HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: DRACULA UNTOLD

CAST

Luke Evans (The Hobbit)
Dominc Cooper (Agent Carter)
Sarah Gadon (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Art Parkinson (Game of Thrones)
Charles Dance (Last Action Hero)
Paul Kaye (Pan)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)

In the Middle Ages, Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans) is the Prince of Wallachia and Transylvania. As a child, he was a princely hostage of the Ottoman Empire and was trained to be a soldier in the Sultan’s elite Janissary corps, where he became their most feared warrior. He was called Vlad the Impaler after slaughtering thousands by impaling them on spears. Eventually sickened by his acts, he put aside his past and returned to rule his domains in peace. One day in the forest, Vlad and his soldiers discover a helmet in a stream. Fearing that an Ottoman scouting party is preparing the way for invasion, they follow the stream to a high mountain cave called Broken Tooth Mountain. Upon entering the cave, they discover the ground of the cave is carpeted in crushed bone; and they are attacked in the dark by an unknown creature (Charles Dance) with shining red eyes, as well as inhuman speed and strength. While his men are killed, Vlad cuts the creature of the cave with his sword before being thrown to the ground. The blood on the sword he used to cut the creature dissolves when exposed to sunlight, and the creature does not pursue Vlad into the sunlight at the mouth of the cave. Returning to his castle, Vlad learns from a local monk that the creature is a vampire, who was once a man who summoned a demon from the depths of hell and made a pact with it for dark powers before being tricked by the demon and cursed to remain in the cave forever until he is released by someone who drinks his blood, then drinks the blood of a human. The person is welcome to share his power in exchange for the freedom to escape the cave.

The next day, as Vlad celebrates an Easter feast with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon), his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), and his subjects, an Ottoman contingent arrives unexpectedly at the castle. Vlad offers them the usual tribute payment of silver coins, but the emissary notes that a battalion of Ottoman scouts has gone missing, implying that Vlad has had them killed. Vlad professes that he had not killed them. The emissary demands an additional tribute of 1,000 boys to be trained as Janissaries, through the devşirme system. Vlad refuses, but his army is small and no match for the Turks. Mirena believes that, because of Vlad and Mehmed’s (Dominic Cooper) history together as children, being close like brothers, if he were to ask, Mehmed would show him mercy. He approaches Mehmed II and asks him not to take the country’s boys. When that fails, he offers himself in place of the boys; but the Sultan refuses and demands Vlad’s son in addition. The Sultan sends the emissary to bring Vlad’s son. Vlad has an argument with his wife, as he is sending his son to meet the emissary and Ottoman soldiers. Vlad tells his wife to trust him before leaving his wife and son and going to meet the emissary and the soldiers alone. He is unarmed; but his son, afraid for him, runs to him, takes his hand, and tells his father that he is ready to join the Sultan’s army. As Vlad approaches the Turks, the emissary, smiling, tells Vlad that he thought there would be some kind of difficulty. Vlad tells his son to run back to his mother, then takes the emissary’s sword and kills him and his small entourage of soldiers.

Knowing his actions will lead to war, Vlad returns to the Broken Tooth Mountain cave to seek help from the vampire. Once he is inside, the vampire asks Vlad why he returned. Vlad replies, saying he needs the power of the vampire so that he can defeat the Ottoman army. The vampire tells him there are consequences and offers him some of his blood, which will temporarily give Vlad the powers of a vampire. If he resists the intense urge to drink human blood for three days, he will turn back into a human. Otherwise, he will remain a vampire forever and will one day be called upon to help his maker. Vlad accepts the offer and drinks the vampire’s blood, going through a painful and deathlike experience as he transforms.

