Tale of Tales – Movie Review

Genre – Adult Fantasy/Horror
Length – 2hr 14mins
Released in – 2015
My Overall Grading – 4 Stars

Tale of Tales (2015) is that blend of gothic fantasy weirdness which usually immediately catches my attention. As soon as I watched its suggestive atmospheric trailer, I craved to behold the whole movie, and I must say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Let me say this first and foremost – if you’re expecting yet another re-imagining of some popular children’s fairytale like Cinderella or Snow White, you’ll be disappointed. Actually, not even those narratives commonly known as fairy tales are meant for children at all, and only started to be projected that way for the multitudes, after severe editing and further changes by various 19th century writers, such as Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers .

Tale of Tales, an Italian-Franco-British production derived from the 17th century collection of tales known as Il Pentamerone and written by Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile, can be described as an adult fantasy horror, or at best, a metaphorical cautionary tale.

Sinister, yet strangely sensual. Strange but graceful. Haunting yet moving. This movie is a strange experience and definitely not for children. Tale of Tales has three different and yet finally entwined story lines. On the one hand, we encounter the King and Queen of Selvaoscura, who, true to fairy tale canon, are having difficulty producing an heir. A wandering wizard tells them that to do this, they must find and kill a sea monster, and the Queen (Salma Hayek) must eat its heart. It’s portrayed as a horrifyingly huge bloody mass where she eagerly devours the organ on a silver platter.

The second tale takes us to Roccaforte, where a sexually voracious and dissolute king – played by Vincent Cassel – spies on a woman shrouded in a mantle, whom he believes to be a pretty young beauty, but who in reality is a hideous old crone. The crone’s only treasure is her loving relationship with her sister, who is also an old woman. The king hounds what he believes to be a new conquest, bullying and pressing the two sisters, who don’t know which way to turn without revealing their true identity and being punished for it.

The third story arch follows the King of Altomonte and his daughter Violet. The King (Toby Jones) is a shallow and comic creature, prioritizing the care of an unusual flea over that of his own daughter.

Throughout the three story-arches, the one constant emotion is that of obsession, which, we are shown, is the heart of all evil. Obsession vies with what is supposed to be the love of someone’s family. The Queen of Selvaoscura is obsessed with her son, which is why she seeks to destroy any ties he could have with other people. The King of Roccaforte is obsessed with claiming every young woman he sets eyes on, which results in betrayal, suffering and death. The King of Altomonte and his ridiculous obsession with the flea to the exclusion of all else brings about terrifying consequences.

Flea-petting, heart-eating, rape, flaying, betrayal, morbid jealousy… All this and more makes the movie a very strange and curious beast; a truly horrific Renaissance fairy tale. No wonder that, unlike other tales penned by Basile, these three weren’t even adapted to be read by children. Other tales of his, however, have inspired more well-known fairy tale writers such as Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. In this case, the three tales explored and adapted for the screen – The Enchanted Doe, The Flea and The Flayed Old Lady – serve as a dark metaphor to show that real love of one’s family members doesn’t mean warping them into suiting our own wishes and desires, but accepting them for who they are, even if this means letting them go.

The movie also sports beautiful visuals, as filming locations include stunning palaces, haunting forests and beautiful gardens in NaplesTuscanyAbruzzo and Lazio, amongst others.

I truly recommend this movie to all those who are lovers of the unusual and the artistic – those who appreciate dark humor and black comedy, and who enjoy finding revelations of the truth couched in veiled metaphors and tragic-comic allegory, rather than stark black and white fables.

A version of this article written by me was originally published on Eve magazine.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Movie Review

Genre – Teen/Comedy
Length – 1hr 43mins
Released in – 1986
My Overall Grading – 3 Stars

Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!’

Each and every movie has one main aim – to make the viewer feel something. There is always one single encompassing idea, perspective, or state of mind towards which the plot-line itself takes you, even though most of the time, this is sold to the audience subconsciously, in that it underlies the film’s story-line or characterization, rather than being wholly apparent as one concrete whole.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) was written expressly for Matthew Broderick and is a pretty easy movie to summerize. Basically: a charming teen decides to flunk school because he has a test, and convinces his best friend and his girlfriend to spend the day with him roaming the town instead.

Pretty simple right? You’d think that’s all there was to it. Well… yes and no.

I was always fascinated by the kind of character Ferris, that is Matthew Broderick, portrays. This is the kind of character who has, it seems, been blessed by the ancient gods with such good fortune, that anything and everything he does turns out well. No matter how many rules he breaks, how many people he manipulates, how many blatant self-serving lies he tells (always with a charming smile and a rakish attitude of course), he never gets to face the music. And believe me, these people exist. It’s just unfortunate that I am not one of them.

