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Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Hershey’

Dead Again / Defenseless

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

August 23, 1991 saw the release of two American suspense thrillers by notable overseas directors. Best reviewed, highest grossing and first alphabetically was Kenneth Branagh’s DEAD AGAIN, starring Kenneth Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson, written by Scott Frank (PLAIN CLOTHES).

Under the opening credits are an old timey montage of 1940s newspaper headlines detailing the story of a singer named Margaret Strauss (Thompson), who was stabbed to death with scissors, and then her husband Roman “The Maestro” Strauss (Branagh) was convicted of murdering her. The opening is done in black and white, with The Maestro getting a weird haircut and posing with evil smiles in the shadows as he tells reporter Gray Baker (Andy Garcia in his followup to THE GODFATHER PART III) that he loves his wife. When Baker asks if he killed her, he leans over and whispers to him and you’re supposed to wonder what he said I guess. But, like, what would he say? Definitely no? Arguably yes?

Anyway the main story is 40 years later when private detective Mike Church (also Branagh), who specializes in finding lost heirs and speaks in a shifting series of dorky American accents that I don’t think is intended to be funny, reluctantly agrees to do a favor for a priest he knows (Richard Easton, YOUNG WARRIORS). A mysterious amnesiac woman who does not speak (Thompson again) showed up at the orphanage where he grew up, and he agrees to drop her off at the hospital, but when he sees all the scary mentally ill people she’d be with he feels bad and lets her sleep at his apartment. No, he doesn’t do anything untoward, but yes, he quickly falls in love with her and acts like a weirdo. (read the rest of this shit…)

Insidious Chapter 2

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

insidious2INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 is another pretty good ghost movie from director James Wan (DEATH SENTENCE, FURIOUS SEVEN) and his longtime co-writer Leigh Whannell. It’s actually a better sequel than usual because either they set up on purpose what part 2 would be or they just happened to leave a good hook for it on accident. Chapter 1 was kind of a POLTERGEIST meets JAWS THE REVENGE deal where this family thinks their house is haunted by a demonic Tiny-Tim-loving Darth Maul cosplayer, but it turns out their son (Ty Simpkins, IRON MAN THREE) is haunted. The dad (Patrick Wilson, THE A-TEAM), has to go to The Other Side or Tiptoe Through the Tulips Land or whatever to straighten things out with these fuckin ghosts. But also we met his mother (Barbara Hershey, BOXCAR BERTHA), and there was some indication that something like this had already happened to him before when he was a kid.

Well, now it all ties together. We flash back to his childhood (Isn’t chapter 2 kinda soon for that? I think this is gonna be a pretty short book. Will this even be a novella?) and then we see how it connects to some spookiness going on with the family right now, particularly with dad acting weird, being seen doing odd things when he thinks he’s alone, and covering his growing agitation with an increasingly awkward fake smile. Did he come back from ghost world somehow… wrong?

The first one dealt with the fear of spooky kids, this is one is all about the fear of insane dads and husbands. And the idea of someone you know really well suddenly seeming different, not themselves.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Falling Down

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

tn_fallingdownJoel Schumacher’s FALLING DOWN (1993) is a movie I’ve always hated for what I thought it was saying. Watching it again a couple decades later I think I was partly wrong. Maybe even mostly wrong. But I still can’t get all the way on board. I’ll try to explain why.

Michael Douglas plays a defense industry office drone in L.A. who one morning gets stuck in traffic, loses his shit, decides to abandon his car and walk home. And along the way he decides to go nuclear on anyone he thinks is wronging him. This includes gang members who try to collect a toll for him sitting on their rock and a Neo-Nazi (Frederic Forrest, VALLEY GIRL) who shows him his weapons cache, but also a convenience store clerk, the staff and patrons of a fast food restaurant and random construction workers. As he travels he builds up an arsenal by taking people’s weapons, like a video game that didn’t exist yet at that time.

(He’s credited as “D-FENS” after his vanity license plate, but they find out his name is William Foster, so that’s what I’ll refer to him as.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Swan

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

tn_blackswanD. Aranofsky’s BLACK SWAN is one of the best movies I saw last year. It’s a disturbing psychological thriller and a story about art and perfectionism. It’s spooky but I think freaking you out is only a side goal. I think it argues that pushing yourself to the limits of perfection can be painful and self-destructive, but maybe worth it. Striving for excellence ain’t easy.

Natalie Portman plays a New York ballet dancer who’s very good but still just does background parts. To her surprise her boss (Vincent Cassel from EASTERN PROMISES) gives her the lead role in Swan Lake. It’s a dual role and he thinks she’s perfect as the Swan Queen but not yet ready for its evil twin, the Black Swan. (It’s not like an Eddie Murphy dual role where you just wear a fat suit, she has to actually dance in a different style.) So the movie is about her struggle to please him, do a good job and not get replaced. She doesn’t want to end up like her mom (Barbara Hershey), a dancer who never really made it big, or her hero (Winona Ryder) who was forced to retire and seems to have snapped because of that betrayal.
(read the rest of this shit…)