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Netflix Pick of the Week: The Secret Garden

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Childhood Favorite 

A childhood favorite I use as a comfort blanket, The Secret Garden to stream online. Enjoy this today’s Netflix Pick of the Week: The Secret Garden.

Adapted from the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden follows a young girl from a wealthy family who loses her parents during an earthquake in India. Having all the possessions she could desire but she lacked the affection of her parents, Mary has grown into a contrary girl lacking social skills and compassion.

After her parents passing Mary is sent to live with her Uncle who is always away and her cousin who she knows very little about. There is meets and interacts mostly with servants who don’t treat her the same way she is used to being treated in India. As a child, I used to mimic and repeat the lines of both Mary and Martha. Lost in the giant mansion in the English Moores, Mary exits the gothic hallways and ventures out on her own. Outside she comes in contact with Dickon, brother to Martha. They strick up a hostile relationship that soon turns to friendship. Outside, Mary finds her aunts garden, a place her mother and Aunt (they were twins) used to play as young girls. The secret garden soon opens up Mary’s heart and she comes alive with it.

One of the most important films of my childhood, The Secret Garden is a forever favorite that I will revisit with nostalgic wonder. I own two elephants similar to the one Mary has that belonged to her mother. This little piece of trivia still manages to make me happy. If you are looking for a movie that will send you back on childhood adventures, will make you laugh and tug at your heartstrings, head on over to Netflix now.

 

 

Suspense Saturday: It (2017)

 

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Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise

Suspense Saturday: It (2017)

Three times I have sat in a movie theatre, laughing and jumping with each joke and scare. A horror movie fan since a young age I have devoured several of them, old and new, gore and psychological over the course of my young life. Some I have watched for therapeutic reasons, some to be entertained and others for the story. It (2017) manages to fall into all of those categories for me. With a coming of age story at its helm, the deaths of bully’s and the talent it took to make this film, It surpasses many other horror films and as it ages it will be deemed a classic of the genre.

When it comes around to purchasing the film I will probably watch the film several more times before I become bored of it. Only then will I wait to watch it again when the novelty wears off and I will revisit it like returning to an old friend.

As someone who has not read the complete novel but has read about the story and engaged in several conversations about, It, I will say that I believe the film is a worthy adaptation of the source material. However, my opinion is based solely as a viewer.

I saw the original film/miniseries a few times in the past but despite my love of Tim Curry I do prefer Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise and find this adaptation far superior. With a talented cast, a great script and wonderful effects it is no wonder that It has surpassed the half-a-million mark at the box office. It has also surpassed The Exorcist as the highest grossing horror film of all time.

 

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Jaeden Lieberher as Bill, Finn Wolfhard as Richie, Sophia Lillis as Beverly, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, Chosen Jacobs as Mike, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, and Wyatt Oleff as Stanley

 

Opening to critical acclaim and making box office records, It, is far more than a horror movie. A coming-of-age tale about a group of outsiders that come together to face their biggest fears and save the town, It turns children into superheroes.

No matter how old you get the children of the story are the ones you will relate to. We all are or have been children and far too often we forgot what it was like to be young. Consistently silenced, talked over and dealing with peoples refusal to listen, children are smart and observant but as we get older we forget to listen. As adults, we deal with many of the same issues. We are silenced, talked over and people refuse to listen to us. No matter how old you get the children of the story are and will remain the most relatable aspect of any story and It, showcases that incredibly well.

You might not expect to laugh your laurels off while watching a movie about a mysterious entity that takes the form of a clown (or maybe you do) but It, brings the laughs. With a young and talented cast, It has many memorable lines and moments that are sure to put a smile on your face. The relationships between these children as they deal with what it means to be a “loser”, as they go on misadventures and face death head-on grows. The kids also show a lot of personal growth as they face Pennywise and their very personal issues at home.

