HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: DORIAN GRAY

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CAST

Ben Barnes (Westworld)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Ben Chaplin (Cinderella)
Rachel Hurd-Wood (Solomon Kane)
Johnny Harris (Monsters: Dark Continent)
Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3)
Emilia Fox (The Pianist)
Fiona Shaw (The Black Dahlia)
Maryam d’Abo (The Living Daylights)
Caroline Goodall (the Princess Diaries)
Michael Culkin (Candyman)
Max Irons (Condor)

When a naïve young Dorian Gray arrives in late Victorian London, by train, to inherit an estate left to him by his abusive grandfather, he is swept into a social whirlwind by the charismatic Lord Henry Wotton, who introduces Gray to the hedonistic pleasures of the city. Lord Henry’s friend, society artist Basil Hallward, paints a portrait of Gray to capture the full power of his youthful beauty. When the portrait is unveiled, Gray makes a flippant pledge: he would give anything to stay as he is in the picture—even his soul.Gray meets and falls in love with budding young actress, Sibyl Vane. After a few weeks, he proposes marriage to her. Lord Henry tells Gray that having children is “the beginning of the end”, and after the two men visit a brothel, Gray leaves Sibyl. Heartbroken, the young woman drowns herself. Gray learns of her death the following day from her brother, James (“Jim”), who also reveals that Sybil was pregnant with Gray’s child. Enraged, Jim tries to kill Gray before being restrained and carried off by the authorities. Gray’s initial grief soon disappears as Lord Henry persuades him that all events are mere experiences and without consequence. His hedonistic lifestyle worsens, distancing him from a concerned Hallward.Gray returns home one evening to find that Hallward’s portrait of him has become warped and twisted, and he soon realises that his off-hand pledge has come true; while the portrait ages, its owner’s sins manifest as physical defects on the canvas. Before long, the curse imbued within Gray’s portrait begins in earnest, resulting in Hallward’s brutal murder after the artist reveals his secret. Gray dismembers and dumps Hallward’s body in the River Thames, although the remains are soon recovered and buried.Gray then leaves London to travel for many years, inviting Lord Henry to come with him although Lord Henry declines because of his wife’s pregnancy. Gray returns to London and during the welcome back party the guests are surprised to see that he has not aged at all during his 18-year absence. He becomes close to Lord Henry’s daughter, Emily, a member of the UK suffragette movement, despite Lord Henry’s distaste for such a relationship because of Gray’s lifestyle and unnatural appearance, Emily having provided Lord Henry with a greater moral focus and having changed him for the better. Although Gray appears genuinely interested in changing his ways as he spends time with Emily, matters are complicated when he is confronted by Jim, still seeking revenge for his sister’s death. Despite Gray’s attempts to pretend to be someone else by pointing out his apparent age, Jim nevertheless deduces Gray’s true identity, only to be killed by a train while pursuing Gray in the London Underground. As Gray makes arrangements to leave London with Emily, Lord Henry’s study of old photographs makes him remember the time when he teased Gray to deal with the devil for eternal youth and beauty at the cost of his soul.Breaking into Gray’s house as Gray and Emily are making plans to leave together, Lord Henry discovers the concealed portrait, but is interrupted by Gray before he can uncover it. Although Gray attempts to convince Lord Henry that he still cherishes his friendship and genuinely loves his daughter, Lord Henry discovers the stained scarf of Basil in a box, prompting Gray to declare angrily that he is what Lord Henry has made him, the personification of the life Lord Henry preached but never dared practise. Full of anger and grief, Gray attempts to strangle Lord Henry but is distracted by Emily’s call long enough for Lord Henry to knock him aside and expose the portrait.Disgusted and horrified at the twisted sight on the canvas, Lord Henry throws a lit lamp at the portrait, causing it to catch fire, and then locks the gate of the attic to ensure that Gray and the painting are destroyed. Emily pleads with her father for the key. After seeing her and realising that he really loves her, he turns his back. As Lord Henry drags his daughter out of the house, Gray’s last words are to assure Emily that she has his whole heart. Resolving to end it all, Gray stabs the painting with a poker, causing his body to age the years that it has never suffered, Gray charging at the portrait to impale it as his years catch up to him before the attic is consumed by an explosion.dorian-gray-pics-hd-ben-barnes-8952311-1200-8003A few months later, scarred from the explosion and after a futile attempt to reconcile with Emily over the phone, Lord Henry heads to his attic where he keeps the now-youthful portrait of Gray, grimly noting that nobody will look at it now. As Lord Henry leaves, the portrait’s eyes glow, suggesting that Gray’s soul may still be within the portrait even after his death.The story has seen many adaptations down the years, and i’m certain will see many more in the times to come, however, in my opinion this is far and away the best to date. This is an excellent film, it would be a crime in my view to miss it.

REVIEW: MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

CAST

Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Eileen Atkins (Paddington 2)
Marcia Gay Harden (Mona Lisa smile)
Hamish Linklater (Legion)
Simon McBurney (Allied)
Jacki Weaver (The Voices)
Erica Leerhsen (Wrong Turn 2)
Catherine McCormack (28 Weeks Later)

Colin Firth, Eileen Atkins, and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)In 1928, a globally famous illusionist, Wei Ling Soo, performs in front of a crowd in Berlin with his world-class magic act. As he walks off stage the film audience sees that he is actually a British man named Stanley (Colin Firth). He berates his employees and is generally curmudgeonly towards his well-wishers. In his dressing-room, he is greeted by old friend and fellow illusionist Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney). Howard enlists Stanley to go with him to the Côte d’Azur where a rich American family, the Catledges, has apparently been taken in by a clairvoyant and mystic, Sophie (Emma Stone). In fact, the son of the family, Brice (Hamish Linklater), is smitten with Sophie, and his sister Caroline (Erica Leerhsen) and brother-in-law George (Jeremy Shamos) are concerned Brice is considering proposing marriage. Howard says that he has been unable to uncover the secrets behind her tricks and he admits that the more he watched her the more he believed she really has supernatural powers. So he would like Stanley, who has debunked charlatan mystics in the past, to help him prove she is a fraud.Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Howard and Stanley travel to the French Riviera, but Stanley is soon astonished by Sophie’s ability to go into a fugue state and apparently pull out highly personal details about him and his family. Stanley witnesses a seance in which Sophie communicates with the deceased patriarch of the American family. A candle floats up from the table and Howard grabs it to try to discern what trickery is at play, but is astounded to find no apparent subterfuge. Stanley begins spending time with Sophie. He takes her to visit his aunt and they drive a convertible along the picturesque rocky corniches.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)When Stanley and Sophie visit his aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins), Sophie is seemingly able, after holding aunt Vanessa’s pearls, to somehow relate secret details of Vanessa’s one great love affair. This finally convinces Stanley of Sophie’s authenticity and he has an emotional epiphany, feeling that his lifelong rationalism and cynicism have been misguided. When caught in a rain storm, they end up at an observatory that Stanley had visited as a child. After the rain subsides, they open the roof up and view the stars.Colin Firth and Simon McBurney in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)At a Gatsby-esque party, Stanley and Sophie dance. As they walk together later that night, Sophie asks him if he has felt any feelings for her “as a woman”. Stanley, who has admired her talents as a mystic and is grateful to her for opening his eyes to a new worldview, is taken aback and admits that he has not thought of her that way. She leaves upset. The next day Stanley holds a press conference to tell the world that he, who spent his life debunking charlatan mystics, has finally come to find one who is the real deal. The reporters drill him with questions, but the grilling is interrupted when he receives news his aunt Vanessa has been in a car accident. Stanley rushes to the hospital, and in an emotional scene in a waiting room considers turning to prayer for solace. That is, if he now has come to believe in divination and mysticism, perhaps he should believe in God and prayer. He begins to pray for a miracle to save his aunt, but is unable to go through with it. The rationality that has been his whole life comes back and he rejects prayer, the supernatural and by extension, Sophie and her powers. He decides once more to prove she is a fraud.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Using a trick seen earlier in his stage act, Stanley appears to leave the room but stays to overhear Sophie and Howard discuss their collusion in what has been an elaborate ruse. He discovers that Sophie was able to know so much about him and his aunt because she and Howard collaborated to fool Stanley. Sophie was indeed a charlatan tricking the rich American family and was quickly discovered by Howard. Rather than unmask her and stop the ruse, he enlisted Sophie to help him one-up his best friend and rival, Stanley.Hamish Linklater and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Stanley is initially angry at Howard and Sophie but decides to forgive them. In a conversation with his aunt Vanessa, who has recovered from her car accident, Stanley admits and fully realizes that he is in love with Sophie. He finds her and asks her not to marry Brice, but marry him instead. Sophie is taken aback and finds his haughty, awkward proposal unsuitable. She tells him she still plans to marry the wealthy Brice. Returning dejected to his aunt Vanessa’s, Stanley further admits that he fell in love with Sophie at first sight, and, saddened, is then surprised when Sophie, who had arrived before him, knocks a spirit knock. He proposes, she accepts with a spirit knock, and they kiss as the film ends.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Not a classic Woody Allen but a very pleasant and lightly humorous film that older audiences in particular will enjoy.

REVIEW: THE KING’S SPEECH

CAST

Colin Firth (Love Actually)
Helena Bonham Carter (Alice In Wonderland)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Geoffrey Rush (Quills)
Jennifer Ehle (The Ides of March)
Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow)
Guy Pearce (Prometheus)
Claire Bloom (The Haunting)
Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd)
Robert Portal (The Iron Lady)
Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V, stammers through his speech closing the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium. The Duke has given up hope of a cure, but his wife Elizabeth persuades him to see Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist living in London. During their first session, Logue insists on being called Lionel by his patient and on breaching royal etiquette by calling the Prince “Bertie”, a name used only by his family. When the Duke decides Logue’s treatment is unsuitable, Logue bets him that he can recite Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy without trouble and distracts him by playing music through headphones while recording his performance on an acetate record. Prince Albert leaves in anger but Logue offers him the recording as a keepsake.

After King George V makes his 1934 Christmas radio address, he explains to his son the importance of broadcasting to a modern monarchy and demands that Albert train himself, starting with a reading of his father’s speech. His attempt to do so is a failure. Later, the Duke plays Logue’s recording and hears himself reciting unhesitatingly. He therefore returns to Logue, where he and his wife both insist that Logue focus only on physical exercises, not therapy. Logue teaches his patient muscle relaxation and breath control but continues to probe gently and persistently at the psychological roots of the stutter. Albert eventually reveals some of the pressures of his childhood and the two men start to become friends. With George V’s death in 1936, his eldest son David ascends the throne as King Edward VIII, but causes a constitutional crisis with his determination to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite divorcée who is still legally married to her second husband. It is pointed out that Edward, as head of the Church of England, cannot marry her, even if she receives her second divorce, because both her previous husbands are alive.
At his next session, Albert expresses his frustration that while his speech has improved when talking to most people, he still stammers when talking to his own brother and reveals the extent of Edward VIII’s folly with Simpson. When Logue insists that Albert could be a good king instead, the latter labels such a suggestion as treason and dismisses Logue. When King Edward decides to abdicate in order to marry Simpson, Albert reluctantly succeeds as King George VI. The new king and queen visit Logue to make up the quarrel, startling Mrs. Logue, who was unaware that the new King had been her husband’s patient.
During preparations for his coronation in Westminster Abbey, George learns that Logue has no formal qualifications. When confronted, Logue explains how he was asked to help shell-shocked Australian soldiers returning from The Great War. Since George remains unconvinced of his own fitness for the throne, Logue sits in King Edward’s Chair and dismisses the underlying Stone of Scone as a trifle. Goaded by Logue’s seeming disrespect, the King surprises himself with his own sudden burst of outraged eloquence and allows Logue to rehearse him for the ceremony.
Upon Britain’s declaration of war with Nazi Germany in 1939, King George summons Logue to Buckingham Palace to prepare for his upcoming radio address to Britain and the Empire. Knowing the challenge that lies before him, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain are present to offer support. George and Logue are then left in the broadcasting room. He delivers his speech with Logue conducting him, but by end is speaking freely. Preparing to leave the room for the congratulations of those present in the palace, Logue mentions to the King that he still had difficulty enunciating ‘w’ and the King jokes back, “I had to leave something in or no one would have believed it was me”.  After the King and his family step onto the balcony of the palace and are applauded by the crowd, a title card explains that Logue was always present at King George VI’s speeches during the war and that they remained friends for the rest of their lives.
I enjoyed watching this more than I thought I would. It’s respectful but truthful in its content and subject and gives an interesting insight into the miseries of stuttering. On the other hand the pace of the film was never impaired by what could have been unexciting content. It was lively and maintained interest throughout.