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The Trouble with Harry (1955)
An unusual comedy from Alfred Hitchcock
It is a sunny autumn day in Vermont and Harry Worp is lying dead in a particularly scenic spot. His body is first found by young Arnie Rogers who runs of to get his mother, Jennifer Rogers. Meanwhile the body is found for a second time; this time by Captain Wiles. He was out rabbit hunting and worries that he'd killed Harry with a stray shot. While he is wondering what to do Arnie returns with his mother and it becomes clear that Harry was her estranged husband and she doesn't seem too upset that he is dead! It later emerges that she too thinks she killed him as she'd hit him over the head with a bottle if that isn't enough suspects another woman thinks she may have killed Harry as well! Local artist Sam Marlowe also gets involved as he helps the Captain bury the body (several times) and falls in love with Jennifer. While these four are trying to hide Harry the local deputy sheriff has heard about the body and is determined to find out what is going on.
This is a rather strange movie; it is a gentle comedy, a mystery and a romance
added to that it is directed by Alfred Hitchcock. That isn't to say it is bad; the mystery is fun even if its real purpose is to bring Sam and Jennifer together and provide a series of laughs as the four protagonists deal with the body and try to keep the deputy from finding out what is going on. This film is most notable for being Shirley MacLaine's film debut; she is a delight as Jennifer
even if she is a little young for a twice widowed woman with a child; although I didn't really think about this till after it had finished. The rest of the cast do a decent job in what is a fairly light film. When we learn the truth about Harry's death it provides a satisfying explanation and fits the comic tone of the film. Overall I'd say that this may not be a classic but it is worth watching, especially if you are a fan of Hitchcock or Shirley MacLaine.
Mugen no Juunin (2008)
Blade of the Immortal
This anime series follows Manji; a samurai who killed a hundred people in service of his master before learning that his master was evil. He is determined to atone but he can't kill himself as he has been infected with Sacred Bloodworms which render him immortal so he decides he will kill one thousand evil men! He is joined by Rin Asano; a girl who wants revenge on the group that brutally murdered her parents when she was a child. Together they seek out the group and kill its members and eventually Rin comes face to face with its leader and learns why he murdered her parents.
As one would expect from such a series there is plenty of blood shed here but not an excessive amount. The characters are well fleshed out; it was nice to see antagonists who weren't cliché cartoon villains and heroes who must occasionally question what they are doing and aren't more powerful than those they are fighting. The character designs are great as is the animation; this really helped draw me into the story which was just beautiful to look at. For all the good things about this series there is one noticeable flaw it lacks a proper ending; it feels as though the makers intended to make a second season but never got round to it as very little is actually resolved by the end.
These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937)
John Howard takes over as Bulldog Drummond
Newly engaged Hugh 'Bulldog' Drummond is looking forward to the arrival of his fiancée Phyllis but plans for a peaceful visit don't last long. She hasn't been there long when she is kidnapped by Irena Soldanis and Mikhail Valdin. We soon learn why she was kidnapped; Irena wants revenge on Drummond because she blames him for her late brother's execution. She leaves a series of cryptic clues that are intended to make him suffer before they exact their ultimate revenge. Drummond follows the clues along with friend Algy and faithful butler Tenny. The kidnappers specifically told Drummond not to let Colonel Neilson of Scotland Yard get involved but the colonel decides to follow despite Drummond's instructions not to this involves a series of impressive disguises.
The adventure sees John Howard taking over the lead role and Louise Campbell taking over as Phyllis; Howard does a fine job as Drummond and Campbell is okay but not as good as Heather Angel was when the character was first introduced. The story may be a little cliché but it is still fun. The various clues aren't too convoluted; there is a good chance that the viewer will solve one or two before they are explained. There is a fair amount of action packed into the film's short runtime leading up to a gripping denouement. Mixed in with the drama there are some funny moments; Col Neilson's ingenious disguises were both amusing and surprisingly believable. The baddies are fairly cliché dastardly Central Europeans but that doesn't mean they aren't entertaining. Overall I'd say this is a fun action adventure that contains absolutely no offensive material.
The Woman in Black (2012)
A genuinely creepy chiller
When widower Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer still coming to terms with the loss of his wife, is sent to wrap up the estate of a recently deceased woman he has no idea what he is letting himself in for. None of the villagers seem welcoming and it is clear they just want him to turn round and return to London. Not put off he goes out to Eel Marsh House to sort out the woman's papers but while there he sees a mysterious woman dressed in black. He goes to report this to the police and while he is doing so three children enter the police station; one of them has ingested poison.
It appears that a lot of children have come to grief there; the widow's son died in the marsh and the son of Sam Daily; the only person locally who welcomed Kipps unlike the villages he doesn't believe the story that a child will die after each time somebody sees the mysterious woman in black. When another child dies Kipps starts to believe and worries as his son is due to join him in the village and it is too late to cancel the trip. If he is to have any chance of saving his son he must return to Eel Marsh House again and try to bring peace to the woman in black.
