WOMAN WITHOUT A FACE. (1947) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WOMAN WITHOUT A FACE. (1947) DIRECTED BY GUSTAF MOLANDER. WRITTEN BY INGMAR BERGMAN. STARRING GUNN WALLGREN, ANITA BJORK, STIG OLIN AND ALF KJELLIN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There is no faceless woman in this movie; the facelessness is a metaphor, lol. Even if the heroine had been sans a working visage, I don’t think I’d have minded and would still have loved the film. It’s a black-and-white melodrama about a doomed love affair, penned by the Swedish movie maestro, Ingmar Bergman, and it made me forget temporarily how uncomfortable this bloody ‘Big Heat’ is making me. And I know I can’t complain, because other people, across the UK and Europe, have it so much worse. Who knows where it’ll all end, I can’t help asking myself…

Anyway, Martin Grande is our male lead character. He’s a handsome young man, still a student, who’s already married, with a wife called Frida and an adorable little blond-haired boy called Pil.

Martin’s character is weak, soft. He’s been spoiled and over-indulged by his parents and his wife Frida, who does everything for him but who sees more of Martin’s best friend Ragnar than she does of her husband.

One day, Martin and his son Pil are in a florist’s shop buying ‘sorry I was a big jerk’ flowers when Martin sees a woman. Her name is Rut Kohler. She is beautiful, with wavy blonde hair, huge eyes and a wide sensual mouth which I’d say would have been one of the actress, Gunn Wallgren’s, biggest trademarks back in the day. The two are quickly smitten with each other.

Rut cleverly contrives to see Martin again very soon, without his son. Before you can say cheatin’, lyin’ sumbitch, Martin has moved in with Rut, much to the devastation of his own little family.

Frida and Pil have no choice but to struggle along alone without Martin, hoping against hope that the errant husband and father will see sense and come home after the affair has blown itself out. But will it? That’s the thing, you see.

Rut and Martin are the kind of people who are bad for each other, who should never have got together in the first place. They have big dreams they’ll probably never achieve because they’re all talk. Big talk, granted, but still just talk. They fight, they squabble, they argue. They have sex like it’s the Apocalypse and Death himself is galloping towards them on a black charger with his scythe thingy at the ready.

Martin deserts from his National Service stint in order to see her all the time. He risks actual jail time to be with her. She sleeps with other men and taunts him about it. He loses his temper, she stabs him in the hand with a fork. That’s the kind of couple they are. They fight, they make up, they make love, then they fight again.

It’s the kind of relationship that gets described as passionate and tempestuous, which are often just synonyms for sick-making, poisonous, toxic. It’s like Mercedes saleswoman Gloria Trillo’s relationship with mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO drama series, THE SOPRANOS. Best television series ever, bar none, by the way. Not even BREAKING BAD. So there.

Both Gloria and Rut are deeply damaged women. Gloria is a self-confessed ‘serial killer’ who has ‘murdered’ seven relationships… Rut has been sexually abused in her youth by her mother’s odious boyfriend, the rich businessman Victor.

Somehow, they crave the drama, the abuse. It might be the only kind of ‘love’ they’ve ever known. They can be manipulative, intensely jealous and even dangerous. Certainly dangerous to a man’s peace of mind and his marriage, anyway, if not occasionally dangerous in an actual physical sense.

They’re both the kind of girl who’d say to a guy, hit me, go on, hit me, I know you want to, and then cry, you hit me! when he gives in to their pleas, their demands and entreaties. Head-wrecking, beautiful, sexually alluring, frustrating, even annoying, and seriously addictive.

Oh, and ultimately tragic. Someone who lives like that isn’t likely to die peacefully in her bed after a long, fruitful life. The future doesn’t look too bright for Rut and Martin, no matter how many chimney sweeps’ concerts they gleefully attend…

I found this little Swedish language gem on Netflix, of all places, poor beleaguered Netflix that was plenty good enough for us when we had nothing else but which we’re now deserting in our droves because we’ve got ‘shiny new penny’ syndrome and there are too many other glittering distractions out there trying to grab our attention. Well, don’t worry, Netflix, I won’t desert you. I love you to the ends of the earth and back. You’re my life. I’m nothing without you. Go on, Netflix, hit me, I know you want to…  

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
 

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. (2004) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. (2004) BASED ON THE 1910 BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY GASTON LEROUX AND ALSO ON ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S 1986 MUSICAL OF THE SAME NAME.

DIRECTED BY JOEL SCHUMACHER.

PRODUCED BY ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER.

SCREENPLAY BY ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER AND JOEL SCHUMACHER.

STARRING GERARD BUTLER, EMMY ROSSUM, PATRICK WILSON, CIARAN HINDS, SIMON CALLOW, KEVIN MCNALLY, MIRANDA RICHARDSON, MINNIE DRIVER AND JENNIFER ELLISON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Keep your hand at the level of your eyes.’

This is one of my favourite musicals, next to CABARET!, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and OLIVER! I can’t think of any others just at the moment, except for maybe THE SOUND OF MUSIC and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.

It’s the film version of music genius Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fantastic stage musical from 1986, and it’s absolutely bursting at the seams with vibrant colours, luxurious settings, magnificently opulent flower arrangements and costumes that are literally to die for, they’re so fabulous. It would take the sight out of your eyes, as we say here in Ireland, it’s such a glorious spectacle.

And the hilariously witty lyrics and songs are just terrific, and the storyline is sooooo sad, as you will probably remember from previous re-tellings of the story, the best of which is of course the Lon Chaney silent version from 1925. Just in case there’s any confusion, this 1925 film version is the best of all the film versions, including this 2004 musical adaptation of which I’m speaking so highly today. But this musical might well run a close second.

You know the story, of course. The beautiful young singer/chorus girl, Christine Daae of the Paris Opera, has been secretly trained by a mysterious voice she calls ‘the Angel of Music,’ which we know is actually the Phantom of the Opera, or the Opera Ghost, or the anonymous occupant of Box Five, someone who has lived in the dark, winding bowels of the Opera House for most of his lonely life.