Waking up in the forest afterwards, Vlad discovers he has been granted heightened senses, inhuman strength and speed, and the ability to transform into a flock of bats; but his skin slowly burns in direct sunlight. When he returns to Castle Dracula, the Ottoman army attacks, but Vlad single-handedly kills them all. He then sends most of the castle’s subjects to Cozia Monastery, which is situated on the edge of a mountain, as a better base for safety. During the journey, Mirena learns of Vlad’s curse as she sees Vlad holding silver to keep himself weak when near his people to avoid revealing his condition to them or attack them for blood. After Vlad promises he will resist human blood, she accepts that he will regain his mortality once the Ottomans are defeated. A Romani named Shkelgim, who knows Vlad is a vampire, proclaims himself as his servant and offers his own blood; but Vlad resists. As they near the monastery, the Valahs are ambushed by Ottoman soldiers; and, while Vlad and his men successfully repel them, Vlad’s sudden increased strength arouses suspicion among his subjects. The next day at the monastery, a monk learns of the curse and leads the Prince’s subjects to turn on Vlad, trapping him in a burning building in the sunlight. Black smoke blocks out the sun, allowing an outraged Vlad to escape the fire, and he angrily reveals that he became a vampire for the sole purpose of protecting his people from the Ottoman suzerainty. Before he acts out against them, Mirena stops him and calms him down.

That night, the Ottoman army marches on the monastery. Vlad commands an enormous swarm of bats to repel them; however, the soldiers are actually a decoy force, allowing a handful of Turks to infiltrate the monastery, kill many of the inhabitants and kidnap Ingeras. Mirena tries to defend her son, and falls from the edge of the monastery wall. Dying, Mirena pleads with Vlad to drink her blood before the sun rises to give him the strength to save their son. Vlad reluctantly drinks her blood, triggering his final transformation into a full-blooded vampire and granting him even greater powers. Vlad returns to the monastery and turns a small group of survivors and mortally wounded into vampires as well. At the Ottoman army’s camp, Mehmed prepares for a massive invasion of Europe. Vlad and his vampires arrive and easily massacre the terrified Ottoman soldiers, while Vlad himself goes after Mehmed, who is holding Ingeras captive. Aware that vampires are weakened by silver, Mehmed has lined the floor of his tent with silver coins, reducing Vlad’s strength and speed, and impairing his vision, and fights Vlad with a silver sword. He overpowers Vlad and prepares to impale his heart with a wooden stake, but Vlad turns into a flock of bats and evades him. Taking the name “Dracula, Son of the Devil,” he kills Mehmed with the stake and drinks his blood, fully succumbed to the savagery of his vampiric condition.

As they leave Mehmed’s tent, Dracula and Ingeras are confronted by the other vampires, who demand that his son be killed because he is human. The monk who had previously led the Valahs against Vlad appears and keeps the vampires at bay with a Christian cross. When one of the vampires attempts to kill Ingeras, Dracula impales him with a spear as a warning to the others not to harm his son. Dracula orders the monk to take Ingeras away, then uses his power to clear the black clouds in the sky. The sunlight burns the vampires into dust, while Dracula collapses into a charred corpse. With Vlad presumed dead and Europe saved from the Ottoman invasion, Ingeras is crowned the new Prince of Wallachia. However, Shkelgim secretly takes Dracula into a nearby tent and revives him with his blood.

In the present day, Vlad meets a woman named Mina, who strikingly resembles Mirena, in the streets of a modern city (London), and they have a conversation about a line of poetry they have in common. The vampire who cursed Vlad, now healed, in a more human form, and still alive, watches them from afar and follows them, and anticipates what he has planned for Dracula in the future, saying, “Let the games begin.”

It’s a film with some great effects, has a charismatic lead with Luke Evans and when added to a great performance by Dominic Cooper as the Sultan Mehmed all round gave a film that was quite enjoyable.