Given this film's twelve certificate I was surprised at just how chilling it was
it certainly gave me goose bumps! There are some jump scares but mostly the film relies on an almost constantly creepy atmosphere to keep the viewer on edge. Lead actor, Daniel Radcliffe, demonstrates that he is more than just 'Harry Potter' as he does a fine job as Kipps; a character who is rarely off screen. He is ably supported by the likes of Ciarán Hinds, Ciarán Hinds and Roger Allam
although the last of these only appears briefly. There is very little gore although the one scene were a young girl coughs up blood and dies is somewhat disturbing to say the least! There are quite a few other scenes that could disturb viewers and given its theme of a vengeful spirit who kills children it is probably not a good film to show to younger viewers. Overall whether you think a film like this is any good depends on whether or not it manages to scare you
it certainly scared me more than many horror films that I've seen.
Contemplating escape from East Germany
This film is centred on East German doctor; the eponymous Barbara. She used to work at the prestigious Berlin hospital but has been transferred to a small rural hospital for reasons that aren't immediately obvious but it is clear that she has done something that the regime didn't approve of. While working at the hospital it becomes clear that the Stasi are keeping close tabs on her; her boss clearly knows more about her than one would expect and when she disappears from their surveillance she gets a less than subtle visit from the Stasi. We later learn that she was punished for applying for permission to leave the country and she hasn't given up her plans to leave.
We see that she is a caring and competent doctor; just the sort the hospital needs she diagnoses a case of meningitis that others have missed and later realises another patient needs an urgent operation. During this time she grows professionally closer to her superior Dr André Reiser despite suspecting that he is informing for the dreaded Stasi. As time passes and the day of her escape to the west approaches she must decide between freedom in the West and staying at the hospital where her skills are needed.
Having seen 'The Lives of Others' I was expecting another grim urban setting but this was set in beautiful countryside; something that contrasts with Barbara's basic apartment and the under-equipped hospital where she works. The story is told with a surprisingly light touch given the subject matter; the scenes of Barbara cycling through the countryside are positively bucolic. Nina Hoss carries the story as Barbara but is ably supported by Ronald Zehrfeld who played Dr Reiser and Rainer Bock who plays the sinister Stasi Officer Klaus Schütz. While there is little actual violence there is the feeling that there is a real danger for Barbara
especially when the Stasi search her flat and more disturbingly her body. The dilemma of whether she will try to escape or not is nicely depicted and her final decision is depicted in a believable way. Overall I think this German drama is well worth watching; it may not be fast paced but it is still fairly gripping.
Throne of Blood
In this classic film from director Akira Kurosawa Shakespeare's Macbeth is transferred from Scotland to feudal Japan. After an uprising against Lord Tsuzuki two of his generals, Washizu and Miki, return to Tsuzuki's cobweb castle through the almost impenetrable cobweb forest. After getting lost the meet a strange old woman/spirit who foretells their future; Washizu will be given command of the Northern Mansion and Miki will take over Fort One this is not all; one day Washizu will become the lord of Cobweb Castle and later on Miki's son will be the lord. As they leave they wonder if it was all a strange dream but upon reaching the castle Tsuzuki gives them the postings the old woman foretold. Once in the Northern Mansion Washizu's wife Asaji warns him that if Miki were to tell Lord Tsuzuki about the prophecy he will attack them and when Tsuzuki turns up it looks as if that could be the case. Asaji persuades her husband that they must kill Tsuzuki. They get away with this murder but the sense of paranoia only increases when they are ensconced in Cobweb Castle; she is convinced that Miki will try to take the castle from them and when she becomes pregnant she is determined that the original prophecy much be broken it cannot end well!
Kurosawa did a brilliant job here; the story is well told and perfectly paced. It is also incredibly atmospheric; the near constant fog adding to Washizu's increasing paranoia and some genuinely spooky scenes involving the spirit-woman. Of course a great film needs good actors and Toshiro Mifune dominates as the film's Macbeth; Lord Washizu and Isuzu Yamada manages to be suitably unpleasant as Asaji
the Lady Macbeth of this story. While there aren't vast battle scenes or even prolonged sword fights there are inevitably moments of violence; most notably the final scene when Washizu is brought down by numerous arrows
a scene that would never be made the same way now
real arrows were shot very close to the leading actor! Overall I'd say this should be watched by any fan of classic cinema or those looking for a different take on one of Shakespeare's best known tragedies.
This is a rather unusual anime series; instead of the expected ongoing story featuring a regular cast of characters we get a series of thematically linked stories; each featuring its own cast of characters. The link is each of the protagonists has heard of a myth that those who see diamond dust (ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice crystals) with the person they love are destined for happiness together. Each of the stories, set in Hokkaido, follows a different female protagonist as the deal with certain relationship issues.
