ARCHIVE 81. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ARCHIVE 81. (2022) A NETFLIX HORROR SERIES BASED ON THE PODCAST, ARCHIVE 81, BY DANIEL POWELL AND MARK SOLLINGER.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY REBECCA SONNESHINE, PAUL HARRIS BOARDMAN AND JAMES WAN OF SAW, INSIDIOUS AND THE CONJURING FAME.

STARRING MAMOUDOU ATHIE, DINA SHIHABI, EVAN JONIGKEIT, JULIA CHAN, MATT MCGORRY AND MARTIN DONOVAN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Stay away from the sixth floor.’

Wow. I loved this series, binge-watching the eight delicious episodes over two nights this week and being left reeling- in a good way!- by the number of horror films, authors and tropes it manages to lovingly reference.

It’s the story of a young American man living in the present day called Dan Turner. Dan has terrible sadness and trauma in his past, and he is given a job one day out of the blue that might actually help him to unlock the trauma and even put part of it right, after many years. But not without great personal risk to himself and his mental health, I hasten to add, so it’s not all moonlight and roses.

The job is offered to him by one Virgil Davenport, the rich, reclusive billionaire owner of a company called LGM, of which there is very little known in the public domain. The job is to go and stay in LGM’s isolated compound in the Catskills, completely on his own, for as long as it takes him to restore the videotapes of a young woman’s PhD dissertation…

Dan is a qualified restorer of nearly-destroyed videotapes, you see, and as we watch the series, we will see why he has such a personal connection to these videotapes and why the enigmatic and omniscient Virgil has hand-picked Dan, a bit of a loose cannon because of his past traumas, for this particular job.

We also meet Melody Pendras, the beautiful, dark-haired young college student who, in 1994, takes an apartment in the Visser Building, one of those fabulous old steeped-in-history New York apartment buildings that people are always getting murdered in in films.

She does this specifically because she is doing her college dissertation on the Visser Building, its history and its inhabitants, and she is never seen without her camcorder in her hand, the main tool of her trade.

She’s not just doing her dissertation purely because of the many attractions of the old Visser Building. She has a personal reason both tragic and seemingly impossible to achieve, and Melody is not the kind of person to give up.

She quickly finds out, though, that the Visser Building can be a very scary place to live, and that the exotic, eccentric inhabitants are doing something very sinister and highly suspect in the building’s Community Room every night after midnight. It’s something that harks back to the 1920s and a snuff film starring the beautiful but flawed and ultimately doomed Iris Vos, a member of ‘Twenties society with a very dark secret…

Melody finds out also that her own life could be in jeopardy here in the Visser Building, a full seventy years after the awful events occurred that first put the Visser Building on the map. Dan, watching the tapes in the dreadful isolation of the compound, senses too that Melody is in danger, not least from the eerie face that keeps appearing randomly on the videotapes.

Who or what is on the tapes? Is it after Dan too, whatever it is, and can Dan, who’s obviously smitten with the gorgeous feisty Melody, travel back in time to save Melody from the horrible fate that awaits her in the shadows…? And, even if he saves Melody, will he be able to save himself from a ghastly half-life lived in the place known as… The Other World…? You’ll have to watch the show till the end to find out, folks…

I love the séance in the Visser with all the crazy Visser tenants, like the horrible art collector Cassandra, the tormented psychic Beatriz and the bitchy opera composer Tamara. Not to mention the creepy college professor Samuel Spare, who would pass for a modern-day hipster, but who is clearly the ringleader of whatever it is that goes on in the Community Room after dark…

I love the character of Mark Higgins, Dan’s best- and only- friend, who is pretty much the template for every horror-and-science-fiction-crazed megasuperfan ever. He lives for horror and weird stuff and his horror podcast, and the friendship between him and Dan is so real and warm and genuine that he is actually willing to risk life and limb for his tragic friend. I also love Ratty, whom I kind of wish had had an even bigger part, as the friendship between him and Dan was also a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

I’ll leave you with a list of the horror films, things and characters either directly referenced in the series or indirectly hinted at, or even things that just came into my own mind as I watched it:

Stephen King’s THE SHINING; Jack Torrance; the Overlook Hotel; the maze on the grounds.

Stephen King’s DOLORES CLAIBORNE; the Eclipse that brought the whole town out in force to look at it and celebrate it.

Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY.

H.P. Lovecraft.

Christopher Lee.

Hammer’s TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER; THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

DON’T LOOK NOW; a deliberate reference!

Nigel Kneale’s THE STONE TAPES.

NIGHT OF THE DEMON, one of Britain’s best-loved horror films.

THE WICKER MAN, and anything else featuring a human sacrifice.

BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW.

THE EXORCIST.

Andrei Tarkovsky and his cult movie, SOLARIS.

WHAT LIES BENEATH; the movie, and the title of Episode 8 of the series.

Lin Shaye, beloved horror actress, going into ‘the Further’ in the INSIDIOUS movies. James Wan is one of the executive producers of ARCHIVE 81, after all.

PANIC ROOM and ‘90s sitcom FRIENDS, purely for those magnificent old brownstone apartment buildings!

That’s all I can think of for now, but there might be more, and you might even spot a few new ones yourself. I just love that this show was created by people with an absolute adoration, respect and obsession for horror; it comes across as a real labour of love when you watch it.

Just three further comments; One, I wish THE CIRCLE was a real show, it really speaks to me! Two, my daughter, who was born in the ‘Nineties, and who watched the show with me, was hopping mad that the film-makers of today are now referring to the ‘Nineties as the distant past. It makes her feel old, lol.

And three, the show features some highly intelligent and talented ‘mold,’ as the Americans call it, which is capable of forming itself into other-worldly swirls and patterns all by itself. I just want to say that I have exactly similar patches of talented and creative mould behind my toilet, at the back of all the wardrobes and creeping round my bedroom ceiling.

If it ever morphs into the portal to another dimension, you guys will be the first to know. If, as is more likely, it just causes me to hallucinate and go permanently off my noodle, well, then, I guess you guys will be hearing about that too.

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

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

THE DOLL TRILOGY: REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE DOLL (2016), THE DOLL 2 (2017) AND SABRINA (2018): A TRIPLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DIRECTED BY ROCKY SORAYA AND STARRING LUNA MAYA AND SARA WIJAYANTO.