 

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER

ABRAHAM LINCOLN 1

CAST

Benjamin Walker (The War Boys)
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Civil War)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Swiss Army Man)
Rufus Sewell (Hercules)
Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy)
Jimmi Simpson (Westworld)
Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones)
Alan Tudyk (Powerless)

In 1818, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) lives in Indiana with his parents, Nancy (Robin McLeavy) and Thomas (Joseph Mawle), who works at a plantation owned by Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). There, Lincoln rushes to the aid of his friend, a young African American boy, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie), being beaten by a slaver. Because of his son’s actions, Thomas is fired. That night, Lincoln sees Barts break into his house and attack Nancy. She falls ill the following day, and dies shortly afterwards. Thomas tells Lincoln that Barts poisoned Nancy.
Nine years later in 1827, a vengeful Lincoln tries to kill Barts at the docks, but Barts, who is actually a vampire, overpowers him. However, before Barts can kill him, Lincoln is rescued by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper). Sturgess explains that vampires exist, and offers to teach Lincoln to be a vampire hunter. Lincoln accepts and, after a decade of training, travels to Springfield, Illinois. During his training, Sturgess tells Lincoln that the vampires in America descend from Adam (Rufus Sewell), a vampire who owns a plantation in New Orleans with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson). Sturgess also tells Lincoln of the vampires’ weakness, silver, and presents him with a silver pocket watch.
In Springfield, Lincoln befriends shopkeeper Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), and meets Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Though Sturgess warned him not to form any close relationships, Lincoln develops romantic feelings for Mary. Lincoln successfully finds and defeats Barts. Before dying, Barts reveals that Sturgess is also a vampire. Lincoln confronts Sturgess, who reveals that, several years ago, he was attacked and bitten by Adam. Because Sturgess’ soul was impure, he became a vampire, and that prevented him from harming Adam or any other vampire (since “Only the living can kill the dead”). Sturgess has since been training vampire hunters, hoping to destroy Adam.
Disappointed, Lincoln decides to abandon his mission. However, Adam learns of his activities and kidnaps Johnson to lure Lincoln into a trap at his plantation. Adam captures Lincoln and tries to recruit him, revealing his plans to turn the United States into a nation of the undead. Speed rescues his friends, and they escape to Ohio. Lincoln marries Mary and begins his political career, campaigning to abolish slavery. It is at this time in the movie Lincoln symbolically puts on the top hat which he dons the rest of the movie. Sturgess warns Lincoln that the slave trade keeps vampires under control, as vampires use slaves for food, and if Lincoln interferes, the vampires will retaliate. After Lincoln’s election as President of the United States of America, he moves to the White House with Mary, where they have a son, William Wallace Lincoln (Cameron M. Brown). William is later bitten by Vadoma and dies.Confederate President Jefferson Davis (John Rothman) convinces Adam to deploy his vampires on the front lines. Lincoln orders the confiscation of all the silverware in the area and has it melted to produce silver weapons. Speed, believing that Lincoln is tearing the nation apart, defects and informs Adam that Lincoln will transport the silver by train. On the train, Adam and Vadoma, who have set fire to the upcoming trestle, attack Lincoln, Sturgess, and Johnson. During the fight, in which Speed is killed, Adam learns that the train holds only rocks. Lincoln reveals that Speed’s betrayal was a ruse to lure Adam into a trap. Lincoln uses his watch to stab Adam, killing him, and the three escape the train before it explodes. Meanwhile, Mary and the ex-slaves have transported the silver to Gettysburg through the Underground Railroad.The now leaderless Confederate vampires stage a final, massive assault and are met head on by the Union. Armed with their silver weapons, the Union soldiers destroy the vampires and eventually win the battle. During that battle, Mary confronts Vadoma, the vampire that killed her son, and kills her. Nearly two years later, on April 14, 1865, Sturgess tells Lincoln that the remaining vampires have fled the country. Sturgess tries to convince Lincoln to allow him to turn Lincoln into a vampire, so that he can become immortal and continue to fight vampires, but Lincoln declines. In modern times, Sturgess approaches a man at a bar in Washington, D.C. as he once approached Lincoln.This is a surprising, clever story that includes just enough historical facts to make it almost plausible. A lot of blood, but still recommended.