At first I was a little unsure about this series; it seemed odd that the cast suddenly changed in the third episode but each of the short stories were well told and felt believable
the one featuring a woman whose father was dying was particularly poignant. The animation and character designs may not be as polished as some series but it doesn't detract from the stories. The voice work in the English dub was perfectly acceptable even though I usually prefer the subbed version where it is available. Overall this is worth watching if you want something different.
Death of a miner
When a miner is found dead in a local pit Gently and Bacchus find themselves investigating a murder eight hundred feet underground. The location means that only those people down the mine at the time could have done it but it is surprising how many of them had a motive. With rumours circulating about the pit's possible closure it emerges that the dead man, who was the shop steward, had been set up with a job elsewhere; apparently helping himself rather than the miners he was meant to be representing. There are other possible motives too; he didn't like a fellow miner his daughter was seeing and had recently come into a sum of money betting on greyhounds he co-owned with two other colleagues.
While the investigation is going on Gently is being pressured to accept a promotion that will see him transferred to the traffic division and WPC Coles doesn't help matters when she accidentally lets slip that Gently has aggravated an old wound while underground. Knowing that he might be forced out Gently suggests to Bacchus that maybe it is time for him to seek promotion too.
This was a solid episode that provided a good finale to the current series
the knowledge that there wouldn't be an episode next week certainly increased the tension when Gently was in a dangerous situation underground. Thankfully he survives as Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby have a good chemistry as Gently and Bacchus, despite their characters' different temperaments. The story was good although the motive turned out to be the sort of cliché that seems to happen more in murder mysteries than in real life! Once again Bacchus provided some good laughs; this time expressing his views on the mining communities; although as the son of a miner he had had some experience of them. Overall this was a decent conclusion to the season; I hope there will be more to come.
Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937)
Decent inter-war drama
Upon returning to England protagonist Hugh 'Bulldog' Drummond sets off for his home in the country. When he is nearly there he almost hits a woman with his car; she apparently faints and he puts her in his car. He then hears gunshots and while he investigates the woman drives off in his car! She doesn't get far though and the car is found by Drummond's butler, Tenny. Her abandoned purse leads them to the house of Norman Merridew where he in informed that the woman, Phyllis Clavering, is being treated for her delusions she believes Merridew killed her brother and is plotting to steal her inheritance. Drummond is inclined to believe that she is far from delusional and sets out to rescue her and foil the dastardly Merridew's plans with the help of his friend Algy and Tenny. If that wasn't enough excitement Algy is due to become a father at any moment and is desperate to find out if his wife has given birth and if so whether it is a boy or a girl.
As this was my introduction to the world of Bulldog Drummond I can't say how it compares to others in the series or whether it captures the spirit of the books
however I can say it was rather enjoyable. There was plenty of drama and the sort of action that can be enjoyed by fans of adventure whatever their age. There were also a good number of laughs to be had; mostly from Algy and Tenny. Ray Milland puts in a decent performance as Drummond although at times his character doesn't seem to be taking the situation as seriously as one might expect. Heather Angel does a great job as Phyllis; vulnerable at times but also showing believable ingenuity at others. The rest of the cast was solid enough
especially Porter Hall
with a beard like that he had to be a rotter! Overall I'd certainly recommend this to anybody who doesn't think action requires a high body count and exploding helicopters!
A gripping if somewhat gory drama
This infamously gory series opens with teenagers Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato being struck by a train while rescuing a homeless man who had fallen from the platform. Rather than dying they find themselves in a room along with other people who have just 'died' also present is a strange black sphere. Suddenly the sphere opens and an array of weapons appears and when they look inside they see a strange man. One of the people already there explains that this is 'Gantz' and he will send them on a variety of missions. It turns out that they will all be sent out to hunt down a variety of aliens using futuristic weapons. At the end of each hunt the survivors return to the room, any injury they sustained healed. They are then free to get on with their lives until Gantz summons them for the next hunt along was new players. When they aren't hunting aliens we see Kurono, Kato and a girl named Kei Kishimoto who stays with Kurono but has obvious feelings for Kato.
'Gantz' has a reputation for fairly extreme violence and for quite a lot of nudity. It doesn't have as much violence as show like 'Elfen Lied' but the violence here feels far more real. This is largely due to the character design which is more realistic than many shows and plenty of time is given to their development. For the most part the 3D CGI backgrounds looked great most of the time although occasionally it doesn't quite come up to scratch. There is quite a bit of nudity although it felt deliberately uncomfortable rather than the usual fan service.
The episodes featuring missions are nicely action packed with plenty of exciting moments
even if characters have a habit of talking when they should be shooting at times! These missions take place in real time so a one hour mission takes two and a bit episodes. The between mission episodes show us the characters normal lives so we grow to care about them
or possibly get annoyed by them! If you are the sort of person who wants everything explained by the end you may be disappointed but if you don't mind some major points remaining a mystery you are likely to enjoy this; I certainly did. Overall I'd certainly recommend this but only to older viewers; it is certainly not a show for children.