25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: DICKINSON – There’s a Certain Slant of Light

Dickinson (2019)

Starring

Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee)
Toby Huss (Halloween 2018)
Jane Krakowski (Pixels)
Adrian Enscoe (Seeds)
Anna Baryshnikov (Manchester By The Sea)
Ella Hunt (Anna and The Apocalypse)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Stars

Zosia Mamet (The Flight Attendant)
Gus Birney (Darcy)
Gus Halper (Cold Pursuit)
Jessica Hecht (Dan In Real Life)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Matt Lauria (Kingdom)

 

There’s a Certain Slant of Light

2Christmas at the Dickinson household is — as I believe the kids still say — lit. We have: sexual escapades at the dinner table! Drunk Jane Krakowski singing Christmas carols! A cool aunt who got “widow’s euphoria” and took her husband’s death as an opportunity to clean up on a cruise to Spain with ham-eating gentlemen! Zosia Mamet as Louisa May Alcott! Hair so tightly curled you could tug it at the bottom and it would BOING back into place! Everybody binge-reading Bleak House like it’s the streaming sensation of the day! It is the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately for Papa Dickinson, he has to miss all of these festivities because he has to go to Washington and insist upon the rule of law, decency, and the ongoing tolerance of slavery. He and Em have not made up. When he finds her inside refusing to bid him farewell at the curb, she threatens to be gone when he gets back. In a tender, patronizing voice, he replies, “Where would you go?”3Their relationship is one of the most intriguing of the show. His love for her is inextricable from his total control over her life. Every freedom she enjoys that most women of her station do not — to read and write (in private), to defy the pressures to get married and have children — are indulgences he is granting her and, at any moment, could rescind, and the only things he really lets her do are the things that align with his own interests. It’s his fear of having to live without her, not his respect for her desire for a life free from the drudgery of housewifery, that drives him to let her stay single forever. And he gets to let her have her “independence” because he knows there’s no real independence without financial independence, which she doesn’t have and never will. But also, he does love her and probably is a little bit in awe of her and her talents — so much so that he is terrified at the idea of the world finding out what a wonder she is.
4Mama Dickinson is so distraught at her husband’s departure that she takes herself to bed. But Christmas will go on, and Ben MUST stay, and Em, who has previously feigned an allergy to the fabric that makes aprons, will oversee the goose roasting and other such things. This allows her to flirt with Ben in the kitchen and cosplay as a housewife for a hot second because she is feeling, in her bones, the need to get out of her father’s house. Of course her only way out of one man’s house is into another’s, but at least Ben sees her as a peer and doesn’t hit her in the face when he’s feeling emasculated. Slim pickings in the mid-1800s!5Aunt Lavinia, Vinnie’s namesake, is here to talk about how invigorating it is to be around handsome ham-eating men in Europe. The Humphreys brought their friend from Concord: Louisa May Alcott, who just made $35 for her first book and will not not talk about the money, because that’s the whole reason she’s in this business. God bless her. On a pre-dinner run (“I love to run, that’s like an actual fact about me”), Ms. Alcott gives Em some no-bullshit talk about the publishing industry and working as a professional writer. This brings us the absolutely perfect line, “Hawthorne can eat a dick, am I right?” Yes, you ARE right! This will be my go-to response if and when it comes up that I never got around to reading The Scarlet Letter even though it was assigned to me twice. I should’ve been allowed to read The Handmaid’s Tale instead! The syllabus was totally sexist.
