REVIEW: PENELOPE

Starring

Christina Ricci (Lizzie Borden Took an Ax)
James McAvoy (Glass)
Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz)
Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice)
Reese Witherspoon (This Means War)
Richard E. Grant (Logan)
Ronni Ancona (Skins)
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Simon Woods (Starter for 10)
Nigel Havers (Pope Joan)
Burn Gorman (Pacific Rim)
Russell Brand (Army of One)
John Voce (Crush)
Lenny Henry (Chef!)
Martin McDougall (Batman Begins)

Christina Ricci in Penelope (2006)Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci) is a young woman from a wealthy family. What sets her apart is that she has the ears and nose of a pig. Generations ago, an embittered and vengeful witch (Michael Feast) placed a curse on the Wilhern family after their son had an affair with his daughter, one of the Wilhern servants. He was talked out of marrying her by his arrogant and disapproving family, abandoning her and married someone of his own status. The heartbroken and pregnant servant girl then threw herself off a cliff. Furious, the witch then cursed the Wilherns so that the next daughter to be born into the affluent family would have the face of a pig. For five generations, the Wilherns produced only sons, until Penelope was born with her “ugly” face, stricken with the curse. It is said that the curse can only be lifted if ‘one of her own kind’ learns to love her, which her parents interpret as meaning that Penelope must marry a man of noble birth.Christina Ricci and James McAvoy in Penelope (2006)A tabloid reporter named Lemon (Peter Dinklage) begins stalking the family to get a photograph of the infant Penelope resulting in Penelope’s mother Jessica (Catherine O’Hara) blinding his right eye after he breaks into their house. Then Jessica and Franklin (Richard E. Grant) decide to fake their daughter’s death and cloister her away in their mansion where Penelope spends her life immersing herself in intellectual pursuits such as literature, horticulture, and music. When Penelope becomes an adult, her parents attempt to introduce her to possible suitors, hoping that one of them will fall in love with her and break the curse, with the help of a matchmaker named Wanda (Ronni Ancona). Unfortunately, every man who lays eyes on her flees in terror, including Edward Humphrey Vanderman III (Simon Woods), a spoiled, arrogant snob who finds her repulsive (even enough to believe she has fangs). Normally, Jessica and Franklin’s butler Jake (also Michael Feast) catches them before they leave in order to force them to sign an agreement that they will not discuss Penelope’s appearance, but he fails to catch Vanderman.Christina Ricci in Penelope (2006)Vanderman’s panicked flight from the Wilhern house results in a newspaper article dubbing him insane. To redeem his name, Vanderman decides to team up with Lemon (who is now wearing an eyepatch over his right eye) in an effort to get a photograph of Penelope. The two of them track down Max Campion (James McAvoy), a young blue blood disowned by his family because of his gambling problem and in desperate need of money. Lemon and Vanderman pay Max to pose as a new suitor for Penelope, hiding a camera in his jacket so that he can steal a picture of her. After talking to Penelope through a one-way mirror, Max is unexpectedly caught off guard by her sweetness and charm, and Penelope also trusts him enough to show him her face. Though Max is not frightened of Penelope, he accidentally triggers the camera in his jacket, which causes him to retreat.Christina Ricci in Penelope (2006)A heartbroken Penelope believes that Max too finds her monstrous and instead begs him to marry her simply for her status and in order to break the curse, even promising to kill herself if the marriage doesn’t break the curse. Max, though obviously torn, insists that he cannot marry Penelope. He then calls off his agreement with Lemon and Vanderman and destroys the camera, realizing that their attempt to exploit Penelope is wrong.1_L-XwBXUvSEsTGI2ihATNPAMeanwhile, Penelope, inspired by Max’s conversations about the outside world, decides to flee the protection of her parents’ home, and journeys out into the city, naive and ignorant about normal life. She uses a scarf to cover her face. While at a bar, Penelope ends up befriending a delivery girl named Annie (Reese Witherspoon) who becomes her “real world” mentor and best friend. Having no money and seeing that Lemon and Vanderman are offering a reward for a photograph of her, she decides to collect on the reward by producing a photo of herself while remaining anonymous in public with her scarf. Penelope’s courage in going out to the world then acts as an inspiration for Max, who quits gambling and starts work in an old theatre. When her parents see Penelope while trying to find her and take her back home, she runs from them and then passes out in a bar with Annie, causing Penelope’s scarf to be removed. To her surprise, Penelope becomes an overnight celebrity, flocked by adoring fans who are not disgusted by her face.pen_31Meanwhile, Vanderman’s father Edward Vandermann II (Nigel Havers), seeing the public’s fondness for Penelope and embarrassed by his son’s vocal cruelty toward her, coerces Edward into proposing to the girl. Lemon eventually discovers that the man he and Vanderman recruited to photograph Penelope is not Max Campion, but actually another man named Johnny Martin who took the job for money while the real Campion (Nick Frost) is in jail. On Penelope’s wedding day, he provides the information to Jessica and Wanda. Though Wanda wants to tell Penelope the truth, Jessica forces her to keep it a secret, believing that Edward is Penelope’s only chance to break the curse. Penelope nearly marries him, but backs out of the wedding at the last minute when she realizes that she does not want to marry simply to break the curse. Though Penelope’s mother urges her to marry Vanderman and at last lead a ‘normal life’, an exasperated Penelope says that she likes herself the way she is. This breaks the curse, as Penelope has at last been loved by ‘one of her own kind’ – herself – and her pig snout and ears disappear.MV5BZjZlMzRlOGQtMzViMS00NDk4LWFmOWUtZDRiZWZjYWE3Y2ZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTYxNzc0NjU@._V1_As the months pass, Penelope moves on with her life, becoming a horticulturist and teacher, and the spectacle of her former appearance is gradually forgotten by the public even when the news of a gorilla boy being found in a laundry hamper eclipses it. After he quits his job after 25 years, Jake is revealed to be the witch who had cursed the family long ago and renders Jessica unable to speak with magic. After realizing that Jessica can no longer speak, Wanda breaks down and tells Penelope about Johnny Martin. That Halloween, Penelope finds several of her students dressing up as her old pig self, and dons a “Penelope” mask as she goes to reunite with Johnny, who she discovers lives nearby. Johnny, not knowing that the curse has been broken, kisses Penelope and apologizes to her, saying that he does not have the power to break the curse. Penelope then reveals that she had the power to lift the curse all along, and the two share a passionate kiss, beginning a romantic relationship.penelopeIn the final scenes, Penelope concludes telling her story to a group of children in a park-like area. When Penelope asks her class what the moral of the story is, they give out answers like “rich people stink” and “it’s always the mother’s fault”, until one bright boy replies, “it’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse”, Penelope acknowledges the answer. After the children are dismissed, Johnny and Penelope walk up the hill to a swing, where he is seen happily pushing her. Meanwhile, on a nearby lake, Lemon rows up in a small rowboat and is about to take a picture revealing to the world what has happened to Penelope. Observing their happiness, Lemon decides to leave them alone as he rows away.

