REVIEW: HOME BEFORE DARK – SEASON 1

Home Before Dark (2020)

Starring

Brooklynn Prince (The Turning)
Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas)
Abby Miller (Swelter)
Louis Herthum (Westworld)
Kiefer O’Reilly (All Yours)
Mila Morgan (The Baby-Sitters Club)
Michael Weston (Garden State)
Kylie Rogers (Collateral Beauty)
Aziza Scott (Like Blood)
Adrian Hough (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Joelle Carter (Justified)
Jibrail Nantambu (Halloween)

Jim Sturgess, Mila Morgan, Abby Miller, Kylie Rogers, and Brooklynn Prince in Home Before Dark (2020)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Deric McCabe (A Wrinkle In Time)
Whitney Peak (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Serge Houde (Smallville)

unnamedKids have been solving crimes in movies, books and TV shows for a long time, from Nancy Drew, Harriet The Spy and The Secret Seven to Lindsay Lohan vehicle Get A Clue. The major difference with Apple TV+’s 10-part new crime drama series Home Before Dark, is that our 9-year-old roving reporter, Hilde Lisko, who gets embroiled in solving a kidnapping and murder case, is based on an actual 9-year-old – Hilde Lysiak – who really did report on crime at such a young age. What results is a slightly uncomfortable genre mix of kid-centric wish fulfillment and crime drama about a child-killer, complete with the dark color palette of a grown up murder series. Jon M. Chu who made the excellent Crazy Rich Asians directs the opening episode setting the tone somewhere between Press Gang and All The President’s Men (which young Hilde is obsessed with), bizarre as that sounds.0b49a4d0-7313-11ea-8095-3bce93f200d7_800_420Brooklynn Prince plays Hilde Lisko the precocious young editor of her very own newspaper and website called The Magic Hour Chronicle. When the Lisko family – Hilde, sisters Izzy (Kylie Rogers) and Ginny (Mila Morgan), mom Bridget (Abby Miller) and dad Matt (Jim Sturgess) – have to relocate from Brooklyn after Matt loses his job, Hilde finds herself in the small town of Erie Falls, the place where Matt grew up and the scene of a 30-year-old case which saw Matt’s childhood best friend go missing, presumed dead. The elder brother of an old friend of Matt’s is in jail for the crime but it turns out Matt was one of the few witnesses for the defense, testifying that they’d got the wrong guy.EUnDy4TWoAckManThough Hilde is based on a real person, this isn’t a real case. The idea that police would really give files pertaining to a child’s disappearnce to a 9-year-old is (hopefully) unrealistic and while the real Hilde did report on a murder in her home town, with quotes and comment from neighbors and police, scooping other news outlets, she didn’t get involved in solving the case. Reality aside, this is a slightly odd, but still compelling series as it charts a wrongful conviction, police corruption and small town prejudices as well as family tensions and teen/pre-teen angst.downloadMatt is a former reporter who would sometimes take young Hilde with him to work, so when an old friend of Matt’s dies mysteriously Hilde is quick to report the death as a possible murder. After inspecting the crime scene, Hilde launches her own investigation into what might have happened and how it connects to the disappearance of Richie Fife three decades ago, with her new misfit friends Donny (Jibrail Nantambu) and Spoon (Deric McCabe). But the meddlings of a bunch of pre-teens aren’t entirely welcome in the town and Hilde is certainly not helping her big sister Izzy make friends. The man in jail for Richie’s murder just happens to be the brother of the woman who was killed and Hilde is starting to believe he’s innocent. Though Matt, Hilde and Bridget Lysiak are all consultants on the show some scenes are downright uncomfortable, particularly when Hilde decides to go on the run with a convicted felon. Subtext about the responsibility and importance of a free press feels slightly trite in Home After Dark – a shame since the real life Hilde did come up against negative commenters and was even threatened with arrest for her reporting.Hilde-and-her-Scooby-gang-min

Prince does an admirable job of embodying the young Hilde though she treads a very fine line between inspirational youngster and irritating know-it-all. The show does address this, with Hilde learning tough lessons early on about reporting without really knowing the full story. A subplot involving a former friend of Matt’s who is now an officer working under his well respected but dishonest police chief father brings an extra layer of nuance to a story with multiple moving parts. If the tone is sometimes a bit uneven and the threads difficult to juggle, the plot and performances manage to carry the show through its 10 episode run.downloadProduction company Anonymous Content bought the rights to Hilde and Matt’s book series Hilde Cracks The Case, an illustrated set of six stories with titles including Hero Dog!, Bear On The Loose! and UFO Spotted! It’s this duality of fun, kids-on-bikes adventure and gritty murder story that doesn’t always quite work in Home Before Dark – it’s not clear who this show is actually for. Nonetheless this is an entertaining and unusual series that has scope for more seasons to come.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: STONEHEARST ASYLUM