6So, Louisa tells Em to not be so precious and to write what sells. Sponcon is fine. Don’t worry about the disapproval of your family who may never speak to you again. “So what? You’ll be out there making a living on your own.” Her number-one piece of advice: Never get married. “In the time it takes you to raise one baby, you can write four or five novels and you can sell those novels.” (Em points out that she is a poet, not a novelist. LMA’s reply: Ah, that’s another problem.) Mama Dickinson rallies in time for dinner. She is sloshed. Christmas! Joseph is here and Vinnie, encouraged by her namesake’s declaration that “if you want something in life you have to reach out and GRAB IT,” takes Joe’s hand and pulls it up her skirt so she can have some hilariously timed orgasms at the dinner table. Louisa comes up with the idea for Little Women and considers, but drops, Moby Dick: “Like a dude chasing a whale? Nah, that’s fucking boring.” THAT IS TRUE. That is another book I did not finish. See above, re: sexist syllabus. Why didn’t I have to read any books by women in my senior year of high school? That’s RUDE is what it is.8Jane casually drops that she’s engaged to William Wilkinson, which makes Mama Dickinson lament that her daughter Em is “being left behind.” “Of course,” she drunkenly slurs on, “Getting married is no guarantee that you won’t be lonely.” Yikes, but also, show me the lie. As Mama Dickinson leads a round of carols, Sue, who is so jealous, tells Em to stop “throwing herself” at a married man. Em has not yet told Sue that this wife does not exist but I hope she does soon, because Sue is really bringing me down. Em puts her mother to bed, who in turn tells her daughter that it’s actually fine if she doesn’t get married because she can just stay here and take care of her parents forever! Em’s face pales. Back in her room, she and Sue are sharing a bed again. (Guess Austin got over that whole thing?) She puts it together that Ben isn’t really married, thank goodness, and she also is honest about her envy and how selfish it was of her to expect Em to just hang around and be available to her “like a pet.” I am impressed by this level of introspection. Em describes how she feels with Ben, how fully understood she feels by him, and Sue’s jealousy returns — since, you know, Austin barely understands her at all.8Happy Christmas morning! Vinnie tears into all the gifts before anyone else comes downstairs. There’s just one thing for Em that she left untouched: Plans for a conservatory, a gift from their dad. Supposedly this is so Em can “have roses all the time” but she sees it for what it really is: a bright and flower-filled prison, built and owned by her father, from which she will never escape. Sue’s Christmas gift to Austin is a very real hug and a loaded question: Can they be really honest with each other? She admits that she is afraid of having children because her mother died in childbirth. Austin says they don’t have to have kids, which is pretty progressive for a man of his day, but then they immediately have unprotected sex right there in the living room, so, we’ll see how that shakes out. Ben wakes up with this gross cough. Em walks him home and kisses him anyway because she doesn’t know about germ theory. (It wouldn’t be proven by Louis Pasteur for about 30 more years, which is bad news for everybody in range of that extremely contagious-sounding throat situation.) While this is all very sweet — Ben says he doesn’t want to get her sick, and Em says, “I’ve never felt better in my life” .8A great Christmas episode for this quirky comedy/drama show, and its defiantly worth a watch over the Christmas season.