Gerard Butler plays the hideously scarred Phantom, who wears a mask to conceal his ruined visage as much as to hide his identity. Some people, like Miranda Richardson’s Madame Giry, the ballet trainer, aid and abet him in his often funny communiques with the management of the opera, amusingly played by Ciaran Hinds and Simon Callow.

For example, the Phantom insists on being paid a ‘salary’ for his trouble, and is no slouch at reminding his ‘employers’ when they are late with payment of same! He also demands of them that they keep Box Five free for his private use during all performances. Looks like someone’s been consulting pgs. 77 and 142 of the Union of Phantoms’ rule book…

The Phantom has been training the exceptionally submissive and malleable Christine Daae to be the principal singer of the Paris Opera. But the Paris Opera already has a principal singer, a super-spoiled diva in the form of Minnie Driver’s beautifully costumed Carlotta, so the Phantom will have to make it impossible for Carlotta to sing the lead if he wants his precious little protegee to be Numero Uno in the tra-la-la stakes…

The Phantom has another little niggle to contend with, and it’s a wee bit trickier than just making sure that Christine reaches the dizziest of dizzy heights as the Opera House’s premiere chanteuse. Christine, played by Emmy Rossum who looks like a cross between Angelina Jolie and queen of the period drama, Jane Seymour, has another admirer, by Jove, what the Phantom ain’t too pleased about, see?

Yes, folks, and you’ll never guess who plays the Comte Raoul de Chagny, Christine’s devoted admirer and lover! That’s right, it’s Patrick Wilson, who goes on to play the part of Vera Farmiga’s handsome hubby and baby-daddy and fellow ghostbuster in the CONJURING and ANNABELLE films. You’ll hardly recognise him here, with his gorgeous long floppy hair and a pretty damn good singing voice to boot.

You’ll love the underground part of the Opera House, in which the Ghost has made himself comfortable, with an underground lake, ‘room for a pony,’ a la Hyacinth Bucket, a portcullis and various security measures that ensure that the Phantom sees you a lot sooner than you see him.

He has also booby-trapped the shit out of the place so that he can feel safe in his realm, but God help anyone who wanders down there without knowing the lay-out and the pitfalls, which would be most people, if not all people. No wonder Madame Giry more or less says to Raoul at one point, this is as far as I dare go, you’re on your own, bud…!

But is it horribly unreasonable of the Phantom to expect the attractive, talented and vibrant Christine to spend most of her young life beneath the Opera House with him, living and sleeping in the dark and almost never coming up for air or a taste of the rich, varied human life of Paris?

She feels a deep debt to him, and pity for what he is, but pity and indebtedness are very different from love, if you see what I mean. What will the curly-headed songstress decide to do…? (PS, she does look sexually blissed-out when the Phantom touches her and sings to her, so maybe that sexual attraction could help sustain an underground relationship/marriage after all…?)

Such a spectacular, visually stunning film, sandwiched between two black-and-white bits featuring the Comte de Chagny and Madame Giry in ‘old-face,’ as they attend an auction of memorabilia from the ruined Opera House’s hey-day and the Comte goes to visit Christine’s grave in the snow.

Jennifer Ellison from BROOKSIDE as Madame Giry’s ballerina daughter Meg is not strictly necessary to the plot, but she has lovely blonde hair and big fake (I think!) bazookas which look adorably bouncy in the little low-cut ballet dress, so, for those reasons possibly, she was left in, lol. Little Emily Shadwick offa Brookie is possibly the last person you’d expect to see in any version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, but there you go. Boobs are a key that opens many doors…

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

WORST ROOMMATE EVER. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WORST ROOMMATE EVER. (2022) A NETFLIX TRUE CRIME DOCU-SERIES DIRECTED BY DOMINI HOFMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’d been avoiding this American true crime docu-series as I didn’t think it looked much cop, excuse the pun, but it’s actually a really good, gripping watch about some of the most awful people you could ever possibly imagine moving into your house or flat and living with you as your roommate.

The first of the episodes concerns Dorothea Puente, a sweet-looking little old lady granny-type-figure from Sacramento, but don’t be fooled by the pinnies that she wears, lol. Underneath the mauve eyeshadow and the shampoo and set, Puente was a stone-cold serial killer.

She murdered several of the lonely, elderly tenants who rented rooms in her boarding house in the ‘Eighties and buried their remains in her back garden, like a sort of transatlantic Fred and Rose West. Why did she do it? Mainly so that she could steal their often pitiful Social Security checks, which is the way they spell it in ‘Murica.

By the way, today is Happy ‘Murica Day, isn’t it, so fire up those barbecues and illegal fireworks and have yourselves a great day, but for gosh sakes’ don’t go in the waters round Amity Island because word has it there’s been a sighting of a Great White Shark thereabouts. Hey, y’all can ask Chief Brody if you don’t believe me. He’s right over there, talking to Mayor Murray Hamilton and some square from the Oceanic Institute…

The second episode features a Korean man called K.C. Joy (kind of a misnomer, that), who murdered his roommate, the beautiful college student and former US soldier, Maribel Ramos, probably because she rejected him in love. Men sure don’t take too well to hearing the word ‘no’ sometimes, do they…?

Episode three is about a tall, dark and handsome athlete called Youssef Khater who commits multiple frauds on the people he meets; on his roommates concerning a new apartment building, on a fellow marathon runner regarding property investment, and on the entire Palestinian nation by pretending to be from Palestine in order to weasel sponsorship for his ‘marathons’ from a group of genuine people who try to maintain and improve the good name of Palestine through acts like the sponsorship of a fellow countryman in a big race, the proceeds of which go to charity. He’s Danish, by the way, in case you were wondering…

What a jerk. He’s violent and dangerous too, though, this Youssef fellow, and resorts to attempted murder when his schemes go awry, as they often do. He’s not a very good crook, methinks, hence the ‘attempted’ murders, and doesn’t always seem to think things through, the muppet.