l_2ecb2b84-4a72-41b0-9c2e-83a750ad9684All-in-all, this movie is as good, and as endearing, as ‘Edward Scissorhands’ was over generation ago. A definite must-see!

REVIEW: ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES

CAST

Anjelica Huston (50/50)
Raul Julia (Street Fighter)
Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future)
Christina Ricci (Lizzie Borden Took An Axe)
Jimmy Workman (As Good AS It Gets)
Joan Cusack (Working Girl)
Carol Kane (Gotham)
Carel Struycken (The Witches of Eastwick)
David Krumholtz (Serenity)
Dana Ivey (Two Weeks Notice)
Christopher Hart (Idle Hands)
Peter MacNicol (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory)
John Franklin (Children of The Corn)
Mercedes McNab (Angel)
Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City)
David Hyde Pierce (Hellboy)
Peter Graves (Airplane)
Monet Mazur (Just Married)
Ian Abercrombie (Birds of Prey)
Tony Shalhoub (Men in Black)
Sam McMurray (Drop Dead Gorgeous)
Nathan Lane (The Producers)

addams-family-values-DI-2One of the rare sequels that actually equals the output of the first film, “Addams Family Values” shows the material still has enough not yet mined for a second picture – it works. I wouldn’t think of doing another one of these pictures, but “Addams Family Values” manages to be successful, mainly due to the return of director Barry Sonnenfeld, who gets the tone and humor exactly right. Not only that, but he even has a small role in the picture.
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The film starts off with Morticia(Angelica Huston) announcing that she’s going to have a baby. “Right now”, she says, in her usual deadpan manner. Taking enjoyment in the pain of delivery, the Addams soon have another member of the family, which they name Pubert. They find the need for a nanny to take care of the new addition, and Debbie Jalinsky(Joan Cusack) arrives. At first, she seems like the perfect nanny. She’s good with the children and doesn’t seem to mind the upside-down world the Addams live in.