I was thrilled to bits to find these three Indonesian horror films on Netflix recently. Well, to tell you the truth, I’d scrolled past them a few times thinking, yeah, yeah, a scary doll, oooooh, I’m so scared…! And that’s sarcasm, by the way. But then one night late last week, I decided to give ‘em a chance and watched one a night for three nights, and I loved them.

At nearly two hours long each, they’re terrific value for money, and, the best thing of all, they’re like the Indonesian version of the ANNABELLE and CONJURING films! Which I adore, by the way, so coming across these three little gems felt like Christmas Mark 2.

In each film, a haunted doll plays havoc with the lives of a well-to-do, attractive young Indonesian couple on the up-and-up. They live in the most magnificent modern houses that seem much bigger on the inside than they look from the outside, with all the endless passages and hidden rooms, etc. Plus, up-and-coming they might be, but how can such young couples afford such fabulous mansions…?

The husbands are young and fit, usually working in finance or construction, and the wives are young and beautiful with lovely long hair and have nothing to do while their husbands are off out, bringing home the bacon. They have too much time on their hands, which is why sooner or later they’re bitching at their husbands about haunted dollies.

In the first first film, the haunted doll of a murdered child causes chaos in the life of the young couple, who might not have acquired their dream lifestyle quite by honest means. The doll was found up a haunted tree, by the way, and it’s not good karma to do a whizz up agin it, lol. Not illegal, mind you, but just not good karma.

The exceptionally dopey wife, egged on by another bored housewife across the street (give these women something to do, for Gawd’s sake!!!), stupidly welcomes a DON’T LOOK NOW-style ghost into her home, mistaking it for a child that needs shelter, and then runs around like a headless chicken for the rest of the movie trying to shake it off.

In THE DOLL 2, possibly my favourite of the three films, the stunningly beautiful Luna Maya plays Maira, whose daughter Kayla dies in a horrible car crash, but later returns- in ghost form, natch- through the medium of a haunted doll.

The doll, Sabrina, was Kayla’s own in life, and so ugly and frightening it should come with a health warning. The ‘doll’ in the first film was cute and mischievous-looking. Sabrina is a proper horror. And it keeps moving around the place, seemingly without recourse to human agency. Talk about Elf on the Shelf gone bad.

Luna Maya is brilliant as Maira, the grieving mother who is convinced her dead child has come back to her. I was more than happy to see her reprising her role in the third movie, this time with a new hubby in tow, the owner of a famous toy factory, and a new child, though not her own. Her husband is playing guardian to his orphaned niece, but how was she orphaned, o-ho…? That’s a question for nearer the end of the film…

Little Vanya, the niece, not unnaturally misses her mom, who is easily summoned back from the dead by means of a sort of Ouija board game. Summoning folks is easy-peasy. It’s getting rid of them, that’s the hard part. You’ll know the trouble with inviting the dead into your life, of course, if you’ve watched all the same movies I have.

Sometimes, if that door is left open a mite too long, something else can slip unnoticed into the world of the living, and then they’re harder to get shut of than herpes. Maira is terrorised on a harmless family trip to the beach by something from another dimension that wishes terrible harm on her. Who’s she gonna call? Why, the Indonesian version of Ed and Lorraine Warren, of course!

Miss Laras, the beautiful and elegant Ghost-Buster lady, features in all three films, each time with different blokes who might be a husband, a brother, or just a work colleague, I’m not really sure. There are plenty of loopholes, not to mention whopping great plotholes, in all three films, but I didn’t care because the movies are such great fun.

They’re incredibly violent as well, just to let you know. Every second cast member is walking around possessed and equipped with a big knife for stabbing. And, if you’re a director who’s budgeted for a certain amount of knives for your film, you sure as hell ain’t gonna wanna waste them.

What’s strange about these knives, however, is that a load of people are stabbed with them, then they get up and seem perfectly fine again just a few minutes later. ‘I’ve been stabbed? Ah shure, that’s nothing! I’m grand again, anyway.’ Maybe they’re trick knives, lol.

And I love the way the characters in this universe don’t seem to have to endure any tiresome legal repercussions for their actions, in particular the numerous stabbings. The cops are rarely called and, if they are, you can always put ‘em off by saying things like, ‘Don’t worry, Officer, we’ve got this,’ or ‘Shure, youse can go on home, it’s a bit dangerous for you lot here,’ and then they just bugger off as meek as lambs. Makes me wonder what we pay our own police force here for, when we could just be dealing with crimes ourselves like the guys in these three films.

Anyway, I relished every stabby minute of this excellent trilogy (It could also have been named ‘RICH MARRIED LADIES WHO DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TO DO START IMAGINING SHIT AND THIS LEADS TO ALL KINDS OF EVEN MADDER SHIT AND STUFF’) and I encourage you guys to watch it too. It’s great escapism for the auld COVID times. And that, as we all very well know, is nothing to be sneezed at…

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

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

ROOTS. (1977) THE MINI-SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ROOTS. (1977) HISTORICAL DRAMA MINI-SERIES BASED ON ‘ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY’ BY ALEX HALEY.
STARRING LEVAR BURTON, JOHN AMOS, LESLIE UGGAMS, BEN VEREEN AND GEORG STANFORD BROWN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched this multi-award-winning and ground-breaking mini-series over Christmas and New Year, and was blown away by its great scope and depth of feeling. As the book on which it’s based says, it’s the saga of an American family, but, as the book title doesn’t say, the family in question is black and not white.

The series traces their multi-generation-spanning history from 1750, in which the head of the family is born a free man in Africa, to the aftermath of the American Civil War which freed the slaves, but didn’t exactly equip them with a blueprint for how to live after they’d been freed. The Ku Klux Klan also feature.

Kunta Kinte is born in the Gambia, in West Africa, in 1750, to a tribe of proud Mandinka warriors. He has a loving mother and father and grandparents, and, when he becomes a teenager, has no more to worry about than whether or not he’ll pass his manhood trials, a rite of passage for all young men that determines whether or not they can move into their own huts as fully fledged men and take a wife. I think it’s true to say that Kunta Kinte loves his life and embraces and accepts its many challenges.