This guy’s currently on the loose, I believe, after serving some jail time, so be warned. His modus operandi is a lot like the Tinder Swindler, the guy who fascinated us briefly earlier in the year. How fleeting is our moment of fame on Netflix. One minute you’re SQUID GAME and flying high, next minute you’re old news and we’re skipping and scrolling merrily in fine fickle fashion down to ‘New Releases…’

The next bad roommate is so awful he has the last two episodes devoted to him. He’s the loathsome Jed Creek, aka Jamison Bachman. Yes, he used aliases! His modus operandi was to use his handsome looks- another tall, dark and handsome criminal- and charm, and even his lovely dog Zachary, to worm his way into an apartment-share, without references and often without even a deposit.

Once in, he’d dig his heels in and refuse to leave, pay rent or stump up for bills. He’d become aggressive and weird as well, obviously his real nature showing through, and rearrange the furniture in the flat or take some of it into his own locked bedroom for his own use.

He seems to have targeted only women for his vile shenanigans, as another man would probably tell him to fuck off or even threaten to punch his lights out if he started in on them. What a despicable coward, seriously, to only choose women as his roommates because he could bully and terrorise them.

The fourth episode shows us Jed Creek in all his awfulness, and in the fifth the three women who had the misfortune to room with him tell us about the lengths they had to go through, both legal and psychological, to get rid of him.

In each case, the women lost the homes that meant so much to them (in one case, someone lost their beloved cats to this man), and it’s all because they were unlucky enough to have the psychopathic Jed Creek answer their hopeful ads on Craigslist.

I guess it just goes to show you that you can never be too careful about who you let in your home, and also just what a lot of crazy people are out there. This series really gives you a glimpse into the dark side of advertising for a roommate.

There are some terrific animated sequences in the programme as well, that serve as reconstructions of the crimes. It’s kind of funny, though, when you see the bad guys’ eyebrows drawing together in a ferocious scowl, ‘cause that’s how you know they’re evil, lol.

Anyway, I won’t say ‘Happy Viewing’ because this is pretty harrowing stuff you’ll be seeing, so I’ll just say Happy Fourth of July, peeps, and watch those fingers when you’re lighting your sparklers, Catherine wheels and assorted rockets. Fireworks can be dangerous…

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

LEGEND. (2015) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LEGEND. (2015) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY BRIAN HELGELAND. BASED ON THE BOOK BY JOHN GEORGE PEARSON, THE PROFESSION OF VIOLENCE: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE KRAY TWINS. STARRING TOM HARDY, EMILY BROWNING, DAVID THEWLIS, CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON, CHAZZ PALMINTERI, TARA FITZGERALD AND TARON EGERTON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is my second favourite screen adaptation of this true-life crime story, my favourite being the one with the Spandau Ballet twins in it, the 1990 one. This one has been described as more of a showcase for Tom Hardy in the dual lead roles of Ronnie and Reggie Kray than an accurate depiction of the gangster part of the story of their lives, but maybe that’s why I like it, because Tom Hardy is a bit of all right as Reggie Kray, the non-crazy twin, lol.

The twins were the leading players in London’s criminal underworld of the 1960s, and were known for the savage violence of their crimes. Ronnie was a paranoid schizophrenic, and is portrayed here almost as a comical, even genial, buffoon, as opposed to the more dangerously irrational and violent in his business dealings of the two brothers.

Ronnie was probably the most feared of the brothers for his unpredictability and the way that you never knew what mad, vicious thing he might do next. He was also homosexual, and is shown in this film as referring to his gay tendencies openly, even to business rivals, as opposed to keeping it as a sort of open secret amongst the gangster underworld, which was my previous understanding of the situation.

Reggie was more ‘normal,’ if you could describe either of the Kray twins as normal, and is shown here having a romantic relationship with Frances Shea, the sister of his driver, Frankie. Frances is stunningly beautiful but is physically and mentally ‘delicate,’ unable to cope with the brutal realities of her husband’s business. What happens to her after their marriage is of no real surprise to anyone, I would say.

The main landmarks of the twins’ grisly ‘career’ are all present and correct here; firstly, the murders of George Cornell and Jack ‘the hat’ McVitie, both indications that the Krays’ lives and actions were spiralling horribly out of control towards the end, and, secondly, their constant pursuit by Superintendent Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read, the police officer who was determined to take the Krays down.

It’s so ironic to think that the man who locked away the Krays for good should himself pass away from COVID-19 in April of 2020, very early into the pandemic that brought the world to a virtual standstill for about eighteen months. Of course, the poor guy was ninety-five at the time, a grand old age and a jolly good innings by anyone’s standards.

The twins’ relationship with their legendary doting mum, Violet, is barely touched upon in this film, unlike in the 1990 one when Violet is played by the magnificent Billie Whitelaw, a lady I like to imagine was as feisty in real life as the characters she played.

Maybe the director of LEGEND felt like that relationship had been sufficiently dealt with in film, and he wanted to concentrate on the relationship between the brothers and between Reggie and the exquisite but repeatedly-described-as-fragile Frances.

One gets the feeling here that Ronnie was his brother Reggie’s cross to bear, and a heavy enough one at that. In the one scene in LEGEND in which Violet does appear, she reminds Reggie warningly that ‘he’s still your brother,’ and that loyalty to him is paramount.

We all saw what happened to Frances, the one person that ever really came between them. The bonds of loyalty between the brothers, and from Reggie to Ronnie in particular, were too strong for any woman to ever sever…

I love the poor little terraced streets the Krays grew up in, and from where their mother saw no reason to ever move, as far as I know. In this film, they look exactly as I imagine they would have looked during Hitler’s Blitz. I love the nostalgic feeling these streets evoke in me, and I’m not even English…!

I want to fight them on the beaches and on the landing grounds and on the fields, streets and hills of our beautiful green land. I want to dance on the cobblestones of my local street and celebrate VE Day by kissing an American soldier and swapping romantic favours for nylons and bubble-gum and cigarettes.

It’s powerful stuff, this nostalgia. Really sweeps you away with it. I want to have a little American war baby and later go over to the States to try and find his father only to find I’ve been ‘ghosted’ more thoroughly than a single woman on Tinder today. No, wait, I don’t want that bit, lol. I went too far, as usual. I always do that!