REVIEW: MARVEL ONE-SHOT: AGENT CARTER

Agent Carter One-Shot poster.jpg

 

CAST

Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
Bradley Whitford (The Cabin In The Woods)
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)

Hayley Atwell in Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (2013)One year after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Peggy Carter is now a member of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, and faces sexism from her boss, Agent John Flynn, who treats her condescendingly, and keeps her compiling data and code breaking while assigning field cases to the male agents only. The S.S.R.’s main concern is the mysterious Zodiac, which they have been unable to recover for some time.One night alone in the office while the men are out together, the case line rings, informing Carter of the location of the Zodiac. Though three to five agents are recommended, Carter decides to go to the location herself. Fighting off multiple guards, Carter is able to retrieve the Zodiac, a mysterious serum, herself. The next day, Flynn reprimands her for not going through the proper procedures to complete the mission, and dismisses the indignant Carter as just an “old flame” of Captain America’s who was given her current job out of pity for her bereavement. However, before he can officially punish her, the case line rings again, this time with Howard Stark on the other end, who informs Flynn that Carter will co-head the newly created S.H.I.E.L.D.Hayley Atwell in Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (2013)In a mid-credits scene, Dum Dum Dugan is seen poolside with Stark, marveling at two women wearing the newly created bikinis.Hayley Atwell in Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (2013)Hayley Atwell is never bad, and we must remember this short led top the awesome Agent Carter TV Show. She continues to prove what a Icon she is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Dominic Cooper (Dracula untold)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Derek Luke (Glory Road)
Kenneth Choi (The Terminal)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
David Bradley (The Young Messiah)
Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who)
Amanda Righetti (Friday The 13th)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Simon Kunz (City of Ember)
Anatole Taubman (Taken)
Laura Haddock (Guardians of The Galaxy)

MV5BMTMxNDU2NDYxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzc4MjIwNQ@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,756_AL_In the present day, scientists in the Arctic uncover an old, frozen aircraft. In March 1942, Nazi officer Johann Schmidt and his men steal a mysterious relic called the Tesseract, which possesses untold powers, from the town of Tønsberg in German-occupied Norway.41aaA5+UHWLIn New York City, Steve Rogers is rejected for World War II military recruitment because of various health and physical problems. While attending an exhibition of future technologies with his friend, Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes, Rogers again attempts to enlist. Overhearing Rogers’ conversation with Barnes about wanting to help in the war, Dr. Abraham Erskine allows Rogers to enlist. He is recruited into the Strategic Scientific Reserve as part of a “super-soldier” experiment under Erskine, Col. Chester Phillips, and British agent Peggy Carter. Phillips is unconvinced by Erskine’s claims that Rogers is the right person for the procedure but relents after seeing Rogers commit an act of self-sacrificing bravery. The night before the treatment, Erskine reveals to Rogers that Schmidt underwent an imperfect version of the procedure and suffered permanent side-effects.
MV5BMTQ2ODc0MjI2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg3NTAyNw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,748_AL_Schmidt and Dr. Arnim Zola harness the energies of the Tesseract, intending to use the power to fuel Zola’s inventions, mounting an offensive that will change the world. Schmidt discovers Erskine’s location and dispatches assassin Heinz Kruger to kill him. Erskine subjects Rogers to the super-soldier treatment, injecting him with a special serum and dosing him with “vita-rays”. After Rogers emerges from the experiment taller and more muscular, an undercover Kruger kills Erskine and flees. Rogers pursues and captures Kruger, but the assassin avoids interrogation by committing suicide with a cyanide capsule. With Erskine dead and his super-soldier formula lost, U.S. Senator Brandt has Rogers tour the nation in a colorful costume as “Captain America” to promote war bonds while scientists study him and attempt to rediscover the formula. In 1943, while on tour in Italy performing for active servicemen, Rogers learns that Barnes’ unit was MIA in a battle against Schmidt’s forces. Refusing to believe that Barnes is dead, Rogers has Carter and engineer Howard Stark fly him behind enemy lines to mount a solo rescue attempt. Rogers infiltrates the fortress of Schmidt’s Nazi division Hydra, freeing Barnes and the other prisoners. Rogers confronts Schmidt, who removes a mask to reveal a red, skull-like visage that earned him the sobriquet “the Red Skull”. Schmidt escapes and Rogers returns to base with the freed soldiers.
MV5BMTY4MzgzMjEwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTgwODYzMw@@._V1.._SX1777_CR0,0,1777,755_AL_Rogers recruits Barnes, Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, Jim Morita, James Montgomery Falsworth, and Jacques Dernier to attack other known Hydra bases. Stark outfits Rogers with advanced equipment, most notably a circular shield made of vibranium, a rare, nearly indestructible metal. Rogers and his team sabotage various Hydra operations. The team later assaults a train carrying Zola. Rogers and Jones succeed in capturing Zola, but Barnes falls from the train to his assumed death.[c] Using information extracted from Zola, the final Hydra stronghold is located, and Rogers leads an attack to stop Schmidt from using weapons of mass destruction on major cities around the world. Rogers climbs aboard Schmidt’s aircraft as it takes off, and during the subsequent fight the Tesseract’s container is damaged. Schmidt physically handles the Tesseract, causing him to dissolve in a bright light. The Tesseract burns through the plane and is lost in the ocean. Seeing no way to land the plane without the risk of detonating its weapons, Rogers crashes it in the Arctic. Stark later recovers the Tesseract from the ocean floor but is unable to locate Rogers or the aircraft, presuming him dead.
MV5BMTUzODkyNDE2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzEzNTIzMw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Rogers awakens in a 1940s-style hospital room. Deducing from an anachronistic radio broadcast that something is wrong, he flees outside and finds himself in present-day Times Square, where S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury informs him that he has been “asleep” for nearly 70 years. In a post-credits scene, Fury approaches Rogers and proposes a mission with worldwide ramifications.MV5BMTUwMjc2MTgzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjg0ODI4NA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1355,1000_AL_Overall, I enjoyed the immersion into the era that Captain America: The First Avenger takes you back into. The performances are capable and Johnston’s vision is convincing, and it makes for entertaining viewing.