Just after he finishes his all-important manhood training, he is captured by American slave traders while out alone one day, looking for some wood to make a drum for his little brother, and brought over to American to work on the rich white men’s plantations. He was stalked as if he were a wild animal and brought, chained and terrorised, to the waiting ship, The Lord Ligonier.

That hellish three-month journey, in which the captured slaves were chained to bunks while in a prone position, covered in their own vomit from the constant sea-sickness, was probably the part of the series that had the most profound effect on me.

I felt outraged on behalf of the free black people wrongly taken from their homes to work as slaves and harvest the white men’s crops and cotton, etc., in America. It was appalling to witness.

I even felt outraged to see Ralph Waite, aka the virtuous Pa Walton of THE WALTONS, as a seasoned slave overseer on this boat, encouraging the captain, played by Ed Asner, to rape young black women to provide himself with a night-time ‘belly-warmer.’ It was truly disgusting and distressing to watch, so, for the people to whom it actually happened, well, I can’t even begin to imagine.

Kunta eventually arrives in the Deep South of Northern America, and lives as a slave for the rest of his days. It takes him a long, long time to give up on his dreams of being a free man, and the cruel plantation overseer and catchers of runaway slaves have to whip him savagely and chop off part of his foot in order to ‘cure’ him of the desire to run away.

He probably gives up on his dream of someday being free again when he and his wife Belle, a fellow slave, have their one child, a daughter, Kizzy. At last, Kunta has something to stay put for. He teaches his daughter about Africa and all the old ways that the cruel overseers would have them forget.

Kunta and Belle love this little girl with all their hearts and souls, and one day have to endure the agonising pain of watching her be sold off to another plantation owner, one of the worst misfortunes that could befall a slave. Families were separated if it suited the owner, causing untold anguish for those sold, and those who remained behind to mourn.

Owners varied from understanding enough to brutally cruel, like Missy’s new owner, Tom Moore, brilliantly played by Chuck Connors. He rapes her on her first night away from her loving parents, and fathers her child, Chicken George, whom she adores.

But separation and pain await this mother and son too. Kizzy sadly doesn’t live to see her beloved son George, raised on tales of Africa and words of the Mandinka language (ko means fiddler, and kamby bolongo a river), leading his family into what amounts to their ‘promised land,’ a patch of land he acquires in Tennessee as a free man after that war to end all wars, the American Civil War.

You’ll see any number of familiar faces in the show, including: Sandy Duncan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Reed, Brad Davis, Cicely Tyson, Lorne Greene, Scatman Crothers, George Hamilton, Maya Angelou, O.J. Simpson, Gary Collins, Ian McShane, Doug McClure and Louis Gossett Jr. It’s a case of spot-the-famous-face, which is always terrific fun, for me, anyway.

It’s a fantastic cast with great acting, great sets and great dialogue, but the message is, hopefully, what we’ll remember the most, and that is: that no man has the right to enslave another, and we are all born- or should be born- free and equal to one another.

Based on the true story of author Alex Haley’s own family, this is a saga that everyone should watch, or kids should watch and study in Irish schools. It’s on a par, is it not, to what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Holocaust…?

Whole swathes and tribes of people who’d never done anyone any harm were wrenched from their families, jobs, homes and homelands and brought somewhere halfway round the world against their will to serve the misguided purpose of a stronger, so-called ‘civilised’ people who wrongly thought that might meant right. ROOTS should be watched by everyone who’s not old enough to have seen it first time around. Lest we forget…

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

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

NATIONAL TREASURE. (2016) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

NATIONAL TREASURE. (2016) BASED ON OPERATION YEWTREE. DIRECTED BY MARC MUNDEN.

STARRING ROBBIE COLTRANE, JULIE WALTERS, TIM MCINNERNY, KATE HARDIE, SUSAN LYNCH AND ANDREA RISEBOROUGH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I really enjoyed this sex crime courtroom drama TV series, although it made me feel sick as times, based as it is on the police investigation into Jimmy Savile, which dredged up a fair few other little fishies in its net as well.

Robbie Coltrane (HARRY POTTER, CRACKER, FROM HELL with Johnny Depp) is superb as ageing comedian and television star, Paul Finchley. He’d be cast in the same mould as some real life comedians like, say, Bruce Forsythe, Les Dawson and the like. Paul’s star is now on the wane, and his TV duties have dwindled to presenting- we’ll assume- a fairly crappy, if popular, daytime quiz show called Smuggle.

When we meet him, he’s presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to his own former comedy partner, Sir Karl Jenkins, an event which sticks in his craw more than he lets on to the people around him. After twenty or thirty years at the top of his telly game, Paul Finchley is now washed-up, a has-bean, old hat, a Z-list celebrity, while sycophants and his close friends presumably make sure to keep telling him he’s ‘a national treasure.’

It’s at this point that Paul is charged with raping a woman called Rebecca Thornton in the ‘Nineties, over twenty years ago. When this becomes known, several more women come forward with similar allegations, although some of these subsequently fade away again and only two end up coming to court. The woman with the first complaint, a one-time fan-girl of Finchley’s, and Christina Farnborough, the Finchleys’ former babysitter.

‘They think I’m Jimmy fucking Savile,’ Paul groans at one point.

No doubt the men whose names were on the cops’ hit-list after the revelations about Jimmy Savile felt, as Paul Finchley did, that they were the victims of a witch-hunt, but there does seem to have been a culture of ‘big stars get everything they want’ in the TV stations back in the day. Women were disposable and not as important as the big- male- stars of the day, and how they felt about things didn’t really come into it at all.

The series goes to great lengths to show us the affects of these allegations on the Finchley family. Finchley himself is shell-shocked, but steadily maintains his innocence. His and his wife Marie’s adult daughter, Dee, was a mess to begin with.

She lives in a halfway-house for women with drug and addiction problems. Her two children live with their dad at the moment, and there’s some suggestion that she may lose them to him for good if she can’t get her act together.

We keep seeing flashbacks of her and her dad together in her childhood, and Dee seems to be trying to remember whether or not he sexually abused her. Her mum, Marie, warns her at one point not to ‘go there,’ as they have enough troubles to be going on with.