By the way, David Thewlis (HARRY POTTER, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS) portrays the Krays’ business manager Leslie Payne, who played a part in their ultimate downfall, and Taron ROCKET MAN Egerton is here also as Mad Teddy, Ronnie’s yes-man and rumoured lover. Welsh singer Duffy (MERCY, WARWICK AVENUE) also appears in the film as iconic club singer Timi Yuro.

Anyway, great film, and a great acting feat by the delicious Tom Hardy, who plays both brothers. And sometimes they’re filmed side by side as well, which really makes you wonder, how did they do that…? The film’s just dropped on Netflix (yes, I talk like that now!) and it would make great Saturday night viewing over the Bank Holiday. Enjoy.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

DARK MONEY. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DARK MONEY. (2019) DIRECTED BY LEWIS ARNOLD. WRITTEN BY LEVI DAVID ADDAI.
STARRING JILL HALFPENNY, BABOU CEESAY, OLIVE GRAY AND MAX FINCHAM.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This four-part drama mini-series made for perfect viewing for a sort of ‘meh’ Sunday afternoon. It’s very topical and on trend, what with the #metoo movement and the whole thing of people in positions of power being called out on their sexual abuse of the people who work with them or below them.

Most recently, we’ve had Prince Andrew shelling out a hefty whack of dosh to Virginia Giuffre Roberts, the woman who was procured for him by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and with whom he had sex when she was still underage. Super-rich socialite and Daddy’s Girl Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of being Epstein’s accomplice, also in recent times.

Then, way back before that, there was Jimmy Savile, who was unfortunately dead by the time the worst stories about him were released and so he was never really called to account for his appalling behaviour. I wonder if monies from his estate were ever donated to his victims or to charities supporting victims of sexual abuse…? That’s a job for Wikipedia, lol.

Anyway, way back before that, of course, a certain musical moon-walking superstar settled a fair-sized sum of money on the family of a boy whom he’d been accused of sexually abusing, and that’s a great segueway into DARK MONEY, a Netflix Limited Series about this exact topic.

The Mensah family are a perfectly ordinary, mixed-race British family living, with the usual financial struggles, in council accommodation. Manny is the big burly dad, Sam the devoted mum, and their kids, Jess the college student and Isaac, the little acting phenomenon who has just returned from a three-month stint in Hollywood filming the latest blockbuster movie, VALIANT & SON, with real bonafide Hollywood movie stars.

Everyone Isaac knows, including his wanna-be actress sister Jess, is green with envy at Isaac’s wonderful opportunity and success. The papers are full of it. Local Boy Makes Good, and that type of thing. He’s a celebrity at school and in the local area. So why isn’t Isaac deliriously happy with himself? The answer is contained within a recording on his iPhone…

Time to put things in a nutshell. Isaac has been sexually abused no fewer than three times by Jotham Starr, the bigshot producer of the blockbuster movie. The Mensah family- to be precise, the dad, Manny- accepts a payment of three million dollars from Starr’s lawyers to keep quiet about it.

It’s not an admission of guilt, the lawyers are quick to point out. It’s just that Jotham doesn’t want negative publicity impacting the film and ruining everyone’s hard work. Oh. Well. That’s all right then, I suppose. The money changes hands. The die is cast…

The series then moves on to a year later, where we see the Mensah family living in a fantastic private house with a magnificent garden and in-house swimming pool and gym, but they’re not happy. You might even say that Jotham Starr’s money has only made things worse. What gives? We are shown then how each family member has coped, or not coped, with the abuse of Isaac and with dad Taking the Money…

What it all boils down to is this. Was dad right to take the money? Or should he have punched Jotham Starr’s lights out for laying a hand on his precious son? Should he have tried to have the fancy pants movie producer prosecuted, which, remember, would have to take place in America, as the British police have no jurisdiction over a bloke who lives in the United States?

Should dad have gone to the newspapers and exposed Starr for the sleazy abuser that he is? Or should he just have taken the money, as he did do, and used it to better his family’s lives? There’s some notion going around that there’s something wrong, something dirty, about taking the money, as if it’ll make you look like a common gold-digger, as if taking the money won’t help get justice for the abused child.

Well, what if instead it helped the child to have a better life? And why shouldn’t an abuser pay financially for what they’ve done? It’s a form of retribution, isn’t it? The Magdalene Laundry Survivors here in Ireland deserve all the financial compensation they can claw out of the system that for decades allowed them to be treated like less than dirt.

I’m glad for Virginia Roberts that Prince Andrew was obliged to pay her such a life-changing sum of money. I hope it really changes her life for the better. The only downside is that it was probably the Queen’s cash that was paid out in the settlement, and not Andrew’s own pocket money, which means that he probably won’t have learned anything from the experience, worse luck.

To be honest, I think I’d take the money if it were my child, God forbid, who’d been in little Isaac Mensah’s place. If I couldn’t uproot my family and go chasing a come-uppance in America for some guy who’d probably wriggle out of it anyway because he’s Hollywood royalty and loaded to boot, then I’d just take the goddamn money and use it to try to improve my child’s life and chances for the future.

That’s the issue, anyway, that the Mensah family are struggling with in this excellent domestic drama. I love Manny’s ‘second’ family, his son Tyrone and Tyrone’s feisty mum, Sabrina, who shows more warmth and affection towards Manny than his actual wife, Sam, who draws farther and farther away from her bewildered husband the more stuff happens. The two, Manny and Sam, are the world’s worst communicators, which doesn’t help matters.  

I love Jill Halfpenny as the wife, Sam. You’ll already know her from soaps, CORONATION STREET and EASTENDERS, but she recently turned up in excellent Netflix drama LIAR as well, as the Afghanistan veteran and wife to a detective in a same sex, mixed race couple.

I must say that television dramas are becoming so inclusive lately of same sex and mixed race couples and people of all genders and ethnicities that it would gladden your heart to see it. Sure, they probably go out of their way at times and end up being a little too politically correct, but surely that’s better than not making any effort at all. Isn’t it?

There’s an interesting point raised in the drama as well about ‘chaperones,’ the people who are paid to look after your child when he or she toddles off to Hollywood to star in the latest blockbuster movie featuring giant ray guns and CGI aliens.