 

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

Starring

Ella Hunt (Robot Overlords)
Malcolm Cumming (Long Lost)
Sarah Swire (God Help The Girl)
Christopher Leveaux (Forgotten Man)
Marli Siu (Run)
Ben Wiggins (Pennyworth)
Mark Benton (The Second Coming)
Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones)

Anna-and-the-ApocalypseArriving just in time for Xmas the special edition Blu-ray of Anna and the Apocalypse is the perfect horror holiday movie offering up a seasonal display of drama, songs, and zombie slaying.annaIt’s the countdown to Christmas in the sleepy Scottish hamlet where very little happens and Anna (Ella Hunt from Cold Feet and Dickinson) is desperate to escape. Planning to fly as far away from her home town as possible as soon as school is done Anna goes through the motions placating her best friend and star of the upcoming school show Lisa (Marli Siu) while avoiding the attentions of  Nick (Ben Wiggins seen in Pennyworth and The Witcher). Her dotting dad Tony (Mark Benton) and love sick best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) who is far too timed to tell Anna his true feelings, would do anything to make her stay however even they might balk at bringing forth a full scale zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened and now the teens must fight for their lives all the while singing their hearts out while others get theirs ripped out all around them.Anna-And-The-Apocalypse-Clip-Zombie-JanitorMade by an assembled cast and crew of newcomers including the director John McPhail and writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, whose short Zombie Musical helped inspire this movie, Anna and the Apocalypse opens like any other high school musical with troubled teens, terrorising teachers and parents who just don’t understand.anna-and-the-apocalypse-release-date-700x300Thankfully 30 minutes in things take a terrific and terrifying turn in the spectacular sequence where Anna leaves her house singing “Turning My Life Around” while all around chaos reigns and zombies tear her neighbourhood apart. From this point things are far more interesting as Anna and John team up with Lisa’s filmmaking boyfriend Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and American exchange student Steph (Sarah Swire) whose girlfriend and parents have abandoned her in another country. Determined to make it back to the school where their parents, loved ones and in Steph’s case, car are they leave the unsafety of the Bowling Alley and battle through town coming across flesh eating oldies, infested Christmas Tree forest and an undead Santa who is determined to get them in his sack and stomach.AATA_DAY2_GJ_0033-edit-1Although few and far between horror musicals always work well from Little Shop of Horrors to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and various all singing adaptations of films like Evil Dead and Re-Animator. Anna and the Apocalypse is no exception in fact it is the highly original songs penned by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly that elevate this film over its so-so effects and stereotypical set-up. Packed with dual meanings from the melancholy ode to our over technologically dependent age “Human Voice” to the cynical “Hollywood Ending” detailing the young folks disillusion there are also more fun ditties including the swear word ridden “Soldier At War” sung by Nick and his crew all about killing zombies and “It’s That Time Of Year” sung by Lisa, a tune filled with so many double entendre’s it makes Santa Baby sound as clean as a carol.anna-and-the-apocalypse-600x338All of these musical numbers are performed with aplomb by the cast who are excellent although special mention goes to Sarah Swire as Steph, Mark Benton as Anna’s widower dad and best of all the always brilliant Paul Kaye who plays Mr Savage the villainous power hungry headmaster who revels in the terrible new world order and gets to sing about it as well in his anthemic “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now”.MV5BODMyNzQ0MTQ4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzc3MjcyNjM@__V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_On Blu-ray for the first time in the UK this 2 disc set includes a stocking full of extras with the theatrical and an extended cut of the film alongside audio commentary with director John McPhail, writer Alan McDonald, composers Roddy Hart, interviews with the main actors, and crew, behind-the-scenes featurette, an alternate opening and ending and much, much more. Far darker than you might expect and all the better for it, Anna and the Apocalypse is still a proper crowd pleasing horror musical comedy that will appeal to multiple audiences especially the younger crowd who will instantly identify with the characters dealing with growing up in the worst possible way. A perfect gift for horror fans this is a movie that brings the true spirit of Christmas to the fore all while adding undead guts and gore. Wow that sounds like a song lyric

REVIEW: DICKINSON – SEASON 1

Hailee Steinfeld in Dickinson (2019)

Starring

Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee)
Toby Huss (Halloween 2018)
Jane Krakowski (Pixels)
Adrian Enscoe (Seeds)
Anna Baryshnikov (Manchester By The Sea)
Ella Hunt (Anna and The Apocalypse)

Recurring / Notable Guest Stars

Darlene Hunt (The Big C)
Matt Lauria (Shaft)
Wiz Khalifa (Gangs of Roses 2)
John Mulaney (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
Sophie Zucker (Late Night)
Samuel Farnsworth (Signing Time!)
Amanda Warren (The Purge TV)
Gus Halper (Cold Pursuit)
Robert Picardo (The Orville)
Jason Mantzoukas (The Good Place)