A word about Marie, brilliantly played by Julie Walters. Marie is outwardly the perfect wife and mother, devoted to her family and standing by her man all the way. She’s doing that thing where she’s supporting Paul in public, and going to court with him and everything, but looking daggers at him in private, banning him from the marital bed and acting like he’s, well, Jimmy Savile, and like he’s disgraced and shamed the family.

She’s had this one-sided arrangement with Paul all their married life, an arrangement which suits only Paul, which is why I call it one-sided. He is a serial philanderer/adulterer, addicted to having affairs and one-night-stands. Even now, in his mid-sixties and walking with a cane, he has sex with prostitutes.

The arrangement is this. As Marie is unable to stop him from straying, he can sleep around as much as he likes, as long as he’s honest about it and tells her about it. She then ‘forgives’ him, but I bet he’s had to pay for his sins with holidays and new kitchens and bathrooms and designer wardrobes over the years. Carmela Soprano in THE SOPRANOS received plenty of such ‘guilt gifts’ throughout the course of her marriage to mob boss, Tony Soprano, in the hit HBO TV series of the same name.

It’s a most unsatisfactory arrangement. Marie’s soul-destroyed by all the cheating, so much so that she’s thinking of seeking consolation with Paul’s old comedy partner, Tim McInnerny as Karl, who’s always fancied her. Whatever happens, whether Paul is found guilty or not guilty, it doesn’t look like he’ll have much of a marriage to come back to.

The two women accusing Paul of rape are treated shabbily in court, as you might except. Even in real life, women like this are frequently seen as gold-diggers. Oh, the man’s rich and famous, eh? Well, then, obviously this bird’s after a nice big pay-out, whether through the courts or for selling her story to the newspapers!

This is a terrific drama, well acted and very of the moment, what with all the accusations of sexual misconduct flying around the globe today. Every month, someone new seems to get ‘cancelled’ for political incorrectness or charged with actual sexual abuse of people they encountered- or targeted- in the course of their successful careers. It’s a depressing thing to think about. Great drama, though. Watch it if you can.

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

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

STIR CRAZY (1980) AND SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL (1989). A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

STIR CRAZY (1980) AND SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL (1989). A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
STIR CRAZY. (1980) DIRECTED BY SIDNEY POITIER. STARRING GENE WILDER, RICHARD PRYOR, GEORG STANFORD BROWN, CRAIG T. NELSON AND BARRY CORBIN.
SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL. (1989) DIRECTED BY ARTHUR HILLER. STARRING GENE WILDER, RICHARD PRYOR, JOAN SEVERANCE, KEVIN SPACEY AND ANTHONY ZERBE.

I love both of these American comedies and frequently watch them together at Christmas. I don’t mind admitting, though, that both films start out really strong, with terrific comedy performances from the two leads, and then they kind of lose their way and become a wee bit confusing and tiresome. The performances of the two leads, however, are most likely what you’ll remember about the films so it’s all good.

STIR CRAZY sees Wilder and Pryor take on the roles of two best friends, a down on their luck scriptwriter and aspiring actor, who get sentenced to 125 years in prison after being mistaken for two violent bank robbers dressed as chickens. (It’ll make sense when you watch the film, lol.) The prison is the kind of one with chain gangs doing hard labour in the blazing sun and guards whose truncheons seem to be permanently set to whuppin’…

While inmates of this particularly tough prison, they make friends with other convicts and impress the warden greatly with Gene Wilder’s prowess on the mechanical bull. When said warden arranges for Wilder’s character to take part in the annual prison rodeo, a small select group of prisoners, Wilder and Pryor included, arrange to use the rodeo as a chance to break out…

Despite being a convicted criminal, Gene Wilder still manages to have a romance with JoBeth Williams, the mom from POLTERGEIST, who’s playing his lawyer’s assistant. The two lads together also make firm friends with Grossberger, the most feared inmate in the prison, and they find that he’s surprisingly loyal and blessed with a beautiful singing voice. Seemingly, all he needed was for someone to just reach out to him…

My favourite part of the film is probably when Gene Wilder takes a list of his prison grievances to the warden, with the honest expectation that the warden will be only too delighted to discuss the ways in which he can help to enhance and improve the prison experience of the men in his care. Set that night-stick to whoppin’, boys… I also love Craig T. Nelson, aka COACH and the dad from POLTERGEIST, as the warden’s bullying second-in-command.

In SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, the two lads play a blind man (Pryor) and a deaf man (Wilder) who accidentally get mixed up with a trio of murderous thieves and have to go on a mission to clear their own names (yep, they’ve been wrongly accused again!) and, hopefully, catch the thieving real killers as well.

Kevin Spacey is quite good as one of the villains, with the gorgeous leggy Joan Severance on duty as the eye-candy. The scene where Gene Wilder threatens to ‘shoot’ a nudie Joan Severance with his erection is very funny.

It’s also the film in which are uttered the immortal words, ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy was a woman,’ and the scene in which Gene Wilder freaks out at the thought that he’s somehow contracted the ‘mens rea’ always makes me laugh out loud.

I don’t much care for Anthony Zerbe as the mysterious Mr. Sutherland, the villains’ boss, as I’m all worn out by the chase at this point. (Don’t get me wrong, watching a blind man and a deaf man attempt to drive a getaway car through downtown New York is pretty hilarious.)

And I was completely underwhelmed at the moment it’s revealed that the gold coin everyone’s been chasing is a ‘room temperature superconductor.’ Are we supposed to be impressed? Talk about meh.

Wilder and Pryor are always funny, though, and lovable and cuddly and, in the case of Gene Wilder in particular, surprisingly sexually attractive. I’ve always wanted to just give him a big hug, gaze deep into his brilliant blue eyes while gently touching his curly hair and then take it from there, lol.

Both men are great comedic partners, and the way they vibe off each other more than makes up for any deficiencies in plot. The scene where they meet at Wilder’s news kiosk is so funny, and ditto the one where Richard Pryor is masquerading as a Swedish sex therapist for geriatrics. The bit where he says, in authentic Swedish Chef from THE MUPPET SHOW pidgin English, ‘Mostly, they just like fucking…!’ is just a priceless moment in the film.

Happy New Year, anyway. Let’s welcome 2022 with open arms and open minds. I won’t challenge the Universe to fisticuffs by saying that things can’t get any worse, so instead I’ll just say that we all sincerely hope that they’ll get a little easier.