REVIEW: STARTER FOR 10

Starring

James McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Rebecca Hall (THe Awakening)
Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter)
James Corden (One Chance)
Simon Woods (Pride & Prejudice)
Catherine Tate (Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods)
Elaine Tan (Apartment 406)
Charles Dance (Game of Thrones)
Lindsay Duncan (Alice in Wonderland)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Mark Gatiss (Sherlock)

James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Elaine Tan in Starter for 10 (2006)In 1985, Brian Jackson is a first-year university student and information sponge. Since his working-class childhood in Southend-on-Sea, Brian has loved the TV quiz show University Challenge, whose famous catchphrase—”Your starter for 10″—gives the film its title. Soon after arriving at Bristol University, Brian attends a party where he meets the left-wing politically conscious Rebecca, with whom he seems to have an instant connection. Brian attempts to join their University Challenge team but narrowly fails to secure a spot when he helps another potential candidate, Alice, cheat on the qualifying test. Brian falls for the glamorous Alice and tries to date her, despite her multiple signals that she only sees him as a platonic friend.James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Elaine Tan, and Alice Eve in Starter for 10 (2006)As the term starts, Brian is invited to join the University Challenge team after one of the other members falls ill. The captain of the team, Patrick Watts, is a stuck-up post-grad who has managed to remain team captain despite never having achieved success on University Challenge. Brian immediately impresses the rest of the team with his wealth of trivia knowledge and uses his time with the team to get closer to Alice, eventually getting invited to her house for the Christmas holiday. Unfortunately, Brian embarrasses himself in front of her family by getting stoned while trying to impress Alice. He returns to Bristol to spend the rest of the vacation and meets Rebecca again. They once more hit it off, but as they are hooking up, he inadvertently calls her “Alice”, offending her and ruining the moment. Following his romantic failures, he talks with Spencer, his friend from Southend, who tells him that he is in legal trouble on account of his criminal activities. Brian invites him to a party before he has to face the judge.Mark Gatiss, James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Elaine Tan, and Alice Eve in Starter for 10 (2006)During the party, Patrick insults Spencer’s upbringing and belittles him in front of the rest of the partygoers. In retaliation, Spencer hits Patrick in the face and disrupts the event. In the aftermath, Brian shares a drink with Rebecca and tries to apologise for his behaviour. However, Rebecca still feels that Brian is in love with Alice and encourages him to follow his heart and tell her how he feels. He takes her advice and arrives at Alice’s flat to declare his love, but discovers Spencer already there. Excited by his violent behaviour at the party, she had invited him back to her place. Brian feels betrayed by both Alice and Spencer, especially since he had told his friend how he had felt about her. Brian falls into a depression and struggles with not only concentrating during University Challenge practices, but also with his studies, threatening his university place. Patrick becomes increasingly frustrated with Brian, and just as they arrive for their University Challenge match, berates him for his lack of focus. Brian headbutts Patrick in response, but only ends up knocking himself unconscious.He is revived backstage by Rebecca who has come to watch the show and gives him encouragement before he is escorted to the set. However, as he is being brought back to his team, Brian is briefly left with an open envelope containing the quiz questions. He reads one of the cards before putting it back in the envelope, and, inspired by