Greetings, Ghost Stories is a 2017 British horror film which was directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. It is a filmic adaptation of a 2010 play of the same name which was also written by the two aforementioned directors. The cast consists of Andy Nyman as the sceptical protagonist Professor Philip Goodman as well as Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther who are the primary actors involved in this movie. The music was composed by Israeli conductor Frank Ilfman who does not seem to have worked on any other notable projects and includes the song ‘Why’ as performed by Anthony Newly during a particularly tense scene.
The plot begins in 1979 where a young Philip Goodman watches helplessly as sister is thrust out of his family by their strict father. She had been dating a South Asian man, an inexcusable act of betrayal in the eyes of her traditional father as it flew in the face of his beliefs. The plot moves some decades into the future when a now grown up Philip is a television presenter and debunks showmen psychics that he believes are taking advantage of vulnerable people who have suffered through loss. Philip’s rationale for doing so is that he doesn’t want the superstitions that ruined his family to be able to destroy others as well. His work catches the eye of Philip’s personal hero, an aging paranormal investigator named Charles Cameron, who had dedicated his life to disproving supposed supernatural happenings. Cameron had been famous during the 1970s but had long ago disappeared mysteriously and was declared missing in the decades since. Philip is invited to meet his idol and, motivated by his curiosity, agrees to speak with him.
It is soon revealed that Cameron is living in a caravan, is on his deathbed and is now impoverished despite his earlier fame. The frail Cameron shocks Goodman by revealing he now believes that all his previous cases were real and that paranormal entities are authentic. Cameron gives his fan three supposedly separate cases to solve as he himself couldn’t conclusively prove that there were no unnatural elements at play. Philip accepts the challenge and interviews his first person of interest, a standoffish security guard called Tony Matthews. After managing to chip away at Matthew’s defences, Philip discovers that the man was beset by family troubles that included a wife who died from cancer and a daughter who suffers from locked-in-syndrome. A frightened Tony tells his tale, reliving his unusual experience when he had seen an apparition during a night watch at an abandoned asylum for women.
I really enjoyed this movie but I would state that it had more of a creepy, unnerving vibe running thorough it as opposed to having any particular terrifying scenes that stood out to me. The film also ends on a well-crafted twist that I appreciated and thought was nicely foreshadowed throughout the movie. It would be my opinion that even non-horror fans should watch this film as it has a well thought out plot, interesting characters and is brilliantly shot as well. I’m unsure of what Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have planned for future projects but it is unlikely that there is a Ghost Stories sequel in store as it seems to be a standalone movie, especially when considering its surprising ending.
Quote of the Day
Power, I said! Power to walk into the gold vaults of the nations, into the secrets of kings, into the Holy of Holies. Power to make multitudes run squealing in terror at the touch of my little invisible finger. Even the moon's frightened of me! Frightened to death! The whole world's frightened to death!
Dr Jack Griffin
The Invisible Man
Greetings, Casino is a gangster film from 1995 that was directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci as the primary cast members. James Woods and Don Rickles also appear in the movie and are the more prominent actors from the supporting cast. The film is based upon the book ‘Casino: Love and Honour in Las Vegas’ by Nicholas Pileggie which is a non-fiction novel that focuses on the life of Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, a casino executive and an associate of the mafia known as the Chicago Outfit. It was the second collaboration between Nicholas and Martin as they had worked on Goodfellas, another epic crime film, five years prior to Casino. It was also the eighth movie that both De Niro and Scorsese had worked on together with some of their previous projects including Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Cape Fear. Like other Scorsese movies, the soundtrack contains many songs from the era that were sung by numerous artists including Louis Prima, the Moody Blues, Fleetwood Mac, Brenda Lee and Tony Bennett.
