Monday, 18 October 2010

Marley is no ordinary dog

Marley and Me
December 25, 2008

Directed by: 
David Frankel

Produced by:
Gil Netter
Karen Rosenfelt

Written by: 
Scott Frank
Don Roos
(based on the autobiography
 by John Grogan)

Owen Wilson
Jennifer Aniston
Eric Dane
Kathleen Turner
Alan Arkin

Summary:  After Jennifer and John Grogan get married, they decide to move to Florida.  Worried about a baby being next on Jennifer’s ‘plan’, John attempts to stall this by buying her a puppy for her birthday. They choose to buy Marley – who is named while he and John are driving home listening to the reggae artist Bob Marley. However, Marley is no ordinary dog. When the Grogans are purchasing him, the owner says: “Boys are 275. Except for that little guy there. Him you could have for 200 even.” 

At this point it is obvious Marley is somehow different to most dogs. Marley is crazy, full of energy and lacks any self-discipline. His antics provide John with plenty of humorous stories for his column. Both Jennifer and John are writers, and while Jennifer decides to give up her work to look after her children, John searches for his perfect job. The Grogans soon have three children: Patrick, Connor and Colleen. This film follows the story of their family, John’s work and life with “the world’s worst dog.”
  My Favourite Scene:  One of the scenes I thought was the most interesting was when Jennifer fell pregnant. At nearly 10 weeks, she and John visited the hospital to have a scan. While the doctor is looking at the baby she leaves the room and returns with another doctor who, after checking, answers Jennifer’s question “Is there anything in there?” with “Not what you would expect to see at 10 weeks.”

I like this scene because I think in too many films that aim to reflect real life, couples easily have children. Jennifer suffers a miscarriage, which is a situation that many people will have experienced. The scenes that follow show the repercussions of the miscarriage. As they are driving home from the hospital, John says that they can try again in a few months, which is him trying to give her some form of comfort. However he later finds her stroking Marley in floods of tears. At this point he realised how much Jennifer was suffering. It was refreshing to see a real-life situation in this sort of film, which is why I chose it as my favourite scene.

My Favourite Quotes: 
John Grogan: A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.

Jennifer Grogan: Hi guys, alright, say hello to Colleen!
Connor: Daddy says her name is whoops.

My Thoughts: The aim of this film is to make the audience both laugh and cry which, in my case, it did very successfully. An animal dying never fails to make me sob and there were numerous scenes where Marley’s insane behaviour had me in fits of laughter. I enjoyed both Wilson’s and Aniston’s performances, although I think Aniston has unfortunately reached the age where she cannot quite pull off being a 20-something newlywed!

The problem with this film is that everything was far too predicable. Once Jennifer suffered a miscarriage, it was only a matter of time before she became pregnant again. It was obvious once they agreed to have no more children, that another baby would soon come along and it was clear that John would end up becoming a columnist (despite him believing that he should be a reporter). There were no surprises, which I think is what makes a film interesting. To my disappointment, “Marley and Me” never made me think “wow. I did not expect that.”

Something I found particularly strange was John’s relationship with his children. He had a full time job which, of course, would take up a lot of his time - but it seemed throughout the film John never bonded with his children. There were plenty of scenes with Jennifer holding her children, but next to none of John. 

An element of his film which is quite worrying is how Marley ran wild around the house with three small children. It seemed very irresponsible, although Jennifer did mention once about Connor not sleeping and Patrick falling over due to Marley. I think that the safety issue of raising children with a dog like Marley was a subject that was not properly dealt with.

“Marley and Me” seemed to drag on. Every time I thought the film was coming to an end, it carried on! I thought that the scene where the Gorgans buried Marley was probably necessary for the film to come to a close, but it was still too clich├ęd. The film was supposed to portray real-life, but it was completely unrealistic - particularly John’s ability to convince his bosses to give him any sort of job he wanted! Overall, I found “Marley and Me” to be another predicable comedy, but it is still an enjoyable family film.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Love and death in Venice

Don’t Look Now 
16 October 1973
Directed by: 
Nicholas Roeg
Produced by:
Peter Katz
Written by: 
Allan Scott
Chris Bryant
(story by Daphne du Maurier) 
Julie Christie
Donald Sutherland

Summary: After John and Laura Baxter’s daughter, Christine, dies tragically - they decide to take a break in Venice. While there, they meet Wendy and her sister Heather - who claims to be psychic. Heather tells Laura that her daughter is still with them. This intrigues Laura (who does not want to let go of Christine) but worries John - who is struggling to deal with Laura’s growing obsession of communicating with her daughter through Heather’s ‘powers’. John begins to see his dead daughter in Venice, wearing her red coat, but he never sees her face. He also sees things which don’t make sense and with a serial killer on the loose, John is unsure of who to trust. 
My Favourite Scene: At the beginning of the film, John is looking at a transparency with a magnifying glass, while Laura is reading. As this is happening, Christine is playing happily by the pond. The transparency shows the interior of a church with a seated figure wearing a red coat, like Christine’s. As he looks at it, he accidentally knocks a glass over the transparency. At that moment, Christine falls into the pond. A red shape (similar to blood) moves across the transparency from the red figure. John panics and, as if he knew what had happened, runs to the pond - only to find that Christine has drowned.
This is an excellent scene because both the figure in the photo and the real Christine are drowning. It also raises many questions, such as did John ‘kill’ Christine by knocking the glass over (causing the ‘blood’ to spread across the picture, representing Christine’s death)? Another thought is that John knew Christine was in danger the moment the glass hit the picture, even though she was playing outdoors, while he was indoors. It is hard to understand the scene at the time, but once the truth about John’s ability to foresee the future through his premonitions is revealed at the end of the film, everything makes sense.  
My Favourite Quotes: 
Laura Baxter: (talking to John about Heather) This one who's blind. She's the one that can see. 