  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 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.com/dp/1781994234

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY AND ROCKET MAN: A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY AND ROCKETMAN: TWO MUSIC FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. (2018) DIRECTED BY BRIAN SINGER AND DEXTER FLETCHER. STARRING RAMI MALEK AS FREDDIE MERCURY.
ROCKETMAN. (2019) DIRECTED BY DEXTER FLETCHER. STARRING TARON EGERTON AS ELTON JOHN.

I normally steer clear of mainstream movies but I watched these two based-on-real-life films in the run-up to the New Year, and they both completely blew me away, especially the QUEEN one, as I’ve been a fan of their music since the ‘Eighties. Both films follow quite similar trajectories.

Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to Parsi-Indian parents, was obsessed with music from a young age and the start of the movie sees him talking his way to being the front man of QUEEN after one of their gigs as their earliest incarnation, SMILE.

The other members are a bit bemused by his posh accent and quirky dress sense, but there’s no denying his musical genius, the confident personality that seems to both attract and demand good things to happen and his fabulous singing voice.

Rami Malek gives an Oscar-winning performance as the QUEEN front man, and he’s so like him physically it’s hard to believe you’re not watching the actual Freddie Mercury.

When you hear those familiar million-selling songs issue from his lips while he’s at the piano or bursting out of the giant speakers when QUEEN is in concert, you’ll get chills down your spine every time, not to mention a quickening of the heartbeat in time to the music.

The movie shows us how Kenny Everett’s radio show prevented the magnificently theatrical, six-minute-long rock opera ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from being just a footnote in musical history. Thank Christ for that. What a loss to music that would have been!

We also get to see QUEEN’s signing with John Reid, Elton John’s manager, Freddie’s destructive relationship with his gaslighting day-to-day organiser, Paul Prenter, and his relationship with girlfriend and best friend Mary Austin, who seems to have guessed that Freddie was fully gay before Freddie himself seems to have come around to the notion.

Reporters constantly badgered Freddie about his sexuality. They seemed to have been quite unscrupulous and callous about it as well, not caring whom they hurt as long as they got their story.

Freddie was left alone, except for his casual lovers and one-night-stands, while the other members of QUEEN married, had children and grew roots. He was deeply conscious of the gap between them in this respect, and it feels like he was desperately lonely, just as Mary had sadly predicted, a lot of the time.

Freddie’s relationship with the toxic Paul and his split from the band to embark on a solo career for a bit soured relations with the other members of QUEEN, who all look in the film exactly how they looked in real life. In the film, they reconcile for the charity event Live Aid, before which Freddie reveals to his fellow band members that he has contracted HIV, the forerunner to AIDS, the so-called ‘gay plague.’

Poor Freddie. He was so lonely. When he puts his hand over boyfriend Jim Hutton’s hand in his parents’ home on the day of Live Aid and says, his voice breaking, ‘Jim’s my friend,’ I bawled like a baby. I don’t care two hoots that the film is meant to be chock-a-block with historical inaccuracies. The emotional depth of Rami Malek’s stunning performance will remain with me till the day I die, it’s that good.

I wasn’t expecting ROCKETMAN to be anywhere near as good, but it came pretty close. Taron Egerton turns in an excellent performance as Elton John, born Reginald Dwight in Pinner, Middlesex, to Stanley and Sheila in 1947. He was brought up mainly by his mum and grandmother.

We see him in the film being extremely upset by his father, who seemed to be incapable of showing his son any love or affection, despite having handed down to him some of his own musical ability and inclinations.

The film covers his meeting with his lifelong song-writing partner, Bernie Taupin, and the absolutely toxic relationship he had with his manager and lover, John Reid, the same John Reid who managed QUEEN.

Elton was tortured, like Freddie, by horribly negative feelings about his homosexuality and fear of peoples’ reactions to his being gay. When he confesses his sexual inclinations to his mum in a heart-breaking scene, she coldly tells him that she’s known he was gay for years, but it means that he’ll never ‘be properly loved,’ a harsh pronouncement that leaves her son devastated, reeling from the pain and shock of his mother’s indifference.

Though he becomes an international superstar with songs such as CANDLE IN THE WIND, YOUR SONG, GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD and the eponymous ROCKETMAN, in his own words in the film, he’d fucked everything that moved, he’d taken every drug and pill known to man, and he’d even attempted suicide, in a dramatic swimming-pool scene covered by the film.

I personally think that, here, when he was trying to kill himself, he was just trying to be heard. He was sick and tired of being an endless meal ticket for the leeches and hangers-on whom celebrities routinely attract, and I don’t bloody blame him.

That scene where his mother, played by an unrecognisable Bryce Dallas Howard (M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’s THE VILLAGE, JURASSIC WORLD), his nan (Gemma Jones from BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY) and some of their neighbours are flown in to his LA home for a few days or weeks of living entirely at Elton’s expense made me feel sick to my stomach. Feck the bloody Andersons’…! They don’t even look grateful for the immense privilege!

Elton was in a hell of his own and others’ making. In the end, he saves his own life by booking himself into a rehab and sticking it out. According to the end credits, he’s been sober and clean- and hopefully happy, with his husband David Furnish and their two sons- ever since.

It’s a powerhouse of a performance from Taron Egerton, although of the two films I prefer BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY because of the music and because of how it made me cry and want to cuddle poor Freddie and make things better for him. I love a nice cry, me.

It’d be great to see a film biopic of this nature made about David Bowie, say, or Prince or Madonna or Debbie Harry or any other of those great stars that we just don’t seem to grow any more. (STARMAN, PURPLE RAIN, MATERIAL GIRL and HEART OF GLASS, anyone?)

The more we do to remember and immortalise them now, the better it will be for our future generations of music lovers. Can you imagine a world in which none of these icons had ever existed? That’s right. Me neither.

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 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.com/dp/1781994234
 

THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR. (2020) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF HENRY JAMES. A NETFLIX DRAMA CREATED BY MIKE FLANAGAN.
STARRING VICTORIA PEDRETTI, CARLA GUGINO, HENRY THOMAS, AMELIA EVE, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, TAHIRAH SHARIF, T’NIA MILLER, RAHUL KOHLI, KATE SIEGEL, BENJAMIN EVAN AINSWORTH AND AMELIE BEA SMITH.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is the companion series to THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, and, as far as I know, there are more to come, so yay. I enjoyed them both but, as in HILL HOUSE, there’s an awful lot of repetition in BLY MANOR that could have been chopped out, reducing the sprawling series from nine episodes to a tighter, more condensed six or even seven.