CAST

Kate Beckinsale (Underworld)
Jim Sturgess (21)
Michael Caine (The Dark Knight)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
David Thewlis (Wonder Woman)
Brendan Gleeson (Paddington 2)
Sinéad Cusack (Wrath of The Titans)
Sophie Kennedy Clark (The Danish Girl)
Christopher Fulford (Tower Block)
Jason Flemyng (From Hell)

Kate Beckinsale and Sophie Kennedy Clark in Eliza Graves (2014)In 1899, an Oxford University professor demonstrates a case of female hysteria, Lady (Eliza) Graves (Kate Beckinsale), before his class. The patient is drugged and protesting that she is sane, but the professor points out that all mental patients claim to be sane, much as all criminals claim to be innocent. He ignores her demands that he not touch her to induce a fit for the students to observe. The professor advises his students to believe nothing they hear and only half of what they see. Later, a young man, the newly-minted Dr. Edward Newgate, (Jim Sturgess), arrives at Stonehearst Asylum on Christmas Eve, where he desires to take up residency. A group of armed men led by Mickey Finn (David Thewlis) allow him entry. Finn escorts him to the office of the superintendent, Dr. Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley). Although Lamb was not expecting him, despite Newgate having sent letters preceding his arrival, he welcomes the help of an Oxford-educated doctor and grants him the residency.Eliza Graves (2014)Newgate is surprised by Lamb’s unorthodox methods and uncustomarily humane asylum. Lamb explains that he does not believe in drugging or incarcerating his patients, and he encourages their delusions when he feels it will bring them greater happiness, thus creating a kind and dignified environment at the asylum. Lady Graves, now a resident at Stonehearst, is introduced to Newgate, who appears immediately smitten. Lamb explains that Lady Graves has an abusive and painful past. She developed hysteria from enduring her husband’s “unnatural appetites” and can no longer bear emotional or physical contact without seizing in hysterical fits. She stabbed her husband in the right eye with a comb and bit off his left ear trying to protect herself, which led to her father committing her into the asylum to escape her marriage to her “monster” of a husband. Her husband has since been trying to free her back into his care. Dr. Lamb is currently prescribing musical therapy for her and refuses to declare her sane, for her own safety.Kate Beckinsale and Jim Sturgess in Eliza Graves (2014)Though she brushes aside Newgate’s attempts at flirtation, she is struck by his empathy and respectful demeanor. An elaborate Christmas feast follows, during which the staff and patients mingle and a small fight between Newgate and Finn occurs, cementing their dislike for one another. After the dinner, Lady Graves delivers ominous warnings to Newgate, and quietly insists that he flee the asylum, but Newgate refuses to leave without her. The reason for Lady Graves’s warning soon reveals itself. Newgate discovers dozens of prisoners being kept in basement cells. The prisoners reveal that they are the true staff of Stonehearst, and the doctors and nurses Newgate has met upstairs are actually patients.Michael Caine in Eliza Graves (2014)The real superintendent, Dr. Benjamin Salt (Michael Caine), explains that Lamb and Finn drugged their drinks and led a revolt. Dr. Salt and Mrs. Pike (Sinéad Cusack), the matron, warn Newgate that Lamb is a dangerous madman – a surgeon who murdered his patients during wartime. Isolated and with limited options of regaining control over the asylum even should they be freed, the staff must remain in their cells to await outside assistance. They request that Dr. Newgate locate the keys in Finn’s possession to release them, or else escape to London and seek help. Lamb begins his unorthodox training for Newgate’s residency through an enlightening, if hands-on, lesson in patient dignity. Newgate attempts to recruit Lady Graves to his cause of freeing the true staff, but she declines to become involved and tells him of Salt’s and his staff’s inhuman abuses. Newgate reveals the scars of his own abusive past and tells her he understands.Kate Beckinsale in Eliza Graves (2014)Newgate sneaks into Lamb’s office and successfully retrieves Salt’s notes, but not the keys. While hiding, he overhears Lamb and Finn