Rebecca (Netflix 2020)

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Last night I watched Rebecca. It was my first time being introduced to this story. Yes, I know it’s a classic. Yes, I know Alfred Hitchcock probably did it better in 1940. It’s a Gothic tale by Daphne du Maurier. (I tried to read the book but got buried alive in words.) Unfortunately, it’s got a rotten tomato attached to it with a big green splat on the website of the same name.

The second Mrs. DeWinters (Lilly James), Maxim DeWinter (Armie Hammer), Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) are the cast in this 2020 remake. The story revolves around a young lady, who is the companion of an older woman. While staying in Monte Carlo, they cross paths with Maxim DeWinter, a brooding widowed aristocrat. After a quick romance, he marries the the young lady, and brings her back to Manderly, his ancestral home.

Soon after the new Mrs. DeWinters arrives, it’s obvious that Rebecca, his former wife, had been the center of attention. Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper, is obsessed with keeping her memory alive at the estate. The arrival of the new Mrs. DeWinters does not sit well with her, and she embarks on the task of undermining the new wife and driving her crazy.

Lilly James brings a lot of angst to the role, depicting the Mrs. DeWinters as a rather uptight, fragile, and far too gullible woman. Her new husband is aloof, secretive, and will not talk about Rebecca at all. Mrs. Danvers, makes it a point to talk about her all the time. She apparently tragically drowned, or so they say.

There are insinuations Rebecca haunts Manderly, but there is no haunting to speak of. Some of the story makes no sense to me — sorry, I see plot holes here and there, or perhaps it was how the 2020 film was presented. My gut feeling is that you really don’t get an in-depth look at the personalities of these people on a short film, comparing to the character development you find in a novel.

I cannot rave about it. You can keep it on hand for a psychological thriller on a rainy night, but I wouldn’t worry about being very spooked at this Gothic tale. The only crazy person you really need to worry about is the creepy Mrs. Danvers.

Mary Shelley (Movie 2017)

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I have wanted to see this movie for some time and finally decided to stream it this evening off Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 rental fee. Cheaper than a ticket at the theatre, I thought it well worth the watch.  It’s well-acted, a bit of a downer emotionally, but gives great insights to the literary greats of the time period.

If you have no idea who in the world Mary Shelley is (played by Elle Fanning), I’m sure if I say the title of Frankenstein, that will ring a familiar bell. The Gothic masterpiece, originally written in 1818, with subsequent editions in 1823 and 1831, was “supposedly” written by Mary.  However, there is an ongoing debate on how much her lover/husband (Percy Shelley played by Douglas Booth) contributed to the story.

As far as this movie is concerned, the novel was birthed through her own painful life that included falling in love with Percy, the famous published poet, while he was still married. Through betrayal, the grief of loss of their first child, and subsequent disappointments, the men in her life became monsters in a sense. The story of Frankenstein mirrors much of the pain she felt as well as a sordid affair her stepsister had with Percy and also Lord Byron.

It doesn’t appear that the movie closely follows the true timeline of everything in Mary’s and Percy’s life. Once again Wikipedia tells a slightly different version and this fact-checking article on Refinery29.  Although Mary and Percy finally married after his first wife committed suicide, their existence waffled back and forth from adequate means to poverty. Percy drowned before he turned thirty, so their romance was not an enduring one.

Mary’s stepsister had an affair with Lord Byron and bore him a daughter out of wedlock. The movie does focus on their relationship as well. Tom Sturridge plays Byron as morally bankrupt with a personality that is almost sickening.  Byron doesn’t come across in this movie as one of the greatest English poets of his time, but more of a man steeped in debauchery.

What I find interesting in these famous individuals who wrote such lasting poems and novels is that they led such radical and free-spirited lives. Immorality, drinking, drugs — you name it. However, they also suffered terrible consequences and grief because of their actions.

The movie moves a bit slow and spends too much time with scenes at Byron’s residence in Switzerland, which are a bit of a snoozer. It probably could have been heavily cut and undoubtedly influenced the 38% on the Tomatometer. On the positive note, your ears do get tickled with some fine poems written by the greats and words from Mary’s Gothic tale.

“And the sunlight clasps the earth. And the moonbeams kiss the sea. What are all these kissings worth – If thou kiss not me?” (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

They say to write what you know, and if you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you will read what she knew – love, betrayal, abandonment, and grief wrapped up in her creation of a monster.

If you are into period dramas and the lives of famous writers, you might check this one out.  Mary found her voice, as they say, on the page.  Mine comes and goes like a ghost from book to book. Nevertheless, I enjoy movies about the lives of some of the famous authors of the past.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (Movie 2017)

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I cannot count how many versions I’ve watched of A Christmas Carol on film.  This movie puts a whole new magical spin to the story penned by Charles Dickens that might make you sniffle at the end.  At the moment it’s 79% rated by the critics on Rotten Tomatoes with 89% audience score.  You can count me in the accolades as this was a delightful film.

