25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: FRED CLAUS

 

CAST

Vince Vaughn (Delivery Man)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential)
Kathy Bates (Bad Santa 2)
John Michael Higgins (Couples Retreat)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Ludacris (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Stephen Baldwin (8 Seconds)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Burn Gorman (Game of Thrones)

A baby is born, and within a few minutes of his birth, he starts saying: “Ho, ho, ho!”. Mother Claus calls her son, Frederick, over to meet his new brother, whom she has decided to name Nicholas. Mother Claus lovingly refers to the new baby as her little Saint Nick. During Christmas, when Nick opens his gifts including Fred’s, he decides to give them away to orphans which makes Fred angry. Mother Claus advises Fred to be a better person by stating he should be more like his brother; this in turn causes Fred to resent Nick. Feeling isolated, Fred often climbs a tree to confide his problems in a bird. On one occasion, Nick cuts down the tree, saying that now Fred can bring it inside since he liked it so much. However, the birdhouse Fred’s confidant lived in is smashed, causing the bird to leave; this causes a permanent rift between Fred and Nick.In the present day, it is revealed that when Nick becomes a saint due to all his good deeds, he, Fred, and Mother and Father Claus become frozen in time, never to age. Nick has become the modern-day Santa Claus, giving gifts to people and Fred works as a repossession agent in Chicago to take them away. His girlfriend, Wanda, gets mad at him for forgetting that her birthday was the next day. Wanda refers to a previous birthday where Fred promised to take her to France. When Fred gets back to his own apartment, he watches TV when a young orphan boy named Samuel “Slam” Gibbons comes in. Slam talks about wanting a puppy named Macaroni for Christmas. Fred is attacked by countless men dressed up as Santa and after he gets arrested, he calls his brother for $5,000 bail money. He also asks for an additional $50,000 for a get rich quick scheme. Nick agrees to give him the bail money, but tells him that if he wants the $50,000, he has to come to the North Pole and work for it.Soon after, an elf named Willie shows up to take Fred to the North Pole. He is the head elf and has a crush on Santa’s Little Helper, Charlene. Once Fred and Willie arrive at the North Pole, Nick welcomes Fred and shows him around the North Pole. There is a snow globe in the main area of the workshop, where you can say any person’s name and see if they are being naughty or nice. While Fred starts working, Nick introduces Clyde Northcut, an efficiency expert who has come to evaluate the North Pole. Clyde takes Nick to the workshop and on the way tells Nick that he has three strikes. If Nick gets three strikes, the workshop will be shut down for good. Meanwhile, the workshop is in a state of chaos because of Fred, and Clyde says that Nick’s inability to control his work staff is strike one. That night at dinnertime, Nick convinces Fred to come to dinner with Mother and Father Claus and Clyde. Sitting down at the dinner table, Mother Claus continues to praise Nick, while Fred storms out and heads to Frosty’s Tavern, an elf bar, where he meets Willie, who discusses his lack of self-confidence regarding Charlene. Fred teaches Willie to dance, and Willie then falls down in front of Charlene, embarrassing himself. A pep talk by Fred later lifts his spirits.Meanwhile, Clyde deliberately sabotages the mail sorting department by shredding countless children’s letters, which later gives Nick a second strike. Believing that Fred is putting Nick under stress, a family meeting is called (which Fred was tied up and taken to) with Wanda present, and Fred leaves by saying that therapy is for families who want to be together, and their family does not have that problem. When Slam is placed at the top of the most naughty list, Fred understands that Slam has just had it hard and is not naughty. He then stamps every kids’ description as nice.Furious at what Fred has done wrong, Nick ends up fighting with him, in which Nick injures his back. Angry with Nick, Fred leaves the North Pole with his $50,000, but Nick gives Fred a present to take with him. Fred waits until he returns home to open the gift, which is a birdhouse, a replacement for the one on the tree, and a note from Nick which says, “I’m sorry for cutting down your tree. Love, Nick.” Fred is confused and enters a Siblings Anonymous meeting. At the end, Bill Clinton’s younger half-brother, Roger Clinton Jr, makes a speech about his brother’s success. Back at the North Pole, it looks like Christmas is lost. Nick is in bed and cannot make his Christmas Eve journey of delivering presents.Willie reminds Fred that, according to a long-standing rule, only a member of the Claus family can deliver the presents and Fred qualifies. Fred begins delivering presents to children around the world and Willie joins him to assist with the flying of the sleigh and the navigation. Meanwhile, Clyde sabotages their efforts at midnight by shutting off the power, which was the only way for the North Pole to communicate to Fred and Willie, helping them navigate. While Fred and Willie attempt to finish delivering the gifts for the children, Nick talks to Clyde by realizing that when he was a boy, Clyde did not get what he wanted from Nick because he would act up due to bullying, which resulted in him growing up to be the man he is. Nick realizes, thanks to Fred, that his definition of naughty was flawed. Nick makes peace with him by giving Clyde the Superman cape he wanted as a kid but never got.Fred stops by the foster home to visit Slam and bring him the puppy (Macaroni) he wanted. Fred faces away from Slam to hide his identity and explains to Slam that he should become a better person. As the rest of the elves anxiously wait in the tavern, Willie marches in and, with newfound confidence, he walks up to Charlene, grabs a chair to stand on, and kisses her. After Fred announces that Christmas has been saved, everyone gathers around the giant snow globe to watch the children of the world open their presents. Nick tells Fred that he is the best big brother anybody could ever ask for, and they finally make amends.Fred returns to Wanda’s house and she is initially upset to see him and tells him to leave. He refuses and states that he is moving in with her. He gives her a present. Wanda opens it to find a teddy bear holding a French flag. That night, Fred takes Wanda to France in Santa’s sleigh, and they circle around the Eiffel Tower (“It’s a company car. It’s one of the perks.” says Fred). The two continue dating, and Charlene and Willie are now happy together. By next Christmas, Slam is adopted, but Fred never stops watching out for him – even becoming the coach of his Little League Baseball team. As for Clyde, Nick hires him as an efficiency consultant and he teaches the elves how to use a spreadsheet. Nick and Mrs. Claus, as well as Nick and Fred’s parents visit Fred’s and Wanda’s house for Christmas. It is evident that Fred and his mom have grown closer. Fred has also become a true Claus; while Nick has lost a bit of weight, Fred has gained some. The movie ends by showing the bird house hung up outside Fred’s window, and a bird, who looks like the one Fred befriended, perched on it.I do not recall the last time I have seen such entertaining Christmas movie. “Fred Claus” is funny and has many hilarious moments. The message that there is no naughty child and consequently every child deserves a Christmas gift is great. The cast leaded by Vince Vaughn is fantastic and I really loved this movie. A great film for the Christmas holidays.