discussing him. Finn is deeply suspicious of Newgate, but Lamb believes Newgate shows promise and could be a great asylum doctor one day. Both acknowledge the prisoners in the basement, and Lamb promises that the loose ends will be tied up by the New Year. Salt’s notes detail his barbaric medical treatments used against Lamb, who had been under his care for nine years without cracking before the uprising. Newgate is conflicted when, after two of the prisoners in the basement escape to seek help, both die under suspicious circumstances after being caught by Finn.Ben Kingsley and Jim Sturgess in Eliza Graves (2014)While the patients are happy and thriving, there are some definite failings to Lamb’s method of running the asylum. They are quickly running out of provisions and having difficulties keeping up with the every-day demands of the large institution, such as heating the building in winter. Some of the more violent patients, such as Finn, are also difficult to control, and he eventually murders a female patient. By New Year’s Eve, the patients are burning the furnishings for warmth and Lamb has destroyed Salt’s mind via cranial electroshock, turning him into a patient in his own institution. Newgate is convinced the situation must come to an end and that he and Lady Graves should escape.Ben Kingsley in Eliza Graves (2014)Newgate’s attempt to drug the patients and gain control of the asylum is thwarted and Lamb prepares Newgate for electric shock therapy to turn him into a mental patient to live among them. It is revealed that Newgate had come to the asylum specifically to rescue Lady Graves, whom he had seen at the Oxford medical demonstration and become fixated with. Before the treatment, Lamb grants Newgate a final request: to see a picture of Lady Graves that he keeps in his pocket. The true object in his pocket, a picture of one of the young soldiers Lamb shot (which Newgate discovered in the padded cell Salt kept Lamb in), causes Lamb to stagger out of the room in a fugue. Finn goes to pick up the electric prods to finish the job, but Newgate is rescued by Lady Graves who overcomes her hysterical fits to kill Finn via electrocution. A fire starts and spreads as Lady Graves rescues the staff from their cells and leads the patients out of the building.Kate Beckinsale in Eliza Graves (2014)Lamb has now become near-stuporous from the crushing flashbacks of his past actions when, under extreme pressure during his time as a field doctor, Lamb had snapped and executed his battlefield patients as a form of mercy killing before attempting to kill himself. After all are rescued, as daylight breaks, Newgate again asks Lady Graves to leave with him, but she says that she cannot be with him because he is sane and she is not. Newgate says that he is not sane, as he is madly in love with her, and he intimates that he has a secret to tell her. Later, Lady Graves’ husband and the earlier Oxford professor arrive at the asylum. The asylum has been restored to a gentler order under the kind hand of Mrs. Pike, who is now in charge and has incorporated many of Lamb’s methods of treatment.The professor demands Lady Graves’ release, but Mrs. Pike says that Dr. Newgate already released her weeks ago. The professor reveals that he is the true Dr. Newgate and the one they knew is an impostor. The Dr. Newgate they met was never a medical student, nor a doctor at all, but an escaped mental patient who had also been part of the exhibition. Dr. Lamb, playing chess with the reduced Dr. Salt, hears this and shows a spark of his previous self as he gleefully remarks “Checkmate.” Lady Graves and the impostor Newgate end the film at the Santa Cristina Asylum in Tuscany, Italy, where they are known as Dr. and Mrs. Lamb, treating mental patients with the original Lamb’s methods. The two dance happily and embrace in a beautiful garden.Kate Beckinsale and Jim Sturgess in Eliza Graves (2014)LIkely the film would not have worked so well under less competent actors hands, but Anderson was wise in casting David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Kingsley, Michael Cain, Sinéad Cusack, Jason Flemyng, as well as Kate Beckinsale and Jim Sturgess. It may at first seem like another Brad Anderson thriller, but there are some twist and turns that alter the story into a truly psychological examination of just what is insanity.