Soon though, her intentions are revealed. She marries rich men and her newest target is Fester(Chistopher Lloyd). While the gags during the early portion of the film when the baby is new in the house are funny, there are a number of equally funny moments when the two kids are sent to Summer camp.addams-family-value-stillIt’s a very funny movie and a solid sequel, proving that the characters had enough good material to make a second movie work.

REVIEW: THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991)

CAST

Anjelica Huston (50/50)
Raul Julia (Street Fighter)
Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future)
Christina Ricci (Lizzie Borden Took An Axe)
Jimmy Workman (As Good AS It Gets)
Dan Hedaya (Commando)
Elizabeth Wilson (The Graduate)
Judith Malina (When In Rome)
Carel Struycken (The Witches of Eastwick)
Dana Ivey (Two Weeks Notice)
Christopher Hart (Idle Hands)
John Franklin (Children of The Corn)
Mercedes McNab (Angel)

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After so many attempts at making feature films out of old TV series have failed, the handful that actually are successful and creative stand out. In recent times, “The Addams Family” is certainly one of the best. Director Barry Sonnenfeld is at his best here, and he’s lucky to be surrounded with the perfect cast.


We’re introduced to the family; Morticia(perfectly played by Angelica Huston), Gomez (a wonderful performance with great energy by Raul Julia) and the two children, Wednesday(a perfect Christina Ricci) and Pugsley. Instead of the usual fights between children, the two go after one another with deadly weapons. And in the film’s best non-speaking role we have Thing, a hand that races around the house and acts as sort of a family pet. There’s also the film’s other “star”, the Addams mansion, which has been built down to the last detail.The plot revolves around the “appearance” of Gomez’s long-lost brother, Uncle Fester. This Fester (Christopher Lloyd) though, is an impostor, planning to raid the Addams vault and the plan is brought together by the family lawyer (Dan Hedaya).

The movie occasionally has a few slow points, but it’s a lot of fun and the performers seem to have enjoyed their roles as well. The cinematography is a lot of fun as the camera rockets through the various halls of the house. It’s the performances though, that capture the characters perfectly. A very good first directing effort from Sonnenfeld.

REVIEW: THE LIZZIE BORDEN CHRONICLES

MAIN CAST
Christina Ricci (The Addams Family)
Clea DuVall (The Faculty)
Cole Hauser (2 Fast 2 Furiuous)
GUEST / RECURRING CAST
John Heard (Prison Break)
Andrew Howard (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Olivia Llewellyn (Penny Dreadful)
Jeff Wincott (S.W.A.T.)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
John Ralston (Bitten)
Bradley Stryker (Izombie)
Jessy Schram (Veronica Mars)
Jonathan Banks (Highlander: The Series)
Rhys Coiro (30 Days of Night: Dark Days)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)
Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones)

What happens after Lizzie Borden takes an ax to her father and stepmother? Lifetime follows up its popular television movie from 2014 about the notorious accused murderess with an eight-episode miniseries sequel that becomes a guilty pleasure


Lizzie (Christina Ricci) has been cleared of all wrongdoing in those earlier killings, though the townspeople of Fall River, Mass. suspect that she’s gotten away with murder. Lizzie delights in her new infamy, taking all the shade-throwing stares in stride and scaring the local children as opportunity permits. Trouble comes quickly, however, when her father’s former business partner, William Almy (John Heard), makes claims on the Borden estate.  Suddenly, Lizzie and her sister, Emma (Clea DuVall), find themselves threatened with bankruptcy, which doesn’t please their deadbeat half brother, William (Andrew Howard), who has appeared out of the blue looking for a handout. As if that weren’t enough, there’s also the matter of the dogged Pinkerton agent Charlie Siringo (Cole Hauser), who has come to town with the express aim of proving Lizzie’s criminality. Even Better Call Saul’s Jonathan Banks shows up as a scarily temperamental gangster who does his best to intimidate Lizzie. What’s a girl to do in the face of all this threatening machismo but strengthen her resolve and sharpen ye ole hatchet? It’s not long into the first episode before Lizzie’s back to her murderous ways, bleeding men out with the well-placed stab of a hairpin or getting them drunk enough that they can more easily be pushed from high places with nooses around their necks.