Apart from the amusing foibles our characters go through, and the hilarious contribution to the cast given by the uniquely endowed Jeffrey Jones (his face is the epitome of all asshole-ish headmasters), one cannot but note the rest of the amazing cast. Most of the main actors seem in fact to actually represent my favorite iconic 80s movies. Apart from Broderick himself (Wargames, Ladyhawke), there’s Mia Sara (Legend) who plays his love interest, Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) as his older sister, Alan Ruck (Bad Boys) is his bestie, Ben Stein (Ghostbusters II, The Wonder Years, MacGyver) as his teacher, the aforementioned Jeffrey Jones (Beetlejuice) is his headmaster, Lyman Ward (A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays the role of his father, and even Charlie Sheen makes a short appearance. Could any other cast have been more perfect for an 80s movie?

Apart from that, it tickles me no end to know that the interior hallway scenes for Ferris’ school were filmed at Maine North High School – the same place where John Hughes’ iconic movie The Breakfast Club was also filmed. This school also features in 16 Candles and Pretty In Pink!

So what happens when Ferris fakes sick to escape taking his test? What doesn’t happen! Amidst fancy brunches, romantic smooches, coming-of-age battles, wild joyrides, street parades, dips in the pool, and amusing tirades, we find ourselves asking – how many hours are there in a day? How does the errant trio manage to do all that stuff in such a short time? And this brings us to the crux idea of the movie.

Life is short. Enjoy it!!!

Conclusion: This movie was fun… BUT it wasn’t memorable, in that there were no deep characters, underlying issues or actual emotional scenes or feelings between characters. It’s a very light-hearted film, perfect if you just want to relax with a no-brainer and a couple of easy laughs.

Jigsaw – A Movie Review *SPOILERS*

So, just finished watching the last movie in the ‘Saw’ franchise, which I’ve been a HUGE fan of for the past 10 years… and I must say, I was quite disappointed.

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The prime thing which had attracted me to all the Saw movies, apart from the inventive torture devices, was actually the ability of the writers/producers to interlock all the movies and storylines togather like a jigsaw puzzle. That was the genius of the whole thing – that while the first movie in the franchise was taking place, chronologically we (later realize) that movies number 2 and 3 were also taking place (with different individuals) at the same time! I don’t want to give any spoilers here but I kind of had to in this case. So basically the some of the whole was better than it’s individual parts.

And that’s great HOWEVER as of the third and fourth movies we started seeing a common plot emerge, which the writers just continued to exploit by repeating again and again… and in the case of the latest ‘Jigsaw’ movie, yet AGAIN.

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For Pete’s sake, how many ‘disciples’ did this guy have? How many ‘ex-victims’ did he ‘convert’ to his ideology of pain? Were they all unaware of each other? And will the producers continue to milk this cow forever? It was a great idea and twist the first time round, and ok the second time round too. But a third secret disciple… and a fourth? Even at a distance of 10 years from Kramer’s death?

Ugh – yea again sorry for the spoilers. I just wish I could erase this last movie from my head and keep the old ones. So, thanks, but no thanks.

American Horror Story – Season 6 Review – NO SPOILERS

When I had watched Season 5 of American Horror Story last year,I was hardly impressed to say the least.

However, looking at Season 6 this autumn, I guess I’ll just have to eat my words.

Gone is the fake gratuitous soft porn thrown in simply to shock viewers into cheap thrills. Gone is the unneeded violence and lackadaisical plot. Instead of unexplained murders and ghouls, AHS takes us back to the mysterious plot lines, interesting characters, and dramatic acting so much admired during the first season. Entitled Murder House, Season 1 had focused on a haunted mansion and its historic violent past. Season 6, Roanoke, tackles not so much a haunted house, but an actual haunted piece of land, illustrating one of America’s oldest mysteries.

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The Season in fact makes reference to the historic mystery of the Roanoke colony, also known as the Lost Colony – a group of Americans who were sent to Roanoke Island in the New World (North America) in the 16th century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, in an attempt to colonise it and establish a base camp. The 115 members of the colony all disappeared without a trace. The only remaining clue was the word ‘Croatoan’ scratched on the bark of a tree.

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This season is, in a way, totally different from the previous ones, as all the episodes are presented in the format of a documentary. The narrative focuses on a married couple, who are telling us the story in a studio, while at the same time, people we know to be re-enactors play their parts in order for the viewers to understand what actually happened. Each character is therefore seen twice and portrayed by two different people. The ‘real’ character is interviewed in the filming studio, while the ‘re-enactors’ are the ones playing out the actual events.

The main plot line follows an interracial couple, Matt and Shelby. After being attacked by a street gang, they decide to leave the city and its perils, and relocate to an abandoned colonial farmhouse in North Carolina.

