vengeance gained the attention of King Darius and he made her a naval commander after she killed many of his enemies.

Themeistocles alerted by his friend Scyllas, who was spying on the Persians, about their advancement travels to Sparta to ask King Leonaidas for help but as the King is consulting with the Oracle, Gorgo is reluctant for the Spartans to join Athens. Themistocles and his men win the first battle by ramming their ship against a Persian one and attacking them in ambushes and impresses Artemisia so much that she invites him over to talk. On her ship she ties to uses sex to influence him to defect to her side and become her second in command but when he refuses she pushes his aside. The Greeks are caught off guard the next day when the Persians spill tar into the sea and then use torches to ignite the fire, causing several ships to explode. Scyllas is also killed while the army is depleted down. While they rest they learn of the death of Leonidas and his 300 men. Themeistocles visits Gorgo in Sparta while she is mourning Leonidas to ask for her help, but she is too overcome with grief. Before leaving, Themistocles returns Leonidas’ sword, which he took from Ephialtes, who had earlier stolen it, and urges Gorgo to avenge Leonidas.

Athen is destroyed by Xerses while Artemisia learns that Themistocles is still alive and prepares to attack again, against Xerses wishes. The Greek ships crash into the Persians ships, and the two armies battle, beginning the decisive Battle of Salamis. Themistocles and Artemisia fight, which ends in a stalemate with both receiving injuries. However Gorgo has arrived with the Spartan army and allied with the rest of the Greek soldiers from other cities outnumbering the Persians. Themistocles gives Artemisia a chance to surrender before killing her and the Greeks go on to destroy the Persians.

Honestly, I couldn’t stand all that cartoonish blood flowing freely and thought that the story felt tame. Action sequences are great but it really is fantasy more than anything. Mystic otherwordly liquid turns a man into a muscular effeminate mountain? Eva Green is hawt in that sex scene! 6.5 outta 10 for me!

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Devil’s Knot

I have seen 4 documentaries on the West Memphis 3 case; 3 teenagers who were convicted for killing three young boys and subsequently sentenced to life in prison. However in 2013 a feature film was also made about it although it focuses mostly on the initial case, trial and sentencing leaving a lot of the story untold. This movie is Devil’s Knot directed by award winning director Atom Egoyan and starring Reese Witherspoon, Mireille Enos, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan, Kevin Durand, Bruce Greenwood, Stephen Moyer, Elias Koteas, Amy Ryan, and Alessandro Nivola.

What can the movie offer that the 4 well made documentaries haven’t already provided to viewers? Although I am a fan of director Egoyan and several of the actors are top class as well the movie seems like it could have best been avoided. Especially because since it’s mostly seen from the angle of the mother of one of the 8 year old boys who was brutally murdered and the private investigator helping the defendants’ lawyers with their case. Granted the documentaries focused more on the WM3 and the surroundings of the cases and that Devil’s Knot is based on the 2002 book of the same name by Mara Leveritt. In 2002 the WM3 were still in prison. Anyways the movie shows the reaction of the families, especially that of Pamela Hobbs and her second husband Terry Hobbs who was step-father to Stevie Branch, one of the murder victims.

However the movie then goes a bit more of the emotional route with focus on Pam having dreams and visions of Stevie leading to her finding her son’s pocket knife among Terry’s belongings and her suspecting him. That’s a bit of a stretch and strays from known facts about the case. I did like the portrayal of most of the actors who were in the movie – Kevin Durand was almost hilarious as  the notorious John Mark Byers, Adoptive father of victim Christopher Byers. However Colin Firth’s role as the investigator Ron Lax and focus on him in a restaurant watching the case on tv is just unnecessary. I wish they would have focused more on the victims families other than Pam, Terry & Byers and also shown more about the WM3 – more on their lives. Instead we have what seems like clips of things happening in the case that are collected without much cohesion.

I’d give this movie a 6.5 outta 10 but I hope that anyone who watches this will also go and check out the 4 documentaries that were able to go into much greater depth & detail on the case of the West Memphis 3.

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Mandela : Long Walk To Freedom

Mandela : Long Walk To Freedom is a 2013 British-South African biographical film based on the 1995 autobiographical book Long Walk to Freedom by anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela. The movie stars Idris Elba and Naomi Harris as Nelson & Winnie Mandela respectively and is directed by Justin Chadwick.

The film focuses on Mandela’s life, showing snippets of his life as a young boy and then a lawyer in the black society of South Africa under apartheid. His first marriage failed due to his infidelities and his wife left him and took their only son with them. Later he met and fell in love with Winnie while he started getting recognized as an anti-apartheid activist and she would soon pick up the fight for freedom as well. The movie shows several scenes of white brutality over the black majority starting with the police beating up of a young man, who was returning home drunk from a bar and didn’t have his papers with him, leading to his death.

Mandela becomes a leader for his people and is looked upon for his guidance and knowledge of the law. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie in which he is able to get a case of thievery dismissed for his client because the white mistress she was working for refused to answer the questions from a black attorney. Mandela is seen as preferring a non-violent movement against the injustice and apartheid but the ANC resorts to blowing up offices and buildings in retaliation for several acts of brutality from the authorities. The last straw was when the police fired guns killing several unarmed protestors who were burning the mandatory passports for all black Africans in South Africa. In 1963 Mandela was arrested along with other ANC leaders and post a trial is sentenced to life imprisonment in Robben Island where the jailors initially told him that he would never leave. The prison conditions are pathetic and inhumane, Mandela’s tall frame is assigned a cramped bed on the floor too short for him. The ANC leaders spend several years in jail there, doing hard manual labour but still protesting as much as possible. Winnie comes to see him and much later, after she turns 16, so does his elder daughter. He was only allowed one visitor and one letter every 6 months.

The movie also focuses on Winnie’s life after Mandela was imprisoned. Thrown into politics by circumstances she continues her husband’s work and is arrested, tortured and made to suffer long durations of isolated confinement in jails. She reacts violently when the cops search her bedroom and takes her away from her children and her path for the freedom struggle is a different one. Whereas Mandela still preached non-violence, toward the later part of the movie we see Winnie supporting the people’s anger and need to display that by fighting back with guns and other weapons and in one case, the beating and torture of blacks who they consider to be collaborators. Mandela’s stature as a political leader manages to grow even during the years in prison and the government under F W De Klerk is forced to negotiate with him. Mandela is granted a more lenient imprisonment, taken to a house to meet with some men and later with De Klerk. He and his fellow ANC leaders are taken to a newer & cleaner prison on the main land where they can be in the same large cell but it is also a means for the government to spy on them and listen to their conversations. Refusing to just get a share of the power, Mandela is later allowed to live in a home with relative comfort and a cook to prepare his meals in 1988 and he was allowed to be visited by his extended family.

In 1990, after 27 years, he was finally a free man but his relationship with Winnie had clearly been stained to the point of no return. She had become a powerful figure herself but was more angry and leaned toward retaliation with weapons. They separated in 1992 due to their differences as well as her having taken other lovers (shown in the movie as only photographs of her going out with another man) and divorced in 1996. The movie ends with Mandela’s electoral victory and being sworn in as president in 1994. The movie fails to ignite much emotion and reaction from the viewers. I did not like the pacing of the film and felt that they needed to focus on less events. I also am not a big fan of Idris Elba and did not like his delivery style which sounded odd. Naomi Harris is however superb as Winnie and delivers a passionate and fiery performance. I can see why the movie failed to do well at the box office. I’d give it a 7 outta 10!

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This entry was posted in Movies.