The story is basically a modern day re-telling of Henry James’s chilling novella, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, brilliantly filmed as THE INNOCENTS in 1961, in which two wealthy orphaned children are haunted, if not possessed, by the ghosts of two deceased servants. Bly Manor is the seat of most of the action, and fans of a good linear style of story-telling will be tearing their hair out after only a couple of episodes, so be warned, lol.

Dani Clayton is the pretty young American au pair who comes to Bly Manor to care for eight-year-old Flora and ten-year-old Miles, whose parents died in an accident in India, where they’d gone to try to repair a troubled marriage.

Dani is engaged by the children’s uncle, the stiff-upper-lipped business toff, Henry Wingrave, who only wants to be notified by Dani if someone actually dies or has a leg hanging off. And, even then, the doctor should still be the first port of call. Henry has his reasons for being stand-offish. Henry has his secrets. They will all out, in time.

The staff at Bly, besides Dani, includes Hannah Grose, the housekeeper, Owen the chef- yep, little Timmy and Tammy Snot-Nose have their own Paris-trained chef, the little snots!- and Jamie, the female gardener (yes, I suppose women can do that job now if they like), who takes a shine to Dani. A shine which is reciprocated. A reciprocated shine. In short, lesbians, lol. In a Henry James television adaptation, of all places, who’d have thunk it…? Well, it’s 2020 here, after all.

There are a lot of dead people floating around Bly Manor, including but not limited to Miss Jessel, the previous governess who committed certain deeds upon her own person, and Peter Quint, her lover and Henry Wingrave’s sort of go-fer or valet. Dominic and Charlotte, the children’s posh parents, are still hanging around as well.

People who die at Bly don’t seem to know they’ve died. It’s a real problem, and causes a lot of congestion in the passageways. I won’t spoil it for you by hinting at who’s dead and who’s not. Suffice it to say, in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, that Bly Manor is the kind of place where people throw ducks at balloons and nothing is as it seems.

Doors open here into the past, the present and even the future. Faces appear at the window, or in the bath-water. It’s like a carnival of the dead, and no-one ever moves on to wherever they’re supposed to go to when they croak. What they need here is some kind of conductor, you know?

‘That’s right, move along here now, no queue-jumping, we’ll all get where we’re going in plenty of time. ‘Ere, wot you fink you’re doing, skipping the queue wivvout a ticket? Lord luv-a-duck! You’ll be the death of me one day, you lot will. ‘Ere, you! I thought I said NO BLEEDIN’ QUEUE-JUMPING…!’ And so on, etc.

The episodes in the middle are so repetitive they’ll do your head in and could easily have been slimmed down to make for easier viewing. The presence of the plague-doctor and the Lady in the Lake are explained eventually, which I appreciated.

Ironically, my favourite of all the nine episodes was the black-and-white one near the end, in which the origin story of the ghosts of Bly Manor is laid out for us. The story of the two noble sisters, Viola and Perdita Willoughby-Lloyd, is gripping and really, really sad.

The scenes with Viola locked in the room that represents death, until such time as her sister inadvertently frees her, really captured my imagination, and as for the Lady of the Lake, doomed to fade over time like cushion covers in the sun (Every mother ever in the summer; ‘Quick, the sun’s out, close the curtains! The sun will fade the cushion covers!’), well, I loved that story but wept over it too. It’s just too sad, and yet, we’ll all end up the same way, won’t we? It’s too sad to even contemplate…

The gorgeous Carla Gugino from GERALD’S GAME and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is narrating the story to an American wedding party. Victoria Pedretti is excellent as the au pair who won’t give in to the ghosts who are trying to take Miles and Flora. There’s more to like than dislike about this Gothic drama-slash-ghost-story, I think, and, overall, I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the next instalment in the series.

THE HAUNTING OF WOKING PIZZA EXPRESS, maybe, an emporium sure to be haunted one day in the future by the ghost of a non-sweating monarch who only ever wore a suit when he came to town and had never been upstairs in a certain person’s house, so that couldn’t be him in the photograph? We viewers are eagerly awaiting confirmation…

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

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

PANIC ROOM. (2002) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

PANIC ROOM. (2002) DIRECTED BY DAVID ‘FIGHT CLUB’ FINCHER.
STARRING JODIE FOSTER, KRISTEN STEWART, FOREST WHITAKER, JARED LETO AND DWIGHT YOAKAM.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love this brilliant home invasion film. I watched it in the cinema in 2002 and was completely blown away by it. It’s a slick thriller that any writers would do well to study if they want to learn about plot, and the plotting of a good, tight story. The film-makers take a simple enough premise as the basis for a story, then just keep ramping up the tension till the whole thing explodes in a massive crisis.

Jodie Foster is excellent as Meg Altman, a recently divorced woman who moves into a fantastic four-storey brownstone in New York City’s Upper West Side. Her millionaire ex-husband is in pharmaceuticals, so he can afford the rent, and he now lives with a supermodel, the prick, after breaking up his marriage.

With Meg is her pre-teen daughter, Sarah, played by a boyish-looking but unmistakable Kristen Stewart from TWILIGHT. The house is miles too big for them, of course. What the hell do a woman and a child want with all that space? The house lends itself perfectly to the plot, however.

On their first night in the huge, largely empty old house, it’s dark, windy, rainy and altogether spooky. Three men break into the house. When Meg spots them purely by accident on the security cameras in the panic room next to her bedroom, she grabs up a sleepy Sarah from the floor above and the pair of them flee for safety to the panic room.

Irony of ironies, the reason the three men have broken in is in the panic room, i.e., a stash of cash or bonds hidden there by the house’s previous occupant, a millionaire. This means that the terrified mother and daughter can’t just sit out the robbery in peace and comfort in their panic room. Those three guys are hellbent on actually coming in…

Forest Whitaker plays Burnham, who installs panic rooms for a living and works for the security company who services this particular house. Jared Leto plays the millionaire’s spoiled, bratty grandson, who’d prefer to steal his Grandpa’s bonds and keep them all for himself rather than wait for everything to be doled out legitimately in the will.

