Greetings, ‘Doctor Sleep’ is a 2013 novel by acclaimed horror author Stephen King and it is a sequel to one of his most famous books, ‘The Shining’ which had been released decades earlier in 1977. Like its previous instalment, ‘Doctor Sleep’ had also been adapted into a film which was shown in cinemas in 2019 and stars Ewan McGregor as the now adult Dan Torrance. To my understanding, this picture received a positive reception but there are notable differences between the movie and the novel as the adaptation follows on from the story told in Kubrick’s iconic film as opposed to King’s original work. While I was looking forward to experiencing ‘Doctor Sleep’ I was all too aware that it would be unlikely to live up to its previous novel and I believe that I was right in that assessment after reading through it. I do intend to watch ‘Doctor Sleep’ at some point despite not being the biggest fan of the story it is built upon and I hope that it can justify its rather long runtime.
The story begins shortly after the horrific events that had transpired in the haunted Overlook Hotel with Wendy and Daniel Torrance now residing in Florida. Wendy is recovering from the physical damage her former husband, the possessed Jack, had inflicted upon her with a Roque mallet while Danny has been psychologically traumatised by all that has occurred. Not all the ghosts that haunt him are metaphorical though. One night Danny is making his way to the bathroom when he discovers a putrefying figure in the bathtub. The ghoulish woman is none other than Mrs Massey, the horrifying spectre from Room 217. Knowing how dangerous these evil spirits could be, Danny and Wendy seek help from Dick Hallorann. Dick, the former chef at the Overlook, is also gifted or cursed with the powers of ‘the shining’ and helps Danny conquer the ghostly apparitions by instructing him to mentally visualise locking them inside a box.
This technique works when Danny next encounters Mrs Massey and he imprisons her in a box, sending her to the deepest darkest depths of his mind. The next ghost to haunt Danny, Horace Derwent, receives the same treatment and it seems Dan will no longer be tormented by the spectres with his new found powers. The years go by and a now adult Danny has followed in his father’s footsteps and has become an aggressive alcoholic. The drug helps numb his powerful shine but his excessive drinking and partying also leads him to live a turbulent life which he struggles to leave behind. In his journey to sobriety, Danny will encounter a little girl named Abra Stone whose powerful shine allows her to reach out to him mentally. Dan had never meet one so strong in the ways of the shine and, unfortunately for him and Abra, this powerful ability also attracts the dark forces of the vampiric True Knot.
While it has its moments, I would consider this to be one of the weaker King books that I have read so far and I would put that down to the fact that there are quite a few bland characters, particularly the relations of Abra Stone, who inhabit the book. Another big failing was that it had no sense of place which is especially true when you compare it to ‘The Shining’ which was primarily set in one location and took its time to make the Overlook Hotel a sinister environment. In this book the characters were constantly moving across states and it was hard to appreciate the atmosphere of the locations because of this. Additionally, there was a specific twist towards the end of the book which didn’t work for me and it seemed quite forced in my opinion. While I found ‘The Shining’ to have its fair share of unnerving moments that are to be expected in a horror novel, the villainous True Knot led by the loathsome Rose the Hat didn’t conjure up much scares in comparison to their ghostly counterparts. In spite of my initial criticisms, it was pleasant to be reacquainted with Danny Torrance once again in a new adventure.
Quote of the Day
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
Gone with the Wind
Greetings, ‘Legend’ is a 2015 film by director Brian Helgeland who had previously directed ‘A Knight’s Tale,’ which was released in 2001, and was also involved in writing the screenplay for ‘L.A. Confidential’ which came to theatres in 1997. ‘Legend’ stars Tom Hardy in a dual role as the notorious British gangsters, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, alongside notable actors such as Emily Browning, Christopher Ecclestone, Colin Morgan, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton and Paul Bettany. The music was composed by Carter Burwell who created the soundtracks for both ‘The Founder’ and ‘Being John Malkovich.’ The soundtrack also contains contemporary songs from the 60s including works from artists such as Burt Bacharach, Marvin Gaye and Santo and Johnny.
The plot is set in London during the Swinging Sixties and follows Reggie Kray, an important figure in the English underworld, as he walks about in his territory and does his best to avoid the ever watchful authorities. It is clear that Reggie is well known in the impoverished London streets and gets on surprisingly well with most of the residents although some do take exception to the former boxer turned gangland thug. His twin brother, Ronnie, is institutionalised in a psychiatric hospital for paranoid schizophrenia but is released under duress as the hospital staff are not so subtly threatened to do so. Reggie is advised by a concerned employee that his identical twin is mentally unstable and highly aggressive so it would be for the best for Ronnie to take his medication daily.