If a child is abused on, or off, set, to what extent is the chaperone culpable? Have they failed in their job? Should they be relieved of their duties? Good question, one that I must admit has never come up for me, but worth a wee ponder, nonetheless. Great drama, this one. Well worth your time.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

HALSTON. (2021) THE NETFLIX MINISERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HALSTON. (2021) DIRECTED BY DANIEL MINAHAN. BASED ON THE BOOK, SIMPLY HALSTON, BY STEVEN GAINES. EXECUTIVE CO-PRODUCED BY RYAN MURPHY.
STARRING EWAN MCGREGOR, REBECCA DAYAN, KRYSTA RODRIGUEZ, GIAN FRANCO RODRIGUEZ, VERA FARMIGA AND BILL PULLMAN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Reviews don’t matter.’

Wow. Ewan McGregor repeatedly has gay sex with big butch black men in this excellent biopic drama series from Netflix, and he seems to mainly be the passive receptacle partner each time, if you get my meaning. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just that it’s Ewan McGregor, you know? He was Obi-Wan Kenobi.

He’s just kind of the last person you’d expect to see being rogered senseless (from behind) by a big black dude in a carpark wearing assless leather chaps, or admiring a big black guy’s wang before, ahem, chowing down, one imagines. I genuinely don’t mean that to be offensive. It’s just that it’s Ewan McGregor, if you see what I mean!

Anyway, the fifty-one-year-old does a superb job in this five-part Limited Series as the gay fashion designer who became famous in the ‘Sixties for designing the dinky little pillbox hat worn by style icon Jackie Onassis to her husband John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

He went on from there to design dresses and create perfume, and he became one of the biggest, most talented designers of his day, up there with Calvin Klein (his enemy, lol!), Ralph Lauren, Givenchy and Bill Blass.

He came from troubled beginnings in small-town America, with the kind of angry, unhappy father who battered his mother and became outraged at the least sign of ‘sissy-ness’ in his young son, such as when he’d come across the fashion drawings penned by the little boy. A young Halston first began designing hats to cheer up his mother, who absolutely loved his creations.

He shook the dust of his home-town off his feet in search of fame and fortune and instead surrounded himself with the gay man’s alternative ‘family’ of close friends, lovers and, sometimes, sycophants and hangers-on.

Jewellery designer Elsa Peretti was his first and favourite model. Liza Minnelli was his muse, model and best gal-pal. He designed her outfit for her wedding to producer and director, Jack Haley Jr.

Joe Eula was his illustrator and confidante and David J. Mahoney, played by Bill Pullman from INDEPENDENCE DAY and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, was the CEO of Norton Simon, to which company Halston signed a lucrative deal which gave him the space and protection to create his fabulous designs.

He was gay, as I believe I may have already mentioned, and often cruised the kind of places where you could get anonymous, no string attached sex, either paid for or for free. His long-time live-in lover was a Venezuelan-born wanna-be artist and window dresser called Victor Rojas, whose escort name was Victor Huge-O (Victor Hugo) on account of his massive, ahem, appendage.

Victor was desperately jealous of Halston’s success. He craved the recognition Halston had achieved for himself and his jealousy and bitterness caused many fights with the already stressed designer.

As you’ll see towards the end of this five-parter, Victor wasn’t exactly the best thing ever to happen to Halston. The gay community in America in the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties all had a common enemy, and that enemy was called AIDS…

Halston was addicted to cocaine and booze as well as to cigarettes, rough trade and dangerous sex. It’s so funny when Liza Minnelli is packing to go away to rehab for her own addiction problems and Halston stares at her in bemusement before saying: ‘But where are you going, darling? Is it some kind of a tour, or something…?’ Someone clearly doesn’t understand the concept of rehab any more than he does that of abstinence…

Probably due to all the drugs and booze and excessive partying at Studio 54, Halston allowed his designing and business to suffer and go into a decline. He even ended up losing the use of his own name for design purposes, something for which I imagine he never forgave himself. He lost a lot of his friends as well, due to his bitchy, selfish and inconsiderate nature, which seemed to become more pronounced while he was high on drugs and alcohol.

Vera Farmiga, an actress you might be familiar with from her roles in the CONJURING movies, steals the whole show by at one point willingly placing Halston’s lover Victor Huge-O’s jockstrap over her face and breathing in the earthy aroma, but I’m not going to tell you why, lol. It’s just so gross.

Anyway, I just binge-watched the whole thing in more or less one sitting, give or take a few tea breaks. It’s compelling watching. I think it’s sad the way the kids of today don’t seem to know the name of ‘Halston’ the way they recognise Calvin Klein’s, for example.

Would they know the name of his favourite model’s any better, I wonder, as Elsa Peretti went on to become one of the hottest female jewellery designers of all time, with a collection of her pieces on permanent display at the British Museum. So many talented people, who should never be forgotten. This mini-series will go a long way, I feel, towards taking care of that.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

LIAR. (2017/2020) A TERRIFIC NETFLIX THRILLER SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LIAR. (2017 AND 2020) A NETFLIX THRILLER SERIES CREATED BY HARRY WILLIAMS AND JACK WILLIAMS. CO-PRODUCED BY ITV AND SUNDANCE TV.
STARRING JOANNE FROGGATT AND IOAN GRUFFUDD.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It feels like I’ve been watching this thriller series for weeks and weeks and weeks, because it actually has two seasons of six episodes each, one of which aired in 2017 and one in 2020. It’s bloody brilliant, though, so I don’t at all begrudge the time spent viewing it, and I haven’t even finished it; I still have one tension-filled episode left to go!

Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd are phenomenal as the two leads, Laura Nielson and Andrew Earlham respectively. You will recognise the marvellous Joanne Froggatt from such roles as that of Zoe Tattersall in CORONATION STREET from 1997-1998, in which she played the troubled teenaged mother of Baby Katie, whom childless couple Judy and Gary Mallett wanted to adopt but it all went tragically pear-shaped.

She was also terrific as Myra Hindley’s sister, Maureen Smith, in the 2006 ITV mini-series, SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS. Maureen Hindley, married to David Smith at a young age, had no idea what her older sister Myra was up to with her twisted and sadistic lover and co-worker, Ian Brady, and it ruined her life when it all came out, as it destroyed the lives of so many other people affected by the murderous actions of Brady and Hindley.