The plot begins in 1983 with the attempted assassination of casino owner Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein in which a car bomb detonates as Sam clambers inside the vehicle. After the supposedly grisly end for Rothstein, the film reverts back to 1973 when the man was a sports handicapper for the mob and it is made apparent that he was very effective at calculating winners. Sam’s talent for handicapping ensured the higher ups of the mafia took a great interest in him and sent Rothstein to Las Vegas where he was to effectively run the Tangiers Casino without acquiring a gaming license. Sam performed his duties well, much to the pleasure of his Mafioso partners, and ensured any cheaters were quickly identified and dealt with as befitting a gangster’s idea of just punishment. Sam’s work is threatened by the arrival of fellow mobster and a personal childhood friend of his, Nicky Santoro, who is renowned for his violent temper. Nicky had been sent by the Chicago Outfit to protect Sam’s enterprise which was monetarily benefiting the syndicate as they skimmed the casino’s profits.
Nicky proves to be nothing short of a headache for Sam as his confrontational attitude gets Santoro banned from every casino in Las Vegas and it starts to draw unwanted attention to Rothstein. With nothing else to do, Nicky decides to start burglarizing homes without the consent of the mob. Meanwhile Sam begins to fall for Ginger McKenna, a hustler and former prostitute, who eventually marries Rothstein and the two conceive a daughter. Despite the initial strength of their marriage, it quickly begins to deteriorate due to the presence of Ginger’s old boyfriend, Lester Diamond, and the two begin hating each other as Sam starts restricting Ginger’s access to Lester. The poisonous relationship between Sam and Ginger is one of the many threads that threatens to destroy Rothstein’s personal life and his entire career.
Overall, I liked this film and I would recommend it to fans of the gangster genre. This is especially true if the person enjoyed Scorsese’s previous crime movies. In my opinion, there are many similarities between it and Goodfellas in terms of narrative structure, themes and its overall style but it doesn’t quite reach the same standards as the earlier instalment. There is certainly a very notable absence of humour in Casino that was present in the 1990 film and I consider Joe Pesci’s character of Nicky Santoro to be essentially the same as his earlier role of Tommy DeVito. Both characters are volatile, aggressive and short tempered and there is a similarity in the two character’s arcs. Despite this, Casino is still definitely worth your time and I look forward to exploring more of Scorsese’s work in the future. I am particularly intrigued by the Irishman which is due out later this year.
Quote of the Day
You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment.
House of Cards
A Clockwork Orange
Greetings, A Clockwork Orange is a famous dystopian novel by Anthony Burgess and is particularly well known for the senseless violence contained within its pages and the controversial Kurbkick movie adaptation from 1971 that had drawn the attention of the British censors. The film, which is a must see for any cinephile, stars Malcolm McDowell as the sadistic and youthful protagonist Alex DeLarge who has a penchant for classical music. It follows the book’s plot very faithfully bar a few minor role changes. Interestingly, the original novel never provided the character of Alex with a surname and ‘DeLarge’ was an addition made by the movie that is based upon a line in the source material. Burgess continued to write for decades after his breakthrough novel but his other works never surpassed the reputation of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ in popular culture.
The plot begins in the near future. A future in which Britain has become a bleak nation rocked by escalating violent crimes that target society’s weak and vulnerable. One of those who commit this aggression upon the helpless, now called ‘ultra-violence’ by the authorities, is Alex and his small group of psychotic friends. Alex, a boy of fifteen, is the leader of his band of ‘droogs’ which consist of the tag along Pete, an ambitious Georgie and the idiotic member of the group who is named ‘Dim’ for his mental slowness. After drinking their ‘milk-plus’ which is milk laced with a narcotic substance at the Korova Milk Bar, the delinquents decide to have a night about the town. Their activities including terrorizing a homeless man, fighting a rival gang for the sake of it and joy riding a stolen car into an isolated area where they begin their next criminal acts. Alex tricks the inhabitants of a nearby cottage to open their door to him by pretending to be fatally wounded and in need of medical assistance. The door is hesitantly opened and Alex’s friends rush the woman who had let them in. The woman is horrendously coerced into sexual acts while her author husband is savagely beaten and unable to save her from the rowdy gang.