With Ronnie now walking free, the Kray twins are ruling large swathes of London and getting into territorial skirmishes with the rival Richardson Gang. Reggie is the more astute of the two, essentially leading ‘The Firm’ alongside their business partner named Leslie Payne, while Ronnie derives great enjoyment from fighting and indulging himself in his homosexual desires. While running the business, a young woman by the name of Francis catches Reggie’s eye. The two hit it off much to the disapproval of Francis’ mother who dislikes the gangster’s immoral lifestyle. Things seem to be going well for the Krays as the sadistic Richardson Gang’s operations become hampered by the police but the good times aren’t going to roll on forever as Ronnie’s uncontrollable psychotic problems become a bigger and bigger hindrance to ‘The Firm’s’ criminal activities.
While I liked this film and believe the actors all gave good performances, especially Hardy as two distinct people, it seemed to lack a certain quality that would make it stand the test of time. While there was a noteworthy charm to it, ‘Legend’ isn’t going to rank amongst other gangster flicks such as ‘The Godfather’, ‘Goodfellas’ or ‘Casino’. This is partially down to some pacing issues in which the movie seemed to drag on without a clear purpose. It could also be down to the heavy focus on the relationship between Reggie and Francis that, while there was definitely some onscreen chemistry, it wasn’t the most interesting part of the premise. Despite its flaws, I would still recommend this film to any fans of mobster movies.
Quote of the Day
I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.
Tomb Raider: Legend
Greetings, ‘Tomb Raider: Legend’ is a 2006 video game which was developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos Interactive, a company which is currently known as Square Enix. This is the 7th main entry in the popular Tomb Raider series that started ten years prior to this game in 1996. It serves as a reboot by providing the iconic Lara Croft with a new origin story and is the first instalment of the ‘Legend’ trilogy which also consist of ‘Tomb Raider: Anniversary’, a remake of the original game, and ‘Underworld’ which is as a direct sequel to ‘Legend’. The franchise would be rebooted once again in 2013 with a grittier tone in ‘Tomb Raider’. The cast is fairly small, with only a handful of key characters, and the role of Lara being played by Keeley Hawes is the most notable of the voice talent involved in the game. The music was written by Dutch composer Troels Brun Folmann who also worked on other Tomb Raider games.
The game begins in Bolivia where Lara is searching for an ancient artefact in the ruins of Tiwanaku. She believes the artefact, a stone dais, is a magical item that is linked to an important moment in her past. As a child, Lara had been involved in a deadly plane crash over Nepal alongside her mother who is named Amelia. Once these two sole survivors had emerged from the crash, the Crofts stumbled across a Nepalese monastery in the Himalayan Mountains after days of searching for shelter. The young Lara had found a stone dais inside the holy place. The inquisitive girl accidently activates the magical item and causes her mother to vanish before her eyes through some mystical portal.
The story reverts back to the present day in which Lara finds a similar stone dais in Bolivia with the help of her support team in Zip and Alister. Lara is soon attacked by a troop of mercenaries and discovers that they are acting on orders from one James Rutland, an aristocratic individual who wants the magically infused item for himself. It is stated that there is also a personal vendetta between Croft and Rutland as during a previous expedition in Peru some years prior, Lara was forced to leave Rutland’s lover and Croft’s old friend, Amanda Everett, to die in a cave in. After a short confrontation with the mercenaries, James, who came to Bolivia in person, reveals to a shocked Lara that Amanda had survived her ordeal in Peru with the assistance of a supernatural guardian.
This video game was an enjoyable one to play with some challenging puzzles that required a bit of thought to work out and a fun if repetitive combat system during the action phases. I am not overly familiar with the Tomb Raider series, outside of watching the films starring Angelina Jolie from the 2000s and having a basic understanding through cultural osmosis, but it is a property that I have been interested in exploring for some time due to its well-earned reputation. While ‘Legend’ was a good way to pass the time, I did find the story a bit confusing which attempted to tie in Arthurian legend and thought the antagonists were kind of non-descript and generic. Despite this, I still have a positive opinion of this title and would argue that it is worth your time if you are looking to immerse yourself in an action-adventure and puzzle game.