The third guy, Raoul, is a real loose cannon, a thug brought along by Junior. Raoul doesn’t care if he kills or maims anyone on this job, and that’s the difference between him and Burnham. Burnham doesn’t want anyone hurt and is deeply unhappy with the fact that the mother and daughter have moved in to the house a few days earlier than they were expected to.

Burnham is the only thing standing between Meg and Sarah and the nasty ugliness of Raoul’s foul nature and Junior’s greed and impulsivity. Will he come through for them? Add to all of this the fact that Meg gets claustrophobic when in small spaces and Sarah is prone to diabetic comas and needs her glucose injections. From a special bag. Which is not in the panic room. Oh, and Meg hasn’t connected the panic room phone yet…

The tension just keeps being ramped up and up, as I said earlier, until everything all spills over into a breath-taking climax. Jodie Foster, even though I believe she was pregnant at the time, is particularly athletic and throws herself all over the place in a really impressive manner for the duration. I just love the film, anyway, and I have good memories of seeing it in the cinema. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it too. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

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 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.com/dp/1781994234
 
  

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. (1989) WRITTEN AND BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY JOHN HUGHES. DIRECTED BY JEREMIAH CHECHIK.
STARRING CHEVY CHASE, BEVERLY D’ANGELO, RANDY QUAID, JOHNNY GALECKI, JULIETTE LEWIS, DIANE LADD, DORIS ROBERTS, SAM MCMURRAY AND JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION is the story of Clark Griswold, ably played by Chevy Chase. Clark just wants a nice perfect family Christmas for his family. He wants the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect turkey and the house all decked out with so many lights that you can see it from space. I’ve said this before, but the Americans really do do Christmas better than anyone else, and nowhere do they do it better than in these lovely ‘Eighties Christmas movies.

Clark’s so looking forward to the perfect family Christmas that he doesn’t even mind that his own parents and his in-laws will be joining them for the holidays. The more the merrier, is how he sees things. That is, until his wife’s cousin and her deadbeat hubby rock up in their decrepit RV with their nippers and delinquent mutt Snots in tow and announce their intention to stay indefinitely. Just what you want to hear at Christmas, isn’t it?

And when the expected Christmas bonus from his Scrooge-like boss doesn’t materialise and he’s seven and a half grand out of pocket on the deposit for a swimming pool for his family, Clark finds that he’s really up against it. Can he recover his Christmas spirit and manage to enjoy the holiday season to which he’s been looking forward so fervently? We can only hope he does…

There’s a load of slapstick comedy in this film to satisfy the viewers who love to see people being hit in the face with planks of wood, electrocuted hilariously and attacked by squirrels. Yes, I said squirrels. Randy INDEPENDENCE DAY Quaid does a great job as the hilariously obnoxious but lovable Eddie who sees fit to empty the foul contents of his RV’s ‘shitter’ on Sparky Clarky’s lawn. Dontcha just love visitors who come for the holidays?

There’s a whole host of familiar faces in the film that you’ll have seen in many other movies since this one, so have loads of fun playing: ‘Now where the diddly-dickens have I seen him/her before…? And what the devil was the name of that thing they were in…? Martha, get in here! Who’s that actor there? No, not that one, that one! I’ll be up all night trying to remember unless I can think of their name, it’ll drive me mad…! Martha, get the kids in here, maybe THEY’LL know!’ Let’s see if I can help a little bit…

Doris Roberts used to play Mildred Krebs in REMINGTON STEELE, that sexy American detective series featuring Stephanie Zimbalist and the swoonsome Pierce Brosnan. Juliette Lewis, the Griswold’s teenage daughter, is known for such films as CAPE FEAR with Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange, and NATURAL BORN KILLERS with Woody Harrelson from CHEERS.

Sam McMurray once played Chandler Bing’s boss in sitcom FRIENDS. He was the boss who’d give anyone who did good work a resounding slap on the butt, and, at first, this made Chandler deeply uncomfortable, but then he started to really miss it after he’d made his boss stop doing it, haha. That was a good episode. Mind you, they were all good episodes. A winner every one. Bill Doyle-Murray, who plays Clark’s boss in the film, is actually the older brother of actor and comedian Bill Murray, of SCROOGED and GHOSTBUSTERS fame, a fact I didn’t even know myself until now.

Johnny Galecki used to be in sitcom ROSEANNE, starring Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, and in THE BIG BANG THEORY, and multi-award-winning comedian and actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays the Griswold’s yuppie next-door-neighbour, Margo, was in SEINFELD and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE.

Diane Ladd is the mother of actress Laura Dern (JURASSIC PARK). William Hickey was nominated for an Oscar for his role in PRIZZI’S HONOUR, also starring Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and Anjelica Huston, but I personally remember him best for playing Al Pacino’s gravelly-voiced, poetry-spouting old dad in sexy thriller SEA OF LOVE, which co-starred Ellen Barkin.

And now to the piece de resistance of who-used-to-play-what-role. Mae Quetzel, who portrays dotty old Aunt Bethany, used to voice animated characters Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in the ‘Thirties. Anyone who did anything at all that long ago is surely worthy of our respect and a round or two of applause, lol. And, overall, that’s quite the line-up for just one movie, isn’t it? It’s got a classy, even iconic, cast.

The pre-Christmas mishaps come thick and fast and the scene in which cute but uncouth little Ruby Sue asks her Uncle Clark if he’s Santa Claus is as sweet as sugar. The film has all the trimmings and trappings of the ideal American family television Christmas so, you know what? I’m perfectly satisfied. Sometimes that’s all you need from a festive film.

I’m not American, by the way, I’m actually Irish. In case you were wondering why I’m bigging up the Americans and their festive traditions so much. But there sadly aren’t any Irish films in which a determined but misguided paterfamilias falls off a snow-covered roof while trying to put up twenty-five thousand twinkly Christmas lights, for the sole edification of his family and neighbours. More’s the pity.

By the way, if you carefully watch the credits of NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, you’ll see that someone called Frank Capra the Third worked on the movie. Could he possibly be the grandson of the original Frank Capra? That would be amazing if it were true. Answers on a postcard, film fans and movie nuts.