After some time it becomes apparent that Georgie has desires to become the new leader of the ‘droogs’ and proposes a new plan to rob the home of a rich and elderly woman. Alex quickly crushes the mutiny of Georgie and Dim by fighting the former and slashing the hand of the latter. In an attempt to smooth over the quelled insurrection, Alex agrees to Georgie’s plan and they all target the woman’s house. DeLarge successfully breaks in but has to knock the old woman unconscious as she had become aware of his unwanted intrusion. Alex unlocked the door for his fellow friends but is shocked to discover that the whole plan was a rouse against him. Dim vengefully strikes DeLarge as retribution for earlier and his former companions leave him to be caught by the police. Alex is hauled away by law enforcement and held in custody when he learns that he had actually killed the older woman as opposed to knocking her out. DeLarge is convicted of the elderly woman’s murder and is sentenced to fourteen years behind bars when news of an untested rehabilitation programme comes to his attention.
While the novel is relativity short, it may take the reader a while to progress through the book as it contains heavy use of the fictional language of ‘Nadsat’. The language is primarily English in nature but it involves some Russian vocabulary as well and is mixed with words that Burgess had invented himself. It is also topped off with Cockney rhyming slang which provides the first person narration with a very distinct style. There is a discrepancy between the length of the book in the original English publication, which contains 21 chapters, and the American version which omitted the last segment. This was because a more depressing conclusion was thought to be more palatable to US readers. Kubrick’s film followed the outline of the American publication and ends on a darker note than the more optimistic final chapter of the British one.
Quote of the Day
This is the first time anyone has ever sat next to me since I successfully lobbied to have the school day extended by 20 minutes!
Fire in the Sky
Greetings, Fire in the Sky is a 1993 science fiction film that was directed by Robert Lieberman and focuses on the story of Travis Walton’s supposed alien abduction in 1975. The movie stars Robert Patrick as Mike Rogers who is perhaps best known as the seemingly indestructible T-1000 in the Terminator series or as his role as John Doggett in the later X-Files episodes. Other actors who appear in this movie include D.B. Sweeney as the abductee Travis Walton and James Garner as Lieutenant Frank Watters but most other cast members seem to be relatively unknown. The music was conducted by Mark Isham who has been involved in many films during the past decades including Point Break from 1991, Breakfast of Champions in 1999 and the Conjuring in 2013 to name just a few.
The plot begins on the night of the 5th November 1975 in Snowflake, Arizona as a truck is driven recklessly through the quite town and stops suddenly at a local bar. Five men, most of them visibly shaken from an unexplained ordeal, enter the drinking den and take a seat. Mike Rogers, the leader of the loggers, tells his men to keep their stories straight before he rings the police department to inform them of a missing person. Their report draws the attention of Lieutenant Frank Watters, a seasoned detective who is renowned for solving all of his cases, who listens to the men’s tale with interest. The men all agree on the details of what had happened and corroborate everyone else’s account. According to the men, they had just finished their day logging the Arizonian forests as normal and night began to fall as they were on their way home. Travis Walton, one members of the logging crew and a good friend of Mike’s, noticed a red glow in the forest and at first thought it was a forest fire. Mike stops the truck so the loggers can get a better look of the strange light.
Walton’s curiosity got the better of him and he gets out of the truck despite the pleas and warnings from his fellow loggers. Travis was physically knocked to the ground by the light source and was rendered unconscious. The men began to panic. Mike reluctantly gives in to the pressure and cries to flee from the terrifying sight. He left a defenceless Travis to the mercy of the paranormal entity but the guilt eventually trumps his own fear and Mike drops his men off at a safe location before returning to the startling scene in his truck. Travis and the light were gone without a trace. Watters is understandably sceptical of their claims that Travis was abducted by extra-terrestrials and sets out to uncover the truth. As the days and nights begin to pass, the local residents begin to suspect that the loggers have murdered Travis and the men become ostracized from the society that they once belonged to. Roger’s married life begins to fragment and fracture under the unwanted attention from suspicious neighbours, curious ufologists and the international press coverage the event has brought to their doorstep. A frustrated Mike and the rest of his crew set out to clear their name.