REVIEW: SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

CAST

Johnny Depp (From Hell)
Christina Ricci (Monster)
Miranda Richardson (The Hours)
Michael Gambon (Harry Potter)
Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
Richard Griffiths (Venus)
Ian McDiarmid (Star wars)
Michael Gough (Batman)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Lisa Marie (Ed Wood)
Christopher Lee (The Hobbit)
Peter Guinness (Alien 3)
Martin Landau (9)

In 1799, New York City police constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is facing imprisonment for going against traditional methods and favoring forensic investigation techniques, such as autopsies, considered unorthodox and unimportant at the time. Ichabod submits to deployment with his bag of tools to the Westchester County hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, New York, which has been plagued by a series of brutal slayings in which the victims have been found decapitated: Peter Van Garrett (Martin Landau), a wealthy farmer and landowner; his son Dirk; and the widow Emily Winship. Arriving in Sleepy Hollow, Crane is informed by the town’s elders that the killer is not of flesh and blood, but rather an undead headless Hessian mercenary from the American Revolutionary War who rides at night on a massive black steed in search of his missing head.

Crane begins his investigation, remaining highly skeptical about the supernatural elements in the case until he actually encounters the Headless Horseman himself, who kills the town magistrate, Samuel Phillipse (Richard Griffiths), on sight. Boarding in a room at the home of the town’s richest family and the Van Garretts’ next of kin, the Van Tassels, Crane develops an attraction to their daughter Katrina (Christina Ricci), while he is plagued by nightmares of his mother’s horrific torture when he was a child. This attraction is deeply resented by Brom van Brunt (Casper Van Dien), a suitor to Katrina, who scares Crane in a prank by posing as the Headless Horseman. Riding into the Western Woods with the orphaned Young Masbath, son of the Horseman’s fifth victim Johnathan Masbath(before Magistrate Phillipse), Crane and Young Masbath come across the cave dwelling of a reclusive sorceress. She reveals the location of the gnarled Tree of the Dead, which marks the Horseman’s grave, as well as his portal into the natural world from the supernatural.
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Crane discovers that the ground is freshly disturbed and, digging through, discovers the Horseman’s skeleton and that the skull is missing. He realizes that whoever dug up and stole the skull is the person controlling the Horseman. Just then, the Horseman’s ghost bursts out of the tree and gallops towards Sleepy Hollow. Crane attempts to follow but winds up lost. The Killian family are taken by the Horseman and Brom is killed — cut in half — when trying to stop the Horseman.