Hailee Steinfeld in Dickinson (2019)This is such bullshit. That’s how 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld) feels – as Apple TV+ series Dickinson would have it – about being asked to fetch water at four in the morning. Never mind that the expletive wasn’t invented until nearly a century later. And never mind that “pretty psyched”, “nailed it” and “yo” weren’t exactly kicking around then, either. Dickinson is a peculiar, messy, anachronistic delight.Hailee Steinfeld in Dickinson (2019)Some reviews have taken issue with Alena Smith’s comedy series, one of the first batch of original shows from the newly launched Apple TV+, for its strangely contemporary language. But it makes a kind of sense, given that its hero was out of step with the order of the day. The real-life Massachusetts poet had her ambitions scuppered by a father (played here by Toby Huss) who did “not approve of a woman seeking to build herself a literary reputation”. In that respect, Steinfeld is perfectly cast. She has a face – and a set of elastic expressions – that feels both well-suited to a period piece (as first displayed in her Oscar-nominated role in True Grit in 2010), and resolutely out of place in it. Just as Emily Dickinson was. Steinfeld crackles with charm and impropriety.dickinson-hailee-steinfeld-orchard-600x311When we meet Emily, her mother (30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski, sweetly cruel as ever) is unsuccessfully attempting to marry her off to any man available. Emily is is as uninterested as her mother is desperate, partly because she wants to become a great writer, and “a husband would put a stop to that”, and partly because she’s in love with her best friend Sue (Ella Hunt), who is engaged to her brother Austin (Adrian Enscoe) but who steals clandestine kisses with Emily in the rain.s-l300That part actually is historically accurate. Or at least, based in truth – the real-life Dickinson would write long, unmistakably romantic love letters to Susan: “Susie, will you indeed come home next Saturday, and be my own again, and kiss me as you used to?” The solemn, elegant 2016 film A Quiet Passion, in which Cynthia Nixon played a far more timid version of Dickinson than Steinfeld portrays, omitted this relationship. Another recent adaptation (Dickinson’s having a comeback, it seems), 2018’s Wild Nights With Emily, made it its focus. It’s to Dickinson’s credit that it neither shies away from, nor ogles at, the affair between the two.1_o4tiFPgmX8XOsD7Wk_pliwBut there is another great love in Emily’s life – death. This is where things gets really weird. Making very literal the immortalised line, “Because I could not stop for death/ He kindly stopped for me”, Emily is visited at night, to the strains of Billie Eilish’s “Bury A Friend” no less, by a carriage containing the human embodiment of death. And who better to play the part than a gold-toothed, top-hatted Wiz Khalifa? Surprisingly, the rapper and Steinfeld shares a wry, roiling chemistry. “You’ll be the only Dickinson they’ll talk about in 200 years,” he tells her. I don’t think they’ll be talking about this Dickinson in 200 years. But it’s very fun nonetheless.

 

REVIEW: LES MISERABLES

CAST

Hugh Jackman (Logan)
Russell Crowe (Man of Steel)
Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Helena Bonham Carter (Dark Shadows)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Grimsby)
Amanda Seyfried (Gone)
Samantha Barks (Dracula Untold)
Aaron Tveit (Premium rush)
Colm Wilkinson (The Tudors)
Josef Altin (Game of Thrones)
Charlotte Hope (The Nun)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Hannah Waddingham (Game of Thrones)
Andy Beckwith (Queens)
Ella Hunt (Anna and The Apocalypse)

 

Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables (2012)In 1815, French prisoner Jean Valjean is released on parole from the Bagne of Toulon after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread and trying to escape multiple times. On the outside, Valjean’s paroled status prevents him from getting work. He is offered shelter by the kindly Bishop of Digne, but Valjean steals his silverware. Captured by police and taken to the Bishop, Valjean is shocked when the Bishop says that he gave him the silver, telling him to use it to do something worthwhile with his life. Valjean breaks his parole to start a new life.Cavin Cornwall and Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables (2012)Eight years later, Valjean is factory owner and mayor of Montreuil, Pas-de-Calais. He is shocked when a Toulon prison guard Javert arrives as his new chief of police. Javert suspects Valjean’s identity when he rescues an injured worker trapped under a heavy cart. One of Valjean’s workers, Fantine, is dismissed by the factory foreman upon learning she is sending her earnings to her illegitimate daughter Cosette, who lives with the greedy innkeepers, the Thénardiers. To support her daughter, Fantine becomes a prostitute but is arrested by Javert when she attacks an abusive customer. Valjean, learning who she is, rescues her and takes her to the hospital.Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables (2012)Valjean learns a man has been wrongly identified as him, and reveals his true identity to a court before returning to the dying Fantine, promising to care for Cosette. Javert arrives but Valjean escapes, finding Cosette and pays Fantine’s debts to the Thénardiers. Valjean and Cosette flee Javert, hiding in a convent, aided by the worker Valjean rescued before. Nine years later, Valjean has become a philanthropist and helps the poor in Paris. General Lamarque, the only government official sympathetic to the poor, dies, and a group of revolutionists called the Friends of the ABC plot to rebel against the monarchy. Marius Pontmercy, a member of the Friends, encounters Cosette and they fall in love, asking Éponine, the Thénardiers’ daughter to help find her.Helena Bonham Carter in Les Misérables (2012)After Marius and Cosette meet and confess their love, Éponine prevents her father from robbing Valjean’s house. Valjean, believing Javert is near, makes plans to flee to England with Cosette. Cosette writes a letter for Marius, but Éponine hides it, intending on dying with Marius during the rebellion. During Lamarque’s funeral procession, the revolt begins and barricades are built across Paris. Javert pretends to be an ally to spy on the rebels but the street urchin Gavroche exposes him as a policeman. During the first skirmish against the soldiers, Éponine takes a bullet for Marius and dies in his arms, giving him Cosette’s letter and confesses to him beforehand. Gavroche takes Marius’ reply to Valjean, who joins the revolution to guard Marius.Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables (2012)Valjean offers to execute Javert but actually releases him, faking his death. By dawn, the soldiers are close to ending the revolution, storming the students’ barricade and execute everyone save Marius and Valjean, who escape into the sewers. Thénardier comes across Valjean and the unconscious Marius, stealing the latter’s ring, before pointing a way out. Valjean finds Javert waiting for him, ignoring his nemesis’ threats. Javert, morally confused by the mercy of Valjean, commits suicide by throwing himself in the Seine. Marius recovers but is traumatised by the death of his friends.Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne in Les Misérables (2012)Marius and Cosette plan to marry but Valjean, concerned his presence would threaten their happiness, makes plans to leave and reveals his identity to Marius, who promises to remain silent. Cosette and Marius marry but the Thénardiers crash the wedding to try and blackmail Marius, Thénardier saying he witnessed Valjean carrying a murdered corpse and produces the stolen ring. Marius assaults Thénardier who reveals Valjean is at the convent. The dying Valjean reunites with Cosette and Marius, giving them letters of confession, before peacefully dying, guided away by Fantine and the Bishop’s spirits.Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables (2012)This is a movie that both fans of the novel as well as fans of the musical can both fall in love with, since even though there are some deviations from the novel this is still the closest a film version has ever come to being completely faithful to the book. Additionally, this movie is a perfect chance for those who have never read the book or haven’t heard of or had a chance to see the Broadway show. I wholeheartedly recommend this film to everyone.

REVIEW: ROBOT OVERLORDS

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CAST

Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Gillian Anderson (Iron Man 3)
Callan McAuliffe (I Am Number Four)
Ella Hunt (Intruders)
Geraldine James (Alice In Wonderland)
Tamer Hassan (Wrong Turn 3)
Steven Mackintosh (Underworld: Evolution)

Not long after the invasion and occupation of Earth by a race of powerful robots wanting human knowledge and ingenuity, humans are confined to their homes. Leaving without permission would be to risk their lives. Monitored by the electronic implants in their necks, the robot sentries are able to track the movements of humans in order to control them. If any person comes out of their home, they are given warnings by the robot sentries to get inside their home. If the person does not comply, they are shot immediately.In what starts out as a bit of fun, a bunch of clever kids in a British town (assumed to be Scotland, but actually filmed in Northern Ireland and Isle of Man) manage to tamper with the implants in their necks and stay out after their curfew. Having discovered the capabilities of the electronic implants, they quickly realise how important this information could be to save the imprisoned human race.Led by the talented Sean (Callan McAuliffe), who discovers he has the mental ability to interface with and control the robots, the kids band together and recruit other people who want to stand up against the robots’ rule. Standing in their way are human collaborators, led by Smythe (Ben Kingsley, using a northern English accent), and the kids must summon all their emotional and physical strength in order to battle against their control. After a run-in with the collaborators, clues eventually lead them to a hideaway community in an abandoned mine where Sean is reunited with his father, but the robots soon descend on the community seeking Sean, offering an amnesty in exchange for him. Sean mentally controls a robot craft that rams and destroys the cube, the local robot mothership, halting this invasion. He narrowly escapes the impact. He interfaces with a damaged Mediator, a robot in human form, and mentally sends commands to end the invasion of the Earth, destroying the robots and their craft. The film ends with jubilation as the local population celebrate in town. In the closing scene, Sean looks up at the stars.MV5BMzI2NDNkODYtZjZmOC00MmVlLTllMDctY2U5YTcxN2JhZDFiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTM5NjkxMzM@._V1_For me, “Robot Overlords” has all the elements of a modern sci-fi cult classic! I certainly hope it gets the attention and the recognition it deserves.