Female sexuality (especially in young girls) is a difficult topic to deal with in a film. It is a difficult topic to bring up in any form mainly due to the continued over-sexualization of young girls and women. It has come to be something dirty and when we face it head on it is considered something even worse. While we have no problem portraying the evolving sexuality of males at any age, sexuality in women seems to be a subject that cultures spanning far and wide have difficulty embracing. In certain corners of the world, we are evolving to show stronger women who are embracing their sexuality and we are unafraid to show it. In It, Beverly Marsh is a young girl afraid of her own sexuality and what it means to be women. Afraid of walking into her own home, Beverly is her daddy’s “girl” and every time we see her with him an uncomfortable feeling washes over you. The victim of her father’s perversion and the cruelty of the kids at school, Beverly has a reputation in the town of Derry, Maine for being a slut. Bev doesn’t just lay there and take it, she is a kind girl who befriends new kid Ben and later helps the boys retrieve supplies to clean and bandage a wound. As she faces Pennywise, Beverly also faces her father and her impending womanhood.

It (2017) is a film that might surprise you. The films greatest strength (and it has many) is the kids that make up the cast. They have great chemistry, play well off each other and it appears that they are having fun. That stands out on screen and the film is made that much more enjoyable because of it. Bill’s performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown will send shivers down your spine as he salivates at the children’s fear. A well-written cinematic adventure, It, is sure to be on our minds for years to come.

Netflix Pick of the Week: Gerald’s Game

 

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Based on the novel by Stephen King, Gerald’s Game is a Netflix original Directed by Mike Flanagan. Starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood

Netflix Pick of the Week: Gerald’s Game is the most recent adaptation from Stephen’s Kings massive body of work. Gerald’s Game comes after critical falure, The Dark Tower, the highest grossing horror film of all time, It, and TV adaptations of The Mist and Mr. Mercedes.

The Stephen King renaissance is among us with several new adaptations and remakes from the Master of Horror. Some have not succeeded in bringing the material to life and not all of them can live up to the recent adaptation of It, but Gerald’s Game is a great film that manages to take tricky subject matter and turn it into 103 min of entertainment.

Spoiler Alert: Gerald’s Game was released on Netflix on Sept 29th. This post doesn’t reveal everything about the film but does dive into much of the story. If you want to watch the film completely spoiler free stop here.

 

Gerald’s Game follows, married couple, Gerald, and Jessie as they head out to their remote lake house in order to spice things up. The fridge is stocked with expensive foods, the gardeners and maids have been at work making the place look as good as new. With no one there to disturb them, Gerald takes his viagra and Jessie slips into a silky nightgown. Soon things take a turn for the worst and it doesn’t stop there. While engaged in foreplay that turns sour from the couple, Gerald has a heart attack leaving Jessie alone and handcuffed to the bedpost. Over the next few days, she suffers hallucinations, comes in contact with a stray dog and a man who may or may not be real. As time passes Jessie faces her past and must figure out to survive.

Trigger Warning: If you have suffered from or if sexual abuse has played a part in your life this film might be triggering to you. It deals with abuse as a child and the psychological effects that the silencing of abuse causes to victims in later life.

Gerald’s Game is psychological horror at its best. The film showcases a complex woman who was the victim of sexual abuse. The abuse she suffered as a child turned her into a prisoner and the handcuffs are used as a metaphor throughout the story. During the run of the film Jessie suffers, unsurprisingly from a breakdown and she must get through her hallucinations to survive. At the end of it all, it is her persistent efforts that save her life.

The film reminds us the importance of “no” and what it means to listen to your partner. Everyone has their comfort zones and they have them for whatever reason. If someone says “no” or tells you to “stop” do it. Just because you are comfortable doesn’t mean they will be or have to be.

I have yet to read the source material but I can imagine that it may have been a challenge to adapt a story that takes place in a person’s mind. It is not however surprising that the script is successful due to Flanagan’s reputation. He is the Writer/Director of Hush and the Director of Ouji: Origin of Evil.

For lovers of Psychological Horror and Suspense, Gerald’s Game is a great opportunity to check out the beauty of simplicity in a film.