Crane starts to believe that a conspiracy links all the deaths together, so he goes to the town notary James Hardenbrook (Michael Gough) to look into Van Garrett’s Last Will. Hardenbrook confesses Van Garrett had made a new will just before he died, leaving all his possessions to his new bride, Emily Winship, who Crane had learned from the late Magistrate Phillipse was pregnant at the time of her death (and thought that initially the father of the child might have killed Emily to keep the secret hidden). Crane deduces that all who knew about the new will were the victims of Horseman and that Katrina’s father Baltus Van Tassel (Michael Gambon), who would have inherited the fortune, is the person holding the skull. Katrina, finding out that Crane suspects her father, burns the evidence that Crane has accumulated and tells him that she doesn’t love him anymore.
In fear of the Horseman, Hardenbrook hangs himself and a town council is held in the town church. The Horseman seemingly kills Katrina’s stepmother, Lady Van Tassel, and heads off to the church to get Baltus, with the townspeople filing in just as the he arrives. With the men firing muskets as he circles the church, Crane realizes the Horseman can’t enter the church grounds due to it being consecrated and therefore holy. A massive fight breaks out in the church when Dr. Thomas Lancaster (Ian McDiarmid) suggests confessing for forgiveness, and is killed by Reverend Steenwyck (Jeffrey Jones), who is in turn shot by a frightened Baltus. The chaos ends only when the Horseman harpoons Baltus through a church window using a pointed church fence post attached to a rope, dragging him out and acquiring his head. The next day, Crane believes Katrina to be one who controls the Headless Horsemen and left while she was still unconscious.
As Crane is leaving Sleepy Hollow, he becomes suspicious when the hand of the corpse of Lady Van Tassel has a wound which shows signs of having been caused post-mortem. His suspicions are confirmed to be right when the real Lady Van Tassel (Miranda Richardson) emerges, alive, from the dark and shocks her step-daughter Katrina into a faint. Katrina awakens and eventually uncovers a plot revolving around revenge on the Van Garretts and land rights with the Horseman controlled by Lady Van Tassel, who sends the supernatural killer after Katrina now to solidify her hold on what she considers her property, a piece of land unjustly claimed by Baltus. She explains that the body believed to be her corpse actually belonged to the family’s servant, Sarah, whom she had murdered. She also reveals that she had just murdered the mysterious witch in the Western Woods, her own sister, for her role in helping Crane and Young Masbath.

Following a fight in the local windmill and a stagecoach chase through the woods, Crane eventually thwarts Lady Van Tassel by throwing the skull to the Horseman, breaking the curse. The Horseman, no longer under Lady Van Tassel’s control, simultaneously kisses and bites her, and he hoists her up on his horse, then rides to Hell taking her with him, fulfilling her end of the deal with the Devil. With the Headless Horseman menace eradicated, Crane returns home to New York with Katrina and Young Masbath, just in time for the new century.A triumph of design; sets that are spooky down to the last detail, and a cast of well-written characters to populate this creepy little town. There’s a few little things about “Sleepy Hollow” that didn’t work, but for the most part, I found this to be a great film

REVIEW: GOOD OMENS

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)

Starring

David Tennant (Mary Queen of Scots)
Michael Sheen (Passengers)
Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland)
Jon Hamm (Baby Driver)
Josie Lawrence (Humans)
Lourdes Faberes (Knightfall)
Adria Arjona (Life of The Party)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Jack Whitehall (Bad Education)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Mireille Enos (Hanna TV)
Yusuf Gatewood (The Originals)
Brian Cox (Rise of TPOA)
Reece Shearsmith (Stag)
Nina Sosanya (Marcella)
Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders)
Ariyon Bakare (Rogue One)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Grinch)
Steve Pemberton (Psychoville)
Mark Gatiss (Game of Thrones)
Nick Offerman (The Lego Movie 2)
Daniel Mays (The Bank Job)
Sian Brooke (Sherlock)
Simon Merrells (Legends of Tomorrow)
Susan Brown (Game of Thrones)
Paul Kaye (Anna and the Apocalypse)
David Morrissey (The Walking Dead)