PS, if you’re the kind of person who switches off the credits or even- Gawd ‘elp us!- walks out of the cinema while the credits are playing, you’re running the risk of, firstly, missing a funny bit at the end, secondly, missing the weaker second credits song, and, thirdly, disrespecting the efforts of the hundreds or even thousands of good peeps who worked hard on the movie and made your viewing experience as good as they could possibly make it. So sit your butt back down there, mister, and pay your dues. It’s not much to ask. Oh, and Happy Christmas to you and yours…!

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

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

THE HOLIDAY. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE HOLIDAY. (2016) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY NANCY MEYERS.
STARRING KATE WINSLET, CAMERON DIAZ, JACK BLACK, JUDE LAW, SHANNYN SOSSAMON, RUFUS SEWELL AND ELI WALLACH.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

People were telling me for ages that this was a great movie, I should watch it and why hadn’t I watched it already, and so on. So, then, I watched it on Netflix last weekend and guess what? I hated it, even though I normally love top actresses Kate TITANIC Winslet and Cameron Diaz of VANILLA SKY fame.

I just found it mushy, sickly and unbelievable, and, you know me, I’m immensely gullible and will willingly believe most any romantic scenarios put before me for my edification, but this one just didn’t pass muster with me. The behaviour of both female leads left me ashamed for the whole of womankind, and no kidding.

And I can’t stomach the sight or sound of Jude Law, who, as you’ll all know, is generally considered to be a Grade A heart-throb. But not by me. Does that make me unusual? I don’t honestly mind if it does. I am unusual, lol.

I would have tolerated the floppy-haired, Liz-Hurley-dating Hugh Grant in the Jude Law role. He’s posh and privileged and no stranger to wearing a dinner jacket, but he’s funny, warm and endearing as well, even when he’s playing a cheating bastard. He’s brilliant in romantic comedies like NOTTING HILL and ABOUT A BOY. What might have been, eh?

Kate Winslet plays Iris Simpkins, a society columnist for an English newspaper. For years and years and years, she has been letting a posh prick of a writer- with curly hair- called Jasper Bloom string her along something terrible. She gives him free editing and writing advice for his books, and he offers her sex in his car when he gets a minute.

She buys him a thoughtfully chosen first edition of a book he loves for Christmas, and he gets her nothing, that’s the kind of non-relationship ‘relationship’ they have, and still she simpers about after him like a moonstruck puppy. Iris Simpkins indeed. Iris Simpers, more like.

Even when he gets engaged to someone else right under her nose, she can’t even muster up the balls to speak harshly to him or, better yet, tell him to sling his hook. Instead, she abandons her gorgeous, picture-perfect cottage just a few minutes’ drive from London to go haring off to the home of a movie producer in Los Angeles, in a daring, slightly too trusting, even foolhardy move known as a ‘house swap.’

The house belongs to Cameron Diaz’s character, Amanda Woods, who’s every bit as much of a ‘simperer’ as Iris Simpkins, the simpering Queen of the Simperers. Amanda has been cheated on by her boyfriend Ethan, and, after a lot of ‘how could you do this to me?’ and ‘get out of my house!’ and other relationship-related drama (all initiated by Amanda, a talky little thing), she packs a bag and flies to England to Iris’s house.

The ladies are swapping lives, to a certain extent, as well as just bricks and mortar. They each meet new blokes as a result of being domiciled in each other’s residences. For Iris, it’s a laid-back film music composer called Miles Dumont, played by the adorable and cuddly Jack Black, an actor I love and who I’d fancy over Jude Law any day of the week. Miles is being messed about by his cheating actress girlfriend, Maggie, played by Shannyn Sossamon, but is deeply attracted to Iris, so we’ll see how that works out, as if we couldn’t tell…!

Iris really meets two new men, strictly speaking, because she befriends Arthur Abbott as well, an elderly neighbour of Amanda’s who used to be a script-writer in the Golden Age of Hollywood a million years ago.

Played by the still-sprightly big screen legend Eli Wallach (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, 1966), Arthur helps Iris to grow a pair and develop some much-needed gumption around blokes. Iris, a fitness fanatic, in turn helps Arthur to get in shape for a big Hollywood retrospective of his work being held to honour him. Sweet, and just about bearable in terms of the mushy factor…!

Meanwhile, in England, in the picture-perfect Christmassy snowscape that is Iris’s patch, Amanda is initiating sex with Iris’s book editor brother Graham Simpkins (Jude Law), when he turns up pissed on her first night and looking for a place to crash.

We’re supposed to melt like butter on the hob when we observe that he’s not just a tousle-haired English posh bloke-slash-heart-throb combined, but also a ‘tragic’ widower with two ‘adorable’ little daughters to bring up alone.

I forget their names. Probably Daisy and Lily, or Poppy and Araminta, or some such country garden Englishness. Either way, I’m afraid my own heart remains stonily unmoved at the sight of a single father and his sprogs, but Amanda can’t throw herself into Gray-Gray’s arms fast enough.

The scene where she is running, in high heels, along a snow-covered country lane, to reach him and the cosy domesticity he brings with him all the faster is completely unbelievable. It’s just not possible to run that fast in the snow in high heels. Even if you’re Hollywood superstar Cameron Diaz.

Call me cynical, but have you ever noticed that she’s really only got one good move? That’s right, it’s when her mouth widens into that gorgeous smile. She’s beautiful all right, but I don’t know if there’s much else going on there behind the glitz and glamour.

A bit like the film itself, maybe. Some nice packaging to disguise the basic lack of any real substance underneath. Oh, I just don’t like this movie. It’s upsetting to see women being so badly jerked around by such, sleazy self-serving blokes.

Dustin Hoffman has a cameo role in the video store scene, though, which was nice. Apparently, he was in there just by a coincidence and wandered over to see what the story was and what they were filming, and they just gave him a spontaneous cameo on the back of it. That’s how you do things when you’re Hollywood royalty…!

Much as I love Dustin Hoffman, though, I was nearly even more excited to see the video store itself, I must admit. What an emporium of magic and wonderment these places used to be in their day! We should never have just let them die out like that. Anyway, happy holidays to you all and enjoy THE HOLIDAY if you decide to watch it. Just because I hated it doesn’t mean that you’ll hate it too…!

  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 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.com/dp/1781994234