GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MWinchester

Directed by: The Spierig Brothers

Written by: Tom Vaughan and The Spierig Brothers

Produced by: Tim McGahan, Brett Tomberlin

Starring: Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Jason Clarke, Angus Sampson, Eamon Farren.

Inspired by true events at the most haunted house in history.

Based on the true story of widower, Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), Winchester explores the haunting of a many-roomed house, seven stories high, comprising 500 rooms and stairs that lead to no-where: built, torn-down, to be built again; all orchestrated by the designs of the widower.

It’s enough to question her sanity.

Sarah communes with the dead to make their spirits grow stronger in the rooms she builds, under their instruction; through her visions; through her remorse – to then release them.

Many have died from the firing of a Winchester – the instrument of death the source of her fortune.  And the source of her guilt.

Being the majority holder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, (and a multi-millionaire) the company employs a psychiatrist to assess Sarah’s mental capacity in the view of taking control of her share in the company.

A request agreed upon by Sarah’s niece Marion (Sarah Snook) but only if the psychiatrist conducting the assessment is Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke).

After Marion’s husband dies suddenly, she moves in with her aunt with her 8-year-old son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey) – an indication in Sarah’s mind that a curse is spreading through the family.

Dr. Price is also a grieving widow, addicted to Laudanum, amongst other substances; anything to numb the pain – and out of desperation and financial difficulty takes the job.  Only to question his own mind when he witnesses the spirits inhabiting this strange house.

All the elements of an interesting story but I didn’t find the film to be a poignant one.

The suspense was weak, left to fall flat off cliff hangers that felt more like an accidental step.

And the over-editing of characters such as builder, John Hansen (Angus Sampson), to the extent of what sounded like dubbing over what was once comic, to be diluted to suit the tone of the film added to the quiet and dry dead like the musty smell in old houses.

All old houses have a presence, particularly those inhabited by the grieving.

When Dr. Price enters the house it just adds another unstable element, throwing doubt on the truth of the story as Dr. Price is also a grieving man, self-medicating and taken from the depths of a sabbatical dedicated to a life of hedonism and clearly desiring anything but clarity: is it any wonder he sees ghosts too?

The flash of spectres was well spliced into the dark recesses of shadows and reflections of mirrors.  But the build of suspense and meat of the story lacked substance so rather than inspiring belief in the supernatural, the film became more a story of a 19th century larrikin sobering up to insanity.

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Collateral Beauty

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MCollateral Beauty

Director: David Franel

Writer: Alan Loeb

Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley; Jacob Latimore.

Who doesn’t love watching an intricate set of dominoes fall?  But when I realised this was the disintegration of Howard’s (Will Smith) heart, the final crash of those dominoes took on a new meaning.

After the death of his daughter, Howard is falling apart.  He does nothing but set up those dominoes only to watch them fall.

Once a successful advertising guru, the company is starting to fail because advertising is built on relationships so when the guru falls, so does the company.

Howard exclaims in a speech at the beginning of the film, the 3 truths of life: Death, Love and Time.

So when his daughter dies, it’s the 3 truths he writes to – posting a letter to each, expressing grief and anger that his daughter has been taken from him.

I don’t know why I always go into a Will Smith film with a cringe.  I know he has that frank, openess that has a way to pull the heart strings, and the cast had to be amazing to pull this script into a realm of belief.  And you just know you’re going in for a tear-jerker which I’m not a fan of.  But at this time of year when maybe you’ve had a health scare, or the family’s not quite right, it’s nice to go into that suspension of reality.

I haven’t seen Edward Norten in a film for a while and have to say I was worried when he showed up in khaki pants.  However, I bite my tongue because it got to me, this film about death and fear and love and loss and the great equaliser, time.

The soundtrack had something to do with this.  And the all-star cast.  Who else could pull off Death but Helen Mirren?

And notice I’m not going on about the directing, cinematography, costuming (although I had a few issue here with those fake blue contacts and khaki pants!) – it’s just not noticeable.

I was absorbed at the beginning with the fall of those dominoes and then held watching well-known actors dealing with stuff we all have to tackle, at some stage.

This isn’t my favourite type of film, but if you’re in the mood, Collateral Beauty is a wonderful escape.

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Eye in the Sky

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Gavin HoodEye In The Sky

Screenplay: Guy Hibbert

Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, Lain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Northam.


I was completely absorbed by this film, from beginning to end.

I’m not a fan of war movies.  I find the violence a little too real and disturbing because it is all too true.  But Eye in the Sky isn’t one of those blood and guts type of films, it analyses the hierarchy, the politics of war.  It makes murderers of all involved.

What a fascinating take on such a complicated issue.  We are at war, but from the comforts of our homes; directions are made behind closed doors and bombs dropped from drones.  War, in these days, is an ethical conundrum.

There was no loss of momentum in this film, even though the focus was a quiet examination made through dialogue between the characters; the suspense in waiting for difficult decisions that must be made. Not an easy task and very well handled by director, Gavin Hood (Tsotsi (2005), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Ender’s Game (2013)).  He lets the characters tell the story in the simplicity of one day, one long moment shown in all its depth and complexity.  And using this linear time-line and keeping it simple, the film felt authentic.

Helen Mirren was perfectly cast as Colonel Katherine Powell.  A tough as nails, uncompromising military soldier who never waivers from her duty.  And mixed emotions seeing Alan Rickman in his final performance as Lieutenant General Frank Benson: a sympathetic character showing his humanity under the cast iron soul of a soldier.  Hard to believe this brilliant actor will no longer grace our screens.

It was interesting to have the curtains drawn back to show what happens behind the closed doors of war.  I can only sympathise with the people who have to make decisions to try and save as many lives as possible.  Deciding what are the legal, ethical and moral ramifications behind the killing of people in a different country – and whose life is worth more.

Eye in the Sky was thought-provoking, suspenseful and moving without theatrics.  A film to get people talking about issues that need to be spoken about.

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