I liked this film but I also realize that due to its subject matter and slow pacing, it wouldn’t have universal appeal. To my surprise, there was very little science-fiction elements within this story compared to what I was initially expecting as it is mainly a drama. The story mostly focuses on the fallout from Walton’s disappearance and the isolation that Mike felt as the society that he lived his life in turned its back upon him. The film took a considerably different approach in how Travis detailed his experiences with the extra-terrestrials. It depicts the aliens as more sinister during a probing scene because the scriptwriter, Tracy Torme, found Walton’s account of flying the ship himself to be too boring. Travis’ story is widely credited to be a hoax and was most likely inspired by ‘The UFO Incident’ staring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons which dramatized the abduction of Barney and Betty Hill on 19th September 1961. The production was aired two weeks before Walton’s disappearance.
Quote of the Day
Why Cheesoid exist? Cheesoid so Ionely.
That Mitchell and Webb Look
House of Cards Trilogy
Greetings, the House of Cards trilogy is a series of political thriller novels written by Lord Michael Dobbs, an author and British Conservative politician. The books, which began with ‘House of Cards’ in 1989, continued with ‘To Play the King’ in 1992 and ‘concluded with ‘The Final Cut’ in 1994, went on to be adapted for television by the BBC during the 1990s. The protagonist of the novels, a Machiavellian Tory by the name of Francis Urquhart was played by Shakespearian stage actor Ian Richardson in that version of the story. Richardson was mainly known for his theatrical performances but had appeared on other filmic works such as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The novels entered mainstream popular culture once again when Netflix created an American version for its platform featuring the now ostracised Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a high profile member of the Democratic Party.
The plot of the first novel begins shortly after the resignation of Margaret Thatcher in which Henry Collingridge is elected to the leader of the Conservative Party and, by extension, to the office of Prime Minister. Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip for the Tories, expects a high position in Henry’s cabinet after the party performs well in a General Election but soon discovers that the Prime Minister has no intention of reshuffling his ministers despite Urquhart’s wishes. Collingridge explains that such a drastic reshuffling could prove disastrous to him, likening it to the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in 1962 that brought about Harold Macmillan’s downfall. Francis is displeased with the answer and plots the political demise of the party leader through the use of blackmail or extortion of ministers and leaking information to a young reporter named Mattie Storin with whom Urquhart develops a sexual relationship. The aspiring Chief Whip even resorts to murder as part of his scheme to get himself to the top of the Conservative Party. Francis’ attempts to overthrow Collingridge are eventually successful and he gets himself elected to the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
His premiership faces rivalry with an unexpected source during the events of the second novel, the king. Despite initial warmness and goodwill the two men fail to agree on social matters as the monarch, being an empathetic character, believes the PM’s policies will ultimately hurt his subjects. Urquhart holds that the king’s beliefs will do damage to his own career and seeks to silence the ruling monarch, noting that the Crown is mixing in with politics when it should be remaining a distant figure. By the beginning of the third book, Urquhart has vanquished many of his political foes and is about to eclipse Margaret Thatcher’s record by becoming the longest serving Prime Minister Albion has ever had. Francis hopes to cement his legacy on overseeing the peace negotiations between the Cypriots and the Turks, bringing an end to their conflict over Cyprus but recently discovered sources of oil throw all carefully laid plans into jeopardy. Urquhart’s own dark past, forged during the EOKA’s guerrilla war against British colonial administration of the island, threatens to finally bring an end to Francis’ leadership.
I really enjoyed this series of books and believe that Francis Urquhart is a very interesting character, even regarding his real world conception as a result of an unpleasant meeting between Dobbs and Thatcher in which Michael decided to create the villain around the initials ‘FU’. Francis was nicely fleshed out along the series, most notably in ‘The Final Cut’ which briefly alludes to his days as a soldier in the British army during the Cypriot struggle for independence. To my understanding, the original version of the first novel was extensively rewritten to ensure the books retained continuity as the first ‘House of Cards’ had ended very differently from the modern, accepted cannon. The newer version made Francis more immoral, introduced a deeper relationship between him and Mattie Storin as well as expanded upon his wife Mortima as another political schemer when she had initially been a secondary character. I might look into the other books Michael Dobbs has written in the future but it is safe to say that they don’t have the same cultural influence as his ‘House of Cards’ trilogy.