Ioan Gruffudd (I have no idea how to pronounce his name, be it Owen, Ewan, Ian or whatever else!) has apparently been in a load of things, but I mainly remember him from James Cameron’s blockbuster movie, TITANIC, from 1997. He was the officer who came back to see if there were any survivors left after the massive ship had sunk, shouting, ‘Is there anybody alive out there…?’ while someone else pheep-pheeps on a tiny whistle, lol.

In fact, his shouting provided the stimulus for that selfish wagon Rose Dawson to shove poor old frozen Leonardo DiCaprio off that door to which they were both clinging for life and into the icy ocean so that she and she alone could be saved, the self-centred mare. Have you ever seen a frozen woman move so fast? No? I rest my case…

Anyway, Joanne Froggatt plays Laura Nielson, an attractive and outgoing secondary school teacher who, one fateful night, goes on a date with surgeon Andrew Earlham (played by Unpronounceable Gruffudd), the father of one of her pupils, Luke.

Andrew is handsome, charming, witty and widowed, and doesn’t look a day older than when he was hanging out of the rescue boat yelling, are any a’ youse rich bastards still alive out there, or words to that effect. Laura certainly can’t resist his not inconsiderable charms. She invites him in to her charming little seafront house for a nightcap, while he supposedly waits for a taxi…

When Laura wakes up the next morning, she gets the distinct impression that she’s been, well, drugged and raped. Drug-raped. By Andrew Earlham, the handsome, widowed surgeon who’s supposedly just looking to dip his big toe back in the dating pool again, as it were.

Laura is extremely vocal and loses no time in reporting what she sees as a heinous crime. Andrew, of course, denies all culpability. Oh, we had all the sex all right, but it was wholly consensual, he bleats hopefully. Well, you can’t consent to what you don’t know is happening, can you…?

Laura will spend the whole series trying to prove, not only that Andrew Earlham drug-raped her, but also that he has done it to other women before and certainly will again if he gets the chance. Laura becomes a thorn in Andrew’s side like he has never known before and probably won’t again. Who will come out on top…?

It’s like a soaps reunion here at times, which is great fun. Jill Halfpenny, who once played Martin Platt’s secret mistress while he was married to Gail in CORONATION STREET, is cast here as the gay soldier-slash-wife of the woman in charge of Laura’s rape case.

Katherine Kelly, who played mouthy Becky McDonald in CORONATION STREET from 2006 to 2012, portrays a tough and not very likeable cop in the second season of LIAR, but I can’t tell you what criminal case she’s in charge of because that would be a massive spoiler, and I don’t do massive spoilers. Only little to middly ones, lol.

Amy Nuttall, aka Chloe Atkinson in EMMERDALE, plays another possible victim of Andrew Earlham’s, and Lucy Speed, whose character Natalie was married to Barry Evans in EASTENDERS back in the day, here plays a counsellor to Andrew Earlham’s messed-up son, Luke. Told you it was like a soaps reunion here…!

The show gets very confusing at times, especially in the second season as it becomes a tense and fast-moving whodunnit. And the ease with which the characters apparently break in and out of each other’s cars, houses and work lockers and hack in and out of each other’s laptops and mobile phones is just plain ridiculous, but we can overlook all this in favour of the show’s stronger points, such as the superb characterisation of the two leads.

Laura seems incapable of giving up, or of keeping her mouth shut where she perceives she’s being given the shaft, whereas Andrew’s deviousness and his ability to gaslight, deceive and manipulate people just seems to know no bounds. It’s extremely interesting, therefore, to watch the cracks appear in his previously cool, calm and collected façade.

I hope to finish LIAR tonight before my son comes to hog the telly for the Europa League footy final (Frankfurt vs. Rangers, I’m reliably informed), but I can already advise you to watch this excellent Netflix series if you want a nice long escape from your own problems.

You’ll have to hold on tight, as the twists and turns become almost too twisty-turny to keep up with, but you’ll also have great craic playing spot-the-soap-star and marvelling at Laura’s persistence (past the point of all wisdom, mind!) and Andrew’s utter villainy. Happy watching…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

1408. (2007) A BRILLIANT STEPHEN KING ADAPTATION REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

1408. (2007) DIRECTED BY MIKAEL HAFSTROM. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY BY STEPHEN KING.
STARRING JOHN CUSACK, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, TONY SHALHOUB, MARY MCCORMACK AND JASMINE JESSICA ANTHONY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I don’t normally dig John Cusack too much, but he’s really good in this better-than-average Stephen King movie adaptation. Based on his short story, which you can find in the 2002 collection, EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL, it has John Cusack as Mike Enslin, a writer who once wrote a very good book with feeling and humanity, but who now writes these sort of guide books to America’s haunted places.

He visits them, cynically and rudely dismisses their claims to be haunted, and then pens niche books about them. How does a sceptical non-believer in other worlds or the other side write books about haunted hotels, castles, churches and other places, when he doesn’t even believe in ghosts or life after death? I don’t know, but it’s what he does for a living.

I loved the book signing in the bookstore at the beginning of the film, when only four people come to hear Mike Enslin read from his new book. Writing is such a hard, thankless job. I know how he feels.

He even tells his four listeners that he’d be delighted to experience a ghostly sighting but that there’s no chance of that because there’s no such things as ghosts. Buzzkill… Like, does he even want to sell his bloody books or what? It almost seems like he’s sabotaging himself, carrying on like that.

His next assignment is to stay in the Dolphin Hotel, in the titular Room 1408, which is supposed to be so haunted that no-one stays in the room for longer than an hour. After some hoo-ha designed to prevent a deeply sarcastic Mike from renting the room, 1408 is opened up by the hotel manager, a slick and polished Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Gerald Olin. There’s some good snappy dialogue between the two men when Olin is showing Enslin to his room of choice.