Quote of the Day
For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked. I mean, hits just became a habit for some of the guys. Guys would get into arguments over nothing and before you knew it, one of them was dead. And they were shooting each other all the time. Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal. We had a serious problem with Billy Batts. This was really a touchy thing. Tommy'd killed a made guy. Batts was part of the Gambino crew and was considered untouchable. Before you could touch a made guy, you had to have a good reason. You had to have a sitdown, and you better get an okay, or you'd be the one who got whacked.
Greetings, ‘The Founder’ is a biographical film from 2016 that was directed by John Lee Hancock, who is also known for directing ‘Saving Mr Banks’ a few years prior in 2013. While ‘Saving Mr Bank’s was about P.L. Travers and Walt Disney creating the ‘Mary Poppins’ movie, ‘The Founder’ is about the transformation of McDonalds from a small family orientated restaurant into a globe spanning empire. It stars Michael Keaton as businessman Ray Kroc, Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonalds brothers, Richard and Maurice, with Laura Dern and Linda Cardellini in supporting roles. The score was composed by Carter Burwell who mostly works with the Cohen brothers in films such as ‘Raising Arizona’ and ‘Fargo’ but was also involved in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ and Netflix’s ‘Space Force’.
The plot begins with Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman, travelling across America and trying to sell his wares to restaurants in 1954 through a charismatic pitch. After failing to shift much of his product, Ray becomes increasingly frustrated with his lack of progress and relies on recorded speeches to inspire him in his darkest days. The record explains that what makes a man successful isn’t his vision, his natural talents or his intelligence but his persistence and his ability to keep getting up after being repeatedly knocked down. With this mind-set firmly entrenched, Ray believes that he will eventually find his path to wealth and power as a golden opportunity will arise if he just keeps working on it with gritted determination. That very opportunity comes one day when a request for an unusually high number of milkshake machines is made by two brothers named McDonald. An intrigued Ray travels down to the McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California with the milkshake machines in his car.
As he arrives, he sees a throng of people standing in line to get their orders in. Kroc is now even more curious and he joins the line of customers who vary in age range. Once he gets to the top of the queue, Ray is baffled by how different it is to any eatery he has been at before and is shocked to learn they only have a limited menu but are producing quality food at a rapid rate. After getting his meal, he learns that he can eat it anywhere due to the disposable and minimal wrapping. Kroc sees very clearly that this was just the moment he was waiting for. An opportunity that could start a franchise and revolutionise the gastronomical experience. He meets the McDonalds brothers and despite initial rebuffing from them on an offer to build their restaurant into a chain, Ray keeps coming back as per his inspirational record’s instruction and refuses to give up his dream.
I really liked this movie and found it interesting how easy it was to sympathise with the struggling Ray Kroc at the beginning until slowly but surely he became more and more ruthless as the film progressed. Keaton brought a real sleazy charm to his portrayal and I found him to be one of the highlights of the film alongside Offerman and Lynch’s performances as they struggled to contain Kroc’s intense ambition. It will be of no surprise to anyone that ‘The Founder’ ends on a sombre note for the McDonalds brothers but it is a fascinating tale to learn how their unique business idea became such a giant transnational corporation once it was guided by Kroc’s hands. This is one movie that I’d definitely recommend to others.
Quote of the Day
Young men love risk because they can’t imagine the consequences.
On Becoming A God In Central Florida
Greetings, ‘On Becoming a God in Central Florida’ is a dark comedy television show from 2019 that was created by Matt Lutsky and Robert Funke for Showtime. The series, which was cancelled after one season due to production difficulties in the era of Covid despite initial promises of a second instalment, stars Kirsten Dunst, Mel Rodriguez, Théodore Pellerin, Beth Ditto and Ted Levine among some of the top cast members. The music was composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans who also worked on the score for ‘American Gods’ and ‘Ozark’ but, like the creators of the show, they don’t seem to have been involved in many other notable projects.
The plot, which as its title suggests is set in Florida, begins in 1992 and focuses on the impoverished Stubbs family. The small family consists of spouses Krystal and Travis, alongside their infant named Destiny, who are struggling to get by and are living from pay check to pay check. Travis, while holding on to a stable but unfulfilling office job, has managed to get himself involved in a pyramid scheme which he believes will make him richer than his wildest dreams if he just puts in the hard work. He is moonlighting as a member of FAM, a cult like organisation called Founders American Merchandise, that sells cheap products for everyday needs. Travis believes that he can climb the organisational ladder by bringing in more recruits and making them sell wares on his behalf. This belief is spurred on and intentionally stoked by the motivational tapes of FAM’s founder, Obie Garbeau II, who Travis and other FAM participants have deified in their search if wealth.
Travis is eventually convinced by the tapes and is egged on by his friend, a fellow FAM member named Cody Bonar, to quit his job with the intention to become a full time salesperson for FAM. This naturally frustrates Krystal who is very sceptical that the system even works but Travis will not listen to reason as he believes that his old job was holding him back from greatness. Krystal can see that the attempts to peddle FAM products by trying to sell them across greater and greater distances has only brought an exhausted Travis closer to ruin. Travis is either too ignorant or unwilling to accept this reality until tragedy strikes. While driving his car, a delirious Travis accidently steers his car into an alligator infested river and is mauled to death by the apex predators. The distraught and angry Krystal, now on her own with a baby to raise, sets her sights on destroying FAM and its founder from the inside in an act of revenge.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show and found the characters to be compelling as they navigated through the seedy world of Multi-Level Marketing. This is particularly the case for Dunst’s portrayal of Krystal, who I found was easy to root for early on, and Levine’s take on the wealth and image obsessed Garbeau II. While I was familiar with most of the cast, there were some actors and actresses who were new to me who I found had provided solid performances. If you are looking for some intriguing character drama, I’d certainly recommend giving this one a try. Even though the show was cancelled with plenty of story left to tell, it concluded on a perfectly satisfying ending in my opinion.
Quote of the Day
Does your incompetence know no bounds?
Lord Nelson Rathbone
Greetings, ‘Amélie’ is a 2001 romantic comedy film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet which was also titled ‘The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain’. The director of this French language film has done little else of note bar a directorial effort for ‘Alien: Resurrection’, perhaps regarded as one of the weakest in the famed horror series, and a new release for Netflix called ‘Bigbug’. Due to its nature as a French film, it would star many actors and actresses who may not be well known beyond its national borders. The main actress is Audrey Tautou who also played a major role in 2006’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ while other stars include Mathieu Kassovitz as the love interest and André Dussollier as the narrator. The soundtrack was composed by Yann Tiersen who also wouldn’t be popularly known by English speaking audiences.
The plot begins in 1974 with birth of Amélie to the eccentric parents of Raphaël and Amandine Poulain. The years roll by and Amélie grows up while having no friends of her own to interact with, so she resorts to inventing her own imaginary companions instead. She develops a quirky attitude after being reared and socially formed by her overly anxious mother and emotionally distant father. Her personality is impacted detrimentally when, visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral with her mother, a suicidal Canadian tourist leaps from the top of the Cathedral and lands on Amandine. The collision kills Amélie’s mother and the event causes her father to drift further into isolation. More years pass until Amélie is a young woman serving as a waitress in the Café des 2 Moulins in Paris which is staffed and inhabited by other oddballs. It is revealed that she is a romance craving singleton and although she had an unnamed boyfriend in the past, she never clicked with anyone on a satisfying level.
Amélie spends her days enjoying the simple things in life, like dipping her hand into bags of grain, as well as partaking in flights of fancy as she goes about her rather lacklustre life. Her life, however, takes an interesting turn on Sunday 31st August 1997. She is preparing to spray some perfume on herself in her bathroom while a news station reports that Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car accident. In her shock, Amélie drops the perfume stopper which rolls across the floor and dislodges a wall tile. Once she absorbs the news, Amélie is surprised to discover the tile was loose and removes it properly to find a secret compartment which contains an old box. She rubs the dust off the metal box and notices it is full of childhood memorabilia from the 1950s. Amélie decides in that instant that she wants to track down the owner of the box, a previous tenant, and that if he is overcome with joy, then she would dedicate her life to making other people happy.
I enjoyed this movie in all its surreal quirkiness and was never sure what was going to be in store from one scene to the next or how the story was going to progress. I liked the off-kilter characters, of which everyone in the cast appears to be portraying in one way or another, and found the central character of Amélie to be easy to sympathise with. The vivid colouring certainly deserves a mention as it stands out and the movie is very stylistic in part because of its bright contrasting colours. Even though I believe ‘Amélie’ may have been a little too long, I’d recommend this movie if you are searching for something a bit different and are in the mood for a whimsical, artsy film.
Quote of the Day
I am not a number! I am a free man!