Quote of the Day
Bazinga, punk! Now we're even!
The Big Bang Theory
Greetings, Avengers: Endgame is the much anticipated sequel to 2018’s Infinity War and is the conclusion of ten years of interconnected cinematic storytelling which began with 2008’s Iron Man. It is the 22nd instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and acts as a lynchpin to all the movies that came prior by bringing all of its protagonists together. Like Infinity War, Endgame has an ensemble cast of recognizable actors and actresses who reprise their super powered roles such as Chris Evans as Captain America, Robert Downey Junior as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Racoon and Josh Brolin as the villainous Thanos to name just a few. Alan Silvestri, who had worked on previous Avengers titles including the original 2012 movie, returned to conduct the music for this latest addition to the series.
The plot begins straight after Infinity War’s bleak conclusion. Thanos, equipped with the devastating powers of the Infinity Gauntlet, used his new found abilities to eradicate half of universe’s population with a snap of his fingers. Many Avengers had been culled during the snap alongside large swathes of the human race. This victims of this wide scale disintegration includes the entire family of Hawkeye, a prominent member of the Avengers, which leads him astray from his superhero colleagues and down a dark path of slaughtering criminals on a global scale as a hardened vigilante. The plot then moves forth twenty-three days later. Iron Man and Nebula, who are the last remnants of a task force that tried to take down Thanos in outer space, are now adrift on a spaceship that is running desperately low on oxygen. A dejected Iron Man laments his apparent oncoming demise and admits that he was hoping to pull off one last miracle in the face of his personal failure to stop Thanos. When the situation appears to be at its lowest point, the two survivors are rescued by a new comer to the MCU, one Captain Marvel, who takes the fuel depleted ship to Avenger’s headquarters on earth.
The remaining Avengers are overjoyed to see that Iron Man had survived once they are reunited by Captain Marvel. They had feared that he had been wiped out like the rest of their friends during the cataclysmic snap but notice that he has since become physically frail from wasting away in outer space. It isn’t long before the Avengers track down the genocidal Thanos on an uninhabited planet by discovering a large energy reading on a similar scale of the energy used in the snap. The Avengers hope to wield the Infinity Gauntlet to reverse the mass damage caused by the antagonist nearly a month ago. Upon arrival they discover that Thanos is badly scarred and weakened as he had destroyed the Infinity Gauntlet to prevent further use, foiling their plans before they could even locate him. An enraged Thor, knowing that he had been bested by the mad titan, strikes off Thanos’ head in act of furious vengeance. Five years pass in which the world struggles to cope with the fallout of the snap. Some members of the Avenger team have since left the initiative to live their new lives but a potential method for reversing the chaos comes from an unlikely source, bringing a new possibility that things can be changed. Ant-Man, following on from the events of his own sequel film, accidently escapes from the quantum zone in which he was trapped for five years prior to the snap and his return brings hope of setting things right.
I really enjoyed this film and consider it to be one of the best releases that will come out of 2019. I am also very much aware that the superhero craze that has dominated the cinematic world over the last decade is not everyone’s cup of tea. I would argue that Endgame is not an accessible watch as a standalone film and that casual cinemagoers couldn’t appreciate it if they hadn’t sat through the rest of the MCU. It is a three hour movie that serves as an epic conclusion for many overarching character arcs established years earlier and it contains many references to the source material as well as previous films in the series as important plot points in its main storyline. I believe that the large cast of actresses and actors did a terrific job as per usual in bringing their characters to life. A few of the original Avengers cast have gracefully but unsurprisingly bowed out of the franchise at this point, having helmed it for several years. I look forward to seeing what Marvel will do next as they change around the cast due to the consequences of Endgame and which new actors or actresses will join the series in the future.
Quote of the Day
Chewie, I'll be waiting for your signal. Take care you two and may the Force be with you.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back