REVIEW: THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL

CAST

Natalie Portman (Thor)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Eric Bana (Hanna)
Jim Sturgess (Across The Universe)
Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission Impossible)
David Morrissey (Basic Instinct 2)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Juno Temple (Horns)
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones)

King Henry VIII’s (Eric Bana) marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) does not produce a male heir to the throne; their only surviving daughter is Mary (Constance Stride). Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) and his brother in law Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance), plan to install Boleyn’s older daughter Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman), as the king’s mistress. They hope Anne will bear him a son. Anne’s mother, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas), is disgusted by the plot. Anne eventually agrees to please her father and uncle. Anne’s younger sister, Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson), marries William Carey (Benedict Cumberbatch), even though his family had asked for Anne’s hand.

While visiting the Boleyn estate, Henry is injured in a hunting accident, indirectly caused by Anne, and, urged by her scheming uncle, is nursed by Mary. While in her care, Henry becomes smitten with her and invites her to court. Mary and her husband reluctantly agree, aware that the king has invited her because he desires her. Mary and Anne become ladies-in-waiting to Queen Catherine and Henry sends William Carey abroad on an assignment. Separated from her husband, Mary finds herself falling in love with Henry. Anne secretly marries the nobleman Henry Percy (Oliver Coleman), although he is betrothed to Lady Mary Talbot. Anne confides in her brother George Boleyn (Jim Sturgess), who is overjoyed and proceeds to tell Mary. Fearing Anne will ruin the Boleyn family by marrying such a prominent earl without the king’s consent, Mary alerts her father and uncle. They confront Anne, annul the marriage, and exile her to France.

Mary becomes pregnant. Her family receives new grants and estates, their debts are paid, and Henry arranges George’s marriage to Jane Parker. When Mary nearly suffers a miscarriage, she is confined to bed until her child is born. Norfolk recalls Anne to England to keep Henry’s attention from wandering to another rival. In her belief that Mary exiled her to increase her own status, Anne successfully campaigns to win Henry over. When Mary gives birth to a son, Henry Carey, Thomas and Norfolk are overjoyed, but the celebration is short lived, as Anne whispered to Henry that the baby was born a bastard, which infuriates Norfolk. Henry then has Mary sent to the country at Anne’s request. Shortly after, Mary is widowed. Anne encourages Henry to break from the Catholic Church when the Pope refuses to annul his marriage to Queen Catherine. Henry succumbs to Anne’s demands, declares himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, and gets Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to annul the marriage.

Anne’s schemes drive Henry to the breaking point, and in a fit of rage, he rapes her. A pregnant Anne marries Henry to please her family and becomes Queen of England. Despite the birth of a healthy daughter, Elizabeth, Henry blames Anne for not producing a son, and begins courting Jane Seymour (Corinne Galloway) in secret. After Anne suffers the miscarriage of a son, she begs George to have sex with her to replace the child she lost, because if anyone found out about the miscarriage, she would be burned as a witch. George at first agrees, realizing that it is Anne’s only hope, but they do not go through with it. However, George’s neglected wife Jane witnesses enough of their encounter to become suspicious. She reports what she has seen and both Anne and George are arrested. The two are found guilty and sentenced to death for treason, adultery and incest. Distraught by the news of the execution of George, his mother disowns her husband and brother, vowing never to forgive them for what their greed has done to her children.

After Mary learns that she was late for George’s execution, she returns to court to plead for Anne’s life. Believing that Henry will spare her sister, she leaves to see Anne right before the scheduled execution. Anne asks Mary to take care of her daughter Elizabeth if anything should happen to her. Mary watches from the crowd as Anne makes her final speech, waiting for the execution to be cancelled as Henry promised. A letter from Henry is given to Mary, warning her not to come to his court further, and implicitly revealing his decision to execute Anne after all. Ten days after Anne’s execution, Henry and Jane are married, Norfolk is imprisoned, and the next three generations of his family are executed for treason. Mary marries William Stafford (Eddie Redmayne) and they have two children, Anne and Edward. Mary takes an active role in raising Anne’s daughter Elizabeth (Maisie Smith), who grows up to become Queen of England, and reigns for 44 years.

An interesting take on the story of the Boleyn sisters (who did both have a relationship with Henry), and if it encourages more people to find out about the real historical events then in my opinion that can only be a good thing. Henry’s relationship with Anne changed England through his break with the catholic church, and is both fascinating and tragic.

REVIEW: ONE DAY

CAST

Anne Hathaway (Interstellar)
Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas)
Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow)
Jodie Whittaker (Venus)
Rafe Spall (Prometheus)
Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island)
Ken Stott (The Hobbit)
Georgia King (The Duchess)
Romala Garai (Atonement)
Toby Regbo (Reign)
Emilia Jones (Utopia)
David Ajala (Supergirl)
Matthew Beard (An Education)

c7963f31-6097-4352-84d0-700075f1a65b-TheSimpsons_3101_BobbyItsColdOutside_ScCG02AvidColorCorrectedThe film opens with a short scene from the “current” day in 2006, which appears later on, before going back 18 years. Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) and Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) meet on 14 July 1988 after their graduation from the University of Edinburgh. They spend the night together but agree to be just friends, and plan to spend the following day together, the 15th, St. Swithun’s day. The film chronologically reconnects Dexter, Emma or both of them on that one day over the next 18 years after they go their separate ways. lupat45-(1010)One year later in 1989, Dexter helps Emma move into a flat in London where she plans to pursue a career as a writer. However, after little success, she ends up working as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant by 1990, and meets Ian (Rafe Spall), an aspiring comedian who is hired soon after. Dexter is travelling the world while drinking and having sex promiscuously with a succession of girlfriends, but they keep in contact via phonecalls and letters. He then visits Emma on 15 July 1991 and, to get her out of her rut, suggests they go away for the weekend. They flirt back and forth and it’s made clear that Emma may have deeper feelings for him, but since she knows that Dexter is not boyfriend material, nothing comes of it and two more years fly by. Dexter is now a wealthy and successful television presenter on a raucous late-night television show, where he meets Suki (Georgia King), who later becomes his new girlfriend.
lupat45-(1003)Dexter visits his parents on 15 July 1994 after his mother (Patricia Clarkson) has been diagnosed with cancer and is terminally ill. He arrives at the family home still under the influence of drugs and alcohol from heavy partying the night before, which his father (Ken Stott) notices and is furious about, telling Dexter he will ban him from visiting again if he keeps it up. Also, his mother appears very unimpressed with the nature of his television show and reveals that she no longer believes he is a nice man. On the same day, Emma goes out on a date with Ian. Although there appears to be no romantic spark between them, she knows he means well and so they continue to date anyway.
OR309b_0210bBy 1995, Emma is now a school teacher and has moved in with Ian. However, she grows more and more irritated with him because of his lack of ambition and failure to contribute to maintaining their household. Dexter is the presenter of another television show, which isn’t doing so well, making him “the most annoying man on telly”. On 15 July 1996, he and Emma meet for dinner. He turns up high on cocaine, leaves the table every thirty minutes, flirts with another woman down the hall, and insults Emma. She storms off and, out in the street, decides that they must break off their friendship due to them outgrowing each other. She tells him that although she loves him, she no longer likes him anymore.
simpsons-logo-1Two years later, Dexter’s television career has gone into a steep decline because he is 32 years old and television executives prefer presenters in their early 20s. Meanwhile, Emma and Ian have split up and she becomes a published author of children’s books. By 1999, Dexter is in a long-term relationship with Sylvie (Romola Garai). On 15 July 2000, Emma’s former university roommate and Dexter’s old best friend get married, and both Emma and Dexter are invited to the wedding. There, Dexter receives a job offer from Calum, his old roommate who has since become a multimillionaire from owning a chain of organic food restaurants. Dexter and Emma leave the party to talk on the rooftop, where he tells her about Sylvie, who is now his fiancée, and is on his way to becoming a father. Emma tries to hide the fact that she is upset and they share a very brief but meaningful kiss.
lupat45-(1005)
By 2001, Dexter is a father but later learns that Sylvie is having an affair with Calum and they divorce. Two years pass and Emma has moved to Paris, where Dexter visits her on 15 July in the hope that they will get together again, this time for good. It is revealed that they had a one-night stand after his marriage to Sylvie broke down. However, Emma reveals that she has a new boyfriend (Sébastien Dupuis), a French musician who plays piano in a jazz band. Smitten with Emma but taken aback by the revelation that she has moved on, Dexter decides to leave. Suddenly, she has second thoughts and chases after him, exclaiming that she thought she had gotten rid of him. He promises to never hurt, lie to or cheat on her, and they share a passionate kiss and finally start a full relationship together.
lupat45-(1012)Emma and Dexter become engaged in 2004 and eventually marry. Parlaying his restaurant experience into a new career, Dexter opens his own cafe in England, which proves to be very lucrative, and he and Emma start trying to have their own baby. However, they are unsuccessful and become frustrated with one another. On 15 July 2006 (the scene from the very beginning of the movie), Emma is hit by a truck while riding her bicycle out of a blind alley, and she dies. Dexter becomes inconsolable and self-destructive, and is particularly desolate each year on their day. Over the years, he gets support from his ex-wife, their daughter Jasmine, his widowed father, and even Ian, who also mourns Emma every year. Ian has since married and had children, but he visits Dexter and tells him that Emma was never the same with him as she was with Dexter, that she “lit up” whenever Dexter was around, and that “she made you decent and you made her so happy”.
lupat45-(1012)On 15 July 2011, Dexter visits Arthur’s Seat in Scotland with Jasmine. The movie flashbacks to 1988 when they met and reveals they spent their day together at the same place. At the top, Dexter and Emma promise to always be best friends.MV5BMTM1MDg1MTc4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzA3NjA3NQ@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_The juxtaposition of the present with the past near the end of this film makes the events even more potent than they would have been. Audience members who do not fall into the “half-wit” category can follow the story.