If you have read the novel and consider this a worthy adaptation of the source material comment below. Also, comment if you have some qualms about the adaptation or story itself.

Film Noir Friday: Quicksand

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Film Noir Friday

QUICKSAND (1950)

Mickey Rooney and Film Noir would seem to be another one of his bad marriages, and if it did happen it would be a Hollywood gimmick. It happened several times. After World War II, Rooney was looking to restart his career and present himself as some other than an aging child star. Film Noir might be Rooney’s proper vehicle. In anti-hero style, he made a fortune then, through multiple divorces, drinking, gambling and carousing with women he wasn’t married to, he lost a fortune. So, how did it go?

The credits are classic Noir; loud moody music, a night setting with waves crashing on the beach. Then comes the first scene and we wonder what’s going on. At Gus’ Place, a neighborhood diner, Dan Brady (Mickey Rooney) a mechanic, is having lunch with his friends, co-worker Chuck (Wally Cassell) and charter boat worker Buzz (Jimmie Dodd). They are talking about girls. Talking about girls with Chuck and Buzz. (Yikes.)

After four years in the navy, Dan doesn’t want an anchor, a respectable girl, he wants excitement. In walks a blonde with an I’m-not-in-your-league attitude. Vera (Jeanne Cagney) is the new cashier. She resists Dan’s charm until he invites her out to the Music Box to see Red Nichols and His Five Pennies (a real group).

Dan and Chuck return to work and Dan realizes that he’s broke. He calls Buzz to ask for the $20 he loaned him. (Multiply all dollars amounts by 10; $20 is about half a week’s wages.) Buzz can’t pay him until the next day. Unable to get any money, Dan puts his first foot into the quicksand. With an audit of his register two days off, Dan decides to take the money and replace it the next day.

Dressed and ready for a night out, Dan, in his jalopy, pulls up just as Vera is leaving work and with sexually charged banter, the Noir kicks in. Vera wants to go shopping. He drives her to shop window to see the $2000 mink coat she wants. Dan must be thinking, Screwy dame. The Music Box is closed on Mondays. Vera takes him to an arcade where she used to work.

There is obviously unpleasant history between the arcade owner Nick (Peter Lorre) and Vera. Nick catches her and Dan making out in the photo booth and runs them off. During a walk on the beach, Vera tells Dan that at sixteen she ran away from West Virginia. It seems that she might be a sympathetic character.

The next day, back at work, Dan finds that the bookkeeper has shown up two days early. Desperate, he runs down the street looking for a way to get money. At Jay Jewelry Store he buys a $100 watch for a dollar down and $10 a month. He immediately hocks it for $30 then manages to slip the $20 into the money bag satisfy the bookkeeper. Almost immediately a cop (John Gallaudet) shows up and, knowing what Dan did, explains that selling property with a lien holder is fraud. He gives Dan until noon tomorrow to pay of the watch.

Dan tries to hock his car to Jack For Your Old Hack but he isn’t offered enough so he does the logical thing and goes to a bar. Next to him, and very drunk, is a man called Shorty (Sidney Marion) who runs a bingo parlor and is carrying a lot of money. Dan follows the man into the parking lot, covers his face with a white handkerchief and robs him. Seen by a witness, he jumps a fence, removes the money and throws the wallet and the handkerchief in the garbage.

Hurrying out of the alley, he runs into Helen and her friend Millie (Patsy O’Connor). The girls separate so Helen can be with Dan. After buying Helen an ice cream, he runs off on her to join Vera.

In the Arcade, Dan finds Nick struggling with Vera, wanting the $50 he says she owes him. She claims it was a gift. Dan doesn’t want her owing him anything so he throws a fifty dollar bill at Nick. Dan takes Vera to the Music Bar, he claims to have won it playing craps. It’s common knowledge in the neighborhood that Shorty carries fifties and she has heard about the robbery. (Nick has also connected Dan to the robbery.)

The next day Dan pays off the watch. Nick found Dan’s mask and uses it for blackmail. He wants a new car from the garage where Dan works. Once again desperate, he leaves the bathroom window open, breaks in that night and gets the car to Nick.