Meet the younger Charles Dickens, who has four children and one on the way (apparently he had 10 altogether). He’s just had two flops, isn’t making any money and bills are due, and the most dreadful thing has happened – writer’s block.  (Been there myself.)  The story is basically his attempt to come up with a new piece in a short period of time, which he publishes himself because his publishers aren’t too keen on the story.  (See, even the literary geniuses can get it wrong.)

As Dickens starts to collect names in his little book that he carries around, he jots down Marley. The city and its residents are his inspiration as he begins to build the story after meeting a man who thinks the world would be better off without the poor.  As bits and pieces of the tale come together so do his characters.  As an author, I absolutely adored the scenes.  When he finally creates Scrooge in his mind, none other than Christopher Plummer shows up and becomes his muse of a sidekick and Dicken’s own personal tormentor throughout the creation of A Christmas Carol.

The film has its lighthearted moments, mostly from the oneliners that Scrooge throws at Dickens. In addition, as he develops characters, more of them come alive and continue to haunt his every move – from Marley to the ghosts of past, present, and future.  However, as Dickens delves into the complex character of Scrooge, he finds himself faced with his own demons regarding his childhood and his father who was sent to debtor’s prison.  Apparently, true to Dicken’s life, he did work in a factory as a child of 12 years of age and suffered the life of poverty while his father, mother, and siblings were doing time.

I found the film a delightful and fanciful filled story.  The Victorian London comes alive in the streets, houses, and costumes.  Dan Stevens is an absolute joy to watch as Dickens, putting his best acting in this eccentric writer haunted by the characters he creates. Christopher Plummer is an absolute gem as Scrooge and even more believable than some of the actors who have played the role in the story itself.

What I enjoyed about this movie the best, is that it has taken a well-known story and spun it with a new twist. It allows us to see how perhaps the creative mind of Dickens worked and the inspirational muse that often drives writers to become a bit wonky, isolated, and neurotic.  Even Dickens, as portrayed in this movie, dwells on his inadequacies and fears of not being able to produce another great work.

If you’re suffering from the Scrooge mentality, this movie may get you in the mood for Christmas.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! (Charles Dickens)

Olympus Has Fallen (2013 Movie)

3 Kernels

Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman

My usual reviews, as you know, focus on older movies and television shows.  However, I just came back from eating half a bag of theater popcorn, without butter I might add, and thought I’d give you my two patriotic cents about Olympus Has Fallen.

Frankly, I avoid violent movies like the plague.  After seeing darling Gerard Butler in some not so great flicks these past few years, I thought I would see if he finally had a hit.  Though Gerard was one kick-ass American that literally saves the entire United States of America, I’m cautious to call this movie a blockbuster that will go down in history.

The premise begins with Banning, played by Gerard.  He’s the cool secret service man that talks into his wrist ordering those under him to protect the President of the United States.  He comes across as a serious dude, with a personality that blends well with the first family.  During Christmas at Camp David, a horrific car accident occurs and the President loses his wife.  Banning never forgives himself for not being able to save her, though the President holds no grudges.  However, as a result, he’s relegated to paper pushing with the Treasury as he broods over the past.

The story is somewhat one of redemption.  However, it takes a hostile take over by the Koreans to give Banning the opportunity to turn things around for himself personally.  He eventually becomes the hero of the day, through much kick-ass action, spot on shooting, and merciless killing of the enemy.  If that wasn’t bad enough, one of his comrades is a traitor, and he is faced with the awful realization he must kill him or be killed.

The movie is violent.  Terribly violent.  It could have been bloodier, but it tone down the gore factor overall.  However, as far as the number of rounds shot, picture the movie the Matrix.  Remember the scene in the lobby when the three heroes shoot the walls, pillars, and bad guys?  Multiple that about a thousand times, and I think you’ll have the number of shots fired.  There are also disturbing scenes of civilians and military killed, and also of torture and senseless hostage execution.  One beating scene of a woman is disturbing, but so is the psycho who beats her.

As far as the story goes, it’s action.  What can I say?  Could it really happen?  I thought a few things were quite impossible, such as the initial attack on the White House via air.  At least I hope it’s impossible, because if that’s all we got folks, we’re in trouble. Secret codes were given by the captives after the President ordered them to do so.  He didn’t have the stomach to watch his aides tortured or killed. Whatever happened to dying for your country? Why would the President encourage others to commit treason upon his orders?

:inserts spine chilling shudder over the thought: 

However, those scenes are necessary to set up the future catastrophe that lurks around the corner.

I also felt the timing of this movie was probably not the best, since North Korea has threatened us recently to nuke us off the face of the earth.  I sure hope they don’t rent the DVD and watch it, or it could tick them off, start a war, or give them ideas.  (Just kidding, of course.)

All in all, it was okay.  I found it exhausting, troubling, and patriotic.  Thank goodness we kicked ass and Banning saved us from annihilation.  Even though Gerry looks a bit bruised, cut, bloody, sweaty, and needs a shave, he’s still the man – toned and buffed. Where would we be, ladies, without Gerard Butler to save us?


And dearest Gerard, I would really like to see you in a romantic movie shaved, clean, in a suit, and dashingly handsome.  Pretty please?