The Lizzie Borden Chronicles best talent comes exclusively from Ricci and DuVall, who have a delectable rapport not too far removed from Bette Davis and Joan Crawford at their hag-horror peak in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Ricci’s porcelain-doll features make her seem even more alluringly alien now than she did as a child actress. There’s a winking self-consciousness to her portrayal of Lizzie that works to the character’s advantage; she’s like an out-of-time avenging angel, a feminist icon (before there were words to describe it) lashing out at patriarchy the only way she knows how. By contrast, DuVall is all plain-faced earnestness and the loving voice of reason that complements Lizzie’s lunacy, at least for now. It’s often tough to play the straight man to a more flashy companion, but DuVall does it exceptionally well.


The sisters’ relationship intrigues because it constantly seems on the point of implosion, and does come to a head by the end of the miniseries.

REVIEW: LIZZIE BORDEN TOOK AN AXE

 

CAST

Christina Ricci (The Addams Family)
Clea Duvall (Heroes)
Gregg Henry (Slither)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Shawn Doyle (Big Love)
Sara Botsford (The Fog)
Hannah Anderson (Backlash)
Andrea Runge (The Wisher)
Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer)
Andrew Gillies (Mutant X)

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With Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, Lifetime is finally having some fun. Instead of a serious and somber tone, the television movie’s account of the infamous unsolved murders takes a lively approach (at least, as much as it can when portraying a double homicide). It’s also clear that Christina Ricci (Monster), who stars as Lizzie, relishes every moment of her portrayal, turning up the volume on her crazy eyes without spilling over into camp. The production’s choice of modern music also further ingrains the idea that this is a funkier retelling of the story, which has developed over the years from a tale of horror and media frenzy to becoming part of a schoolyard rhyme and pop culture.


There are many possible ways to tell the story of Lizzie Borden, who was put on trial and acquitted for the gruesome hatchet murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Mass., in 1892. The case against her was completely circumstantial, but convincingly so (and Lizzie herself didn’t help things by getting rid of pretty clear evidence). Still, there remain, then and now, several other possible scenarios regarding the crime and its perpetrator. Stephen Kay’s (The Mod Squad) script chooses a linear narrative without alternative scenarios; they may be hinted at, but there is one clear murderer, whose guilt is ultimately made unquestionable.


In addition to a fervent Ricci, the cast features Clea DuVall (Argo), as Lizzie’s stoic and loyal sister Emma, as well as Billy Campbell (The Killing), in a small role as the family’s attorney. But the movie really belongs to Ricci, whose seductive Lizzie takes some liberties with libertine behavior, giving retorts about being a Sunday-school teacher “only on Sundays,” with a devilish curl of her lip. After the murders, she often creeps up on her sister and the family maid, smiling with unblinking eyes. Though the jury of the day could not believe a woman to be such a “feral … insane fiend,” (to quote the prosecution), Ricci makes it easy to visualize the kind of nature that would have led Lizzie on such a spree.


As for the nurture, the portrayal of the Borden household as repressive and unhappy is brief though clear, with many salacious suggestions that there was abuse, and potentially incest, between father and daughter. But the bulk of the movie focuses on the aftermath of the murders, including Lizzie’s strange reaction and behavior, and the trial. While the courtroom scenes essentially rehash known facts — both from within the movie and for those generally familiar with the case — Nick Gomez’s (The Blacklist) direction keeps viewers engaged, and occasionally startled, with a number of stylish and gory flashbacks to the crime scene.


Lizzie Borden Took an Ax makes its position on her guilt very clear, and that alone makes it a distinctive offering in the canon of material on the subject. The movie is not interested in delving deep into Lizzie’s psyche, or creating a horror thriller, or even giving a full historical account about society, women, and the law. But the major and minor facts of the crime are all there, along with an inventive soundtrack that gives the sinister tale a strangely light tone.