When he goes to work the next morning the garage owner, Markey (Art Smith), tells Dan that he knows he stole the car and he wants it back tomorrow or $3000 for a car that lists at $1950. Dan finds Vera at Gus’ Place, where she still works, and asks her to go to Texas with him. As he drives her home he tells her everything. She knows where they can get that kind of money; rob Nick. He keeps enough to cash paychecks.

While Vera waits by the car, she sends Dan in to get the money. Dan is not a practiced burglar. He makes enough noise to alert the night watchman. Dan gets shot at but makes an escape. Back at Vera’s room they count out $3610. The Landlady (Minerva Urecal) catches them together and runs Dan off.

The next day Dan makes arrangements to meet that night with Mackey in his office. When Dan is finally able find Vera, he meet her in her room. She is wearing the mink coat. She tells him that she bought it with her share of the money. Dan’s life is slipping from his control. Vera tells him to take what’s left and offer it to Mackey; she got a $2000 mink coat for $1800.

Dan takes what money is left and tells Mackey to take it or leave it. Mackey takes it then picks up the phone to call the police while holding a gun on Dan. Dan jumps across the desk and, in the fight, strangles Mackey.

Outside Vera’s, he runs into Chuck and Helen arm in arm. Chuck tells him that he quit Mackey because he accused him of stealing the car and he either wanted the car back or $3000.

In Vera’s room, Dan tells her what has happened and again she refuses to go to Texas. He sees her for what she is; selfish and corrupt. As he leaves, the cops are coming up the stairs; Dan runs the other way. While he is hiding on the ledge with Mackey’s gun, the police serve a search warrant on Vera. She assumes they’re looking for Dan. She rambles on about dead body; she doesn’t notice they’re looking through drawers. Thinking that Dan may be hiding in the closet, they find the mink coat. Vera tells them that she bought it with her own money and shows them the receipt. Nick figured she was involved in the robbery and the police work out that the $1800 was her half of the money.

Dan makes his way to his car where Helen is waiting. She too had figured out that he had robbed Shorty. He tries to get her to leave but she refuses. They are making plans to go to Mexico when the car breaks down. At a stoplight they jump in the back of a man’s car and Dan tells him to drive. The man turns out to be Harvey (Taylor Holmes), a sympathetic lawyer. Dan confesses to try and save Helen. Harvey raises the possibility that Mackey might not be dead.

Dan’s next plan is to catch Buzz’s boat at the Santa Monica Pier and get to Mexico by sea. Helen wants to go with him but he assures her that he will send for her after he’s established himself there. He leaves Helen with Harvey, who promises to wait a while before calling the police.

The police are at the boat questioning Buzz. Harvey and Helen turn on the radio. After a scare, hearing that all exits from the city are blocked, they here that they’re looking for a cop killer. The next report announces that Mackey survived and named Dan as his assailant.

Missing the boat, the police on the Pier come on Dan. After a frantic chase, where Dan drops his gun, Dan is shot in the shoulder. Harvey’s car to take Dan to the hospital. Once they catch Dan up on the events, Harvey figures that he’ll get from one to ten years, but as a first time offender, it will probably be closer to a year. Helen promises to wait. A year or two in prison is presented as a Hollywood happy ending.

Lacking in intensity and claustrophobic atmosphere, this movie is not a classic but watching it is not a waste of time. It does need to be pointed out that a body count of zero is nearly unheard of in the Land of Noir.

Film Noir Friday: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud

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Film Noir Friday, written by William Peace

Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (1958)- a French Film Noir directed by Louis Malle. In the US: Elevator to the Gallows- Frantic; in the UK Lift to the Scaffold. It stars Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet.

In older movies it is often difficult to understand the context. To many of us, this isn’t the Jeanne Moreau we dream of; here she is the suburban type wife of a wealthy man and she is made up to fit the part. By this time she had been in 20 movies but she had not yet appeared in Jules et Jim.