Enslin soon is left alone in the ‘evil’ room, in which fifty-six guests are reputed to have died since the hotel opened. He confides in his micro-walkie-talkie Dictaphone thing that he’s a little disappointed in the lack of any spectral action, but suddenly the sound of the Carpenters’ biggest hit, WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN, breaks out into an otherwise silent room and even the non-believing Mike Enslin has to admit that the haunted hotel room is finally starting to kick some ass…

The Carpenters’ music has been used more than once in horror movies, I do believe. There’s the shark attack movie, 48 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED, that I know of for definite. The Carpenters’ music can be rather eerily heard underwater in an area that a scientist is working on, not far from where a giant Great White Shark is prowling.

A shark that’s blind from decades of living underwater in the darkest, murkiest water, but who can still find you, and kill you… Hey, wait a minute, we’re not reviewing 48 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED here, lol, though it is a terrific shark attack flick, and much better than the first film in the series, 48 METERS DOWN.

I don’t know what it is about the Carpenters’ music that makes it so effective on a horror movie soundtrack, but I do know it can be spooky. Maybe it’s the tragic untimely death of the lead singer Karen Carpenter that allows the music to lend itself to feelings of unsettling eeriness.

BIRDS SUDDENLY APPEAR features in terrific chick flick GIRL, INTERRUPTED, in a genuinely unsettling scene in which one girl from the mental institution discovers the suicide of another. And then finally there’s Lisa Simpson from THE SIMPSONS in the Senor Ding-Dong episode, though this isn’t horror: ‘Mom, I have a test tomorrow in BIRDS SUDDENLY APPEAR…!’

John Cusack is so good in this, as the bored, jaded, disaffected writer who finally learns that things that go bump in the night actually do exist. I don’t like the bits with his whingy deceased daughter in them: ‘Daddy, Daddy, don’t you wuv me anymore?’ and so on, but, generally, all the things he sees in Room 1408 are pretty damn scary.

As someone who’s scared of heights, I was actually the most scared by the bit where Mike was out on the ledge of the Dolphin Hotel, dozens if not hundreds of feet above the unforgiving stone sidewalk, trying to make it to the next room along, but then the other rooms all disappear, leaving a petrified Mike with no choice but to return, inch by agonising inch… to Room 1408…

Of course, the movie will remind you of King’s classic ‘haunted hotel’ movie, THE SHINING, in which the entire hotel (The Overlook), not just one room, is haunted to buggery. The film also put me in mind of two Netflix shows featuring those fantastic massive old creepy apartment buildings and New York hotels with hundreds of rooms.

One is CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT THE CECIL HOTEL, which deals with the true life disappearance of young female guest, Elisa Lam. The other is ARCHIVE 81, a fictional show that chronicles the crimes and cultish goings-on in an apartment building called the Visser.

That kind of hotel room/apartment building vibe can also, of course, bring ROSEMARY’S BABY to mind, a wonderful horror movie in which the building itself is part of the evil, almost a character in itself. The friends from FRIENDS all live in a similar apartment building, but the scariest thing that ever happened there was the dessert Rachel once cooked that had minced beef in it…

By the way, Mike’s publisher here is played by the guy who used to be MONK. Remember MONK? Also, Samuel L. Jackson is in this but he doesn’t say ‘muthafucka,’ only one rather mild ‘fuck,’ or shoot anybody or say, ‘I am so sick of these muthafuckin’ snakes on this muthafuckin’ plane!,’ so please be aware of this while watching the movie, as you may be triggered by his atypical, non-threatening behaviour…

Anyway, will Room 1408 defeat Mike, or will Mike conquer Room 1408 and leave the Dolphin Hotel a wiser, humbler man, with more respect for all things occult? You’ll have to watch the film to find out, but it’ll be well worth your while, even if it is about fifteen minutes too long. I do love it when Stephen King writes about writing and writers, though. Talk about write what you know…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

OLOTURE. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

OLOTURE. (2019) DIRECTED BY KENNETH GYANG. STARRING SHARON OOJA, OMONI OBOLI AND BLOSSOM CHUKWUJEKWU.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

One of the great things about Netflix is that it’s introduced me to a load of world cinema titles that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. Thanks to Netflix, I’m now a committed Bollywood fan and I’m also starting to dip my dainty cinematic toe into African cinema as well, something I wasn’t even aware existed to the extent it does.

OLOTURE, pronounced Ollo-turay, a Nigerian crime drama, is one of the most gripping but also horrifying movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s based in Lagos, which is the capital city of Nigeria and the biggest and most densely populated city in Africa as well.

Sharon Ooja plays the titular Oloture, a stunningly beautiful black journalist who goes undercover as a prostitute for a story for the newspaper she works for, THE SCOOP. She keeps in touch by phone with her editor, boss and friend Emeka, or they might occasionally meet up secretly and at great risk to Oloture, as the people she’s mixing with now do not take kindly to cops, snoopy journalists or spies.

The world Oloture now inhabits is an ugly, cruel and merciless one peopled by savagely violent pimps, cold, unsympathetic madams, rich, privileged punters and prostitutes often in the last stages of poverty, desperation and helplessness.

The first time we see Oloture on the job, as it were, she’s climbing out a bathroom window at a sex party to avoid sleeping with a client. The client is furiously angry, though, and Oloture gets in trouble with the madam, who is also the landlady of the dump she sleeps in with the other prostitutes. And when I say, she sleeps there, I literally mean she has a camp bed there and nothing else. It’s purely functional.

Next time Oloture attends a sex party, wearing a wig like the other hookers and a short garish outfit that leaves little to the imagination, she doesn’t get off as lightly. She is drugged and raped by a grossly overweight politician called Sir Philip.

She’s devastated. I’m not sure what her intentions are when she goes undercover as a sex worker. I mean, I don’t know if she intends to have sex with the punters or if she’s hoping to avoid it or what, but the fact is that the situation she’s in is perilous and precarious, and she must have known, deep down in the back of her mind, that sex was on the cards at some point. Ah well. It happens, and poor Oloture tries to wash away the ignominy and degradation in the shower, and we all know how well that works…

Oloture hears from another prostitute of a woman called Miss Alero who, for a hefty sum of money, will take these poor broken women away from their shitty lives to a wonderful, magical place called… Europe.

That’s right, Europe is the holy grail for the prostitutes, and Oloture, traumatised and all as she is, decides that she wants in, for the sake of her story. The story in the newspaper has become even more important to her now, more personal, even more than ever worth fighting for, since the rape at the party.