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)Once upon a time, Good Omens was considered unadaptable. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s sprawling, 400-page fantasy novel was notorious within the film and TV industries. Screenwriters turned their noses up at the project, and various attempts over the years to bring page to screen ended in disappointment. However, an adaptation of the unadaptable proved to be Pratchett’s last request to his co-author before he died in 2015, and Gaiman set about writing the screenplay for what would become an epic six-part BBC/Amazon co-production.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)So first things first: was the unadaptable, well, adaptable, after all? The short answer is, yes. Gaiman — also showrunner on the series — has pulled off a colourful, quirky, funny, poignant (although not entirely flawless) feat. One might even suspect there’s been a spot of divine (or devilish) intervention… The true triumph is the casting. Michael Sheen shines (quite literally, in some scenes) as the angel Aziraphale, a celestial field agent who teams up with his opposite number, the stylish demon Crowley — played with a Bill Nighy-esque swagger by David Tennant — in order to prevent Armageddon.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)It’s this pairing that proves to be the beating heart of the series. Crowley and Aziraphale have been on Earth since the very beginning, and in their own ways they’ve both “gone native”. Aziraphale owns a Soho bookshop, and likes gravlax salmon with dill sauce. Crowley drives a pristine 1926 Bentley and listens to Queen. They’ve formed a professional agreement not to meddle in each other’s affairs, and in their spare time they’ve enjoyed a series of rather nice clandestine lunches. Every time either actor appears onscreen, you can almost hear the costume department’s (and fandom’s) squeals of joy. David Tennant in snakeskin boots! Michael Sheen with artfully tousled bleached hair! A tartan bow tie! Tennant also sports appropriately flame-red hair (not in the books, but worth it for Doctor Who fans’ realisation that the Tenth Doctor finally got his wish) that frequently changes style. In one particularly memorable moment during episode one, Crowley disguises himself as a bobbed-haired nanny, a Satanic crossover between Nanny McPhee and Mrs Doubtfire.good-omensHe and Aziraphale have a teasing, love/hate relationship that fans of the book have shipped for almost two decades. Gaiman has since promised that “the TV series gets deeper into Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship,” and some viewers will be hoping that that will translate into a burgeoning romance. Certainly in episode one, Aziraphale seems rather overexcited at the prospect of he and Crowley becoming joint “godfathers” to the infant Antichrist, whose arrival on Earth threatens to catalyse the apocalypse. Gabriel has bright purple irises in the series, a nod to Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary lilac eyes according to the show’s companion book, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion. However, as anyone who’s worn thick coloured lenses for Halloween and lived to tell the tale will know, the effect is rather distracting and painful to look at, as are Crowley’s reptilian yellow eyes (thankfully hidden away under trendy shades for much of the show). Gabriel barely appears in the book, and he’s a welcome and much-needed addition to the series: someone to put the proverbial heat on Aziraphale.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)Various sets are also new for the TV show: Heaven is now a vast corporate headquarters, while Hell resembles an overcrowded basement office. A rather gloomier version of The IT Crowd, if you will. Some of the show’s special effects can feel a bit hammy (think Russell T Davies-era Doctor Who with a couple of rubber frogs thrown in), but the scene depicting the entrances to both Heaven and Hell features a pretty cool bit of cinematography, including a mirror effect and an upside-down Tennant. However, despite the addition of characters like Gabriel, much of the show remains doggedly faithful to the books. Reams of dialogue are almost word-for-word during episode one, to the extent that there are certain moments and scenes where one feels that the show’s pace has been sacrificed in favour of preserving the ‘voice’ of the book. Of course, it’s understandable given the circumstances — Gaiman has spoken about the pressure to protect Pratchett’s narrative creations in his absence. For example, he made sure that one of Pratchett’s characters, the 17th century witch Agnes Nutter, remained in the show despite calls to replace her (and an expensive, explosive period shoot) with a series of woodcuts.good-omens-key-art-600x314In Agnes’s case, it makes sense to preserve her: her spookily accurate prophecies drive much of the plot and predict the present-day apocalypse. But there are chunks of God’s narration (voiced by Oscar-winner Frances McDormand) that feel a bit laboured. Some sections, like the bit about demons’ talents for “lurking” around graveyards, must have read well on the page in that distinctive Terry/Neil voice, but in reality they fall rather flat — much like a certain angel’s misguided attempts to pull a rabbit out of a top hat at a children’s birthday party. At the end of the day, however (and according to Agnes Nutter, there aren’t many more days left), the series is a love letter to the book, combining Gaiman and Pratchett’s brilliant characterisation and quippy jokes with vivid, gorgeous sets and memorable costumes.

 

 

REVIEW: MUPPETS MOST WANTED

CAST

Ricky Gervais (Ghost Town)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Steve Whitmore (The Dark Crystal)
Eric Jacobson (Sesame Street)
Dave Goetz (Inside Out)
Bill Barretta (When Families Grieve)
Matt Vogel (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Tony Bennett (Analyze This)
Hugh Bonneville (Paddington)
Jemaine Clement (Legion)
Sean Combs (Get Him To The Greek)
Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies)
Mackenzie Crook (One Chance)
Celine Dion (The Magic Sword)
Lady Gaga (Sin City 2)
Zach Gilifianakis (The Hangover)
Josh Grodin (The Hollars)
Salma Hayek (Dogma)
Tom Hiddleston (Thor)
Tom Hollander (Mission Impossible 5)
Toby Jones (Atomic Blonde)
Frank Langella (Superman Returns)
Ray Liotta (Hannibal)
James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class)
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)
Usher Raymond (She’s All That)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes)
Dylan Postl (Leprechaun Origins)

Following the events of the previous film, The Muppets find themselves at a loss as to what to do until Dominic Badguy suggests the Muppets go on a European tour with him as their tour manager. As the Muppets begin their tour, a criminal mastermind named Constantine, a near-exact double for Kermit the Frog in appearance, escapes from a Siberian Gulag and joins his subordinate Dominic to begin a plot to steal the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.Once the Muppets arrive in Berlin, Germany, Dominic secures them a show at a prestigious venue. Frustrated with the group’s incessant requests and Miss Piggy’s insistence they marry, Kermit goes for a walk at Dominic’s suggestion. Constantine ambushes him and glues a fake mole onto his cheek then slips away. Mistaken for Constantine, Kermit is arrested and sent to the Gulag. Taking Kermit’s place, Constantine’s blunders in imitating him are covered by Dominic; however, Animal knows the truth. After the Berlin performance opens with Constantine freezing at the audience, Scooter has to introduce the show. Constantine and Dominic steal paintings from a museum while the Muppets perform. The next morning, Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon and CIA agent Sam the Eagle grudgingly team up to apprehend the culprit whom Napoleon believes to be his nemesis “The Lemur” – the number-two criminal in the world.Meanwhile, Kermit has attempted several times to escape the Gulag but is thwarted each time by prison guard Nadya, who is not only aware of his true identity but is as infatuated with him as Miss Piggy is. Nadya orders Kermit to help organize the prisoners’ annual talent show.Following hidden instructions on the stolen painting, Constantine and Dominic divert the tour to Madrid, Spain. Constantine allows the Muppets to perform whatever they wish, much to Walter’s confusion. During this show, Constantine and Dominic break into a museum and destroy a roomful of busts to find a key needed for their plan. Even though the performance is a disaster, the Muppets receive critical acclaim. Sam and Napoleon deduce that the connection between the crimes is the Muppet tour, and the pair interrogates the Muppets, only to find that they are too ill-equipped to be guilty. The instructions on the stolen key lead Constantine and Dominic to schedule the next show in Dublin, Ireland.In Dublin, Walter discovers that Dominic has been giving away show tickets and bribing critics to ensure a packed house and rave reviews, while Fozzie Bear notices Kermit’s resemblance to Constantine. They both realize that Constantine has taken Kermit’s place and brought in Dominic as his accomplice. Constantine attacks Walter and Fozzie, but Animal fends him off and the three escape from the train to rescue Kermit. During the Dublin performance, Dominic steals a locket from a museum and Constantine proposes to Miss Piggy onstage; Piggy accepts, and the pair plan a ceremony to be held at the Tower of London in London, England, where the Crown Jewels are kept.Fozzie, Walter, and Animal reach the Siberian Gulag on the night of the performance, and Kermit uses it as a front to allow them, himself, and all the prisoners to escape the Gulag. Kermit, Fozzie, Walter, and Animal infiltrate the Tower as the wedding begins, and Dominic (with the help of Bobby Benson’s Baby Band) manages to steal the jewels.Kermit interrupts the ceremony, revealing Constantine’s ruse, but the crook takes Piggy hostage and flees to a helicopter, where he is intercepted by Dominic, who is actually the Lemur and intends to double-cross him. Constantine ejects him from the helicopter and tries to take off with Piggy, but Kermit jumps aboard and the rest of the Muppets climb atop each other to stop the escape. Kermit and Piggy knockout Constantine and both criminals are arrested. Nadya arrives in London to arrest Kermit for escaping. The other Muppets tell her that if she arrests him, then she will have to take all of them as well; she relents, allowing Kermit to go free. The Muppets perform at the Gulag with Constantine and the prisoners participating, ending the film.The heart and soul of the film is about the way the characters manage to bring a sense of togetherness and unity to the Muppets and how this unity brings joy to all those around. Throughout the film, Kermit manages to be a core reminder as to why The Muppets are generously wonderful creations for the world: the optimism, the kindness, the laughter: everything combines to form a strong impression that both children and adults can feel completely enamoured by. This is a film that is full of magic and it sits alongside The Muppets magnificently and is not to be missed.

REVIEW: HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

 

CAST

Daniel Radcliffe (Horns)
Rupert Grint (Cherrybomb)
Emma Watson (This Is The End)
Robbie Coltrane (Flash Gordon)
Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow)
Ralph Fiennes (In Burges)
Brendan Gleeson (The Smurfs 2)
Jason Isaacs (Peter Pan)
Gary Oldman (Red Riding Hood)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Alan Rickman (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Maggie Smith (Clash of The Titans)
Timothy Spall (Vanilla Sky)
Frances de la Tour (Into The Woods)
David Tennant (Jessica Jones)
Bonnie Wright (Before I Sleep)
Mark Williams (Agent Cody Banks 2)
Robert Pattinson (Twilight)
Tom Felton (The Flash)
Katie Leung (One Child)
Matthew Lewis (Happy Valley)
David Bradley (Game of Thrones)
Warwick Davis (Leprechaun)
Ian Whyte (Game of Thrones)

Harry Potter dreams of Frank Bryce, who is killed after overhearing Lord Voldemort discussing plans with Peter Pettigrew and another man. Harry attends the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys, but after the game, Death Eaters terrorise the spectators, and the man who appeared in Harry’s dream summons the Dark Mark.

At Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore introduces ex-Auror Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. He also announces that the school will host the legendary event known as Triwizard Tournament where three magical schools are going to compete against each other in a very deadly competition by facing three dangerous challenges. The champions are selected by the Goblet of Fire: Cedric Diggory of Hufflepuff is chosen to represent Hogwarts, Viktor Krum will represent Durmstrang Institute, and Fleur Delacour will represent Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. The Goblet unexpectedly chooses a fourth champion: Harry Potter. Dumbfounded, Dumbledore is unable to pull the underage Harry out of the tournament, as the Ministry official Barty Crouch Sr. insists that the champions are bound by a contract, and therefore, Harry is invited to compete. This makes Harry’s best friend Ron Weasley jealous of him.

For the tournament’s first task, the champions must each retrieve a golden egg guarded by a dragon. Harry succeeds after he summons his broomstick to retrieve the egg, which contains information about the second challenge. Shortly after, another event known as the Yule Ball dance takes place, during which Harry’s crush Cho Chang attends with Cedric, and Hermione Granger attends with Viktor, which makes Ron jealous of Viktor. During the second task, the champions are instructed to dive underwater to rescue their mates. Harry comes out in 3rd place but is placed second behind Cedric due to his “moral fiber”. Afterwards, Barty Crouch Sr. is found dead by Harry. Harry visits Dumbledore at his office, and while waiting for him, he discovers a Pensieve, which holds Dumbledore’s memories. Inside it, Harry witnesses a trial in which Igor Karkaroff (Durmstrang Institute’s Headmaster) confessed to the Ministry of Magic names of other Death Eaters, after Voldemort’s defeat. He named Severus Snape as one, but Dumbledore defended him; he then named Barty Crouch Jr. Barty Crouch Sr. was left devastated, and his son was taken to Azkaban. After exiting the Pensieve, Harry deduces that the man he has seen in his dreams with Voldemort is Barty Crouch Jr.

In the third and final task, the competitors are placed inside a hedge maze and must reach the Triwizard Cup. Viktor, under the influence of the Imperius Curse, incapacitates Fleur. After Harry saves Cedric when the maze attacks him, the two claim a draw and grab the cup together, which turns out to be a Portkey and transports the two to a graveyard, where Pettigrew and Voldemort are waiting. Pettigrew kills Cedric with the Killing Curse and performs a ritual using a bone of Voldemort’s father, Pettigrew’s flesh and Harry’s blood, which rejuvenates Voldemort, who then summons the Death Eaters. Voldemort releases Harry in order to beat him in a duel to prove he is the better wizard. Harry is unable to defend himself, but tries the Expelliarmus charm at the same moment Voldemort attempts the Killing Curse. Their wands do not work against each other, and Voldemort’s wand is forced to disgorge the last spells it performed. This results in shadow impressions of the people he murdered appearing in the graveyard, including Harry’s parents and Cedric. This provides an ample distraction to Voldemort and his Death Eaters, allowing Harry to escape with Cedric’s body by grabbing the Portkey.

Upon his return, Harry tells Dumbledore that Voldemort has returned and is responsible for Cedric’s death. Moody takes a devastated Harry back to his room to interrogate him about Lord Voldemort, where he inadvertently blows his cover when he asks Harry whether there were “others” in the graveyard, despite Harry never saying that he was transported there. Exposed, Moody reveals that he was the one who put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire, and that he had been guiding and manipulating Harry throughout the tournament to ensure that he would win, so Voldemort would take Harry’s blood to return. Moody then tries to kill Harry, only for Harry to be saved by Dumbledore, Severus Snape, and Minerva McGonagall. The teachers force Moody to drink Veritaserum, a truth telling potion where it is revealed that he isn’t Moody, and that the real Moody is imprisoned in a magical trunk. The false Moody’s Polyjuice Potion wears off and he is revealed as Barty Crouch Jr., working for Voldemort. Crouch Jr. is sent back to Azkaban, from which he had escaped.

In the morning, Dumbledore reveals to the students that Voldemort killed Cedric, although the Ministry of Magic is against this. Later, Dumbledore visits Harry in his dormitory, and apologizes to him for the dangers he had to go through. Harry reveals that he saw his parents in the graveyard; Dumbledore names this effect as “Priori Incantatem”. Dumbledore acknowledges that even though Harry’s parents appeared through Voldemort’s wand, no spell can awaken the dead. Dumbledore reminds Harry that he is not alone. Soon after, Hogwarts, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons bid farewell to each other.For fans of the books, you should find this adaptation a commendable reflection of Rowling’s tale. Naturally, some parts had to be modified or cut entirely – there’s no way to avoid that without making it a 10 hour movie – but the parts that were cut were either not critical to the story line, or will be easy to account for in the films to come. Unless you’re an obsessive nitpicker about every last detail, you should find this a satisfactory film version of Goblet of Fire.

REVIEW: THE YOUNG VICTORIA (2009)

 

CAST

Emily Blunt (The Huntmans)
Rupert Friend (Homeland)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas)
Mark Strong (Green Lantern)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Julian Glover (Game of Thrones)
Harriet Walter (Sense and Sensibility)
Michiel Huisman (world War Z)
David Robb (Highlander: The Series)
Genevieve O’Reilly (The Matrix Revolutions)
Josef Altin (Game of Thrones)

MV5BMTcwNTExNDc2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTgzOTY3Mg@@._V1_Princess Victoria of Kent is the heiress presumptive to the throne during the last years of the reign of her uncle King William IV and is subject to a political tug of war for influence over her. On the one side is her mother, the Duchess of Kent, along with the comptroller of the Duchess’s household, Sir John Conroy, who tries to force Victoria to sign papers declaring a regency and giving him and her mother power.
The Young VictoriaOn the other side is her uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium, who wishes to use his influence through family ties to secure an alliance between Britain and his kingdom. He decides to have his nephew Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha seduce Victoria and he is coached in her likes and dislikes. The Duchess invites the Coburg brothers, Albert and Prince Ernest of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, to visit the household. Victoria and Albert develop an early fondness for each other, despite Victoria knowing that Albert was sent by their uncle to win her favours. They begin writing to one another after Albert returns home.
The Young Victoria
At a birthday reception in Windsor Castle, the King states his wish to be closer to Victoria and insults her mother. But when the King increases Victoria’s income, this is rejected by Conroy, who physically subdues her in front of her mother, heightening the animosity between them. The King then sends the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne to advise her. Victoria agrees to make him her private secretary, and he appoints ladies-in-waiting for her from political families allied to him.
MV5BMTg4MjM5NTQ1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDkyNzIwMw@@._V1_King William dies after Victoria’s 18th birthday, avoiding a regency. After accession, Victoria immediately begins to exert her independence, including moving into her own room and banishing Conroy from her household and coronation. During her first meeting with the Privy Council, she announces that “I mean to devote my life in service of my country and my people”. Victoria now moves into the recently completed Buckingham Palace and her aunt, Queen Adelaide, advises her against giving in too much to Lord Melbourne’s direction. Albert then comes to England to spend more time with Victoria. They bond more, dancing together during her coronation and later discussing together the condition of the poor. Albert hints at taking their relationship further but the self-sufficient Victoria resists and he leaves.
The Young VictoriaWhen Lord Melbourne loses a vote in Parliament, the new Prime Minister designate, Sir Robert Peel, wishes to replace some of her ladies-in-waiting with supporters of his own party and the queen refuses. Peel in turn refuses the queen’s invitation to form a new government, allowing Melbourne to continue as Prime Minister. The subsequent crisis damages Victoria’s popularity, leading to demonstrations outside the palace and insults hurled at her in public. Her loneliness during the turbulence draws Victoria closer to Albert through their letters and decides her to invite him back to Britain. Since protocol prevents him suggesting marriage, she proposes to him herself.
MV5BMTU5MDAwMTUyOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTQ4MTA0Mg@@._V1_Their marriage is loving and the birth of their first child helps heal the breach between Victoria and her mother, who had earlier sent a letter of support during the crisis. Nevertheless, Albert is frustrated at his initial powerlessness and Queen Adelaide advises Victoria to allow him to take on more duties. He then reorganises the running of the royal household and dismisses Conroy for mishandling funds. As Victoria’s primary adviser, he now blocks the influences of Lord Melbourne and King Leopold. However, Victoria quarrels with him fiercely for going over her head with Peel in the matter of her household.
MV5BMjA1MDY1MTU3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTU4MTA0Mg@@._V1_Soon after, when Victoria is fired upon by a would-be assassin as they are riding in an open carriage, Albert throws himself across her and is wounded. This bravery leads to their reconciliation and Melbourne advises her to share with Albert also her work for the social welfare. The final title card sketches in their successful future until Albert’s death at the age of 42.MV5BMjE1NzQzOTUyNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTQ0OTY3Mg@@._V1_The film shows how lighthearted Victoria was in her younger years with that spring in her step, whilst at the same time pursuing her duty of becoming Queen and knowing her responsibilities. A great historical film.

REVIEW: ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1999)

CAST

Tina Majorino (Veronica Mars)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Martin Short (Mars Attacks)
Whoopi Goldberg (Star Trek: Generations)
Simon Russell Beale (Into The Woods)
Ken Dodd (Hamlet)
Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka)
George Wendt (Cheers)
Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter)
Richard Coombs (Labyrinth)
Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future)
Elizabeth Spriggs (Impromptu)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Peter Ustinov (Animal Farm)
Pete Postlethwaite (Solomon Kane)
Donald Sinden (the Day of The Jackal)
Jason Flemyng (From Hell)
Joanna Lumley (Corpse Bride)