Some movies of this era appeal only to cinephiles; this isn’t one of those. Most of the decisions made by the creative team behind the camera are exactly right. The pacing, the lighting, the editing fit the material. That said, the use of Ms Moreau: this is not the woman most men would want to surrender themselves to, but you could see her wanting to have an exciting lover and wanting to have her older husband’s wealth. But there she was, in the café, wondering what was happening, wondering if her lover, her husband’s friend, had went through with their plan. And you could see her hoping that he hadn’t; that her husband was still alive; that they could go away and live their lives- without money.

I won’t spend a lot of time discussing Jeanne Moreau, but this is not who she was to a lot of us who became aware of her when we were all so young.

This film is often discussed in the terms of the score by Miles Davis. This was an intensely creative time for him but his music does not overpower the movie, though some consider the movie groundbreaking for that reason only.

Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) have decided that they have to murder Simon Carala (Jean Wall). Simon is a wealthy man and Julien’s boss. Julien uses his skills as an ex-Foreign Legion officer, a veteran of the Indochina and Algerian wars. Working late, Julien uses a rope to get into Carala’s office and arranges his murder to look like a suicide.

As Julien gets into his sporty convertible he sees the rope hanging from the building. He leaves the engine running and he hurries into the building and into the elevator. Going up in the elevator, the caretaker turns off the power and he is trapped between floors for the weekend.

Julien’s car is then stolen by a young couple; Louis, a small time crook, and flower shop assistant Veronique.

Waiting for Julien in a café, Florence sees the car past by; seeing only Veronique. To her, it appears that Julien has run off with a younger woman. Completely unnerved, Florence spends the night asking about Julien in the bars where he is known.

In Julien’s car, Louis puts on his gloves and begins to assume his identity; checking into a hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Julien Tavernier. At the hotel they meet a German couple on holiday; Horst and Frieda Bencker. Frieda uses Julien’s camera to take pictures of the party.

That night, Louis decides he is going to steal The Bencker’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL gullwing. Horst catches them and when Louis sees Horst’s cigar tube, he assumes it is a gun, he kills the couple with Julien’s handgun. Louis and Veronique return to her apartment in Paris. Veronique convinces her boyfriend to join her in a suicide pact; which fails.

The dead bodies of the Bencker’s are discovered. With the evidence of Julien’s car, handgun and raincoat, he is the prime suspect; his picture in the morning newspapers.
Julien had spent the night in the elevator, calming trying to get himself out. When the power came on in the morning, he had managed to get himself out. Florence had spent the night trying to find him; even to the point where she had wandered into her husband’s friends and gotten herself arrested as a prostitute.

Then comes the point where Florence wants to find Veronique and clear Julien of the Bencker murders. After finding them woozy, Florence accuses them of killing the Benckers and calls the police. Believing that there is no evidence to connect them with the crime, Louis (the police detective) has the photographs developed and Florence and Julien are arrested.

The question is: Why didn’t Florence and Julien say that Simon didn’t kill himself because of the relationship between is best friend and wife? And why did Florence and Julien give themselves up so easily? The answer may be that it is easier to kill someone than to live with having killed someone. Maybe, after all the lies, Florence and Julien just wanted it to be over with.

More Than a Little Black Dress: Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and UNICEF

Audrey Hepburn, UNICEF ambassador in Ethiopia

What do you think of when you hear the name Audrey Hepburn? Most people will picture her in a little black dress with a slender cigarette holder between her fingers but we should see her as so much more. Before she was Holly Golightly, Hepburn appeared in many successful films including her first film and Oscar winning performance in Roman Holiday opposite Gregory Peck. She would appear with Humphrey Bogart and William Holden in Sabrina and dance with Fred Astaire in Funny Face. With a long and successful career, Hepburn can easily be seen as an overrated star considering the fact that it is her image in that black dress with a string of pearls around her neck that stands out. What should stand out is the work she did after her long film career. Audrey Hepburn was an ambassador for UNICEF. That was the work she was most proud of and that is how we should remember her.