To read the rest of the article, which was published on EVE magazine follow the direct link: http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/11/05/american-horror-story-season-6/

Movie Review – Raise the Red Lantern – Spoilers

Movie Title: Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
Personal Grading: 4 Stars
Historical Timeline: 1920s
Location: China

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This film touched me and made quite an impression on me for various reasons. First of all, I love historical dramas, especially those which portray a non-European perspective. I love learning more about different cultures and customs, especially as these were lived in times past.

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Raise the Red Lantern focuses on the life of a nineteen year old girl Songlian who, pressured due to her family’s poverty and her father’s death, decides to become a rich man’s concubine. She is his fourth concubine in fact, and the whole film takes place in the ‘Master’s’ house. We never see the outside of the house after the film’s five minute introduction, and neither does the main character. Although the cast of the film is limited, this is very in-line with the story and plot-line, seeing as to how we experience life as the main character does. She is isolated, lonely, and cannot decide what is the reality or who is deceiving her. We never see the ‘Master’s’ face. This is very symbolical. In the 1920’s this was how society treated women – this was how concubines were expected to live – who the Master was, was not important. The women’s lives centered on his every whim and desire. The four concubines live togather in different sections of the vast beautiful house. Traditionally Chinese, their life is structured according to family ritual, and yet they still silently hate and compete with one another.

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The First mistress is old and her son is the Master’s heir and is always away. The second mistress, whom at first we think is kind and nice, is in reality a scorpion, egging on people against Songlian. The third concubine, still young and beautiful, had once been an opera singer, is very creative, and is secretly in love with a young doctor. The Master decides who is in favor by placing red lanterns in front of the ‘house’ belonging to the mistress who will pleasure him for the night. The chosen one gets a foot massage, chooses the menu for the following day, and crows in victory over the others.

The storyline is not complicated, yet has a certain horrific quality to it. Combine this to the fact that we know this is what really happened during this period in time, is the soul-crushing certainity of each of the mistresses that she will never get out of that house. Her body, her time, her life, belongs to the Master and is his to dispose of. This is blatantly obvious when he orders the killing of the Third Mistress, after she is discovered to be cheating on him. At the end, the main character is mentally and emotionally shattered, preferring the life of a mad recluse to that of a concubine forced to live life in constant rivalry in a world where there is really no escape.

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This film is very poignant and well executed. I do not think the casual movie-watcher will appreciate it, as it is quite slow-moving and full of Chinese rituals and traditions which are not all fully explained. I loved it since I am very interested in Asian cultures, and love anime, therefore having watched and read about these kind of traditions before. It is a very psychological film too. What is not said, is more important than what is actually uttered. A true gem of its kind.

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The film is based on the novel ‘Wives and Concubines’ by Su Tong.

Movie Review – The Woman in Black 2 – Spoilers Alert

Personal Rating – 1 star

I had been looking forward to this sequel for quite some time. I had hoped that unlike most sequels, it would be exciting, titillating and emotionally disturbing – most of all, I had hoped that it would shed more light on the background story of Jennet Humpfrye, that is the ghost that became the ‘Woman in Black’ herself.

I am sorry to say, that I was VERY disappointed.

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The movie, subtitled ‘Angel of Death’, fast-forwards us from the Victorian era, which had set the stage for the first Woman in Black film, to the Second World War, when the now semi-renovated haunted house in question,started to be used as an impromptu orphanage. You’d think the ghost would have a field day… hmm…

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The main character (Phoebe Fox), of bland appearance, gives us an equally bland performance as a woman who has, in the past, experienced the loss of a child. This could have been a good idea for the focus to be not just on the main character as a grieving mother, but also on the ghost herself, since the child-carer here could empathize with the dead woman’s similar plight. That is the way I would have played it, while giving more background and detailed info on the ‘ghost’ herself. Instead, the film portrays the feelings which inexplicably grow between bland young woman, and a bland young pilot, in an ever-boring slow movie where nothing happens, and where semi-horror background music is used to try and built up a sense of suspense which simply DOES NOT HAPPEN.

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The ghost, instead of seeing Eve, the main character, as a representation of herself, since her baby was taken from her, wants to punish her for ‘letting him go’. This attitude could have spurred a showdown between the two women, one alive and one dead. Needless to say, it didn’t. Ever. The movie plodded its way on through half-finished dreams and mediocre attempts at giving the audience some thrills, which failed miserably. Veiled women shrieking in corners and screaming silently in one’s face are not my thing. Give me a well-rounded plot with believable emotional characters and an interesting background story, or a psychological effort at least, and you’ve got me. Unfortunately this film had all the wanna-be cheesiness of a gore movie, without the gore.

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The worst part (yes even worse than a wasted hour and a half where nothing happens) was the ending. The pilot semi-love interest is killed, and the Woman in Black just stops haunting the child she had ‘chosen’ as well as Eve. Without explanation or reason. Totally pointless. On the other hand, she continues to haunt the house. We do not know why and there is no explanation. Another attempt at creating ‘mystery’ = FAILED.

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