Inspector Longhi: The skill of police artists is to make the living appear dead. 

My Thoughts: Don’t look now is an abstract and brilliant film. I think something important that the film conveys are the repercussions from the loss of a child. After Christine dies, the strain on the relationship between John and Laura is shown, as well as the lengths that they (especially Laura) will go to, to bring back their child. Laura wants to believe that anything is possible, whereas John is trying to be more practical and face the fact that his daughter is dead - however the film still sees him becoming obsessed by the red figure who looks like his daughter.  
Another important issue in the film is trust - at the beginning of the film, I felt that John and Laura’s relationship lacked any. However, as the film progressed, I saw that John was denying that his daughter was still alive to save Laura from any more pain - which I believe shows the love they have for each other.  Trust is also shown through Laura, when she visits the elderly women, knowing nothing about them but simply having the drive to see her daughter again. Towards the end of the film, I think John has less and less trust in people. He starts not to believe anything anyone tells him. 
The film’s plot was very interesting. Every time I thought I was sure of what was going to happen, something threw me off! There were so many twists and complications, it was difficult to piece it all together until the end, when John has his sudden realisation. 
This film would be categorised as a psychological thriller - however, throughout most of the film I was more intrigued than scared. The only moment I felt utterly terrified was when the red figure finally revealed itself in the famous end sequence. The scenes throughout the film were like pieces of a jigsaw that were not fully explained until the final scene. The combination of this, and the buildup of tension made for an extremely powerful ending.  

Monday, 4 October 2010

Think again before you make fun of Carrie

Carrie (1976) 
3 November, 1976 

Directed by: 
Brian De Palma

Produced by:
Brian De Palma

Written by: 
Lawrence D. Cohen
(based on a novel by
Stephen King)

Sissy Spacek
Piper Laurie
Betty Buckley
Amy Irving
William Katt
Nancy Allen
John Travolta 

Summary: Carrie White is an abused and bullied schoolgirl who discovers she has physic powers. When she realises she has the ability to move objects with her mind, she begins to use this against anyone making her angry. Her insane, god-fearing mother believes that everything Carrie does is a sin. Her punishment is being locked in a cupboard (with an extremely freaky Jesus ornament) and being made to pray for forgiveness. She is mistreated by her mother, teachers and friends (worst of all Chris) and this film witnesses her final revenge. 
My Favourite Scene: I believe that the most effective scene in Carrie is at the end, where Sue (in a dream) visits the remains of Carrie’s house to lay some flowers. As she is laying the flowers on the ground, Carrie’s hand, covered in blood, reaches out and grabs Sue’s wrist. After this, Sue wakes up screaming and crying in her mother’s arms. 

I think this is very powerful because it illustrates the effect of what Carrie did. The audience expects the scene to be Sue’s peaceful goodbye to Carrie -  however the hand reaching out definitely changes that! I do not think I have ever been more scared in my life. I literally jumped out of my skin! The scene portrays that even though she is now dead, the bitterness of what Carrie did still lives on. 

My Favourite Quotes: 
Margaret White: Witch. Got Satan's power.
Carrie White: It has nothing to do with Satan, Mama. It's me. Me. If I concentrate hard enough, I can move things.

Margaret White: These are godless times, Mrs. Snell.
Mrs. Snell: I'll drink to that.
My Thoughts: This is an interesting and weird film. When it was released, it was innovative and many films using the same ideas as Carrie, followed in its footsteps. The ‘pig blood prom scene’ was especially inventive. The combination of split screen, lighting, music and Sissy Spacek’s performance made this scene incredibly effective. 
Brian De Palma originally wanted Sissy Spacek to play Chris (Carrie’s bully) but when she arrived for the final audition unwashed, wearing a dress her mother made her in the seventh grade and with vaseline rubbed into her hair  - De Palma realised he had found his Carrie. Spacek’s performance in the film was brilliant. She really captured the confused and awkward role of Carrie. She had a unique look and, even when covered in pig’s blood, she was beautiful.   

Carrie’s mother, Mrs. White, is insane. She is enormously religious and anything Carrie does ‘wrong’, results in her being placed in the cupboard. I think five minutes alone with that Jesus ornament is enough to make anyone seriously disturbed. For a while, I believed that Mrs. White did actually love her daughter, but was just hungry for control. However what she did when Carrie returned home from her prom made me change my mind! 
An element about this film I especially liked was the theme music. Instead of being dramatic like most classic horror films, it was simple and tranquil. I think this highlights the sadness about the film. Even after everything that Carrie had done, I still pitied her. She was just a misunderstood young girl. Moreover, I felt like (towards the end of the film) Carrie had hope. She was beginning to believe in herself. Tommy was being kind to her, as was Sue. Everyone was starting to accept Carrie, and that night, she was genuinely happy. 

I think an underlying message in this film is the effect of bullying. Carrie was a sweet girl who had good intentions, but she could only take so much. The girls were horrible to her, and while most learnt their lesson, Chris did not (but she got her comeuppance in the end). I was glad that Sue survived, because it seemed that besides Miss Collins, she was the only one who cared for Carrie in the end. She sacrificed her prom date with Tommy to let Carrie be happy. 

This film has certainly left its mark on horror film history and I think anyone who has seen it will think twice before they insult someone else, just in case they happen to be like Carrie.