Born Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1926 in Brussels, Belgium, Audrey Hepburn lived a privileged life during her younger years. Due to her father’s job, the family traveled and relocated several times before finally settling in Brussels. Eventually the family would help raise money for the British Union of Fascists before her father left the family for London where he would become more involved in Fascism. This was a turning point in young Audrey’s life and it began the downfall of the family. As World War II broke out, Audrey’s mother relocated the family to the Netherlands believing that they would stay neutral and no harm would come to them there. Sadly things didn’t go as planned. The Nazi’s invaded, her uncle was killed, one brother went to a work camp and the other went on the run. It’s these horrific happenings in her early life that would later inspire her and influence her work with UNICEF.

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When the war ended in 1945, Hepburn moved with her family to Amsterdam where she began studying Ballet. Her aspirations to be a prima ballerina were lost when she was told that her height and weak constitution made it impossible. Hepburn decided to focus on acting and she moved to London. Here she would find success after work as a chorus girl when she was offered a role in her future Tony Award Winning performance in the Broadway adaptation of the film Gigi.

As 1953 rolled around, Audrey Hepburn’s life was looking better than ever. An appearance in Roman Holiday, the film that would win her the Academy Award, catapulted her to stardom. After her first Hollywood film, Audrey went on to have a successful career in the US. Popular among female audiences, Audrey’s most iconic role came in 1961 when she was cast as Holly Golightly in the adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her Holly is far different the novella’s Holly. The film traded in the book’s Teenage Blonde with a more appropriately aged brunette; and today we can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

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While Hepburn continued to work into the seventies it was her work in the eighties and to her death that should be what we remember her for. Her work with UNICEF has changed lives and spread the word for the wonderful organization. Her work in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Somalia, and Vietnam would lead to being awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom. After a successful film career and a remarkable resume, the work we should remember is the efforts she put in to making the lives of starving children something we were all forced to see.

There is something that attracts so many young women to Audrey Hepburn. I have a picture of her on my wall. I love her movies and anytime I see her image I automatically take note. In the end, we should look past the surface and see the beautiful soul that lived inside this remarkable woman. If you want to honor her, do what you can to help those who are less fortunate. Remember money isn’t the only thing you can give. Your time is also valuable, as are the clothes in your closet you don’t wear and the books on your shelf you don’t read. I challenge you to look into the work Audrey and to research UNICEF for yourself. When you watch a film, or even think of her, share a link on your social media pages. The list of things we can do to help our fellow humans is long so let’s make Audrey Hepburn proud and participate in making this world a better place.

http://www.audreyhepburn.com, https://www.unicef.org

Netflix Pick of the Week: Rogue One

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Rogue One, now on Netflix

If you are a big Star Wars fan chances are you have already seen this one in theaters. If you are a casual fan, chances are you’ve seen this one in theaters. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a Friday night in front to the TV chowing down on popcorn as you invest another two hours on this incredible movie with a diverse cast and a strong female lead.

Funny and full of information, Rogue One proves that these are the years for Star Wars movies to be made once again. Constantly the target of online trolls and sexist reviewers, the current movies in the franchise have had its fair share of backlash due to the diverse casting they now employ.

Standing alone from the new trilogy of films and a prequel to The Force Awakens, Rouge One follows Jyn as she joins the resistance to stop the building of the Death Star.

If you enjoyed The Force Awakens for its strength, answers and story, Rogue One should be another enjoyable adventure through the future. The new films in the franchise given us what the Prequels did not. While we had a few characters to entertain us there still lacked something to root for and with strong female leads like Rey and Jyn we are give woman that we and our little girls can look up to. With men of color like Cassian and Fin, men are given someone that resembles them on the screen. It is so easy to forget the importance of female leadership and diversity but for those who have been waiting a long time the casting of these film’s mean a lot more.

For lovers of strong female leads, diverse casts, sci-fi, Star Wars and adventure, a night in with Rogue One should mean a lot to you. I know it means a lot to me.