What Oloture and the other girls don’t know yet is that the trip to Europe is a front for the worst kind of human trafficking. Once they pay their money, they are herded onto a bus and taken to a secret destination.

Angry, frighteningly aggressive muscular black men then take over from Madam Alero. Well, let’s tell it like it is! They take the girls’ phones- no contact with the outside world is allowed- and ‘train’ them to strut, bump and grind and lap-dance, all the skills they’ll need to attract male customers wherever they’re going. They subject the women to terrifying voodoo rituals to terrorise them into not running away, to make the superstitious young ones think they’ll be cursed if they try to leave.

It’s tragic the way one of the girls has earlier sent for her younger sister, thinking that the two of them will have a lovely new start in Europe together. All the young woman has unconsciously, unknowingly done is, she’s just provided Madam Alero and her crew with a much-prized ‘virgin’ for their ‘collection.’ Can you imagine how shit that must feel…?

Seeing Oloture making quick, clandestine visits to her loving mother, before the whole ‘Europe’ thing kicks off, really highlights the difference between the sleazy twilight world of the prostitutes and the light, bright clean world of fresh air, personal freedom, home cooking and motherly love.

The film also shows us that the era of the traditional pimp, working alone, with his gold-knobbed pimp cane, fur coat and broad-brimmed, feathered hat like every black pimp in every blaxploitation movie ever, is dying out, to be replaced, I suppose, by a sort of communal madam in a brothel or group of ‘controllers.’

Oloture gets into terrible trouble for trying to get a battered and abused hooker called, heart-breakingly, Blessing, to leave her pimp, Chuks, who makes Ike Turner look like Barney the Dinosaur, but it’s poor Blessing who gets the mother of all hidings as a result…  
 
Oloture has gotten herself into the worst situation imaginable. These men Madam Alero runs with don’t let the girls go once they have them under lock and key. Can Oloture be the exception to the rule? Can Emeka, her editor, manage to secure her release? This is an excellent eye-opener from a social justice point of view, but it’s a cracking good story as well. Watch it if you can. Did I mention it’s on Netflix…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
 

THE GREAT GATSBY. (2013) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE GREAT GATSBY. (2013) BASED ON THE BOOK BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD. DIRECTED AND CO-WRITTEN BY BAZ LUHRMANN.
STARRING LEONARDO DICAPRIO, TOBEY MAGUIRE, CAREY MULLIGAN, JOEL EDGERTON, ISLA FISHER AND ELIZABETH DEBICKI.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’m not a huge fan of Baz Luhrmann’s work, and I think I would have liked this glitzy Hollywood movie a bit more if it had been directed by someone else, someone who valued a bit of realism and substance over lavish and at times overwhelming style.

I hated the modern musical soundtrack as well. I love genuine ‘Twenties music and dancers doing the Charleston in sync and at top speed, so the whole soundtrack simply didn’t do it for me. Sorry, but it just didn’t, lol.

The story I liked, but then the story is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most celebrated and iconic novel, often regarded as the Great American Novel. It’s very sad that he didn’t realise before he died what a huge big deal he was going to one day become, and mainly because of this very book.

The story here is told by Tobey SPIDERMAN Maguire’s Nick Carraway, a World War One veteran and would-be writer who, in 1929, is relating the story of the Great Gatsby to his doctor in a psychiatric hospital. Write it all down, says the doctor, who clearly doesn’t want to have to do his job properly. Write it all down, son, and that’s exactly what Nick Carraway does…

The Great Gatsby is, in fact, the Great Jay Gatsby, someone Nick knows in 1922, when he rents a gatekeeper’s cottage in New York for the summer and his neighbour in the fabulous fairytale mansion just so happens to be the elusive Gatsby, well played by Leonardo TITANIC DiCaprio.

Gatsby, a mysterious business magnate who throws the wildest and most extravagant parties at his mansion, befriends the lonely Nick Carraway, but not out of any philanthropic reasons. Nick, you see, is the cousin of one Daisy Buchanan, the woman Gatsby loves beyond all reason, and with whom he had an affair before World War One took away all the eligible young men.

Gatsby confides in Nick that the reason he throws all these magnificently decadent parties is his hope that, one day, Daisy will attend one of them. Daisy lives, also in the lap of luxury, across the bay from Gatsby’s house, with her old-money millionaire husband, Tom Buchanan. Tom keeps a mistress called Myrtle, played by former HOME AND AWAY siren, Isla Fisher, who’s married in real life to actor and comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen.

Will Nick be kind enough to ask Daisy to tea in his humble abode, Gatsby wonders hopefully, and then he, Gatsby, can just stroll by casually and see her, as if by chance? Nick, I think, is a little bit smitten himself by the charismatic Gatsby, about whom a ridiculous number of contradictory rumours abound, and he agrees to act as go-between to his new friend and Cousin Daisy…

Tragedy is coming down the track for some of the players in this little drama, which is good from a dramatic point of view, but the characters are mostly so unlikeable do we even care, that’s the question.

Daisy is a silly little selfish fool, who nonetheless knows what side her bread is buttered on. Tom, her husband, is a bit of a boorish buffoon and a cowardly bully, plus he’s cheating on his wife with Myrtle. Nick the Narrator is a bystander in his own and his friends’ lives, which is probably what makes him best suited to be a writer. He also serves who only stands and makes little notes in a spiral notebook…

And as for the incomparable Jay Gatsby himself, or should I say Mister James Gatz, well, we, the viewers probably don’t mind that he’s a self-made man who’s pulled himself up by the bootstraps to become the enigmatic millionaire he is today, even if he is ‘new money.’ But he’s a bit of a gimp for Daisy, and Daisy is a spoiled little wagon who will ultimately only do what’s good for Daisy and no more. The wagon…!

So, in a way, I suppose we should feel sorry for Gatsby, especially when the movie turns briefly into SUNSET BOULEVARD at the end. But you guys can, of course, make up your own minds. For myself, I think I might give the book a go, as I’ve never read it. At least Baz Luhrmann didn’t have a hand in it…

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv