HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: DORIAN GRAY

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CAST

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

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

REVIEW: IRON MAN 3

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder)
Gwyneth Paltrow (A Perfect Murder)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Guy Pearce (Prometheus)
Rebecca Hall (Town)
Jon Favreau (Daredevil)
Ben Kingsley (Lucky Number Sleven)
James Badge Dale (World War Z)
Stephanie Szostak (R.I.P.D.)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
William Sadler (Roswell)
Dale Dickey (My Name Is Earl)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Ty Simpkins (Jurassic World)
Shaun Toub (Lois & Clark)
Mark Ruffalo (Just Like Heaven)
Joan Rivers (Spaceballs)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Rebecca Mader (Lost)

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man Three (2013)As the start of “Phase Two” of Marvel’s ever-expanding film lore, Iron Man 3 picks up shortly after the events of The Avengers, where Tony Stark (RDJ) played a crucial role in stopping an other-worldly invasion in New York City. Shaken by the experience to a point of acute panic attacks, Stark finds himself obsessed with his mechanical tinkering, creating and modifying suits in the hours where he can’t sleep or spend time with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), now CEO of Stark Industries. During that time, a bearded fanatic known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) claims responsibility for curiously evidence-free terrorist activities through hacked television broadcasts, backed up by cryptic “lessons” about American indulgence, artifice, and claim to territory. In a fragile state of mind and dealing with the reemergence of a momentary colleague from his past, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), whose radical plans for human advancement (and his attractiveness) draw Pepper’s attention, Tony flexes his Iron Man muscle by publicly provoking The Mandarin.Ben Kingsley in Iron Man Three (2013)Before that, Iron Man 3 offers a glimpse nearly fifteen years into the past as a quasi-preamble, before Stark made his reputation as a public hero. Outside of Black and co-writer Drew Pearce’s evident character reasons for doing so — namely introducing Killian at a younger age, as well as the beautiful, brilliant scientist Maya Hansen (played by Rebecca Hall) and her invaluable yet unstable work in organic regeneration — this also serves as a reminder of a Tony Stark before he stumbled into the duties of a narcissistic hero in a near-impervious suit of his design. Thus begins a personal journey for Stark: complete with voiceover directed at an unspecified listener (you find out who in the post-credit sequence) that transitions to the present era, the strain on his persona created by a near-death sacrificial decision in New York flirts with the comic-book’s famous “Demon in a Bottle” story arc … without ever mentioning alcohol.Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man Three (2013)The script from Black and Pearce expands on that internal crisis by finding a way to leave Stark without his gear, his girl, and his support structure at a pivotal point, where he’s abandoned in the middle of nowhere with only his wits and scientific knowledge (and a boy essentially embodying a young engineering-savvy version of Tony Stark) to guide him. Some will find this change of pace refreshing, a return to those moments in the Afghanistan cave where he constructed the first rudimentary suit; once again, he’s using only his inventiveness to weave in and out of tricky situations and get Iron Man in fighting shape. Others will find the lack of higher-octane action and similarities to other recent “fallen, morale-damaged hero” storylines frustrating, and that’s partially due to circumstances that are wobbly even for comic-book logic. The pressure rests on Downey Jr. to convince those watching of his fraught situation, and his charisma — now with the added touch of Shane Black’s humorous edge — keeps the attitude upbeat, hectic, and faintly mythic, bolstered by scenes such as Tony literally dragging the weight of his armor over his shoulder across a snowy field.Iron Man Three (2013)As  the film approaches a climax full of Iron Men, fireworks, and plenty of Hail Mary leaps within a dangerous shipyard, backed by a reliably fierce performance from Guy Pearce as his role in the Extremis program comes to fruition. What surprised me the most about the ending, once the smoke clears, is how final and cathartic it ends up feeling, as if it very well could be the bookend to Iron Man himself if they decided not to move the series forward. Giving closure to Stark’s tribulations as a self-focused hero and his rocky relationship with Pepper Potts, it’ll make the eminent day when the Avengers come knocking on his door again all the more intriguing.

REVIEW: STARTER FOR 10

Starring

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

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

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