Alice-in-Wonderland-1999-4The film follows the storyline of the book closely, save for adding some scenes from Through the Looking-Glass. It also changes the opening real world scene from Alice and her sister sitting at a riverbank to Alice in her bedroom, reluctantly practicing the song “Cherry Ripe”, which she is expected to perform at a garden party. (The party guests are played by the same actors as the Wonderland characters, and are shown as resembling them in appearance and personality, in a similar manner to the MGM version of The Wizard of Oz. The toys in Alice’s room also reflect the residents of Wonderland). Thanks to stage fright, and constant nagging from her confident governess (Dilys Laye), Alice runs out of the house and hides herself in the woods nearby until the party has ended. However, an apple floats down from the tree and seems to hover in Alice’s face. She is suddenly distracted by a human-sized White Rabbit (voiced by Richard Coombs) rushing by. Curious, Alice follows the White Rabbit, falling down his rabbit hole and ending up in Wonderland.
downloadAlice travels throughout Wonderland, meeting a large number of bizarre people and challenges. Alice first has problems keeping her size the same while attempting to go through a small door leading to a beautiful garden, eventually she grows massively tall and floods the room she is in with her tears before shrinking to the size of a mouse. She then meets Mr. Mouse (Ken Dodd) and his avian friends who participate in a Caucus Race, where everyone wins. Alice encounters the White Rabbit again who directs her to his house. There, Alice comes across a bottle of liquid that makes her enormous and trapped in the house. The White Rabbit and his gardeners Pat (played by Irish comedian Jason Byrne) and Bill attempt to remove Alice by going down the chimney, but Alice shrinks again. Wandering in a forest, she encounters Major Caterpillar (Ben Kingsley) who advices her to not be afraid before transforming into a butterfly. Alice grows back to normal size by eating part of a mushroom. She ventures to a nearby manorhouse where she meets the musical Duchess (Elizabeth Spriggs), her baby, her pepper-obsessed plate-throwing cook (Sheila Hancock), and the Cheshire Cat (Whoopi Goldberg). The baby is left in Alice’s care but it turns into a pig and is released. The Cheshire Cat advices Alice to visit the Mad Hatter and his friends the March Hare and the Dormouse.
image-w1280Meeting the trio at a tea party, Alice is given rather odd advice on how to avoid stagefright, the Mad Hatter (Martin Short) leaping onto the table to do his performance he previously did at a concert of the Queen of Hearts. Alice eventually leaves when the Mad Hatter and March Hare begin smashing cups and plates. They also try stuffing the Dormouse into a teapot. She comes across the small door and using her intelligence, succeeds in getting through it into the garden which is actually the labyrinth maze belonging to the Queen. The Queen of Hearts (Miranda Richardson) invites her to a bizarre game of croquet, but her love for decapitating people annoys Alice. The Cheshire Cat’s head appears in the sky and is ordered to be executed, but reasoning from Alice stops the Queen. The Duchess arrives to answer the King’s question of who the Cat’s owner is, but the Cat has vanished. Alice leaves the croquet game, meeting the Gryphon (voiced by Donald Sinden) and the Mock Turtle (Gene Wilder). The two sing with Alice, teaching her the Lobster Quadrille and encouraging her. Alice then wanders into a darker area of Wonderland, meeting a White Knight (Christopher Lloyd) who encourages her to be brave and also shows her his newest invention.
MV5BMTUxOTE4NDYwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDA0NzE5NzE@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_Alice meets some talking flowers: a Tiger-Lily (voiced by Joanna Lumley) who is the most sensible out of all of them, some Roses which are not too bothered about Alice being lost, and some Daisies who are rascals. Having the flowers helping her, Alice walks off. Alice then meets Tweedledum (Robbie Coltrane) and Tweedledee (George Wendt) who have some antics with her before getting into a fight over a dropped rattle. Alice is then taken to the royal court where the Knave of Hearts (Jason Flemyng) is put on trial for apparently stealing the Queen’s jam tarts. The Mad Hatter and his companions appear as witnesses but he is accused of stealing someone else’s hat and is recognized by the Queen for singing at her concert, prompting him to sing his Twinkle Song. Alice is then called to the stand but she uses some mushroom pieces to grow to great heights. She sees the jam tarts have been untouched and the trial is pointless. She openly criticizes the Queen, the King and Wonderland. The White Rabbit, who is present at the court, reveals he deliberately lured Alice into Wonderland to conquer her fears. He does so by first asking her if she is self-confident. Upon Alice answering yes, he simply states, “then you don’t need us anymore.” He then sends her back home using the same hovering apple that brought her there in the first place.
MV5BOTQ0YTY3YWItNjc5NS00OTA4LWIxMzItZTBhYWRkYzMxZGQ3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjczMDkzOTA@._V1_Awakening back home, Alice courageously sings in front of her parents and their guests, but instead of singing Cherry Ripe, she sings the Lobster Quadrille which she finds much more interesting. The audience enjoy her performance and applaud. Alice spots the Cheshire Cat in the audience who smiles at her in a term of congratulations. The film ends with the lobster quadrille, beautiful soup and some back ground music all during the end credits.17HRXLDNkqmzAZ3Jq3PV7rZUg3AThe acting and visual effects in this adaptation are second to none in my opinion. Just check out the actors involved. Impressive! The perfomance by the young Tina Majorino is nothing short of excellent, and I can’t imagine anyone improving on Martin Short’s Mad Hatter. It is wonderful treat to find films that can be shared with enjoyment by both children and adults. This is a film that achieves this – the difficult art of mixing “adult” an “naïve” qualities. It is only too rare to find these days. In short an excellent film!