the relative ease of the question, rejoins his team. The match starts off poorly, with nerves clearly getting to Patrick as he fails to answer several questions and puts the team in a hole. Brian slowly but surely digs them out of it, getting into his swing as he answers question after question. As the match is heating up and Brian’s team has the momentum, Brian inadvertently gives the answer to the card that he had previously seen even before quizmaster Bamber Gascoigne has even begun to read the question (he has merely introduced it as “an astronomy question”). Realising that Brian has seen the cards, Gascoigne suspends the match and Brian’s team is disqualified.Brian returns home and falls back into another depression, sleeping all day and ignoring incoming calls. His mother tries to get him out of the house, but the only person who is finally able to reach him is Spencer. He tells Brian that Gascoigne had gone easy on him, and that he is sorry for his behaviour and proud of Brian for chasing his dreams at University. Inspired by his friend, Brian returns to his studies and meets with his tutor, promising him that he is back for good. He then stands Alice up to visit Rebecca at a demonstration against nuclear weapons. He asks her if she could ever forgive him for all the mistakes he has made, and if they can start again. She replies that he already knows the answer, and they kiss as the film ends.

starter-for-ten-lead

Overall, impressive for its evocation of a lost age – before brands and spending took over the world – and it is guaranteed to make you grin – especially if you were there – and to sing – along. The theme of University Challenge alone will reduce a whole generation to wobbly nostalgic has beens. Excellent stuff, and one to be simply enjoyed.

REVIEW: THE LADY IN THE VAN

Starring

Maggie Smith (Harry Potter)
Alex Jennings (Belle)
Roger Allam (The Book Thief)
Deborah Findlay (Maigret)
Jim Broadbent (Paddington)
Claire Foy (The Crown)
Cecilia Noble a(Rate me)
Gwen Taylor (Heartbeat)
Frances de la Tour (Alice Through The Looking GLass)
Nicholas Burns (Benidorm)
Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter)
James Corden (One Chance)
David Calder (Rush)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Samuel Barnett (The History Boys)
Sacha Dhawan (Iron Fist)

Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings in The Lady in the Van (2015)The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett’s strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, a crabby, eccentric and insanitary homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home “for three months”. She stayed there for 15 years. As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a gifted former pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot. She had played Chopin in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for whose death she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings in The Lady in the Van (2015)Much of the dialogue is between two versions of Bennet – his “real self” and his “writer self”.Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van (2015)During her 15-year stay in his drive, Bennett balances his writing career with watching over Shepherd and providing for his increasingly invalid mother. Though he denies “caring” for anyone, he slowly becomes aware of his growing friendship with Shepherd. After coming home early from a day centre he sent her to, she dies peacefully in her sleep in her van. Alan decides to write a memoir covering the years he’s known her. In 2014, the real Bennett is shown observing this film’s final scene being filmed: his younger selves unveiling a plaque on his home dedicated to “The Lady in the Van”.Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van (2015)It’s not the biggest dramedy out there and not even the funniest, but The Lady in the Van is bound to please just about anyone. And like the titular character, it’s a film hard to love, but once you do, it’s equally hard to resist.

 

REVIEW: FROM HELL

CAST

Johnny Depp (Blow)
Heather Graham (The Hangover)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter)
Ian Richardson (Highlander: The Series)
Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class)
Sophia Myles (Underworld)
Ian McNeice (Dune – The Mini Series)
Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter)

In 1888, Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her small group of London prostitutes trudge through unrelenting daily misery. When their friend Ann Crook (Joanna Page) is kidnapped, they are drawn into a conspiracy with links higher up than they could possibly imagine. The kidnapping is soon followed by the gruesome murder of another woman, Martha Tabram (Samantha Spiro); and it becomes apparent that they are being hunted down, one by one as various prostitutes are murdered and mutilated post-mortem.
The murder of Martha and her companions grabs the attention of Whitechapel Police Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp), a brilliant, yet troubled, man whose police work is often aided by his psychic “visions.” His colleague, Sergeant Peter Godley, tries to grasp his friend’s wild theories. Abberline’s investigations reveal that the murders, while gruesome, imply that an educated person is responsible due to the precise and almost surgical method used. Ann is found a few days later in a workhouse having been lobotomized after officials and doctors supposedly found her to be insane.
It is implied this was done to silence her. Abberline consults Sir William Gull (Ian Holm), a physician to the Royal Family, drawing on his experience and knowledge of medicine. During this meeting it is revealed Abberline is struggling with opium addiction. Gulls findings, coupled with his superiors impeding his investigations, point Abberline to a darker and more organized conspiracy than he originally thought. Abberline becomes deeply involved with the case, which takes on personal meaning to him when he and Mary begin to fall in love.
Abberline deduces that Freemason influence is definitely present in these crimes. His superior, a high ranking Freemason himself, then makes direct intervention and suspends Abberline. It is then revealed that Gull is the killer. He has been killing the witnesses to painter Albert Sickert (Mark Dexter)’s forbidden Catholic marriage to Crook, who bore his legitimate daughter Alice. Sickert is actually Prince Albert, grandson of reigning Queen Victoria (Liz Moscrop), and therefore Alice is heiress to the British throne. Gull tells Abberline that “mankind will remember him for giving birth to the 20th century.” Abberline draws his gun, but before he is able to shoot Gull, he is knocked out by one of Gull’s henchmen.
Gull tries to have Abberline eliminated without leaving any witnesses, but Abberline fights back and kills two of the assassins by overturning a carriage. Gull himself is a Freemason and his increasingly sinister behavior lends an insight into his murderous, but calculated, mind. Rather than publicly charge Gull, the Freemasons decide to lobotomize him to protect themselves and the Royal Family from the scandal. Gull defiantly states he has no equal among men, remaining unrepentant up to his lobotomy, resulting in him becoming invalid just as Ann had been.
Abberline tries to save Mary, but arrives too late, and blames his superior for not helping him or Godley on the cases. Abberline does nothing but watch Mary’s mutilated body being taken away. Abberline receives a mysterious letter, which he soon realizes is from Mary, but he decides not to look for her as a way to offer her protection, as the Freemasons may be watching his every move. Abberline decides to burn the letter, knowing that he can never have a normal life. Mary Kelly does not die; Gull earlier mistook Ada, whom Liz said was from France (but is from Brussels in Belgium), for Mary and he kills her instead. Mary lives with Alice in a cottage on a cliff by the sea. Abberline is found dead of an opium overdose, knowing he can never see Mary again without endangering her. Sergeant Godley comes to pay his respects for the Inspector.The film is well made and the atmosphere is excellently built up throughout the film. It is one of those films where you notice something different almost every time you watch it and it takes a couple of watches to appreciate the story fully